Conor Henderson revealed yesterday that his long association with Arsenal will come to an end this June, with the 21 year old midfielder desperate for regular first-team action having made just a solitary senior appearance for the Gunners.
Always regarded as a name to keep an eye on whilst progressing through the club’s Hale End Academy, Henderson’s Arsenal career, at least the latter part of it, has been plagued by injuries which have prevented him from making as much progress as he would’ve liked to in recent years. An excellent passer of the ball, he broke into the U18 side, then managed by Steve Bould, as a schoolboy before playing a role as the club won the FA Youth Cup and Premier Academy League double the following season. In 2009/10, following some consistent performances for the Reserves, he was surprisingly named on the bench for the first-team in Premier League fixtures away to Wigan Athletic and Blackburn Rovers, before impressing on his senior bow against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup 5th Round replay at Emirates Stadium in 2011.
That summer, however, proved to be the beginning of the end for Henderson at Arsenal as, on as a substitute in the unfamiliar role of left-back away to Cologne in a pre-season friendly, he damaged his knee ligaments and consequently made just one appearance at Reserve level last season. This campaign has been equally frustrating for the Republic of Ireland U21 international, as he failed to feature regularly during a loan spell at Coventry City, making just one league appearance for his temporary side, before returning to Arsenal with yet another injury. He has started the past three games at U21 level, especially impressing in the draw with Manchester United, but has trained with the first-team just once since his latest comeback, and the club have not discussed new terms with the midfielder, whose deal expires in the summer.
As disappointing as it is to see another player who at one stage, certainly towards the end of the 2010/11 season, appeared close to a breakthrough depart the club, perhaps now is the best time to face the reality that many of the club’s current second-string players could depart at the end of the campaign. It seems certain that Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt, two players who have also featured for the first-team, will leave, with goalkeeper James Shea and defenders Daniel Boateng and Sead Hajrovic likely to join them. Martin Angha and Jernade Meade, meanwhile, are likely to receive one-year extensions having featured for the first-team this season.