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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 May 2006, 05:12 GMT 06:12 UK
Dixon bullish over Arsenal hopes
By John Sinnott

Thierry Henry
Will Henry stay or go?
Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon has tipped the Gunners to beat Barcelona in Wednesday's Champions League final.

Dixon told BBC Sport: "Personally, I think Arsenal are better suited to playing a fluent Barcelona team rather than a regimented AC Milan side.

"Both teams love to attack and that's good for us - it's a final we can win.

"Defensively, Arsenal have broken all sorts of records in Europe and with the pace of Jose Antonio Reyes and Thierry Henry they have the ability to score."

Dixon's confidence over Arsenal's chances in the final in Paris is also based on the way the Gunners have reserved their best performances this season for Europe.

"This is a very young Arsenal side and the Champions League has offered the players some respite from the Premiership," said Dixon, who played for Arsenal between 1988 and 2002.

We were 30 seconds away from penalties
Lee Dixon remembers the 1995 European Cup Winners' Cup final

"In the league away from Highbury they have been bullied, pushed off the ball and outfought - that is why they have lost so many games on their travels.

"But when they've been away in Europe they have come up against a different type of football, where they have not been kicked off the ball and the players have liked it."

Henry was born in the Les Ulis suburbs of Paris and one of the final's sub-plots will be whether the showdown will be the French international striker's final match for Arsenal.

The 28-year-old striker has yet to renew his contract, which ends in 2007, and has repeatedly been linked to Arsenal's Champions League opponents Barcelona.

Henry has said he will make a decision over his Arsenal future before the start of the World Cup on June 9.

"I change my mind from day to day as to whether Thierry will stay or go," said Dixon.

"When you saw him kiss the Highbury turf for the last time in the game against Wigan, you can't help but think he is ready to leave.

"Likewise if Arsenal win the final he might speculate that he has achieved everything he can with the club.

"But, to be honest, Thierry is quite a private person and I don't know him well enough to speculate on which way he is thinking.

"What I do know is that the club is bigger than any one player and if Thierry does leave the club will find somebody else.

"Don't forget that is what happened when Ian Wright left."

Dixon was part of the Arsenal side that won the European Cup Winners' Cup against Parma in Copenhagen in 1994.

"You do get a feeling that you're going to win certain games," he added.

"We got battered against Parma but once Alan Smith scored there was a sense we were going to win.

"That is invaluable. You get the feeling you can climb mountains and knock down walls.

"Team spirit is much talked about but if you have that among a group of talented players that have bonded together you can beat anyone.

"Defender Martin Keown used to tell us that Arsenal's team spirit was so good we could have beaten Brazil."

Nayim
Arsenal lost the last time they played in a Paris final

In 1995 Dixon played in a second successive European Cup Winners' Cup final, although his memories of that occasion are altogether less happy.

Arsenal lost to Real Zaragoza in Paris in the Parc des Princes stadium after Nayim's astonishing lob over David Seaman in the game's final minute of extra-time.

"We were 30 seconds away from penalties," said Dixon.

"I was the first penalty-taker and I was already thinking I was going to put the ball to the keeper's left.

"Waiting for the referee to blow his whistle I looked up and saw Nayim pick up the ball.

"I wondered why he was shooting and I turned around and looked at David Seaman and I saw how Nayim had hit the ball and I knew it was in. The rest is history."

Eleven years on, Dixon is anticipating Arsenal will be making a very different sort of history by winning the Champions League for the first time.




WATCH AND LISTEN
News conference: Arsene Wenger



SEE ALSO
Alan Hansen's column
15 May 06 |  Football
How Arsenal can beat Barca
15 May 06 |  Europe


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