Kanu Nwankwo joined Arsenal the same year Thierry Henry joined from Juventus, but getting a first team spot proved difficult for the Frenchman
Former France international, Thierry Henry, shared insights into his early days at Arsenal, highlighting the challenges of earning a spot alongside club legends like Kanu Nwankwo, Dennis Bergkamp, and Davor Suker, Soccernet.ng reports.
In the 1999-2002 season, Kanu, a two-time African Footballer of the Year, joined Arsenal from Inter Milan for a transfer fee of approximately £4.5 million.
During that season, he made 50 appearances for Arsenal, scoring 17 goals, including a memorable hat-trick in a London derby against Chelsea that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 victory.
Coincidentally, Thierry Henry also arrived at Arsenal from Juventus in the same year as Kanu. However, he acknowledged the formidable competition within the squad and the need to work tirelessly to secure a spot in Arsene Wenger’s lineup.
Henry shared his determination: “How am I going to play? How am I going to put Dennis Bergkamp, Kanu Nwankwo, Davor Suker, or whoever on the bench? Like how? How am I going to do that? So I went back home, to my hotel, wherever I was, and tried to outperform all of them in everything they were doing, everything.”
“Dennis Bergkamp used to arrive first in training, this guy had won everything already, Player Of The Season, and he is there every morning before me. Am I missing a point? He is doing everything [the drills] to perfection.”
“Sometimes I’d experiment with the ball, attempting tricky moves like flipping it on the ninth try, or turning around and flicking it. Dennis Bergkamp? Control, pass, control, pass, and I’d look at him and I’m like ‘okay.’ He scores a goal; I used to score two. He looks at me, and then he scores again, so I have to score.”
“I was trying to match them in everything they were doing. After that, you have to deliver it on the field. You have to take the free kicks away from Dennis Bergkamp, you have to take the penalties away from Dennis Bergkamp, you have to take the keys away from Dennis Bergkamp. How do you do that? He’s a god on that field. How do you surpass that guy?”
“So, every morning, I woke up early and had to show him the best respect I could pay—by showing him I was better than him every day in training.”
“It took a little while, but then he gave me the key.”
Watch the video here:
View this post on Instagram
From 1999 to 2007, Thierry Henry scored a total of 174 goals for Arsenal, solidifying his status as a club legend.