Only one place to start today, and that is with the news that Eduardo has left Arsenal to join Shakhtar Donetsk for a fee believed to be around the £6m mark. That he would leave has been likely for the last six months, but a move to the Ukraine suggests that his stock has fallen considerably since those early days at the Emirates, where he was developing into one of the deadliest finishers in the Premiership.
Sadly, Eduardo never fully recovered from that fateful day at St Andrews, his leg shattered by an enforcer tackle from ‘not that kind of player’ Martin Taylor. That kind of injury and a year out of the game would test anyone, but while he appeared to recover physically, he was hindered by mental scars that removed the clinical finishing his game relied on. His instincts were still good, his first touch was immaculate, but in front of goal his assurance had gone.
And in one of the most physical leagues in the world, I haven’t seen him compete in a 50/50 challenge in the year and a half he’s been back. Can you blame him?
We will never know the heights Eduardo could have reached. Perhaps he would have been a star, perhaps a useful squad player who could turn games late on. One thing is for certain – the ‘they don’t like it up ’em’ brigade have claimed a victim today, removing another talent from the English game. How many more will follow?
Much as Eduardo has always been a fan favourite, and although he was noticeably touched by the reception he received on his return, I wouldn’t blame him if he never looked back. His treatment during his three years in England has been appalling – that challenge, the Villa fans who taunted him with ‘you’ve only got one leg’, and of course the diving storm from last season’s Champions League qualifier which saw UEFA attempt to ban him for an offence replicated a hundred times the same week.
I don’t know any right-minded person who doesn’t wish him well. Perhaps a fresh start and regular football will help him re-establish his poise in front of goal, and I hope his recovery is completed over the next year or so.
Financially, it is no bad deal – £6m is a sizable fee for someone whose future is unknown, and is not far off the amount he cost in the first place.
Elsewhere, pre-season has started, and while the internet age allows us to watch these warm-up games in full rather than scouring newspapers for the result, drawing conclusions from them can be dangerous, particularly when focusing on the negative. For example, our defending in today’s 3-0 win against Sturm Graz was exceptionally wobbly at times, but nothing more can be expected when holidays have only just ended and fitness levels are low.
That said, it is a chance for younger players to stake their claim for first team action in the weeks ahead, and Jack Wilshere, Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Jay Simpson have all caught the eye in the last week. Of the three, Wilshere is closest to featuring, especially with Joe Cole moving to Liverpool for the money the Champions League a fresh start. JET and Simpson still have much to prove.
Of the new signings, Chamakh looks powerful, Koscielny the complete opposite (that boy needs to bulk up, and fast), and of the old guard, Nasri shone tonight while Arshavin oozed class against Barnet but needs to raise his fitness levels. In goal, Almunia is ‘ill’, which is giving chances to everyone else, but it is difficult to take those chances when the opposition doesn’t threaten.
What these friendlies are showing us is the depth of attacking talent at our disposal – some very good players are not going to make it at Arsenal due to the levels of competition. It is the other end of the pitch that causes all the problems, and I suspect another signing will be made in defence before the season begins.
And that is it for tonight, except to wish Eduardo well with Shakhtar Donetsk. Good luck, fella.