In an interview earlier this season, Cesc Fabregas spoke about the pressures of playing on the same pitch as Thierry Henry. His remarks both underline Henry's brilliance -- and provide a clue to Arsenal's exceptional form without him.
"Thierry is the best I've ever played with," said Fabregas. "There's no doubt. But there was this other factor. He is Thierry Henry... It was a big difference and for a long time I was intimidated. When I had the ball I felt I had no choice but to look for him. I did this because, one, he is the best and, two, because I had the feeling I had to pass it to him."
Well, you would, wouldn't you? Would you really want to be the guy who saw Thierry in space and didn't try to put him through? It's reminiscent of legendary Man Utd manager Sir Matt Busby's explanation of his coaching strategy with another exceptional talent, the young George Best. "It was a very simple team talk," he recalled. "All I used to say was: whenever possible, give the ball to George".
But one genius can upset the balance of a whole team. Everyone feels duty-bound to build their play around him. But even the best players have their off days, and defences get wise to them eventually. With Henry gone, Arsenal now have six or seven hot young starlets, all desperate to do well and fill his boots. Van Persie, Adebayor, Walcott, Diaby, Eduardo, Hleb, Rosicky et all the have the potential to be Gooners greats, but none of them so overshadows any of the others that you feel you have to pass to him. (Yet.) The alpha stag has gone, long live the rutting young bucks.