The reported “bust-up” between Arsene Wenger and Thierry Henry over his coaching role at Arsenal has garnered quite a bit of attention recently, but no one yet seems to have bothered themselves with facts.
Recent reports such as the one coming from BBC say that Henry has now decided to quit his coaching role for the under18s at Arsenal after he was asked by Wenger to choose between that or his job as a Sky Pundit.
There are various theories on why Wenger suddenly asked him to make this choice, among them the most popular being that he criticized Arsenal players in his role as Sky Pundit, causing friction between himself and the players and that Wenger felt his own position threatened by Henry’s presence among the Emirates staff.
Both seem a little strange to me; the first because Henry’s analysis as a Sky Pundit is restricted to the first team, while his coaching role is with the youth team, and the second because it would be weird that Wenger, who offered Henry the position in the first place would suddenly feel “threatened” by him.
So I decided to look into it and here is what I found. Until now, Henry was coaching the youth team for four days a week in an unofficial capacity, as can be verified from Arsenal’s official website, which does not list Henry among the youth academy staff.
The eventual role designated for Henry was that of assistant coach of the under-18 team: a full time coaching job. Wenger’s ultimatum to Henry appears to be about making a choice between his promotion to the role of assistant coach of the under-18 team at Arsenal or keeping his job at Sky.
There is also evidence to support this: The position of the under-18s head coach is currently vacant and there are already reports that the present under-18s assistant coach, Kwame Ampadu, is set to take over as head coach, which would leave the position of assistant coach vacant.
If this is indeed true, as it certainly appears to be, then I would make the unfashionable choice of agreeing with Wenger. Coaching is a full time job and the role of coaches in football, especially at the youth level, where technique is developed and habits inculcated, cannot be underestimated.
If Henry wants to take his coaching career to the next level, I think it is justified that he be asked to show complete commitment to it.