Thierry Henry has made a very positive start to life as Montreal Impact head coach. Does this, then, suggest that he has learned his lessons from his Monaco failure?
When the Montreal Impact hired Arsenal legend Thierry Henry to be their new head coach, a certain number of eyebrows were raised. The Frenchman is one of the greatest footballers of his generation. He has experience of Major League Soccer having played for the New York Red Bulls and is obviously an inspirational figure for any young player.
But his managerial experience is neither plentiful nor successful. Henry has only been a manager once in his career. Henry replaced legendary Moncao manager Leondardo Jardim in October 2017. Three months later and after just five wins, he was first suspended and eventually fired, replaced by Jardim himself. Monaco were languishing in the relegation zone in what was described as a ‘crisis’.
It felt as though Henry’s managerial career might end before it even began. He was an assistant coach for the Belgian national team under Roberto Martinez, but his Monaco endeavours had severely dented his pedigree and reputation, so much so that some predicted a Gary Neville-like return to punditry after his failed managerial exploits.
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But Henry has been insistent throughout his retirement: he wants to be a manager, and he is willing to work for his dream. The Frenchman has also stated he would like to return to Arsenal as manager, but recognises he must first prove his stripes.
And so, the marriage of desperate MLS wanting to add panache and pizzazz and a retired footballer embarking on a resurrection tour began, and the early signs have been very positive indeed. In fact, Henry is proving that he might just be cut out for this managerial malarkey after all.
Montreal are unbeaten in their first two MLS matches under Henry, only failing to maintain a 100% record thanks to a last-minute equaliser against FC Dallas. They made their way through to the quarter-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League and have looked like a well-organised unit that understands the requests of the manager, especially defensively.
And all this is during an injury crisis and after the departure of the Montreal Impact’s greatest-ever player just weeks before the start of the season without a replacement on hand. Henry has made quite the start to life in Montreal.
For his former French international teammate, Mikael Silvestre, that is no surprise: The defender, speaking on behalf of Bet Pennsylvania, said:
“Thierry Henry, because he knows the league so well should do well in Montreal. He’s got the experience of playing in the MLS not from not too long ago and knows the structure of the league. This time unlike at Monaco, he’s had the team through preseason and knows the players well. He was in the middle of the storm last year after Jardin’s departure. It’s a long, long season in the MLS now, he has the potential to do well and qualify for the playoffs, they can put some form together.”
Henry must still learn the lessons of his Monaco experience. Such failure does not have remain such. You can turn defeat into victory if you learn what went wrong and apply it to your future endeavours.
Whether Henry has done that or not remains to be seen. Two months and five games is not enough to draw any genuine conclusions. But the early signs are encouraging, no matter what the initial expectations were.