Henry happy to play second fiddle to Van Persie

January 3, 2007

Thierry Henry made a triumphant return from injury to inspire Arsenal to a 4-0 victory over Charlton but accepts even he is being overshadowed by man-of-the-moment Robin van Persie.

Holland star Van Persie took his goal tally for the season to 12 with a second-half brace against the relegation-haunted Addicks as Arsenal moved back into the top four in the Premiership.

Boss Arsene Wenger was delighted to have the mercurial Henry back in action after the Frenchman had missed the last seven league games with a hamstring injury.

During that time, the Gunners had lost just once - against Sheffield United - with Van Persie playing a pivotal part in a run which also included four wins and two draws.

The flying Dutchman's brace against Charlton was his fifth in the last four games and Henry is full of admiration for the man who has starred during his enforced absence.

The Arsenal captain believes the 23-year-old has all the credentials to become one of the Premiership's best.

Henry said: 'He's shown ever since he arrived here that he is a scorer of great goals.

'He's done it this season but also in previous years - every goal he scores is a smashing one.

'He has the ability to be one of the best players in the league. He has matured a lot and he does stuff in training that I have rarely seen before.'

Van Persie was on the verge of putting Arsenal ahead before he was pulled back by Osei Sankofa while trying to slot home a deflected Francesc Fabregas shot that had rebounded off the crossbar.

The foul, committed on the edge of the six-yard box, resulted in a red card for the unfortunate Charlton full-back and allowed Henry to score from the penalty spot on the half-hour.

Charlton's woes increased seconds before the break when Henry created a chance for full-back Justin Hoyte to become the first Englishman to score in the league for Arsenal since Sol Campbell did so twice against Everton in September 2005.

But the rest of the contest belonged to Van Persie, who converted the home side's second spot-kick of the night after Souleymane Diawara had hauled Henry down.

Van Persie then rounded off the scoring in the final moments of injury-time to complete a comfortable victory over Alan Pardew's struggling side.

The Charlton boss confirmed England striker Darren Bent had damaged ligaments in his knee against Aston Villa last Saturday but dismissed suggestions he would require an operation.

Pardew said: 'Darren sustained an injury early in the game against Villa but we didn't think much of it until he went home and had a reaction.

'The scan shows that the ligaments have been strained but it certainly doesn't warrant an operation.

'But he will need rest for a ligament repair. It is not like it is short term.

'His injury is pivotal because we cannot afford to lose a player of that calibre for too long. The next week will tell me how bad that injury is and how it is going to affect us.'