ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger admits Eduardo is still traumatised by the career-threatening injury he suffered more than two years ago, as the striker prepares to return to the scene of the horror tackle for the first time.
The Croatian has struggled to recapture his best form since spending more than a year on the sidelines with the broken leg and ankle suffered in a challenge from then-Birmingham defender Martin Taylor.
Eduardo is set to be in the squad tomorrow, however, when the title-chasing Gunners visit St Andrews, and Wenger is hoping his team can help exorcise the ghosts of that afternoon with a valuable three points.
“Emotionally it is a weight on his mind,” said the Gunners manager. “But Eduardo has a lot of mental strength. It’s part of a career to show that you have the mental strength to deal with this kind of situation.
“Overall we want as well for him to go back and just win our game – it’s the only way you can deal with that situation. It is like [when] you drive the same way every day in your car – one day you have an accident; afterwards, you cannot just not go through this way any more. You have to live with it. Life goes on.”
Arsenal feared for Eduardo’s career after Taylor’s tackle early in the 2-2 draw with Birmingham on 23 February 2008 left the Croatian international needing oxygen on the pitch and then emergency surgery. After making an initial return almost a year later he suffered a series of setbacks, playing just four times last season and during his sporadic outings in the current campaign he has looked short of his confident, predatory self.
But with forward Nicklas Bendtner a slight injury doubt Eduardo could even start, as Wenger targets seven wins from their last seven matches.
“We can only focus on our own performance because we know our route has to be perfect,” he said. “We have created a fantastic momentum and great belief, but the consistency of our run is most important.”
ANALYSIS | Have Arsenal become more resilient
ARSENAL’S Premier League title challenge crumbled dramatically after Eduardo suffered his horror injury in February 2008.
The Gunners took a five-point cushion at the top of the table to Birmingham but squandered a two-goal lead, leaving disgusted captain William Gallas (above left) to mull the collapse sitting on the pitch long after the final whistle. Crestfallen Arsenal went on to take just seven points from their next seven league games and finished third and trophyless.
Contrast that with their reaction to losing young midfielder Aaron Ramsey to a double leg break at Stoke last month (above right). This time Arsene Wenger’s men roared back to win 3-1 and are now on a six-match winning streak.
Wenger finds the argument that the Birmingham match caused their season to unravel simplistic, but agrees his team dealt with the Ramsey blow better.
What is certain is that, with Arsenal scenting glory again, there are few better places than St Andrews to prove they are made of sterner stuff.