358 days have passed since one of the worst injuries I’ve ever seen in a live game was sustained by Eduardo Da Silva against Birmingham City on February 23rd 2008. It make me cringe, I was shocked and stunned and urged the medical staff on to help him as quickly as they could. The players looked badly shaken and a hush descended on the crowd. Forget some of the nonsense comments that followed that game, Martin Taylor was simply late in going for the tackle and caught the Croatian badly, of that there is no doubt, but it was accidental, Taylor is no thug. It could have been the end of Eduardo’s career, no question. Tonight saw that injury consigned to history as Eduardo inspired Arsenal to an emphatic 4-0 victory over Cardiff City in the F.A.Cup 4th round replay at the Emirates Stadium. People were keen to see the return but did anyone expect him to perform so well, so quickly. His movement, his pace and his eye for goal weren’t diminished in the slightest at all tonight, only his match fitness began to suffer as the match went on but Arsene Wenger is not one to forget the power of emotion. He removed Eduardo from the action enabling him to receive a standing ovation after 67 minutes from the Arsenal faithful. It was a delightful moment in football and a fitting gesture from Wenger.
It was an emotional and positive end to a year of hell for the young striker and everyone connected with Arsenal will be delighted to see his contribution have such a positive effect on the team and the fans. Cardiff may have given a great account of themselves in the first game at Ninian Park 3 weeks ago, but today they were blown away by Arsenal and have their on loan goalkeeper Tom Heaton to thank for keeping the score at 4-0. Arsenal were rampant.
The nicest moment tonight was the hug Eduardo shared with the Arsenal medical staff after slotting the penalty home, a real touching gesture and one that was completely genuine. It was a heartwarming sight to see such joy on everyone’s faces and says so much about the player and his relationship with Gary Lewin and the rest of the medical team. There’s no doubt in my mind that Lewin’s prompt action at St Andrews last season saved Eduardo’s career along with the unsung assistance of Gilberto Silva’s role as translator as Eduardo, in his pain, could only speak in his native Portuguese. Silva kept Eduardo from passing out, talking to him, cajoling him, urging him to stay conscious. That hug summed up the immense respect that both men have for each other and it’s rare to see such mutual admiration and thanks these days in football.
The impact this return could have on the final weeks of the season cannot be underestimated for Arsenal now. There are 13 league games to go, Eduardo is back, Arshavin is primed to join the fray and with Theo Walcott, Cesc Fabregas and Tomas Rosicky pushing for returns before the end of the season, the confidence that seeing Eduardo back on a pitch can give Arsenal now is a massive and timely boost. Players will want to be back and share the feel good factor that seeing the Croat play competitively again has given whole camp and Arsene Wenger will know that you cannot buy the confidence such moments as tonight bring you. It is priceless and for Arsenals season, it cannot come soon enough. Do not rule out Arsenal of finishing in the top 4 just yet, the Eduardo factor has just begun and who knows where it could take Arsenal come May 24th.