Why Thierry Henry is still the Premier League's greatest ever overseas player


Since the Premier League’s inception, the arrival of overseas talent has helped established the division as one of the best in the world. The Premier League has hosted the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Patrick Vieira, Dennis Bergkamp, Vincent Kompany, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Eden Hazard, Peter Schmeichel and Eric Cantona throughout its 32 seasons. 


However, one player stands above all in terms of what he brought to the top tier of English football, and is arguably remembered as the greatest overseas player ever. That man is Theirry Henry. 


24 years ago today, he signed for Arsenal, and for Throwback Thursday this week we’re going to take a look at just why he is the greatest overseas player to have graced the Premier League. 


After his bright start at Monaco, where he was named French Young Footballer of the year in 1996, Henry started to make a name for himself and was a part in the 1998 France team that lifted the World Cup. 


His single half season at Juventus, however, did not go to plan, registering just three goals in 16 appearances. 


Shortly after, in the summer of 1999, Arsenal made the move to take Henry away from Italy, where the Frenchman's former manager Arsene Wenger bought him for a fee around £11m. 


Having just sold Nicolas Anelka the previous year, Henry would play mostly up front and drifted from the left wing to become more of a striker for the Gunners. 


Henry endured a slow start to life in the Premier League, scoring just five goals in the first half of the 1999/00 season. His first goal away at Southampton won the game for the Gunners in a 1-0 victory, where Henry scored 10 minutes from time at the Dell. 


It was the second half of the 1999/2000 season where Henry came to life, and people started to sit up and take notice. 


Despite Manchester United running away with the league, finishing 18 points ahead of the Gunners, Henry scored 17 league goals, with 12 of those coming after the turn of the year. He helped the Gunners finish second and reach the UEFA Cup Final, which they lost to Galatasaray. 



Henry was part of the France squad that lifted Euro 2000, making that two major tournaments that Henry had been a part of, and was keen to keep that momentum going. Despite picking up fewer goals and assists than his first season at Highbury, he was the club's top goal scorer that season, with 17 of his 22 goals coming in the Premier League. 


He scored his first hat-trick against Leicester on Boxing Day and his 17 goals were enough to secure Arsenal a second places finish yet again, and a FA Cup final appearance against Liverpool, where Michael Owen scored a quickfire brace to win it for the Reds. 


It was not until the 2001/02 season that he finally tasted success with Arsenal, where a rare drop off from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Red Devils allowed Arsenal to win the Premier League title, and also beat Chelsea in the FA Cup Final.  


On a personal level, Henry scored 32 goals in all competitions. His 24 Premier League goals, where 16 were scored in the first half of the season, was his best tally so far and won the Frenchman the 2001/02 Premier League Golden Boot. 


The following season, after a disappointing World Cup, Henry scored 32 goals in all competitions, but also added assists to his game, with 28 in all competitions, making that a staggering 60 goal contributions from 55 games. He became the only Premier League to score 20+ goals and assist 20+ goals in a single season, and despite all that, he only had an FA Cup to show for it. 


He was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year, and FWA Footballer of the Year in 2003, a testament to his fantastic year for the Gunners. 


Every football fan who has some inkling of the Premier League in 2003/04 knows the impressive history that the Gunners made in that season, which Henry was a big part of. He and his Arsenal side became the first team in more than a century to go through an entire season unbeaten, winning the league in the process. 


Another unbelievable goal tally for Henry, as he scored 30 in the league, and 54 goal contributions for the season in all competitions. His hat-trick against Liverpool, after being 2-1 down at half time, with an impressive second goal was arguably the game that saved the unbeaten record when it could’ve ended in its tracks. 


The following season would be the final year Henry won silverware with the Gunners, winning the 2004/05 FA Cup against Manchester United, but Henry still continued to establish himself in the league. His 25 goals and 14 assists in 32 starts in the league won him the Golden Boot, his third award from the last four seasons. 


Unsurprisingly, he went on to win the Golden Boot yet again after scoring 27 League goals in 2005/06. They couldn’t compete with Chelsea at the top of the Premier League and went trophyless, despite reaching the 2006 Champions League Final, where they lost to Henry’s future employers, Barcelona. 


His final season at Arsenal in his first spell in 2006/07 would be marred by injury. Henry only made 17 Premier League appearances and score just 10 goals, the fewest at his time at the club. He would go on to leave Arsenal at the end of the season, departing as their all-time top league goal scorer with 174 league goals, and was voted as Arsenal’s greatest ever player by Arsenal fans in 2008. 


He did make a brief return to Arsenal in 2011/12 after stints with Barcelona and New York Red Bulls, where he scored the single league goal as cover for the injured forwards. He did mark his first game in his second spell with a goal against Leeds in the FA Cup as he rolled back the years. 


Henry finished his Arsenal career with 228 goals throughout his time at the club, 175 of which came the Premier League. That tally has only been bettered by one overseas player in Sergio Aguero, and places Henry 7th in the Premier League all time goal charts.  


His 175 goals and 74 assists in 258 games means he was directly involved in 0.96 goals per game. As such, he was one of three overseas players inducted in 2021 to the Premier League Hall of Fame, alongside Dennis Bergkamp and Eric Cantona. 


It is without question that many fans, Arsenal and rivals alike, can come to an easy mutual agreement that Thierry Henry is undoubtedly the greatest overseas import that the Premier League has ever seen.

Why Thierry Henry is still the Premier League's greatest ever overseas player