Eduardo’s predatory instincts can lead Arsenal from the front

Eduardo’s instincts in the final third should ensure he endures a seamless transition to centre forward in the absence of Robin van Persie.
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No sooner did Robin van Persie get the hang of this goalscoring lark, he became the latest player in Arsenal’s history under Wenger’s tenure to fall foul to the November injury jinx. The Dutchman has been in sparkling form at the tip of the 4-3-3, scoring seven goals and providing seven assists and it’s this double role that has seen him become a key figure in Arsenal’s newly found system of cutting edge.

But van Persie’s self-analysis before suffering ankle ligament damage should mean his replacement, Eduardo endures a seamless transition into the central role. “The weeks before, I was constantly taking defensive actions, hunting and pressurising,” said van Persie. “In the same games I missed some good chances. When I listed them, I came to the conclusion that, through all that work and bustle, I had missed the primary focus of my role. The coach thought the same thing. He said I had my moments to make better choices. In recent weeks, I think it is all better balanced.”

Although predominantly thought of as a goalscorer, what Eduardo brings to the Arsenal side is more than just goals. His calm demeanor is infectious as one of the captains of the team, his expertise in the craft instills confidence to those around him but most crucially he makes things happen. “It was a good team performance, ” Wenger enthused after Eduardo’s comeback last season in a 4-0 win over Cardiff. “Dynamic, convincing, the kind of game we like to play, with added drive going forward and Eduardo played a big part in that.”  Since that victory, the club has seen only a smattering of involvement from the Croatian striker who’s biggest challenge will be to see if he can last the whole distance in van Persie’s absence.

And that itself should be the only concern that fans have over whether Eduardo can apply himself in the role because in terms of movement, there is little better, whether that’s creating space for himself or for others. “I’m feeling good,” he said. “At the beginning of the season I had a few injury niggles but I am OK now and ready to help the team rise to the top of the table, as well as progress in the Champions League. The boss knows our qualities and how they can fit into a formation. For me it is fine to play on the left or the right, no problem, the most important thing is to help the team and I feel good in those positions. It is a formation that gives us more movement and more creativity through the middle, although it is not easy because we have to balance defence and attack and that can be difficult.”

With Eduardo in the centre it will offer Arsenal plenty of movement up front and if he engages the central defenders as well as it is envisaged, it could open up the space in front of the backline for one of the midfielders to take advantage from in “between the lines.”

Another albeit radical plan would be to involve Arshavin or even Abou Diaby as the central point of attack but in doing so would probably create the most false number nine in history. Granted, the Russian would feel his best position is as a second striker and it is expected he will get an opportunity to lead the line although that is likely to be during or at the start of a certain attacking phase rather than from the off.

But Arshavin should fret not if he doesn’t get the central role because the real danger may lay in him or one of the other wide forwards getting in to the forward position by cutting inside. “When forwards attack from wide to inside, they are far more dangerous,” says Sir Alex Ferguson. “When [Thierry] Henry played as a striker, and sometimes when Wayne [Rooney] does, they try to escape and create space by drifting from the centre to wide positions, when that actually makes them less dangerous.”

Brazil displayed this type of danger against England in Doha as central striker Luis Fabiano constantly dropped deep, pulling one of the central defenders out, leaving Wes Brown as right back mulling over whether to stick with the left forward of Nilmar. Brown was punished for his uncertainty, as first Nilmar got in between him and centre-back Upson to head in the only goal of the game before doing the same to nick a backpass away from Foster to win a penalty.

And indeed against AZ Alkmaar, Arsenal produced the same movements – three times to be precise – to pull the Dutch side’s marking system all over the place in their 4-1 win. Eduardo was involved in that match, coming off the bench to play a part in the fourth with his ingenuity and that is his greatest strength.

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16 thoughts on “Eduardo’s predatory instincts can lead Arsenal from the front

  1. I think Eduardo Da Silva is the best man of the moment for the gunners front. I feel he can play more than RVP although the likes of Andrey Arshavin are still around

  2. Eduardo definitely has something more to his game than just poaching goals. He can create opportunities with his movement. If you check out his stats for Dinamo Zagreb(I am unable to get them now) you can see that he does create a lot of assists. Arshavin will also play in the role due to interchanging. All three forwards will keep moving all the time.

  3. When Ed played against England in Croatia’s lost at Wembley, I love the way he held himself against big defenders, the wild mobs, bad referees and, most importantly, poverty of supply.
    Against that backdrop he scored one and should have won a penalty. Totally agree with your verdict.
    Then again, Arsene could have something in store to surprise us on Saturday.

  4. What makes Eduardo such a good candidate to replace Van Persie is his adaptability.
    We saw at the beginning of the season (against Everton) Eduardo’s ability to play the attacking fulcrum – dropping deep, creating space and playing others in, a la Robin Van Persie.
    However, in the Carling Cup against Liverpool, he played the role of a more pragmatic striker – running the channels and penetrating the backline.
    This versatility allows him to adapt to any sort of gameplan Wenger implements.

    As great as Van Persie has been in the role, we saw against West Ham that when our wing-forwards are pushed deep, Van Persie provides very little direct attacking threat. Eduardo on the other hand, has this in abundance.

    Arshavin is, however, another player that should seriously be considered. He may not have the off-the-ball movement of Eduardo, but his touch, skill, and vision are second to none. You may recall he played in the role for the last 20 minutes against West Ham, and carved out 2 or 3 opportunities in that small amount of time.

    I agree forwards can be more dangerous down the flanks, but I don’t feel Arshavin is one of these; instead, he is a creative player who prefers to dictate the game in the final third from the centre, which is why Wenger may ultimately keep Eduardo down the left, with the Russian in the centre.

    Just one final suggestion: whilst I wouldn’t play him there currently, as we have more natural options in the role, what are your views on Ramsey assuming the ‘False No.9’ role? He has played the second striker/AM role for Wales and Arsenal on occassion, and shows good strength, pace in behind, and excellent awareness with his back to goal – not to mention fantastic technical ability.

    1. Good point about van Persie’s more orthodox manner needing more work but that’s to be expected because of his relative freshness to the role, and Eduardo’s threat from direct play. Arshavin has stated he loves the dribble; trying to get in one-on-one situations and while he is better suited as a second striker, his dynamism on the flanks can only be matched by Walcott at the moment.
      In the centre of a 4-3-3, I feel he could do well although when he’s played for Zenit or Russia as a second striker he preferred to play on the break. He liked being more direct but the examples you mentioned at West Ham and also against AZ away shows also his advantages in such situations. His movement is very good; more subtle so it will be up to the others to make the most of it as always.

      Ramsey as an AM/SS is a big possibility in the future. Decision making and movement needs more work at top level whereas he may get away with it for Wales where the quality (sorry) is less.

      1. I watched some footage from that Zenit-Rangers match and brief as it was it showed how Arshavin did everything for Zenit. He was high on quantity, low on quality as in there were many wayward crosses, the short passes didn’t come off yet still he managed to find a moment of brilliance to set up the first goal. What Arsene is doing with Arsh is by playing him on the left is yes getting him to dribble take out one or two defenders with the deft movement on the ball. Here obviously Arsh knows he has players with good off the ball movement (Nasri, Walcott, Rosicky) so he has to do little but do it well I feel.

  5. Except for Song, anyone can play in the front three position(I am talking about the 6 excluding the 4 defenders). That is the beauty of our system. When Denilson takes Song’s place, it might even be an interchangeable front six.

    1. The defenders are even interchangeable to a degree with both CBs being able to play FB and the FBs can fill in at CB if they really have to (less so with Clichy than Sagna) and Song able to fill in at CB.

      It’s a pretty flexible and effective system with many players able to fill several positions/roles when required to on the fly without too big a loss of effectiveness so long as they don’t assume the roles for too long.

  6. Good piece, Brain, although nothing earthshaking. When I asked you to put down your thoughts on how the team might play without RVP, I was thinking that his absence would require a major change — and change is risky when things are going well. But not that initial anxiety has passed, I agree with you that Eduardo will likely slot in quite well as the number 9. I can’t wait to see how we play tomorrow.

    1. So earthshaking is what is expected from this blog now? Don’t know if I got the Sol Campbell bottle for it. But yes, there wasn’t any reason to suspect much radical changes unless Eduardo picks up niggles and is in need of a rest. The players could have handled a change as they’ve become better for it, but why change something that’s working.

      1. I guess that “nothing earthshaking” came off wrong. What I meant was that my initial reaction to RVP’s injury was that we would really have to change the way we play… and it wasn’t clear how we would do that or how long it would take to ‘re-learn’. But when it came down to it, I thought you nailed it in saying that Eduardo would fit the roll easily. Now, having watched the Sunderland game, I’m not so sure. Our offense looked very, very disjointed. Neither Rosicky, Nasri or Eduardo offered much and Ramsey was scattered an erratic. If there was a positive, it was Traore, who looked dangerous at LB and should combine well with Arshivin. And Song, of course, was everywhere. But it now looks like there will be some adjustments needed sans RVP.

  7. while this is still relevant – eduardo was completely invisible this match . . .
    we kept trying to include him with long passes over the top . . . which he never reached.

  8. I would like to see more of Vela. Eduardo is struggling at the moment. He is not able to link the other players as much as RVP would. We need to change our strategy. What do you think?

  9. We must learn to put things in context. Sunderland had two weeks break to prepare for one game. Most of our players had travelled across europe and the world to play in internationals.
    Why are we so quick to dismiss this.

    Eduardo is a different player to Rvp, and the team will have to make adjustments to that.

    That said the team was good enough to win.

    On a positive note, we are alright for the season.

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