I love it when I’m wrong. Not only do you all get to gloat over me and my negativity but when I’m wrong it almost always means that something unusually good has just happened. Yesterday, I was wrong. Oh boy was I wrong!
Granted, it was a very safe prediction to say that Wenger would play Denilson out right, rather than bring Vela on — it’s what he’s done time and again, so I wasn’t exactly going out on a limb there. But Wenger doubled down on the surprise lineup changes and handed Eduardo his first start since Martin Taylor nearly ruined his career — and I don’t think anyone seriously saw that coming.
What a difference that change made. Those first 20 minutes of the game were a blur. I can’t remember the last time I saw Arsenal get an astonishing 9 shots in the first 20 minutes. Every player on the pitch seemed revitalized, alive, full of piss and vinegar. In short, the Arsenal that everyone wants them to be.
I want to say that it was as if just having Eduardo on the pitch sparked the team into action but the reality is that Dudu made great runs against the Cardiff defense, opening them up in ways that we haven’t seen so far this season. He also linked play expertly, putting in nice little passes to his teammates that more than once should have earned Arsenal a goal.
And then, of course, after the flurry of shots came the moment that I will remember for a long time: Eduardo collected the ball on the wing, dribbled in to the center, played it out to a streaking Vela in support, who one touched the ball over two defenders as Eduardo lept up, floated for a moment, said a prayer, cured Eboue of his retardation, and nodded the ball back across the box and into the net. The sky opened, angels cried, grown men kissed, and the burden of a million dour Arsenal supporters was lifted.
It was a miracle and, truth be told, I nearly wept.
Some other stuff happened in the match, I think Bendtner got a lucky goal, and Eduardo added a third on a PK, and uh… van Persie capped the night off with a goal in the 89th minute but what I’ll remember is the goal. To come back after nearly a year out because some talentless hack got his timing wrong, and score in your first first-team appearance is about as special as it gets.
After the match, the boss was effusive with praise for his LaNS (like a new signing), saying
I am not surprised he played well tonight. I didn’t play him as a reward for his excellent work; it was because in training over the past few weeks he has done extremely well. He made a big step forward two weeks ago when he found sharpness in front of goal and in his runs and he got rid of his apprehension in the tackles.
Of course it is nearly 12 months out and he has been extremely strong mentally during that time, I could never see one minute of doubt in his mind or one minute where he said ‘no, I don’t want to do it’. He always wanted more and this guy is small but has the mental strength of a mountain.
He is intelligent, talented and he understands what is happening quickly. He responds very quickly to every situation. That is why he is a striker. He is a quiet boy. He is very, very quiet – he is focussed but of course very happy tonight
Of course he’s very happy, all of Arsenaldom is very happy tonight!
It’s funny, too, as I look over the day’s news stories, it’s as if that goal and that game shook the pillars of heaven and the shackles of negativity fell aside. Amaury Bischoff, one of the most contentious of Arsene’s signings, came on and got his first appearance for the club. Fabregas indicated that he’s only 10 days away from practice and absolutely itching to get back into the game, having shaken those blues of January where he claimed he was basically sick of football. Walcott is looking ready to put pen to paper and secure his Arsenal future for 5 years. Atalanta beat Roma 3-0 heading into next week’s Champions League clash — their first defeat in 8 matches. Bendtner even denied the quotes attributed to him in the papers!
What the hell happened? Why am I suddenly so optimistic? Could it be that St. Eduardo’s Emirates Miracle lifted the dark cloud that has been hanging over the club for the last year?
Can one goal do that?
I don’t know, but it was a very special goal.