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Lee Dixon
Gender Male
Ethnic English
Job English Footballer
Desc A stalwart of the Arsenal team that won the 1997/98 and 2001/02 Premier League titles. Not bad for a £765k signing from Stoke which also saw Steve Bould join the Gunners

Affiliation

Club as Player Arsenal FC
  Stoke City

Relationship

Coach Arsene Wenger
  George Graham
Teammate Nigel Winterburn
  Lee Dixon
  Tony Adams
  Martin Keown

2006 09 28 Publish: Dixon on Wenger’s 10 years at Arsenal

Arsene Wenger reminded me of my school geography teacher when I first encountered him at Arsenal’s London Colney training ground back in September 1996. I half expected him to have leather patches on the elbows of his jacket. Of course he didn’t, but that was the image given out by this studious-looking man

I’ve got to admit I hadn’t even heard of Arsene when he was appointed to take over from Bruce Rioch 10 years ago this week. I’d tried to do a bit of research on him, but there wasn’t much information available. What first struck me about him was how calm and softly spoken he was - the complete opposite of George Graham, who had a sergeant-major approach to management

And Arsene had all the players into his office to go over their contracts. He couldn’t believe what Nigel Winterburn and me were on. Traditionally full-backs were the worst-paid players in a football team - and we were no exception. But Arsene looked at what we were getting paid and said ‘that’s not right’ and we were given immediate wage rises

In my book, there’s nobody better at preparing a player for a match than Arsene Wenger. If one of his players doesn’t go out and play well on a Saturday, he can’t blame it on preparation

Arsene’s first signings were Gilles Grimandi, Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit and Nicolas Anelka. None of us had really heard of any of them, but they came in and were absolutely fantastic, on and off the pitch. Arsene’s signings from day one until now have generally been excellent - he’s made very few mistakes in the transfer market

When he arrived at the club I was 32 and the rest of the ‘famous back four’ of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Nigel Winterburn were over 30 as well. Yet we were all pretty open to Arsene’s new ideas. We were at an age when you begin to get a few niggles and start thinking that retirement isn’t too far away. Arsene told us he could extend our careers if we followed his advice, so we listened. I played six years under him before I retired, so his methods can’t be too bad

Arsene also encouraged us to be free in the way we played football and to do what came naturally on the pitch. It was liberating and the style of football we played changed dramatically

George Graham had taught me the art of defending, both as an individual and as part of a unit, and I’ve got a lot to thank him for. He laid the foundations for me to become the player I eventually turned into, but Arsene released the shackles. I was allowed to venture forward more and told not to worry about making mistakes

In truth, I think Arsene realised the back four was a little bit better than he had initially thought. Indeed in the end he probably kept us on a bit too long, because after we left - all at around the same time - there was a dip defensively

Arsene has undoubtedly been one of the biggest influences on the modern-day Premiership. His 10 years at Arsenal have flown by, and there haven’t been too many bad times. It was an absolute pleasure to play under him and I’m sure the players who are currently in the squad would agree. To work at that training ground every day and play at the Emirates on a Saturday, all under the guidance of professor Wenger, where better is there to ply your trade?

2015 08 20 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon on Thierry Henry] He was unplayable, there is not a bigger compliment than that

2016 04 23 Retrieve

[Arsenal legend Lee Dixon believes the absence of Aymeric Laporte is the main reason Manchester City have slipped so far behind Premier League title rivals Liverpool] I’m trying to put it down to one thing, I would probably say Laporte getting injured for me is the biggest factor.

I think he is a brilliant defender, I think he holds down that left-hand side of the defence, whoever is playing at left-back he can kind of control that side of the pitch and obviously his centre-half on the inside. So that’s a big area of pitch to replace somebody

You can put a body in there and I think that’s been a problem at centre-back as is well-documented, with Fernandinho going in there who’s a brilliant footballer but he’s not got that sixth sense of somebody just nicking in-behind him off his shoulder

The amount of times you go ‘they’re in position’ but somehow someone gets in, the little ones around the corner are difficult to deal with, especially around the box.

I think Laporte, his absence, has caused a real problem with that area of the pitch. And then taking Fernandinho out of [midfield] to put him elsewhere, there’s a kind of domino effect in the team. With the ball I don’t think they’re that different, they’re still brilliantly exciting to watch. But I think defensively that one area is affected a lot of the team and that’s probably why

2019 05 30 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Arsenal’s defensive deficiencies are going to take a long time to fix] I’m telling you, you could put Van Dijk in that back four at the moment, the way that the team is set up without the ball - he wouldn’t make much difference. It’s about the mentality of changing that around, they’ve not been good without the ball for years now. That takes more than one player. It takes more than five minutes. It takes a lot of work and effort on the training pitch. He’s got to be given time to do that but he also needs the quality of player to do that. It’s alright saying, ‘Well you can learn off one guy…’. It takes time.

2019 06 13 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Unai Emery’s Arsenal squad needs improving in all departments] It’s a huge summer for Arsenal. It was always going to be a big summer regardless of where they finished and whether they got to the Europa League or not. I think Emery knew this season was going to end like this, to a point where we either got into the top four and got Champions League football or we didn’t quite. We failed on that front. So he’s got to look accordingly and try to convince the board and powers that be to give him enough money to improve the squad. It does need improving in all departments, and let’s hope we can keep hold of our best players in order to do that.

2019 11 18 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon reckons there are no characters amongst the squad who will demand a change is made from head coach Emery] From [having] a shot at one end to conceding a penalty at the other end in the space of 20 seconds - that cannot happen, that has to stop. Now that game was Watford - I could have done Aston Villa at home, I could have done Liverpool away when he played a narrow midfield and let the Liverpool full-backs run the game, I could have picked any number of games and done the same analysis and just overlaid it onto the pitch

It’s happening every week - that has to stop and the players have got to go ‘We don’t know what you’re doing gaffer, can we change it? Can we change something?’. But there’s no leaders in that team, there’s no Patrick Vieira to go ‘boss can we change the system or something?’. Unai is banging the drum about how he wants to play and the players can’t do it

2019 11 23 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Arsenal should be wary of handing any more money to Unai Emery in the January transfer window] He cannot be under any illusion things have got to improve drastically. It has not been good enough. It is not his first season and so he cannot be cut any slack. 18 months in now everyone is looking at him. But we keep seeing a repeat of the mistakes. They keep getting hit on the break, giving the ball away, giving away chances. Things are not working. The question for Emery is - do you change the philosophy or do you change the players? He is at a crossroads. The buck stops with the manager. If the players can’t do what he wants, it is a problem. Do they understand what he wants them to do - and are they good enough to do it? I am seeing the same mistakes, and you have to ask - is it because he cannot get what he wants from the players? Or he does not know what he wants from them?

[Dixon added on the approach Arsenal should take heading towards another recruitment window] I’m not saying Emery should be sacked. I think every manager should get two years to get it right, but I know I am living in a dream world. This is why the pressure is on Emery. Can they solve the problems by buying in January? What are the board seeing? They have given him a warning. I think they are reluctant to push the button because it is too early. Arsenal always look to do things the right way. But personally, if it was my money I would be reluctant to hand it over. To me they are a long way off. Buying a couple of players in January would not solve things. This next run of games is crucial for him. If they don’t get points and a place in the top four he is in trouble. That’s it for him

2019 11 23b Retrieve

[He believes that Emery has almost run out of time after 18 months in charge at the Emirates, with his team 19 points off a Champions League place and without a win in four league games] He cannot be under any illusion things have got to improve drastically. It has not been good enough. It is not his first season and so he cannot be cut any slack. 18 months in now everyone is looking at him

But we keep seeing a repeat of the mistakes. They keep getting hit on the break, giving the ball away, giving away chances. Things are not working. The question for Emery is - do you change the philosophy or do you change the players? He is at a crossroads

The buck stops with the manager. If the players can’t do what he wants, it is a problem. Do they understand what he wants them to do - and are they good enough to do it? I am seeing the same mistakes, and you have to ask - is it because he cannot get what he wants from the players? Or he does not know what he wants from them?

I’m not saying Unai Emery should be sacked. I think every manager should get two years to get it right, but I know I am living in a dream world. This is why pressure is on Emery. Can they solve the problems by buying in January? What are the board seeing? They have given him a warning. I think they are reluctant to push the button because it is too early. Arsenal look to do things the right way

But personally, if it was my money I would be reluctant to hand it over. To me they are a long way off. Buying players in January would not solve things. This next run of games is crucial for him. If they don’t get points and a place in the top four he is in trouble. That’s it for him

[Dixon believes that Swiss midfielder Xhaka, sidelined and stripped of the captaincy after telling fans to F*** off, has been made a scapegoat] George Graham or Arsene Wenger would not have handled it this way. Having a vote on who should be captain was ridiculous. It undermined Xhaka. He is a good player but not what Arsenal need. He tries but he has not got the football intelligence. But he has been made a scapegoat. He behaved badly. But to get rid of him because of that was the wrong reason. Now Emery is under pressure and he needs all his troops

[It is last chance saloon for the Spaniard] This run of games is crucial for Emery. It is a perfect run. Almost a free hit. If Arsenal cannot get a chunk of points and consolidate a place in the top four then he is in trouble. If that does not happen then I think that will be it for Unai. He won’t be there in the New Year

[Lee Dixon has warned Unai Emery needs to get the Gunners back on track] I think it’s important as a club, as players, as fans, as anything [to know that] being divided is never the way forward. Everyone demands different things, everyone demands different changes, but I don’t think that’s the way. The [right] way is accepting who we are, what we have, getting everyone together, supporting each other, and that is the way that we can reach our goals because one doing one thing, the other one doing the other, it’s never going to work

2019 12 02 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Massimiliano Allegri or Carlo Ancelotti can be quick fixes for Arsenal if they look to go down that route with Stan Kroenke needing to decide what the club’s long-term strategy is] Where does he see the club going? Does he just look at balance sheets? Is he integral to the fabric of the club about how they play, what they play, what they produce, what the academy’s like? I don’t know those answers. So if he came out and said ‘Right, this is what we want to do with this football club’ - but we don’t hear from him, we don’t hear what the strategy long term is.

If he’s just developing a cash cow in order to have something to be able to get money out and have his thing there, because he’s obviously now in complete control of the club from the top, then that’s it. If he comes out and says ‘No actually, we want a project, we want to bring Patrick Vieira in, we want to go Arsenal orientated, old school, he knows the club, and we want to build the academy and build this amazing football club’ then go down that road. If he wants a quick fix then he’s going to have to go for somebody like an Allegri or somebody who can come in, or an Ancelotti, and go ‘Right, we’ve fixed it for now, we’ll get into the Champions League’, but the long-term view of the club is all down to the owner

2019 12 06 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Freddie Ljungberg will be fully awake at Arsenal now] I don’t think the atmosphere is a reflection of Freddie, I think that’s aimed at the players and what they have watched. If he’s under any illusions about the size of the job he’s got as caretaker, let alone if he went on to become the manager, then he’s fully awake now. That performance was abject, was sloppy. They had a 20-minute spell where they thought they were going to get back in the game, it was all bubbling away, but the level of complacency at times, what that does is just allow Brighton to pass the ball easily. They could not believe their luck playing on a pitch like this playing against a top-quality club, not necessarily side. Coming here, there was always pressure to be on top of your game, but Brighton didn’t have to be that good. They were good but they didn’t have to be, Arsenal let them play far too much

What is really upsetting, and it has been all season, is it’s fine if you make a mistake but if you make a mistake one week, then go out and do it again the next week, it’s different. There are players out there doing exactly the same now as they did at the end of last season. As a coach, Emery couldn’t fix it. Freddie has got a massive job now to look at that and ask how they had so much space in midfield. He said he watched the game against Norwich twice and now I’m saying to Freddie, I’m putting him under pressure, he needs to go and work that out on the training pitch. I’m sure he is trying but the players have got to take responsibility. Just be compact and organised

2020 01 02 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Arsenal should be challenging for one and two in the Premier League] He’s not going to go in and get in the top four in the first six months - that is not going to happen. It is a long-term project; there is no doubt about that. But, ultimately, any coach that comes in, they will all tell you it’s all about players; the game has always been about players and it will always be about players, because they are the ones who put the plans into action. So is the squad good enough? You would look at it after last night and say ‘yes’. But moving forward … forget top four and top six, this team - my Arsenal Football Club - has to be challenging for one and two; be second pushing for first. That is the level they need to get back to, but it is a massive mountain to climb from where we are right now

I don’t want to go overboard on his progress three games in, but there are definitely signs. The Emirates hasn’t been like that in many years - it almost sent goosebumps down my spine

2020 01 02b Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Mesut Ozil is a player in the Lionel Messi mould] I thought he was back to the Mesut that we all want to see play [against United]. I’ve been the most critical of Ozil over the years. My game was built on hard work and the teams I played in were built on hard work. Even the 1998 double side and the 2002 side, they worked their socks off regardless of how good and fast flowing they were.

It was demanded of them by everyone, everyone single one of them. I think Arteta said it was contagious. The body language you put on the pitch and the way people look at it. The body language of them closing down. They were all at it and they all went at the right time - and he was part of that. The benefit he got was that the players around him were willing to do some of his work. Stats can be false now and then when it says he ran this and he ran that. But what type of runs are they? How much is jogging? How much of it is fast sprinting? He is a player who is so talented so he doesn’t have to be sprinting, he just moves into space.

Messi is similar. He will just walk and then you get him the ball. But if you have a structure in place to find them, that has been so evident in the last few games as he has been doing his flicks. He has been doing his flicks before but it is just the ball is coming to him much more. He is in a decent position and he has a structure behind, so that if it doesn’t come off he has protection behind him

2020 02 29 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Shkodran Mustafi needs to have a word with himself & pipe down] [Mustafi] seriously needs to have a word with himself and pipe down a little bit. Bang me 25 appearances out and 15 clean sheets then he can do what he likes with his hair and his sunglasses. Just sit back down for a bit and carry on churning the results out

I’m pleased that he’s bucked up and he’s playing well, but you can’t say to the crowd ‘When he gets it, don’t say anything, don’t feel nervous’. The crowd feel what they feel. You’re a professional footballer playing at the top of your game for Arsenal. If it really bothers you and you’re appealing to the crowd saying ‘Please let me play my game and see how good I am’, that’s fine. But you can’t be sheltered from that, that’s part of being a footballer. If you can’t handle it and it gets to you, no disrespect, go and play lower down the leagues. Go and play for another team where there’s only 5,000 people there and they’re not going to get on your back. This is Arsenal, we’re here to do one thing and that’s win trophies

My advice to him would be put your hair back how it was, take your sunglasses off, go and hide behind your captain and churn out 25 performances

2020 03 07 Retrieve

[Lee Dixon says Arsenal’s recruitment blatantly not good enough] It’s about [implementing] a structure, a discipline, those traditions and values that playing for the Arsenal is all about. I think Arteta gets all of that, I believe in what he is doing since he’s been at the club, we’re seeing some of that come back in the team and in training. Over a period of the next 18 months or so I believe those values will be reinforced. The difficult bit next is the recruitment, the team is blatantly not good enough in lots of departments. That’s [on] Arteta putting his requests over to the executive committee and then the board, and getting the players that he wants. Is the money available to do that? I would suggest not. That’s why it’s such a big job for him because we’re all looking at him going ‘who are you going to sign?

2020 03 27 Retrieve

[Thierry Henry feels Martial’s development and consistency hindered by Man Utd’s lack of characters] I talked about [Martial] with [Henry] recently. We did some work together when [Man Utd] had the two games around Christmas time. I presumed he knew him because they’re from the same area in France so I asked him about Martial. He said, ‘He’s exactly like I was when I came to Arsenal. He needs to go through the process like I did with you lot and I don’t know if the Manchester United dressing room is like that’. He said that was the making of him. To liken himself to Martial or another player to him, it really painted a picture of what Martial was like and what his character was like because he’s super talented like Thierry was and I think his development would have been similar. I’m not saying he would have been as good as Thierry, but he would have been similar if he had been in the old United dressing room with the characters like we had in our dressing room. He certainly talks about that as a real learning lesson in his curve to get to how brilliant he was

2020 04 05 Retrieve

[According to Lee Dixon, Henry said that was due to a lack of characters in the United dressing room] He said, ‘Anthony Martial’s exactly like I was when I came to Arsenal. He needs to go through the process like I did with you lot and I don’t know if the Manchester United dressing room is like that’. He said that was the making of him

2020 06 27 Retrieve

[Matteo Guendouzi needs a Patrick Vieira-type figure alongside him at Arsenal] I completely agree with leaving him out. It wouldn’t have happened in my day - well, it might have happened once but it wouldn’t have happened again. Somebody needs to have a word with him and I’m sure Arteta has done - he wouldn’t have just left him out at Southampton and not said anything. There will have been a conversation and then it is about the ability of that player to take that message on board and see what he does with them. You don’t just do what the coach says, you listen and use your football intelligence to work out the good bits, the bad bits and what will get you to the next level. The next level for him is not being sat at home and watching the game on TV, it is about being in the team every week

[on Guenzous’s outburst] It is not the first time we have seen a bit of petulance from him. He is a talented boy but, unfortunately for him, he has got his chance in a team that has not really got a lot of leaders on the pitch. If you picked Guendouzi out of the team now and stuck him next to Patrick Vieira, he would be a totally different player because he would be led around the pitch and told where to go. He almost needs to be coached both tactically and behavioural-wise from within the team group and I don’t know if that is going to happen. That is the problem he has got, he needs someone to grab hold of him and give him a little socially-distanced hug - sit down with him and talk to him, analyse his game with him.