In the aftermath of Arsenal’s 6-3 drubbing, Arsene Wenger predictably hailed the brilliance of Lionel Messi, but interestingly decided to admit in a post match interview that it was time for Arsenal to invest in new players this summer. Whilst the unanimous reaction from Arsenal fans was probably to think ‘about blooming time’, it beggars the question… where will this leave Arsenal’s Croatian forward Eduardo?
The problem that Eduardo faces at present is two-fold. Primarily, the formation that Wenger deploys is hurting Eduardo. Secondly, the boy is struggling to return to the form and fitness he displayed before his injury.
In a 4-3-3, Eduardo must either play as a loan front man, or in a wide left position. Neither are suited to his style, especially since suffering such a horrific injury, rendering the player far slower than he was once. Eduardo started on the left of midfield in a 4-4-2 formation when he first began his Arsenal career in the Premier League, as Wenger slowly introduced him to the English game. However, the Brazilian born forward soon found his feet in Europe and the Carling Cup, and in a 4-4-2, working off a large target man, Eduardo showed signs of flourishing. Before his season in 2007/08 was cruelly cut short, he’d bagged 12 goals in 22 starts, and although only four came in the league, Eduardo had started repaying Wenger’s £7.5m investment.
The injury Eduardo sustained in February 2008 has however left the player struggling to recapture the form he showed in the latter stages of his first season with the club. The aforementioned tactical changes enforced by Wenger do not suit Eduardo, but physically, he doesn’t look the same player. Eduardo looks a yard slower, a tad heavier and at times hesitant. His record of six goals in 17 starts is not particularly bad, but with only seven career Premier League goals to his name, Arsenal cannot wait forever for Eduardo to flourish. Furthermore, the fact that Wenger is now willing to admit that investment is necessary, may see a centre forward come in, and push Eduardo further down the pecking order at Arsenal.
Eduardo signed a new contract at Arsenal in November 2009, and Arsene Wenger appears to still have faith in the player, stating:
“I believe he [Eduardo] is still on his way back.
He is not completely yet where he was before but the signs are positive. He is getting better and better but I knew that it would take a long time.
“Don’t forget that he had a second surgery at the end of last season and that was decisive in getting him back to where he was before because the injury had affected his pace.
“For a while he had not found his sharpness completely. However for the last two or three weeks in training he has been showing that he is back where he was before. But it took him a long time.”
Arguably then, Eduardo will still have a future at Arsenal. Wenger believes in the boy, and so perhaps we are yet to see the best of the player. However, it is hard to see Eduardo ever becoming more than a squad player. He doesn’t fit into Wenger’s 4-5-1/4-3-3 nor does Wenger look like changing to a 4-4-2 anytime soon. Thus, Eduardo is unlikely to form a partnership with a target man akin to that which he had with Emmanuel Adebayor.
Eduardo has proven himself in the past a deft finisher, with an excellent left foot, and aerial ability that seems unnatural when you consider his size (his header past Robert Green in Arsenal’s 2-1 victory testament to his aerial prowess). However, it is difficult to see how Eduardo can progress at Arsenal unless he develops his ability to play as a lone frontman. Further, with Bendtner and Robin Van Persie the preferred upfront, and arguably another forward set to sign in the summer, Eduardo might find that he is spending a lot more time playing in the Carling Cup and pointless Champions League matches. Wenger is loyal to his players, and will likely standby the Croatian forward. However, the time might soon come for Eduardo to move on as it seems that arguably, Arsenal already has.
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