Mesut Ozil is Arsenal’s best hope of producing a surprise win over Barcelona in the Champions League last-16, according to Thierry Henry.
The German playmaker has been a revelation this season, recording 17 assists in the league, and the Gunners will certainly need him to be on form if they’re to have any chance of producing a surprise win.
Henry, who played for both teams during a fine playing career, thinks the outcome will be grim for Arsene Wenger’s team if Ozil goes missing from action.
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“Ozil is incredible, he has a ton of assists,” the Frenchman told Barcelona’s website. “He is playing very, very, very well, as he used to at Madrid. After two very difficult seasons he’s doing very well.
“If you can stop Ozil, Arsenal are practically dead.”
How ominous. Arsenal will field 11 players against Barcelona but, according to Henry, their hopes rest on the shoulders of one man.
Henry’s comments highlight two things. The first is Ozil’s importance to Arsenal.
The playmaker pulls the strings in the Gunners’ midfield and is beginning to justify the £42.5 million fee Arsenal splashed out to sign him from Real Madrid in 2013.
His cross for Danny Welbeck’s winner in the last league outing was sublime and fans will certainly look to that goal if they go on to win the Premier League title.
The second is Barcelona’s prowess. That Henry thinks they need to focus solely on one man shows his confidence in Barcelona’s defence stopping Alexis Sanchez and Olivier Giroud and their attack conquering Petr Cech.
Luis Enrique’s team are on course to make it back-to-back La Liga titles - they have an eight point lead atop Spain’s first division and have lost just twice all season.
Henry revealed his thoughts on how Arsenal will approach the tie, admitting they must win at the Emirates Stadium before travelling to the Camp Nou for next month’s return leg.
"I think Arsenal will play as they did against Bayern Munich at home," he said. "They will defend and try to score goals on the counter-attack. It's not easy to play with the ball against Barca.
"They fight a lot. In the past, Arsenal couldn't win a game if they didn't play well. But this year, they are winning games without playing well and sometimes without the ball, it happened against Bayern, against Manchester City, against Manchester United.
"They have to do something at home before coming to Camp Nou. When the crowd is good, on a Champions League night, it's not easy to just defend for 90 minutes.
"It's not easy for my team, Arsenal, but on the other hand I love Barca a lot. It's very difficult. It won't be easy, but I'm going with Barca."