Henry eyes Lazio with no hint of trepidation

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wegner will be happy with the formidable attacking instincts of at least two of his Arsenal players following Wednesday night's dramatic 3-2 Champions' League win over Shakhtar Donetsk, but enough about Martin Keown and Lee Dixon.

Arsene Wegner will be happy with the formidable attacking instincts of at least two of his Arsenal players following Wednesday night's dramatic 3-2 Champions' League win over Shakhtar Donetsk, but enough about Martin Keown and Lee Dixon.

The former's seventh and eighth goals in 334 Arsenal appearances were earned with grit and determination rather than finesse, and opportunities for the likes of the latter's two ferocious second-half attempts will be more limited against tougher opponents.

One pressing question remains, however. How did a Gunners' side who had 68 per cent of the possession and launched wave after wave of attacks, who had 31 shots at goal (19 of which were on target), who forced 18 corners to their opponents' nil, and who ended the game with Thierry Henry, Nwankwo Kanu, Sylvain Wiltord and Dennis Bergkamp all playing simultaneously, fail to take a commanding lead against a team reduced to 10 men before half-time?

Dogged resistance by the Ukrainians and some inspired goalkeeping by Yuri Virt go a little way towards an explanation but Arsenal have also been less than prolific in the Premiership this season. Wenger was asked on Wednesday night whether a lack of goals from his strikers was worrying him. "Yes," came the quick reply. "If you put all the missed chances together from the beginning of the season then it's unbelievable."

If Wenger has concerns, they do not seem to be shared by his attacking players themselves. Lazio will be the next opponents in Group B of the Champions' League when they visit north London next week and Henry is confident about playing them.

"Lazio are a great side and they have spent a lot of money on quality players but we are a good side as well," he said. He added that his side's return to Highbury after two years' Champions' League exile at Wembley had already reaped dividends.

"To play at Highbury really helps. You can close opponents down, put a bit of pressure on them so they can't play their game." On his side's chances next week, he added: "As a team and as a unit I think we are better than Lazio. You can't be scared of the players against you."

Most teams who face Lazio would be well within their rights to be scared. The Italian champions have some array of talent. On Wednesday night, Simone Inzaghi's two goals and Diego Simeone's one against Sparta Prague - who Arsenal laboured to beat last week - were the merest hint of what they are capable of. The thought of Marcelo Salas, Claudio Lopez, Pavel Nedved and, if fit, Hernan Crespo joining them in the same squad would worry any opposition manager.

"We are not yet at our peak," Lazio's coach, Sven Goran Eriksson, said. "I think we can improve, especially from a tactical point of view, and I would have liked to see us create a few more chances."

Aside from next week's game, Wenger has another matter to deal with - Bergkamp's future. "It seems that Arsenal want to keep me and, yes, I really want to stay, but it depends on the offer," said the Dutchman yesterday. He is out of contract next summer and will be able to open pre-contract talks with any non-British club in January.

"If you look at my career you can see I am not really a substitute," he added, alluding to the fact that he has been increasingly left on the bench. "Like every player I want to start all the games, although I realise I must be patient because competition for places at Arsenal is now very strong." Not least from defenders.

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