LONDON // Three weeks after being immortalised in a bronze statue outside Arsenal's stadium, Thierry Henry was close to sealing an emotional return to the Premier League club that made him a global superstar.
Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, said on Friday that the former France captain will sign for the team in a two-month loan deal once an insurance agreement is reached with the New York Red Bulls, Henry's club in Major League Soccer.
Wenger is turning to Henry, who scored a club-record 226 goals in eight years at Arsenal between 1999 and 2007, to fill the gap left by the impending departures of Gervinho and Marouane Chamakh to the African Cup of Nations.
"To cover for two months is ideal," Wenger said.
"He has the experience and the quality. He knows the club and can help the players on and off the pitch."
Henry, who has been training with Arsenal during the MLS off-season, established himself as a star in his first stint at the London club before moving to Spanish giants Barcelona.
His legacy could be enhanced further if he can inspire Wenger's side in a crucial period of matches through to his return to the United States in March, before which he could play a big role in seven league games and the first leg of Arsenal's Champions League last-16 match against AC Milan.
"I know it can only be positive," said Wenger.
"He has exceptional talent - he is a very intelligent man and has a desire to help the club. But it is difficult to measure how positive an influence he is."
Henry's debut is likely to come against second-tier side Leeds United in the third round of the FA Cup on January 9, although there is an outside chance he could play a part in the league match at Fulham on Monday.
Arsenal fans will not witness the Henry of old, when he terrorised English defences with his pace, touch and power.
Instead, Wenger is relying on Henry's intelligence to see him through.
"You and I are conscious he is 34 years old, but he has not lost his class or his brain," Wenger said. "That will be just enough for us."
Henry will likely be the understudy to Robin van Persie, who has belatedly taken over the Frenchman's mantle as Arsenal's talismanic attacker and has 16 league goals this season.