Henry will go through pain in heel of the hunt


English FA Premiership: Thierry Henry has revealed he has been troubled by Achilles problems for the past two years as he promised to play through discomfort at home to Portsmouth tonight.

The striker's long-term commitment to Arsenal may have been questioned since he delayed contract talks but he cannot be accused of using the injury as an excuse to miss matches.

Henry sat out very few games because of his tender Achilles tendons, his two extended absences having been generally put down to groin injuries. But the 28-year-old failed to make last season's FA Cup final against Manchester United because of pain in both tendons and missed the fifth-round tie at Sheffield United for a similar reason. He has been rested regularly in that competition and in the Carling Cup.

The France international went for a scan on his Achilles last week and needed a fitness test to prove he was ready to face Charlton on St Stephen's Day. He played the whole of Arsenal's 1-0 victory and vowed to start this evening.

"I went to the hospital just for a simple check and I have been playing for the past two years with some problems on my Achilles," Henry said. "I have said so many times that I always try to do my best. I go on to the pitch to try to help the team and I can assure you I will be on the pitch on Wednesday, too. That's what I am there for. You need your skipper to be out there to help the team."

Arsenal will hope that translates into a commitment to stay beyond the summer amid growing expectation that he will join Barcelona, who have spoken of wanting him. Henry has said he does not want to talk about extending his contract, which runs until the summer of 2007, before the end of this season.

His Achilles will be tested by a sequence that sees Arsenal follow the Portsmouth game with matches at Aston Villa on Saturday and at home to Manchester United on Tuesday. A win at Charlton represented a positive response to three league defeats and Henry picked out Jose Antonio Reyes for praise.

"Jose deserved the goal because he worked a lot," he said. "Not only him but I want to talk about him specially because we need him to do this kind of performance for us. This was magnificent."

Arsenal want to make Monday's result the start of a successful sequence. "We need to build on it," Freddie Ljungberg said. "Before the Chelsea (defeat) we had a good record at home, so hopefully we can keep that going there and build on this for the away games."

Arsene Wenger will hold fresh contract talks with Robert Pires next month but is unlikely to improve on his offer of a year's extension. The midfielder, who wants a longer deal, will soon be free to negotiate with clubs abroad because his contract expires at the end of the season.

Wenger said: "Robert Pires is an important player and has done tremendously well for us and we will try to have a good chat."

Rio Ferdinand believes it is time Manchester United started spreading the goals around.

After taking 140 games to score his first goal for the Red Devils, Ferdinand netted for the second successive home game when he steered home an excellent header in Monday's comfortable 3-0 Premiership win over West Brom.

Although he will probably never get anywhere near the amazing 19-goal haul Steve Bruce contributed to United's 1990-91 campaign, Ferdinand recognises the need to take the scoring burden off Wayne Rooney and Ruud van Nistelrooy, who took his own tally to 16 with a typical close-range effort.

"If we are going to win anything, we have to share the goals around," said the England defender.

"I have been lucky to get my head onto two quality crosses recently and put them both away, which is good for myself and the team.

"We all have to chip in with a few rather than leave it to the strikers. It was always the case before and we must do it again."

Ferdinand's new-found scoring prowess is part of an overall improvement in his performances over recent weeks.

The 28-year-old's hesitancy was a significant factor in United's stumbling start to the season but confidence is now surging, as it is throughout the club.

* Guardian Service