'I need to clean every two minutes!' - Henry getting to grips with lockdown life in Montreal

Thierry Henry Montreal Impact
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The Arsenal legend has been getting to grips with a new way of life in Canada while he waits patiently for the MLS season to return

From the moment Thierry Henry broke through on the world stage with Arsenal, it was clear that he possessed a unique desire to be great. There was no acceptance of "good enough," no satisfaction that comes with a job well done. There was an inner desire to be better than each and every person that stepped in front of him, no matter what it took.

In the years since his emergence as a genuine great of the modern game, that desire has not wavered. From London to Barcelona to New York, that persistence defined his playing career. His coaching career hit an early rough spot with his short-lived spell at Monaco, but, if anything, Henry's willingness to leap right back in with the Montreal Impact showed that that competitiveness and persistence are yet to diminish.

For the first time in quite some time, however, Henry does not currently have that natural competitive outlet, that form of expression. With the coronavirus wreaking havoc all over the world, there is no big game on Henry's schedule and no opponent to prepare for. For the first time in many, many years, Henry's competitiveness has to take a backseat to the normal, the mundane. And mundane is perhaps the one thing Henry is not great at dealing with.

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"I wake up, work out, cook, relax a bit, go back to work out. Sometimes I will watch some games that I've seen some. Sometime I will just relax. Cook again at night,"  Henry said of his current lifestyle, one which sees him isolated from friends, family, players and coaches. 

"One thing that I've noticed is it seems like you need to clean the house every two minutes. Usually you're not at home so you're not cooking that much, so you always have to wash the dishes and clean the house. Other than that, I try to take care of myself obviously and be in shape. I didn't do that for a very long time, but yeah, that's it."

For Henry, the Covid-19 break has put him in a tougher situation than most. Just several months into his time in Montreal, Henry was still in the process of settling in. When the pandemic hit and businesses started to close, Henry remained as one of only two guests at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in downtown Montreal alongside defender Lewis Binks. His family, meanwhile, remain in France. 

The World Cup winner insists that his family is OK and that he is keeping an eye on France's place in this "global problem." As a result, he does what virtually everyone is doing at the moment. He waits and waits, watching for the Prime Minister's updates while remaining connected with friends and family in whatever way he can. 

Having just got going with the Impact, Henry was beginning to put his stamp on the team. They had started the season by taking down Costa Rican power Saprissa in the CONCACAF Champions League last 16 before earning four points from their first two matches in MLS. A loss to Honduran side Olimpia in the CCL quarter-finals undoubtedly left Henry frustrated and, with matches cancelled indefinitely, there will not be a chance to rectify that any time soon.

Thierry Henry Montreal Impact 2020

In addition, the break takes Henry out of his adaptation phase, as he was just beginning to put together his vision for the team.

"We had a month and a half or so to prepare, change the tactics, kind of change the brain that they had before. It's not only a different coach from before, but the previous coach asked them to play a way that he liked, and you have to change them to play the way that you like," he said.

"It takes time. It takes a lot of time. I always mention Jurgen Klopp. It took him three and a half years to do what he's doing with Liverpool. It doesn't happen just like that. So we were kind of getting somewhere. It was early stages. Let's not get carried away. Guys were starting to understand what we wanted and how we wanted to play and the intensity and the togetherness and the fight that we wanted to put into games ... but then you have to stop."

And, like all coaches, Henry is doing the best with what the circumstances are giving him. He is in regular contact with players and coaches as he tries to work virtually in a sport defined by person-to-person contact and emotion. He is working closely with his staff to formulate a plan and with his players to help build the bond required to reach the level of Klopp's Liverpool – or any other team that has achieved something in this sport.

But there are certain things that Henry cannot do, certain elements that he cannot control. For all his efforts, he cannot make the game come back faster and he cannot ensure that his players are as steadfast in their preparation as he is. Right now, all he can do is wait, hope and trust.

"It's the not knowing when we are going to come back," he said. "That's kind of in brackets, ‘unknowing.’ Other than that you just have to be prepared for the when.

"You can talk about how motivation isn't always easy. It can be easy for me. I see it as an easy thing if you're a competitor. You obviously have to train and work hard and be ready for whatever is going to come your way. But at times, I guess it's not always easy to know the ‘when' you are coming back. A competitor would like to know when he's going to compete."

He added: "You have to trust them, give them information, give them exercises that they need to do. And when they come back, if you are a champion and you are a competitor, you will come back fit because that's what drives you and that's how you should be at the end of the day."

Victor Wanyama and Thierry Henry of Montreal Impact.

Henry has all the time in the world right now. He has time for the mundane, the cleaning, the waiting. But with matches postponed and with household activities only taking up so much of his days, Henry has to find a way to occupy that time locked indoors. He has done so by poring over hours and hours of film. Such is the life of a quarantined coach.

The problem is there are not hours and hours of film from this Impact team. They have played only five games, and there is only so many times you can watch the same 450 minutes. In a normal world, Henry would scout the opposition. During quiet moments, perhaps he would put on a Champions League game to watch the world's best and take inspiration from managers at the level he strives to be at, but even that is not an option right now.

Because of that, Henry has had to turn back the clock. He has been watching old film while looking for new things to implement, new ways to improve his team once the world comes back to normal.

And, until that time, his mind will race and that competitiveness will wait for an outlet. He will continue his coaching development during the lockdown, even if that continuation comes only in his own head for the time being. That push for greatness will have to wait, but the desire that helped him reach that level as a player never really quietens down.

"Sometimes one of the things I do is think about the games that we played. I know they are not a lot, but the situation made it like that," Henry says. "But I'm thinking about stuff that we might change or not, or how we can play or what can be the next step or new way of training, if we are going to do the same way or not.

"A lot of stuff is going through my head during the day, and I don't talk about it obviously because I cannot, but I think about it."

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