Arsenal will be “practically dead” if Barcelona curb the influence of Mesut Ozil in today’s Champions League clash, according to Thierry Henry.
The Germany international had enjoyed an outstanding season for Arsene Wenger’s side and his absence was felt on Saturday, when the Gunners laboured to a 0-0 FA Cup draw against Hull City with Ozil rested.
Wenger had confirmed Ozil will return for the last-16 first-leg match with the holders at Emirates Stadium and Henry, who enjoyed a glittering career with both clubs, believed the former Real Madrid man is vital to Arsenal’s hopes of an upset.
“Ozil is incredible, he has a ton of assists,” he told Barca’s official website. “He is playing well, as he used to at Madrid. After two very difficult seasons he’s doing very well.
“If you can stop Ozil, Arsenal is practically dead.”
Henry had been impressed with Arsenal’s ability to win ugly at times this season and expected them to deploy the same system that saw them shock Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich during the group stage, though he warned they must take a positive result to Camp Nou for the 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.”