Eduardo style may be seen as a luxury to some but his ability to make the difficult look simple can prove invaluable.
Gary Lineker may have loathed to be stuck out on his unfavoured position of outside right for Barcelona but he begrudgingly accepted that a job had to be done for the best of the team. Neverthless for the short remainder he remained at the club under Johan Cruyff, Linker undertook his task with a certain humility and gracefulness just as Eduardo did in his last season at Arsenal.
Much has been made of Eduardo’s waning of power after suffering his horrific leg injury at St. Andrews in February 2008 and certainly there’s prudence in that argument as his usually so assured self-confidence was lacking in front of goal and seemingly baulked under the pressure to rediscover his goalscoring boots. The statistics also look particularly damming – his conversion rate was 23.5% in the Premier League before his injury but was just 6.3% after (OPTA Stats).
But there are a number of factors not least the impossibility to build up a rhythm due to ongoing injury niggles sustained after being out for so long – he didn’t complete a single league game. He also played wide left in a 4-3-3 therefore the opportunities to find himself in front of goal would theoretically be less despite the notion of interchangeability at Arsenal. Indeed as Gary Lineker soon realised, being forced to consider a game from a different angle made him a better striker and Eduardo’s ability to make the difficult look simple seemingly went against him in the position. The Croatian made 6 assists in the league, the fourth best at the club and one less than Arshavin.
There is an axiom in the modern game that goalpoachers are becoming an outdated luxury. The improved defences mean strikers need to update their skill-set but it would also be a serious lapse in a trainers coaching should a striker at the top-level be bereft of the skills required to benefit a team of outside play. Even Michael Owen, the most famed of poachers, has developed his link-up after being tried out behind the main forward for Kevin Keegan at Newcastle. Wayne Rooney scored over thirty goals in refining his game to be more individualistic while Gonzalo Higuain’s brief has been nothing more than running the channels and playing in an opportunistic manner. Goalscorers do have a case especially with the World Cup showing the need for teams to get behind and especially if the side has ample creators as Spain although La Roja were all to comfortable in ditching Fernando Torres for a more holistic approach despite David Villa also being ineffectual as the number nine.
Eduardo’s movement is fantastic as can his link up be but there remained a feeling that his best work was to be with someone in close proximity to him and that was, certainly in the early use of the 4-3-3, difficult to guarantee. Robin van Persie was able to manufacture space with his movement, whether dropping off or roaming around that was more suited to Arsenal’s style. The Holland national side made much noise about van Persie’s movement in the World Cup creating space but without the support or runners was largely ineffective. Only in the second half of the season whereby Fabregas was pushed higher to the main forward could closer support be offered to Eduardo.
Of course it would be difficult to talk about Eduardo’s time at Arsenal without mentioning the impact the injury has had on his career. Indeed would he have stayed fit with more run of games, could easily have adapted himself to the Gunners new style. Let’s not forget also the good start he made to the season in the middle not forgetting the performance he displayed in the infamous 3-0 win over Celtic. As it was, Arsene Wenger was unable to assure Eduardo of a first choice role or even second; Arshavin is a sure starter on the left and the signing of Chamakh presents Arsenal with something different, making him effectively third choice. Wenger also rebuffed an enquiry from Deportivo for Carlos Vela highlighting the trust to be placed on the Mexican.
The transfer to Shakhtar of around £6.5m, as signings in the summer go, could be a potential bargain – as injuries aside – the Champions League enthusiasts have got themselves a genuine top class striker. With all due respects to the Ukrainian league, it should be a cannon fodder for Eduardo and he will fit into the 4-2-3-1 of Mircea Lucescu’s side comfortably. Wenger regrettably had to let go of his next “fox in the box” who failed to set the Premiership alight but also knows that Eduardo’s knack of doing the simple efficiently is an underrated skill and one that is underappreciated in the modern game. Eduardo may be gone, but he is not forgotten.