Monday, March 9, 2009
Arsene Wenger praised the samba skills of Eduardo after the Brazil-born Croatian striker netted a sublime goal to help fire Arsenal into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup after Burnley were beaten 3-0 at Emirates Stadium.
The forward, handed the captain's armband by Wenger today, had endured a year on the sidelines following a broken leg and fractured ankle - but showed he was back to his clinical best with a superb left-foot volley at the start of the second half.
Wenger feels the 26-year-old, who had marked his return to competitive action with a brace in the last round against Cardiff, has come back mentally stronger from his experience.
"It looked like a bit of a 'beach' goal - and he meant it, he sliced the ball,'' said the Arsenal manager. "Eduardo is a surprising finisher and an intelligent player. He has short back lift and understands what to do very quickly.
"Goalscorers are moving in the box when everyone else is standing still, he has that. I have never seen him do that before, his goal was instinct and shows you that finishing is all about what you do in a fraction of a second.''
Wenger added: "I did not expect him to come back like that, and it is a tribute to his personality. He has never complained and that is a big example in our world.''
Another fine chipped finish from Mexican teenager Carlos Vela set Arsenal on their way on 25 minutes, with Emmanuel Eboue's late strike wrapping things up to book a home tie against Hull in the last eight.
The victory - achieved with several of the first-team regulars rested and which marked a welcome return for England winger Theo Walcott after four months out because of a shoulder problem - extended Arsenal's unbeaten run to 17 games in all competitions, and proved just the right tonic ahead of next week's crucial Champions League trip to Roma.
"We did the job in a serious way,'' said Wenger. "The first half they made it very difficult because they marked us tight, but we scored brilliant goals and there could have been a few more. What is good before going to Roma is we did not concede and scored several goals.''
Wenger hopes to also have captain Cesc Fabregas back from a serious knee injury in a couple of weeks, while Czech winger Tomas Rosicky could be another in action again soon following a long lay-off.
"We are going into the final sprint. For us it is important to keep all our targets alive,'' said Wenger, whose team have closed the gap on Aston Villa in the Barclays Premier League down to just three points. We know every game demands a big performance because we cannot slip up. Slowly, we have all of our players coming back, and that can be decisive.''
Wenger added: "People judge always the instant situation. If you look now at the players who are still out - Fabregas, Rosicky and [Emmanuel] Adebayor - they can all contribute offensively a lot.''