Where do Arsenal and Eduardo go from here?

Nicklas Bendtner has hit the headlines for Arsenal in the last week, and rightly so. His hat-trick against Porto and the last-gasp winner against Hull kept Arsenal’s Premiership and European dreams alive. But one striker who has gone missing for Arsenal this season is Eduardo. The Croatian international has barely featured for the Gunners recently, and with the injury to Robin Van Persie, you would expect the striker to be regularly featuring for Arsenal.

Instead, Andrei Arshavin has been used as a lone striker, leading the line for Arsenal whilst Van Persie has been out, and before Bendtner returned from injury to spearhead Arsenal’s attack. But what has happened to Eduardo?

Eduardo last started for Arsenal way back on January 27th, in the goalless draw with Aston Villa, and last scored for the Gunners in the FA Cup third round win against West Ham on January 3rd. This season, the striker has started 15 games for Arsenal (making a further 12 appearances off the bench), and has scored 5 goals in all competitions.

And it all started so well for Eduardo at Arsenal. The Croatian’s clinical finishing, ice-cold nature and the ability to score from anywhere earned the striker plenty of plaudits in his first few months at the Emirates. But that horrific tackle by Birmingham’s Martin Taylor back in February 2008 that broke Eduardo’s left fibula and dislocated his left ankle kept the Croatian out for a year.

That injury must have had a psychological impact on Eduardo. He must be apprehensive about going in for 50-50 tackles, be wary of over-zealous defenders and worry about players sliding in when he has the ball. Because of his injury, Eduardo has lost that confidence and spark he had before, and up until now is a shadow of his previous self.

That dive against Celtic didn’t help Eduardo’s confidence either. Those theatrics in the box brought a wave of negative attention focused on the striker and made him go further into his shell. The lack of confidence means Arsene Wenger has understandably not wanted to take risks with Eduardo, often resting the striker early in the season and rotating him in and out of the team.

So what should Arsenal do with Eduardo? Recently they have been bringing him off the bench for the odd 15 minutes, with the striker replacing Samir Nasri in the win over Hull on Saturday and Nicklas Bendtner after 73 minutes in the win over Burnley the previous week. Eduardo has spoken about what he needs to rediscover his previous form, saying back in December:

“I can say that I’m very close to my best form. I only need more consistent playing time – like five games in a row.”

Those five games in a row would definitely help Eduardo restore his former confidence. A serious injury like that can completely wreck a player’s mentality and it takes a while before they can mend it and start performing at the top of their game. If Eduardo can start some games and rediscover his scoring form, he could be a valuable asset for Arsenal in their hunt for Premiership glory.

Follow Tom Jinks on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tomjinks

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