At pretty much the same time as van Persie was being stretchered off the pitch in Italy on Saturday evening the News of the World`s comic book presses were printing a story, in the full sense of the word, linking Eduardo with Liverpool. The thrust was that Eduardo was becoming disenchanted having had few chances since his return from a career threatening injury in February and was concerned that with 18 months to go negotiations to extend his contract hadn`t taken place. It`s ironic that this tale of frustration should emerge now that both van Persie and Bendtner are out.
The system that Arsenal has played this season with van Persie up top seems to limit the opportunities for strikers though both Bendtner and Eduardo have featured on the left or right of the central forward. Now with both Robin and Nickolas out Eduardo finds himself pretty well unchallenged, with only Vela and Walcott both due to return from injury as probable alternatives, to lead the attack.
It`s amusing to read some of the posts by anxious Citeh and Spud fans crowing that having, temporarily at least, lost our best player we will now fall apart and their hopes of that desperately coveted fourth spot must therefore be encouraged. It`s pretty much the same tone they adopted when we sold what they also perceived as the irreplaceable Adebayor, our last best player, who had in turn replaced the irreplaceable very best player Henry we sold earlier. You would think they would have learned by now that in playing the creative, attacking game that we do our best player is often the next one in.
It`s also curious to read how much perceptions of van Persie have changed in such a short time. Only a couple of months ago there was still a fair amount of doubt whether Robin was the right player for the role despite enjoying a good, relatively injury free, season previously. He hasn`t been universally accepted as indispensible to the team for all that long. Conversely, it is only a little over 18 months ago that Eduardo would, in all probability, have been the more popular choice to lead our attack. A year out having broken his leg has dulled the memories of the player who scored 12 goals in his first 22 starts for us and also notched up a fair number of assists in the process. A player who came to us having scored 34 goals in 32 games in his last season with Dynamo Zagreb, a feat which disguised the fact that he was also creating his fair share of goals for them too.
Having played in fitful bursts since his return from injury with the inevitable setbacks inhibiting any chance of a prolonged run in the team it is worth noting then that in the 8 starts and 9 subs appearances since his return from injury Eduardo has still notched up 6 goals and 5 assists. RvP has settled into his role so well and dispelled the doubts that followed him so comprehensively that concerns as to whether we can maintain the effectiveness of recent games are inevitable. Can Eduardo then give us what Robin has given us this season? If we are looking for pace and the sort of explosive invention and power that RvP delights us with then no – he can`t. But he does bring an intelligence of movement and predatory finishing skills that mark him out as a good deal more than a squad player. That same intelligence also gives him the ability to create chances for others with a subtlety of touch and vision that isn`t as fully appreciated as his finishing skills.
I have read some comment that Eduardo won`t put in the work in tracking back and dropping off to collect the ball where needed. In my view that is a great misjudgement of Eduardo`s play – look where he was on the pitch when he suffered that fateful injury against Birmingham. Eduardo is no mere goal hanger. There is no doubt we will miss the qualities that van Persie brings to the team but that shouldn`t lead to the dismissal of those very real qualities that Eduardo is able to bring. Different gifts maybe but also with the capacity to be devastating in their own way.
The run of games that the Crozillian should now get is an opportunity that, though the circumstances might be regrettable given the way we have started the season, is one that we might well have craved in other times. Will we see the player whose abbreviated season so excited us close to 2 years ago? For sure the ability is there and though we have to consider the caveat that you are more likely see in the financial pages – past performance is no guarantee – hopefully we`ll find that this particular cloud does have a Silva lining.
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