Ibrahimovic says Arsenal need titles to gain respect

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The Independent Football

Barcelona striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Arsenal must win titles before their brand of free-flowing football will be given the credit it deserves.

Barcelona have proved to be capable of winning with style, while Arsenal's free-flowing style has been good to watch but has brought them little trophy success recently.

The two teams meet at the Emirates Stadium tonight in the first-leg of their Champions League quarter-final and the 28-year-old Swede is full of admiration for Arsenal's style of play.

But Ibrahimovic warned: "When you play attractive football it is important to win titles also. If you don't, people say these teams don't win by playing that way and maybe they should change their style.

"Personally I like the way Arsenal play because they are a very strong team. They have many young players and play attractive football and have a coach who has been there for a long time."

Ibrahimovic has scored 18 goals in 33 appearances for Barca this season, but the former Inter Milan, Juventus and Ajax star failed to make any impact when Milan crashed out of the Champions League to Liverpool and Manchester United in the previous two seasons.

However, he is adamant he has nothing to prove to English clubs after winning six league titles in the past six seasons.

"I think I haven't performed my best in games against English teams," Ibrahimovic admitted.

"But the last time was with Inter against Manchester United and it is harder playing for Italian teams against English teams because Italian teams are more concerned with not conceding.

"Obviously Barcelona saw what they bought. I had five fantastic years in Italy and played in Holland before that.

"The people who know football know the way I can play and I don't think I have to demonstrate that to anybody.

"I have six league titles in a row so I don't know how much more I have to prove after that. But I came to Spain to win more important titles and keep improving myself.

"When people criticise you, you hear it from somebody even if you don't read it, but the biggest criticism is from myself. I have had hard times but I'm playing well now."

Meanwhile Barca boss Pep Guardiola has promised his side will take the game to Arsenal in a bid to return to Spain with a first-leg lead.

While Arsenal have doubts about the fitness of Cesc Fabregas, Barca will be without influential midfielder Andres Iniesta, but his absence will not see Guardiola abandon his positive approach.

"Arsenal will be playing to their strengths and we will play to ours," said Guardiola. "We all know that scoring an away goal is very important for the return leg.

"So we will have an attacking intention and will defend in a very aggressive manner, in the right sense of the word. We will try to score, that is our main idea, it is very important.

"We need to defend well but you cannot defend well if you do not attack well. It is very important to score a goal away from home. My players are motivated and we will try and win this game. That is what we will do - get the ball and attack."

Arsenal are almost certain to provide former captain Thierry Henry with a warm welcome when he returns to the club tonight.

Henry, now 32, joined Barcelona in the summer of 2007 after a superb Arsenal career which saw him lead the Gunners against the Spaniards in the previous season's Champions League final.

"Thierry has a lot of experience and he is used to playing this kind of game," said Guardiola.

"He is returning home. He is the best player that ever played here in Arsenal. It is amazing. He is a huge talent and he is a huge part of this club. But for me it is an honour that he is with me at Barcelona."