Rewind: The night  Arsenal's King Henry returned to beat Leeds
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09: Thierry Henry of Arsenal celebrates scoring during the FA Cup Third Round match between Arsenal and Leeds United at the Emirates Stadium on January 9, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta might be impressing many as the new Arsenal boss in 2020, but rewind to this week in 2012 he was captaining the north London giants to victory over a Leeds United side in the FA Cup - on an evening Gooners around the world will never forget, thanks to the return of the legendary goalscorer and Gunners hero Thierry Henry.


After Arsenal unexpectedly lost 2-1 to Fulham to a late Bobby Zamora winner at Craven Cottage in their first match of 2012, then boss Arsene Wenger was asked if he had a new signing up his sleeve to bolster the misfiring Gunners. He responded with one of those gnomic utterances of his, replying: "We don't have a concrete case, but we don't rule it out."

The truth was Wenger and then chief executive Ivan Gazidis were working closely behind the scenes with the New York Red Bulls and Major League Soccer to sensationally re-sign Henry, the Arsenal icon.

Henry, was originally signed by Arsenal from Juventus in August 1999 as winger, before alchemist Wenger transformed Henry into one of the world's greatest strikers. Henry flourished to become a vital member of the Invincibles, who went unbeaten for a total of 49 Premier League games including the entire 2003/04 Premier League season. 

During the eight years of his first spell playing for the 'club of his life' - between 1999 and 2007 - Henry picked up two league titles and two FA Cups as well as landing four Golden Boot awards and the PFA Player of the Year gong twice.

In all, the lethal French striker - who also was part of Les Bleus' 1998 World Cup winning squad as well as lifting Euro 2000 - notched 226 goals in 370 appearances for the Gunners including scoring the final goal at Highbury during the memorable 4-2 send-off against Wigan Athletic in May 2006, two weeks before he played in the Champions League final in a dramatic 2-1 loss to Barcelona in Paris. 

To underline just how much Henry meant to Arsenal, in December 2011, on the 125th anniversary of the club's birth, a bronze statue of Henry celebrating his stunning goal in the north London derby against Spurs at Highbury in 2002, was unveiled outside the Emirates.  

On his return in 2012, a few days before Arteta captained Arsenal against Leeds in the FA Cup third round, Henry said: "When it comes to this club, my heart will always do the talking...I hope it is a win-win situation where I can help Arsenal and come back fit for the MLS season."

A hero returns

For Arsenal fans, the night Henry returned to Arsenal was more than a win-win situation, it was the chance to savour the return of a living legend - and how they celebrated the fact.

The match against Leeds at the Emirates on the evening of Monday, January 9, 2012, was goalless when Henry replaced Marouane Chamakh in the 68th minute to a reception fit for a king. In truth Henry was already a king - the King of Highbury.

Yet before the night was out, in the guise of his second coming Henry added more history to his legend, sending the crowd into paroxysms of joy, with a goal as memorable as anything the Emirates has witnessed before, or since.

King Henry's goal

Henry, showing all the nous and streetwise ability to pull away from his marker as if it was 2004 all over again, controlled Alex Song's pass before ghosting into the box. 

In his trademark move, he opened up the angle of his chest before slotting into the net past stunned Leeds goalkeeper Andy Lonegran.

The celebrations among the players and supporters were as powerful as they were intense as every Arsenal fan inside the Emirates - and watching across the globe for that matter - jumped for joy at such a resonant and evocative act. 

Henry, overcome with emotion, beat his chest before running to embrace his mentor Wenger. And at the final whistle a few minutes later King Henry raised his hands to the heavens and shed a tear - just as he did when his statue was unveiled outside the Emirates only a month previously.

The result saw the Gunners play Aston Villa in the next round of the cup. But the significance - in terms of a true returning hero providing a moment of joy after five years in exile - was, for many the highlight of the season, if not the decade. 

An 'unreal' feeling

Speaking after the game a wide-eyed Henry admitted it was an 'unreal' feeling. 

Wenger summed up Henry's feat for many on an evening for the ages with an unashamedly romantic, sentimental, life-affirming ending that would be savoured by every Arsenal on the planet, saying he wasn't surprised by Henry's magical feat. "What he has delivered will stay forever - it can make his statue bigger.

"It was a little bit of a dream. It was a story about football you would tell young children. Unfortunately it is not often like that in our game, but sometimes it happens...he made it look easy [but] he has that special finishing power."

On a night bursting with emotion another of those special Henry finishes gave every Arsenal fan - not to mention Arteta - a moment to remember for a very long time.