By Les Crang
I don’t blame English football for my injury, it could have happened not just in England but in any match anywhere. Football has become much more physically intense all over the world. Eduardo 17th October 2010, The Guardian
It was all too short really. All too short. The career of Eduardo da Silva at Arsenal was one of the saddest to me. A man who came with so much promise, replacing a legend but so cruelly struck down by a thuggish centre half in Arsenal’s march to the 2007-8 title (we lost it by a mere four points).
Eduardo Da Silva came to prominence at Arsenal when he scored the opening European goal for Partizan Belgrade against Arsenal in a ECL qualifier in August 2006 (goal scored 2 minutes 50 seconds in). Arsenal had a 3-0 lead from the first leg and would win 5-1 on aggregate.
At the time of 2006 Arsenal had an attack of Thierry Henry, Robin Van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor with Nicklas Bendtner coming through to. Not a bad attack to be honest. Unfortunately, Arsenal first season at The Emirates, would show us something was not quite right with Thierry Henry. Lets be honest from 1999 until up to 2006 he was quite brilliant to be frank, but with Arsenal moving to the Emirates, the captaincy and age started to catch up with Henry. In his final season Henry would play 27 games (three as sub) and score 12 goals. He was on the wain. He was also seeing another woman whilst married and having been part of a broken home was upset he would be doing the same to his own daughter. Philippe Auclair in his biography of Henry wrote:-
Thierry’s privacy was scrupulously respected, up to the very end of his stay in England. A number of rumours had circulated in the press room about the state of his marriage months before his entourage was shocked to learn that Claire Merry and he were to divorce.
Henry had been approached prior to the Champions League Cup final in 2006 to join Barcelona, which Henry declined at first. His last game for Arsenal would be against PSV at the Emirates where he pulled up short and was subbed and never played for us again that season. By late June 2007, Arsenal fans got the news that Henry had signed for a mere £16,000,000 pounds to Barcelona. I know I certainly felt that Arsenal could never replace a legend like Henry and certainly not get a very good replacement.
On the 2nd August 2007 Arsenal signed Eduardo Da Silva from Partizan Belgrade, a player who had scored 31 goals the previous season. He was around £7,500,000. Eduardo, had been playing in the Croatian league, even though he was born in Brazil, earning him the terrible nickname ‘the Crozilian’.
I was fortunate to see Eduardo score his first goal against Sparta Prague in a 3-0 victory in a Champion League Qualifier :-
A last minute goal, getting between the defender and goalkeeper. It seemed we had found our real fox in the box at last. Unfortunately, although Eduardo had scored, Thierry Henry’s immediate replacement seemed to be Robin Van Persie and Emmanuel Adebayor, with Eduardo playing in predominantly League Cup games or ECL games or as a substitute. Eduardo though would still give Wenger headaches on choice selection. With Emmanuel Adebayor having perhaps his best ever season, scoring an amazing 30 goals in the season (ok, 6 were against a very poor Derby County side).We also had Robin Van Persie, who played a few opening games, before later that season would surcome to injury. He would still score 7 goals in 15 league matches.
Eduardo though was still capable of scoring in his first season at the Emirates, as Arsenal, unfathomably seemed on fire, not losing our first game until a 2-1 defeat to Middlesbrough in December. The pick of Eduardo’s goals? I think it has to be the two against Blackburn in the League Cup match perhaps, with the winner especially memorable as he runs onto an Alex Song through ball:-
Blackburn – Arsenal 2-3 Eduardo by ILCAPO25
The BBC said of the goal:-
But just before the teams swapped ends, Arsenal centre back Song marched through the centre of the pitch to release Eduardo.
Holding off Ryan Nelsen’s challenge, his first touch was immaculate, allowing him to race into the box and calmly stroke the ball past Friedel’s outstretched palm to seal Arsenal’s progress.
Ironically, the BBC also said of the lead up to the game:-
Much was made before the match about whether Blackburn’s tough tackling could disrupt Arsenal’s potent passing rhythms.
How that would come back to haunt us.
Other goals that were memorable from Eduardo? I think my stand out memory where it felt he arrived was in the 4-1 against Everton at Goodison (his first league goals). The second goal especially was memorable:-
The BBC said of the goal :-
Jagielka was outsmarted by Eduardo as the Croatia international played the ball one side of him and collected it from the other, before calmly slipping the ball beyond Howard.
The win against Everton put us top of the league, above Manchester United.
Internationally also, Eduardo had shown what a world class player he was, scoring the opening goal for Croatia against England with a header in a 2-0 win:-
After the Everton game, the transfer window would open and Arsenal had the opportunity to replace an injured RVP. On being asked if Wenger would be signing Nicolas Anelka from Bolton for £15,000,0000 in January 2008, Wenger told the press:-
“In my opinion we have four top strikers at the club. I don’t need a fifth.” A journalist at a press conference posed the question : ‘You already have Van Persie out injured. What happens if Adebayor gets injured too?’ “In that case, Nicklas Bendtner will step in.” came the swift response.
By mid February 2008 were top of the league and in the away game to Manchester City in a 3-1 win Arsene described the Adebayor and Eduardo partnership as ‘dovetailing to absolute perfection’. I’d forgotten the goal, but just watch the skill and strength of Eduardo to control the ball below:-
Arsenal would play Blackburn, winning 2-0 to go five points clear. Then came Birmingham away.
A game in which Arsenal lead 2-1 until caught out by a last minute penalty was marred by Martin Taylor’s lunge at Eduardo leg. The Guardian wrote of the incident:-
Amongst this extraordinary drama, the game will be remembered for Martin Taylor’s over-the-top-of-the-ball lunge on Eduardo which stopped the match for more than eight minutes. The Croatian forward’s left shin appeared to be snapped by the Birmingham City defender’s appalling challenge and he left the field on a stretcher. The initial diagnosis from the club was that Eduardo had broken his shin and his fibula.
Arsene Wenger was furious, with the ‘British press’ feeling he went over the top on a ‘honest professional’ like when he said after the match:-
The tackle was horrendous and this guy should never play football again,
It goes with the idea that to stop Arsenal you have to kick Arsenal and that kind of thing was waiting to happen,
Many people have got away with too many bad tackles. We’ve escaped a few times but it’s just not acceptable. If that is football it’s better to stop it.
The worst thing you hear after is that ‘he’s not the kind of guy who usually does that’, but you need to only kill one person one time – it’s enough.
Taylor was given a three match ban and Eduardo was out for a year. That seems fair enough.
Gilberto Silva said of the incident:-
It derailed the whole team, you didn’t have to see the actual injury to be affected by what happened to him.
Maybe so, but Arsenal lost the title by 4 points to United, suffering a mere 3 defeats. Ironically, two of them were when we were 1-0 up in the second half (sound familiar?) These were away to Chelsea and Manchester United (the two teams that finished above us). If we had retained the lead and won? We would have been champions. Also, the loss of Lassana Diarra to Portsmouth in January, meant we ran Mathieu Flamini into the ground, who ended up injured, making his last appearance against Liverpool in the European Champions League Quarter-Final.
Disunity also seemed to happen with even the strikers of Emmanuel Adebayor and Nicklas Bendtner were involved in an ugly spat at White Hart Lane in a 5-1 defeat. Let us not also forget that after the Birmingham game Arsenal would draw a further 3 games to Aston Villa, Wigan And Middlesborough. Below are the two games that I feel cost us though.
Losing Away to Chelsea:-
Losing to Manchester United:-
As Emile Donovan wrote in his recent article on 7am of the 2007-8 :-
Remember the 2007-08 Arsenal team? The one with Fabregas and Hleb and Kolo Toure and Gallas and van Persie and Flamini and Rosicky and Sagna and Clichy and Theo and Eduardo when he wasn’t crocked and Adebayor when he was actually good? That team had potential. That team could’ve made Arsene Wenger one of the great managers of modern times. In a parallel universe, maybe Eduardo doesn’t break his leg and van Persie plays the full season. Maybe Arsenal go on to win the league with a team assembled for about 60m and the media finally takes a rose-tinted look at the remarkably ambitious plan Arsenal has executed and rightfully showers their achievement with praise, calling it one of the great managerial performances.
The other sad thing about Eduardo being injured was he also missed out on going to the European Championship in 2008. Croatia were dark horses to win it, but with him in the team and think they would have run Spain close for the title, as even without Eduardo, they were still capable of beating the other finalist Germany.
Eduardo would not return until nearly a year after what the press termed as an ‘injury’. In his return match against Cardiff in the FA Cup. Eduardo scored twice. But just listen to the crowd after he gets his first goal in the video?
Kind of underlines how much the fans appreciated him.
He got a few more goals that season, but he was never what he had been the previous season. He was just lacking. Something.
Eduardo’s last goal would be against West Ham United in the FA Cup in 2010:-
Prior to this Eduardo had also been asked to be banned by Celtic for diving in ECL qualifier, earning a two match ban (one less than Taylor for breaking a leg). Eduardo also had to suffer seeing Aaron Ramsey getting a broken leg at Stoke:-
Then, in the summer of 2010 he departed to Shakhtar Donetsk. I think a lot of fans felt for him but were pleased when he came back and we were 5-0 up and he scored and never celebrated when he got the consolation goal (again, note the fans sing his name):-
He also did the same when he scored the winner in the Ukraine:-
FC Shakhtar Donetsk v Arsenal by gravatard12
Eduardo has always spoken highly of Arsenal and that one of the reason we liked Eduardo, especially when he said such things like:-
They have great support, fantastic players and always aim for top honours. I wish to express my deepest gratitude to Arsène Wenger, with whom I got on extremely well. He was good to me right to the end of my days at the club. I’ll always have good memories of Arsenal.
Since leaving Shakhtar Donetsk, Eduardo has returned to Brazil and playing for Flamenco. But on doing this article, I watched the games and goals and felt saddened. He could have been brilliant until that guy from Birmingham ruined his leg. There beating us in the 2011 final made it worst as they sang a song about Eduardo’s demise. Hardly the nicest thing to do
I was thinking if i’d ever felt so gutted before for a player that had it all but left Arsenal too early? To my (aging) mind, only two players came to mind. Vladimir Petrovic and Anders Limpar. Players that could and should have done so much more.