Eduardo's Rut: The Uncertain Future of Arsenal's Fox in the Box

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Eduardo's Rut: The Uncertain Future of Arsenal's Fox in the Box
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

I think it could go without saying that this has been one of the strangest seasons in the club’s recent history to be an Arsenal fan.

A brilliant start, a new-found camaraderie, some failure, then success again. Out of the Cup, back in the league, out of another cup, top of the league, failure again, and finally—shock and awe.

It ain’t over till it’s over though. There’s still a chance with five games to go that the Arsenal might yet emerge top of the dogpile.

Oh, how sweet that victory would taste!

Yet that oft-bandied-about phrase holds true—hope is a dangerous thing for a football fan. Should we fail, should the Arsenal stumble one more time, the finger pointing will begin.

The banshee-esque wails of the disappointed Arsenal fan will rent the sky for months, until finally, bitter hope will take its place in August.

There’s no doubt though that in all the post-mortems conducted by fans and pundits alike, a good majority of those moans and groans will be directed towards those cheeky bastards—snap, crackle, and pop.

Injuries—short-term and long-term—have been familiar faces at the Emirates for years. They haven’t looked likely to let up in their relentless pursuit of one day bringing Arsene Wenger to tears.

Which brings me to Eduardo.

Not directly, of course, because Eddie’s been fit for a good part of the season—weren’t we all so excited!? Indirectly though, injuries to van Persie and Bendtner (and occasionally Arshavin) have given him a decent 13 league starts and 10 appearances off the bench thus far this season.

“It is a massive season for Eduardo, because he was out for such a long time—he was out before he could prove what a big player he is,” quipped Arsene just as the season began.

Let’s pause for a moment, and remember that horror tackle at Birmingham that cost the talented Crozillian 18 long months of his career. Poor lad.

Ah well. All done now?

Good, let’s move on.

Eduardo’s return for his 23 appearances in the league has been a miserly three goals. Follow where I’m going with this, because I’m never going to be the person to say: “He’s rubbish—sell him.”

But I will be talking about Eduardo, and in a nutshell what I’m saying is: Eduardo’s future is one of the most risk-bearing decisions Arsene will have to make.

Eduardo is—or was—a fine player. His record at Zagreb stands at 94 goals in 135 appearances.

No matter how average the Croatian league may be in comparison to the Premier League, that’s a notable goalscoring ratio. Watch his Carling Cup games from two years ago, and from his play, there’s no doubt that his intelligence and positioning ability are fantastic.

So, what’s gone wrong?

Good before injury, mediocre after—there’s no doubt as to what his drop in form is related to. Arsene’s probably right with his suggestion that it’s all mental and that Eduardo is in fact, fully fit.

One could well assume it’s just a striker’s trough—even the very best go through nonproductive spells, and maybe Eduardo is in one too.

Here’s where things get interesting.

If that were true and Wenger thought it too, he’d know that the only solution to the problem is to play that striker more often. Yet, Eduardo has been second choice to Bendtner at any given opportunity, despite being the more experienced player.

And, frankly, I think it has to do in equal parts with both form and tactics. Eduardo did poorly in his spell of run-outs, while Bendtner looked livelier with every game.

Bendtner is also a great choice as a false No. 9 (the tip of Arsene’s 4-3-3). He’s built, but also great with the ball at his feet and very sharp.

That’s not to say that Eduardo isn’t intelligent, but one gets the feeling that his best is when he’s given a half-chance in the box via the early cross (a part of our game that has died slowly over the past decade).

And I think this puts Wenger in a tough spot. As much as he’d like for Eduardo to break free of his mental chains and hit prime goalscoring form again, it’s difficult to justify him starting over a highly promising and rapidly improving Nicklas Bendtner, who’s also a better fit for the way Arsene wants the Arsenal to play.

What we see is Arsene relegating a striker of Eduardo's repute, by standards of the lesser leagues of Europe that would gladly pay good sum for him, to the bench.

We infer that he may be on his way out.

What Arsene sees is an impact sub, who could one day crack and begin to hit form again.

There really is a lot more I’d like to say about Eduardo and his future at Arsenal, and even what Chamakh’s impending arrival spells for our front line.

But I’ll stop right here, and promise a second part to this post (one full of chalkboards and other fun stuff). Then we can really grasp what it is that makes Eduardo somewhat redundant to our style of play.

 

Manny is the author of the Football Abroad Blog, footballabroad.wordpress.com.

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