In this morning's press conference, Arsene Wenger confirmed Thierry Henry will return to Arsenal on a two month loan, while Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh are unavailable due to the African Cup of Nations. Henry, 34, is Arsenal's all-time top scorer, and while a move like this has a degree of sentimentality (who here can't grin at the fact that Henry could play against Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur), Arsene Wenger believes that Henry can help Arsenal deal with the absence of the aforementioned players.
Henry scored 15 goals for the New York Red Bulls last year, and while his pace has declined from his days at Arsenal, he still retains very good technical ability. Henry has been training at Arsenal since about mid-November, and there have been lots of reports, most recently from Alex Song, Per Mertesacker and Martin Keown, about how good Henry has been in training.
That seems to be the key point. Arsene Wenger will have seen Henry play for the last two months, in training sessions that the first team partake in. From this, Wenger will have been able to make an appraisal on whether Henry could help Arsenal. Remember that Wenger very rarely signs players who are over 30; much less players over 30 in midfield and attacking positions (one of the reasons why Thierry Henry, Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp would all be gone within a year of each other). For Wenger to break with this practise, Henry must have been impressive in training. Also, for Henry to agree to this, he would not, unless he felt he could contribute to Arsenal. We all know of how Henry loves the club; I doubt he, or Arsene Wenger would do something that would negatively affect it. If Henry still has the technical quality, I can see no reason why he can't deputise for Robin van Persie or Gervinho. van Persie doesn't have a remarkable amount of pace; rather, his game this year has been based on exceptional movement. Gervinho does have pace, but, also, crucially, he has the ability to beat defenders with skill. From what Song, Mertesacker and Keown have been saying, it sounds like Henry still has this too.
Also, there is a question about who on the transfer market could help Arsenal. Unless Park Ju-Young (or is it Park Who-Young) starts playing, and actually does well, Arsenal have a paucity of options to Robin van Persie. Even with Henry, that'll still be a problem, but the question that needs to be asked is whether there are strikers available in the transfer market who are not over £15m or so (the only clubs who could afford a £15-£20m plus backup striker are the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Real and Barcelona), and whether said player can help the squad and would accept a squad role. Lukas Podolski, who has been heavily linked, is having a fine campaign for FC Köln, but, given his performance for Bayern Munich as a younger player, there are legitimate questions about whether he'd be another Jose Antonio Reyes or Andrey Arshavin--a player who can be the big fish in a small pond but can't adopt to being a smaller fish in a bigger pond.
Henry will be cheap, and he'll also accept a squad role. Even if he isn't the Thierry Henry of old, he can still be a better option off the bench than Andrey Arshavin and Marouane Chamakh. Investment is still needed, but at least if Arsenal are unable to sign someone in the transfer market, they will at least have cover for Gervinho and Chamakh. The last time the African Cup of Nations took place, Arsenal lost Alex Song; the time before, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Eboue were lost, along with Song. Arsenal were short of quality cover during the last two Cup of Nations; at least this time, they should have a player who can still be effective.