So at long last, the final fourth round game of this year’s FA Cup has been resolved as Arsenal overcame Cardiff with relative ease at the Emirates Stadium. It was perhaps disappointing for Cardiff, who would have been quietly confident of an upset, but in the end, the biggest story of the night was I think, less the result, and more the sensatioanl return of Croation striker Eduardo.
Few will have forgotten the terrible injury that the striker suffered almsot a year ago, after a fairly awful tackle from Martin Taylor of Birmingham City. The striker, who had been starting to really hit some form after scoring a brace against Everton in December 2007, suffered a broken left fibula and disolcated left ankle from the challenge, and underwent immediate surgery to help correct it.
I remember accidentally glimpsing a picture of the injury, of Eduardo’s ankle resting at a very unnatural angle and can remember feeling distinctly queasy just looking at it. I can only imagine the pain that Eduardo himself felt and the sense of despair knowing that he may not ever play football again. Having played football all my life I have suffered various injuries like damaged ligaments and things, thankfully nothing really serious, but it is a terrible feeling knowing that it could affect you for the rest of your life.
It is a testament to Eduardo’s determination that he has returned to action less than a year after suffering such a horrific injury. Though experts diagnosed his recovery time as 9-12 months, I still think it is an incredible acheivment to be back so soon. It takes a lot of bravery to once again put your body on the line after such an injury. It is difficult to know that you could risk re-aggravating the injury, that you could suffer a re-occurence, that could end it for you completely.
“I believe – as any striker – he can contribute and help us to win games. He has the perfect spirit, he is talented and is intelligent.” – Arsene Wenger on Eduardo.
It was also very touching to witness the continuing support that Eduardo has recieved from Gunners fans during his recovery, as well as the incredible reception he received in today’s match against Cardiff. Though he hadn’t really been at Arsenal for very long before his injury, the Arsenal faithful have really taken him to their hearts. Many have even cited his absence as part of the reason that they faded from the title race last season, and suggested that his return will give them the extra cutting edge that they seem to have been lacking so far this term.
After a couple of games for Arsenal’s reserves and a friendly match for Croatia, Eduardo was deemed ready for first team action in tonight’s FA Cup fourth round replay. And what a return he made, scoring two goals and driving Arsenal to a relatively comfortable victory over a very talented Cardiff side, a side which they had struggled against in the original fixture a few weeks earlier.
I hope for Eduardo that this successful return to first team action is a sign of things to come. Despite him scoring twice against my beloved club to really mark his arrival in the Premier League, I have always admired him as a player, he plays whole heartedly and always seems to give everything for the cause, an impression further reinforced by his hardworking recovery from this injury.
It is rare in these times for a player to become so quickly regarded so highly by fans of a club as Eduardo has been by Arsenal, and that is a testament both to the player himself and also the fans’ recognition of what he has given to the club. Despite being in only his second season as a Gunner, Eduardo has already put his livelihood on the line for the club, and Arsenal fans recognise that.
Furthermore, he has worked his socks off to return to fitness to regain his place in Arsenal’s side, so that he can again give his all for the club. In today’s culture of enormous wages and players who are loyal only to their salaries, it is refreshing indeed to see a player who truly appreciates the club that he plays for and will give his all for their cause. Arsenal fans have recognised that, and they love him for it, and I imagine his two goals tonight will endear him to them further.
So here’s to Eduardo Da Silva, a consumate, hard working professional who embodies all that we fans look for in a player. He fully deserves his two goals in tonight’s game and I wish him the best of luck for the rest of his season. Arsenal certainly need something to rejuvanate their ailing title challenge and by the looks of tonight’s Arsenal performance, Eduardo’s inspirational presence could just do it for them.