People remember his catastrophic injury when his name is mentioned – rather than his laser-like finishing and his killer instinct in the box.
His legacy still lives on with most of us Gooners though – and the Brazilian-born Croat striker spoke to the media recently and he referred to the season he was injured. But the focus wasn’t on that moment against Birmingham City, when Martin Taylor slid in late in a vain attempt to get the ball.
No. Eduardo spoke of the unbelievable football our side were playing that season. Eduardo declared it probably the best in the world at that time. Quite the statement. But is it rose-tinted glasses from the man affectionately known as ‘Dudu?’
Eduardo said, “I’m sure that Arsenal would have won the league in 2008 if it hadn’t been for my injury. I’m confident of it, because we were playing some of the best football in the world at that time. We were in such a strong position.”
Or was there a fibre of truth there? Eduardo also said what most of us fans think when we hark back to 2008.
We would have gone on to win the League that year, if Eduardo had escaped injury.
Let’s look at the facts.
Matchweek 26 – the week before the Birmingham game – saw Arsenal enjoy a five point lead over Manchester United, with Chelsea a further three points behind. With 12 games to go, we had the League in our grasp. There were of course, variables though.
The five games previous to this point give a good indicator of which team was in the pole position when it came to coming into form at the right time.
Arsenal dropped points just once in the five games beforehand. Strangely enough, it was to the team who would eventually derail our season – Birmingham. The other four games rang out to an aggregate score of 11-1.
United won three times, lost once and drew once. Chelsea drew two games, winning the other three. Their aggregate scores? United = 12-3. Chelsea = 5-1.
So it is fair to conclude that Arsenal were fluent in front of goal and also pretty watertight at the back too.
And in Eduardo and Emanuel Adebayor, we had two marksmen who were plundering goals. Aided by the creative talents of Alex Hleb and Cesc Fabregas running the show, we had steel in the centre with Flamini and Invincible Gilberto Silva – and our defence wasn’t too shabby either. Wiliam Gallas, Bacary Sagna, Gael Clichy and Mad Jens between the sticks?
We had a formidable team.
And the league table showed it.
But the horrific sights of Eduardo crumpled on the St Andrews pitch was a watershed moment. The refusal to leave the pitch by captain William Gallas had a debilitating effect on our team too. It was as if his leadership could be questioned after his questionable antics. Was his mentality as strong as it needed to be? Perhaps this was a contributing fact.
Because our form slumped, post Birmingham.
The 95th minute penalty that rescued a draw for the home side saw us drop two valuable points. From there, the next game we salvaged a draw with a 93rd minute equaliser from supersub Nicklas Bendtner.
And United were now just a point behind us.
We were then dumped out of the Champions League after a topsy-turvy tie with Liverpool, we suffered a stalemate with Wigan (yet were still two points ahead of United after they surprisingly lost) and in the nine games that followed, we drew two and lost another two, winning five.
One of those losses was to chief rivals United, with a 2-1 loss at Old Trafford giving the home side the momentum for the final charge.
We ended the season in third place, just four points behind United and two behind Chelsea.
Looking at those moments we stumbled, most of them were clustered in the immediate aftermath of our draw with Birmingham. At least, those dropped points were the ones we should have avoided.
Draws with Birmingham, Wigan and Aston Villa. Games we should have been winning. If we had converted just two of these games to wins, we would have been level on points with United.
So, how do you see it? Was our brand of football the most potent in the PL? Would we have kept the wheels on if Eduardo had jumped over Taylor’s flying leg? If Gallas hadn’t staged a sit-down protest on the pitch after the final whistle?
Comments below please!