My first column for eSports was entitled "Kids Can Only Get You So Far" It was published during the aftermath of the 2007 Carling Cup Final, and I received a fair bit of flak from fans on Arsenal-Mania (where it was also published) because of the following quote:

"Though Arsenal love him to death, Thierry Henry should have probably been sold during the summer."

Well, it has happened at long last, after years of squawking by the press. The remainder of Henry's prime years will be spent in Spain donning the colors of the team that once denied him the ultimate club football glory. With the squabbly fracas in the boardroom, the depressing play of last season and the vague future of Arsene Wenger, Arsenal's immediate future seems to be heading in the wrong direction, barring the right moves this off-season.

The David Dein debacle, and the now uncertain future of Arsene Wenger, men who seemed to be two of Henry's greatest allies at the club, were cited by the man himself as his main reasons for leaving the club. The uncertainty over their futures could never have happened, but to tell you the truth, it didn't matter. Henry's time and effectiveness at Arsenal has been on the wane for some time now. These events, however, were an understandable breaking point. His sale though, happened one summer too late. The entire saga over Henry's future weaves similar patterns to the story of another Arsenal marvel, Patrick Vieira.

Think back a few years. After an exhilarating 2003-2004 league season by Arsenal, Real Madrid, rumor had it, were again interested in Captain Vieira. They did make a failed and somewhat half-hearted attempt to sign him last year, in 2003, but this time one could sense that they weren't joking around. Fees, contracts, those things were already talked out. Did Vieira want to stay or leave? After weeks of contemplation, Vieira decided he couldn't leave and broke the news to none other than Thierry Henry.

Arsenal kicked off the 2004-2005 season in good spirits after their captain was here to stay, or so it looked.You know Pat, I hear Italy's really nice this time of year... After a year of silly bookings, mis-timed tackles and all around sub-par play, Vieira was sold to Juventus without so much as a grunt for around 13 million, way less than half of the lofty fee commanded just one year prior.

With Vieira gone, the Spanish elite started to harass Henry in 2005. This time it was Barcelona, the other half of the superclassico. Again, it was only the second straight season of transfer rumors in 2006 that were really taken seriously. To make matters worse, or better, Henry's future seemed to hover over the result of Arsenal's CL Final against Barcelona, of all teams. Despite the eventual defeat, Henry changed his course and signed the deal that, like Vieira, would supposedly make him a Gunner for life.

The season that followed was marred by inconsistency, injury and, of course, mediocre play. Once more, within days of the close-season, Arsenal's star was sold off without much fuss. He left for a trifling 16 million, fortunes away from the Zidane-smashing 50 or so million dollar fees that were quoted only one year previous. "El Classico" are not done yet, and have already lined up young Francesc Fabregas as their next object of desire.

Wenger wanted to rear his future sensations around the talent and influence of Thierry Henry. Injuries this term have seriously ebbed his play, enforced his absence and probably therefore reduced his influence among the Arsenal squad. However, there were times that it did seem like Henry was becoming a separate entity to the team, and didn't seem to provide the encouragement and influence on the pitch that the youngsters needed. Whatever the case, it didn't work out as planned. Henry wasn't the inspiring influence that Wenger thought he'd be and by the end of a tumultuous season on the pitch and in the boardroom, plus the fact that he would be pushing past 30 in August, he decided that he'd had enough.

A lot of folks are already calling it betrayal, especially after his future-committing statements last summer. This may be so, but Henry needed to move on, to fulfill his ambition as a world-class player, ambition that he thought Arsenal couldn't match. I got the feeling that he wasn't satisfied, and hasn't been satisfied since that run-stopping defeat against Man Utd back in 2004. His sale happened, but one summer too late. Arsenal ended up with a second-rate season from Henry and a second-rate price for him as well. The 'rebuilding' phase could have begun a year earlier, and with a lot more transfer dollars generated from his sale.

Regardless, all Arsenal fans will remember the good times, celebrate their legend, wish him the best and now look to keep their team intact. They don't necessarily need to go off and sign a superstar, but they need to make a few smart moves. Arsenal have been marred for some time now by their patient and sometimes downright frustrating buildup play and inability (or refusal) to score a simple or scrappy goal, or shoot from outside the penalty box. They've needed an out and out goal scorer for a while now, but Henry's departure makes that need urgent.

If it wasn't for injuries, Robin Van Persie would have probably been a 20-goal striker this term. But, despite his huge ability (demonstrated by that flummoxing volley against Charlton),Robin van Persie displays flawless execution on his marvelous goal vs Charlton. Enigmatically, it failed to win 'Goal of the Season' he's still not a great poacher. Emmanuel Adebayor, while providing a great option off the bench, cannot provide the goals full-time and has sometimes displayed a confounding lack of touch. Nicklas Bendtner is a work in progress and the Theo Walcott experiment is still a season or two away from bearing fruit.

Julio Baptista looked awfully lightweight compared to his play in Spain that earned him the moniker of 'the Beast". Arsenal fans may only hope that no money is wasted on him and that the other half of that deal, Jose Antonio Reyes, will never play in the Emirates Stadium. Both have had disappointing seasons and it seems that the sooner they are out of Arsenal's hair, the better.

At one point, it seemed that any deal with Henry had to involve Samuel Eto'o swapping clubs as well. Eto'o's injury in September hurt more than his meniscus, and after a season of damage to his knee, form and relationships with his team-mates, Henry's arrival may be the last straw. Eto'o might be a little to haywire for Wenger's liking, but he played his best football in his first two Barcelona years, when he was motivated for vengeance against Real Madrid for years of unconcern. In the same way, a transfer to Arsenal just might have stimulated him enough to produce some outstanding play, just to prove Barcelona/Frank Rijkaard wrong for seemingly valuing Ronaldinho (who incidentally is seeing Rijkaard's daughter) and probably now Henry over him. It's clear that Eto'o wasn't in Wenger's plans though, or a package deal with him could have easily been negotiated.

Of course, Wenger could always have some fun and bag a tower of power like Nikola Zigic.

A new, experienced 'enforcer', backup central defender and goal-scoring midfielder are definitely on the cards, along with increased playing time for only a select few talents such as Armand Traore, Denilson, Bendtner, Walcott and, especially, Abou Diaby. Gilberto needs to be shown the door, as he will never be the 'destroyer' that Arsenal sorely need in the middle. On the plus side, his departure could create a clear path for the deserving and suitable Kolo Toure to assume the reigns as captain. Any signings Arsenal make should have significant top flight experience, because with the departure of a seasoned pro like Henry, they really can't afford to influx too many youth players into the first team.

Alexander Hleb epitomizes much of the problem at Arsenal these days. He possesses an abundance of close control and passing ability, and is an expert at orchestrating a buildup, but seems afraid to Henry will no longer be there to lead his people to the promised landshoot unless he can see the whites of the keeper's eyes. Arsenal should afford everything they can to see him on his way, as with Phillipe Senderos and the incessantly bellyaching Freddie Ljungberg.

Henry's departure though, will make Arsenal a less attractive prospect for potential as well as present players. Henry was a central figure in the transfer and development of Theo Walcott. A major cog in that project is lost, and Walcott will probably feel "cheated" out of a good education, after seeing Henry spend much of the time on the treatment table. William Gallas may well be sulking from the loss of his pal, and having already publicly stated his desire for Arsenal to be more competitive, might consider his options in due course.

The most important rumors however, are those now surrounding Arsene Wenger. Wenger's expiring contract will be at the forefront of many minds, and if he decides to call time on his Arsenal career, expect a few key names, like Fabregas, to be considering doing the same. Wenger has started a transition for Arsenal, and though some have had their qualms over his approach, he remains vital to any expectations of success. If he leaves, Arsenal might have to restart from the bottom, and it will be a long road back to the top.

Henry's departure may just be the wake-up call Arsenal needed to start ringing the changes to make the club more successful. The sale of Arsenal's best striker to Barcelona is not the end of the world. After all, Arsenal's nemesis Man Utd sold their best striker (Van Nistelrooy) to Barcelona's nemesis Real Madrid (eerily, for about the same price). That was certainly not the end of the world either. But many decisions must be made to secure Arsenal's future, and they must happen sooner rather than later. Arsenal must take a lesson from the sales of Henry and Vieira and make the right moves now.

Do not let it happen a summer too late.