Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let me show the way

I wonder why it is that Eduardo generates so much inspiration for Arsenal and their supporters. It must be something in his basic nature that seems to expose a man who truly wants to try his best for people. He seems to be genuinely happy with the path he's made for himself. He's not looking to his future, over the shoulder of those standing in front of him. He's just worried about doing his job, and doing it well. Because that's what counts.

The fact that he's actually able to do that goes a long way as well. He would be the perfect example of a player from a smaller league who breaks through and gets a shot at the big-time. His former teammate Luka Modric being another recent example (shame he ended up at Spurs).

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has been saying for years that it takes players of that stock about four to six months to truly get up to speed and grow accustomed to playing in the English Premier League (or in the case of Jose Antonio Reyes ...). Eduardo was just starting to hit his stride in that opening window where we actually began to demand results when the rest of his season was stolen from him in that horrible incident at St. Andrew's last year. Perhaps it's that the break was so bad, the initial prognosis so dire and the immediate reaction from the team so terrifying. Perhaps it's the downward spiral we've seen ever since. Maybe it's the video that surfaced from Brasil of his training toward the end of summer, showing the striker playing a little one-touch on a trampoline far before anyone could have imagined he'd be ready. Maybe it's hype. Whatever the case, there's a higher level of demonstrable respect form all parties when it comes to the Crozilian (for those who don't know, he was born in Brasil and then naturalized as a Croatian ... Crozilian).

He played 45 minutes for the reserves against Pompey at Barnet's Underhill tonight. If you believe the propaganda from the home Web site, he oozed class with every touch. If you're more pragmatic, you're happy for him and can't wait for him to find his legs again so he can trot out sometime in a month or so, and then help the cause down the stretch. There's no mistake that his skill and eye for goal is needed in the side. At the same time, what Arsenal need at the moment is a bit more inspiration to find that fight they are missing to put them over the hump in these tougher clashes that call for more steel than panache.

Steven Gerrard certainly has it in spades. He showed it again on Saturday as Liverpool drew. A draw at home to Hull will always be disappointing, but for a team that was playing without their top striker (Torres) and with their masive investment (Keane) relegated to bench duty through a prolonged slump (two goals is it?), for the Reds to be able to look to the center of the park and Stevie G to "pick them up by the scruff of the neck" can only be a stunning inspiration for everyone else. The fact that Gerrard is buffered at the back by Javier Mascherano provides another advantage that, at the moment, Arsenal are missing.

Last term, the Gunners were so free to move forward and Cesc Fabregas was bombing them in left, middle and right. Quite the argument has been made that he was freed up, as it were, to perform as such because of Mathieu Flamini. And did he ever put in a season for the ages. Losing Ma-T-you has carried an impact so heavy into this season that it's almost strange the level of silence that comes with the thought of his presence in the side. There's a new grumble every weekend and every match with all of the missing pieces to the Arsenal, and in particular quite the roar to those pieces that just aren't fitting (Eboue, Gallas, Bendtner, even Rosicky with his prolonged injury). We all know how much we're missing Flamini, but there's a strange silence in his departure.

Ahead of the Derby, just consider that spine of each team ... like in baseball, the all important spine from the catch, to the pitcher, shortstop, centerfielder - the spine.

Liverpool has it. They have Torres, Gerrard, Mascherano and Carragher (in spite of his own-goal habit that is kicking into gear at the moment ... and I still profess his performance in the 2005 Champions League semi-final to be one of the finest defensive performances I've ever seen).

Arsena do not. Adebayor, Cesc, VACANT, CONFUSED (both Gallas and Toure have been out of form).

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