After scoring three goals in his last two league games, Eduardo da Silva is very much the toast of Arsenal supporters at the moment.
The Croatian striker netted his first Premiership goals for Arsenal in the 4-1 comeback victory away to Everton and carried on his smart form with another just two minutes into the New Year’s Day clash against West Ham United. Despite the fact that Eduardo has now scored ten goals in all competitions this season most football observers would agree that the first six months with his new club have been relatively underwhelming. But with the first league goal monkey now off his back the Brazilian-born Croatian has spoken out about his delight and predicted that there will be much more to come after being given time to settle into life at Arsenal.
“‘It was really important to score my first goals in the Premier League. It meant a lot and now I think everything will get better and come more easily. I know how Arsenal works – bringing players in and giving them time to blend into their surroundings.”
I can’t stress how important Eduardo’s contribution over the Christmas period has been to Arsenal. Each of his three goals have been expertly taken but it is the timing of the goals – when both games were well and truly on – that is an even more encouraging aspect. With Nicklas Bendtner not quite taking his chance, Robin van Persie still injured and the 4-5-1 formation not quite clicking, the emergence of Eduardo as a second striker alongside Emmanuel Adebayor has proved invaluable to Arsenal regaining both their position at the top of table and their confidence.
What is most interesting about Eduardo’s recent flourish – and I briefly alluded to this in yesterday’s post – is that it has come exactly six months since signing for the club. Arsene Wenger has quite often spoken about foreign players needing a half-year period to acclimatise to the demands of the Premiership and it’s pleasing to see that Eduardo has fired a significant reminder that his development is well on track. It’s clear by his comments about new players at Arsenal being given ‘time to blend into their surroundings’ that Eduardo has never felt too pressured by his less than impressive form up until this point, and Wenger and the club as well as the player himself deserve full credit for this attitude.
I had Eduardo as one of the players (along with Philippe Senderos) who had had a poor couple of months in the latest issue of the Gooner Gazette and also suggested that Arsenal fans would have to wait a little bit longer for the Croatian to work his way into some form. It’s exciting to think that this wait may now be over. Indeed, Eduardo may well prove to be the joker in the pack for the second half of the season as Wenger and his side continue to chase silverware on all four fronts.
Lehmann move edging closer
Turning attention to the January transfer window now and it seems that out of favour goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is getting closer to a move to former club Borussia Dortmund. The German club is reportedly set to hold a press conference on Friday to discuss their goalkeeping dilemma (regular first-choice keeper Roman Weidenfeller is out for three months with a serious shoulder problem) and the evidence is starting to mount up that Lehmann will leave Arsenal very soon. Despite the news Arsene Wenger remains tight-lipped and suggested that nothing will be confirmed until any deal is completed.
“Jens Lehmann at the moment has not made up his mind. Once he has made up his mind that he wants to go, we will see. I will be sorry to see him go but I don’t want to take him out of the team and stop him from playing in the European Championship.”
It’s a fair call from the manager but I really can’t see any other outcome then Lehmann heading off to Germany in the next couple of weeks. He’s been told time and time again by German national team manager Joachim Low that if he wants to play for his country at Euro 2008 then he needs to be playing games and with Manuel Almunia in the form of his life at the moment the fact is that he’s just not going to get that at Arsenal.
Interestingly, despite the transfer speculation, Wenger has revealed that Lehmann will be in the Arsenal starting lineup for the FA Cup game against Burnley on Saturday afternoon. The manager indicated that he will playing a mix of first and second-string players with the first leg of the Carling Cup Semi-Final against Tottenham, which is played just three days later, in mind.
“I think Jens Lehmann will be involved. But Kolo Toure, Eboue and Sagna will all play. A few of the players who featured all over Christmas will be rested and a few will come in. It will be a mixture.”
Wenger suggested after the West Ham game that Gael Clichy and William Gallas would be rested so with that in mind I would predict a defence of Sagna, Song, Toure and Traore, with Lehmann of course taking his place in goals behind. In midfield I would presume both Mathieu Flamini and Cesc Fabregas to start, flanked by Emmanuel Eboue and Tomas Rosicky. Up front I’m expecting Eduardo to start with Alexander Hleb in behind. As far as I know Bendtner will be available again after serving his one-game suspension but I think Wenger will be saving him for the clash with Tottenham. Adebayor has a slight muscle problem and is unlikely to feature in either game while van Persie will not be ready until at least the Birmingham game on January 12.
For those who don’t know much about Arsenal’s opponents Burnley (myself included), there’s a nice little wrap-up of what problems they might pose for Wenger’s side that you can find here. In all reality though, this should be quite a routine encounter and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arsenal put a few goals past the Championship side. More tomorrow.
What do you think?
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