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Page last updated at 09:06 GMT, Monday, 18 October 2010 10:06 UK

Arsenal's wounded soldier returns

Uefa Champions League: Arsenal v Shakhtar Donetsk
Venue: Emirates Stadium Date: Tuesday 19 October KO: 1945 BST
Coverage: Live text commentary on BBC Sport website, coverage on BBC Radio 5 live & BBC local radio; Also live on Sky Sports 2

Eduardo left Arsenal for Shakhtar Donetsk in a 6m deal in July
Eduardo left Arsenal for Shakhtar Donetsk in a 6m deal in July

By Sam Sheringham

It is an image that lives long in the memory of all those who saw it. Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva writhing in agony on the turf, his foot dangling from his leg at a horribly unnatural angle following a reckless challenge from Birmingham's Martin Taylor.

In a move that has now become eerily familiar for X-rated tackles, television producers deemed the incident so unpleasant that they refused to show replays and doubts were raised over whether the Croatia international would play again.

But Eduardo did return, scoring two goals in a euphoric comeback against Cardiff almost exactly one year later, and although his Arsenal career never really took off again, the courage he showed in battling back from such a horrendous injury earned him a permanent place in the hearts of the Gunners faithful.

On Tuesday night, only three months after saying goodbye to the club which nurtured him through the most difficult period of his career, Eduardo will return to the Emirates Stadium in the colours of mega-rich Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk for a Champions League group stage encounter.

EDUARDO FACT FILE
Eduardo da Silva
Age: 27
Place of birth: Rio de Janeiro
2003-2007: Dinamo Zagreb (106 games, 73 goals)
2007-2010: Arsenal (67, 22)
2010: Shakhtar Donetsk (11,4)
National team: Croatia (33,18)

"I think it will be very emotional for me," Brazilian-born Eduardo tells BBC Sport. "I have never played against one of my ex-clubs and I didn't expect to play against Arsenal so soon.

"Three months ago I was training with the Arsenal players, my friends, and now I'm on the other side. For me it will be very, very strange to play against them, but I'm a professional.

"In three years in Arsenal, I gave my best and now in Shakhtar, I'm doing the same, I'm giving 100% on the pitch. Of course after the game I will see my friends but I'm 100% concentrated on the game."

Eduardo, 27, says he is happy in Ukraine where the settling-in process has been assisted by a state-of-the-art training facility, an Emirates-style 50,000-seater stadium and a squad featuring six Brazilians and his Croatia team-mate Dario Srna.

Veteran Romanian coach Mircea Lucescu is cut from the same cloth as his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger in his firm belief in keeping the ball on the ground and attacking in fluent short-passing moves.

"They call us 'Little Arsenal' in this part of Europe you know," says Eduardo. "We are not Arsenal - Arsenal is one of the best clubs in Europe, after Barcelona or Manchester United. But we have a very good team and we are trying to play like Arsenal. We put the ball on the ground and play nice football."

Shakhtar's stylish play is bringing results. The 2009 Uefa Cup winners are five points clear of archrivals Dynamo Kiev after 13 games in the Ukrainian League and have recorded impressive Champions League victories over Partizan Belgrade and Braga to sit alongside Arsenal on a maximum six points going into Tuesday's clash.

Eduardo's new life in Ukraine

So, with Eduardo's inside knowledge of the Gunners players, has Lucescu been knocking on his door for tactical advice?

"Not yet," smiles Eduardo. "Of course I could help him but I don't know if he will ask me. Arsenal are favourites, they always will be. But if we stay strong on the pitch I think we can spring a surprise, maybe take a point."

Eduardo's involvement in Tuesday's game could be limited. After a bright start to his Shakhtar career, his last five appearances have come from the bench as he battles to rediscover the form and fitness that made him one of the most feared marksmen in Europe prior to his £7.5m move from Dinamo Zagreb to Arsenal in 2007.

606: DEBATE

"I just need a run of games," he adds. "It is getting the physical fitness back. It's not the same if you play once every two weeks. You need to play a lot of games.

"But I feel much stronger. Everyone who saw me a year ago and now has told me I'm much stronger. The Croatian manager and the assistants have told me I have improved so much in the last year. I just need to play."

Eduardo declines to comment on his feelings towards Taylor and is reluctant to wade into the current debate over tackling in the English game following a number of recent leg injuries in the Premier League.

But Fulham midfielder Danny Murphy's controversial claim that some managers are sending out players "so pumped up" that bad tackles are almost inevitable seems to strike a chord.

Eduardo is taken off on a stretcher after breaking his leg against Birmingham in February 2008
Eduardo is stretchered off after breaking his leg against Birmingham

"This year a lot of players in England have had big problems with injury and of course if the managers are telling players to tackle, they will tackle. If other managers like Wenger say play football, put the ball on the pitch, the players will do that.

"If what Murphy says is true, this is very wrong, it's not fair. Supporters come to the stadium to watch good football, not fighting."

It is a fair bet that there will be more football than fighting on show on Tuesday when Eduardo returns to his English home.

And although his time in the Premier League is so overwhelmingly associated with that painful day at St Andrews, Eduardo is not completely ruling out a future return.

"At the moment I'm new here and I want to make an impact here," he says. "I'm nearly 28 and I think it would be very hard to come back to the Premier League, but you never know. Maybe one day."



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see also
Arsenal sell Eduardo to Shakhtar
22 Jul 10 |  Arsenal
Eduardo signs new deal at Arsenal
18 Nov 09 |  Arsenal
Eduardo intent on swift recovery
24 Feb 08 |  Premier League
Wenger retracts Taylor criticism
24 Feb 08 |  Premier League
Birmingham 2-2 Arsenal
23 Feb 08 |  Premier League


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