“When Van Persie didn’t play well, Adebayor decided the game. When Adebayor didn’t play well, Eduardo decided the game. When Eduardo didn’t play well, Fabregas decided the game.”
That is the analysis of the retired Brazilian-Croatian forward Eduardo’s three years at the Gunners, when he competed every season in the Champions League under Arsene Wenger.
The 38-year-old believes his old club still have the same mentality of signing one marquee player and surrounding him with development projects, but would rather them buy several proven stars to play alongside Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and restore Arsenal’s place among the top clubs in Europe.
“Aubameyang is a world-class player,” he said. “He scores important goals, but for a big club like Arsenal you can’t depend on one or two players. Aubameyang needs two or three more around him.
“Football changes every year, every club is investing a lot of money and buying quality players. I think Arsenal have the same mentality as when I was there; they buy one star, and others are investments who might be sold for more than what they paid.
“They bought me from Dinamo Zagreb – a big club in Croatia but not an expensive signing. Today if you want the instant results it’s difficult to do it that way. I think Arsenal need to invest in three, four or five quality players to get back to the top.”
Despite promising performances by youngsters Bukayo Saka and Emile-Smith Rowe, Arsenal still rely on Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette for their goals; the only two players to have scored 10 or more in all competitions – and eight teams in the Premier League have scored more than Arsenal this season.
The season in which Eduardo suffered a horrific leg-break at Birmingham in 2008, Arsenal finished the second-highest scorers in the Premier League and four points off the title behind champions Chelsea. It is the closest they have come to winning the title since their last in 2004.
Eduardo himself had 12 goals from 31 games in all competitions and he returned to fitness just over a year later, but he was never quite the same player and moved to Shakhtar Donetsk before spells with Atletico Paranaense and Legia Warsaw.
‘Arsenal made a great choice in Mikel Arteta’
He has continued to follow Arsenal from afar and the ex-Croatia international think his former club have the right person in Mikel Arteta to take them back to the top. The pair just missed each other at the Emirates by a year, with Arteta joining Wenger’s side in 2011.
He said: “I cannot compare Mikel with Arsene Wenger, he was the only manager there for me. [But] for me, Arsenal made a great choice to get Mikel as manager.
“He’s young, hungry and worked under the best coach in the world in Guardiola. He just needs time. He’s already won the FA Cup, he just needs more time in the transfer market to make some more good choices.
“Next season I’m sure they will be much better. But this season isn’t finished. Arsenal have a chance to win the Europa League.
“Arsenal must prioritise the Europa League. It’s the easiest way to get back in the Champions League and for the players it would be special to be in that tournament, it’s the most important tournament in the world.”
‘Odegaard could get into any Arsenal team of the past’
If there is one player Eduardo enjoyed playing with most during his time in north London, it is Cesc Fabregas.
Eduardo has compared new loan signing from Real Madrid Martin Odegaard to the Spaniard, and believes Odegaard could get into any Arsenal side past and present.
“It feels like yesterday I left Arsenal,” he said. “I remember all the great moments I spent in London. The Arsenal team I played in played beautiful football. I miss that time.
“I was a big fan of Cesc Fabregas. He played so well in the matches and in training at that time. He could not lose the ball. Every pass was made, every shot was good, so many assists, the best player I played with.
“Martin Odegaard now is very talented. Any player past or present would like to play with a player like him. He could get into many of the Arsenal teams from the past.”
England and Croatia should both progress at Euro 2020
While Eduardo was famous among Arsenal fans, he became infamous with the rest of English football’s supporters when he was part of the Croatia team that dumped England out of qualifying for Euro 2008 at Wembley, alongside a young Luka Modric.
England take on Croatia in their opening game of Group D in this year’s European Championships – and at the same stadium – and he has tipped both countries to progress from the group despite their old rivalries.
“Croatia improve every year and they play very well when it comes to the big competitions and, in the last few years, England always had trouble with Croatia,” he said. “After the last World Cup in Russia, a few players retired but Croatia still have quality.
“England must be worried about the midfield areas through to the strikers. Modric of course, Ivan Perisic is a legend of Croatia, Mateo Kovacic is starting to play very well for the national team, Mario Pasalic and Ante Rebic are also ones to look out for.
“We have a lot of players that can cause trouble for England. [But] they should both go through that group.”
Eduardo was speaking as an ambassador for the Sports Business Club; a Business to Business networking service that donates 25 per cent of monthly turnover to semi-pro, amateur and youth sports clubs all over the U.K.
“I’m so happy to see grassroots football return slowly. The Sports Business Club does a fantastic job to support grassroots sports,” he said. “It’s very important to me to see people returning to sport after missing out due to the pandemic. Everyone must be careful in returning but get out and play again.”
You can donate to the Sports Business Club fund to help grassroots sports clubs at http://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/thesportsbusinessclub .