Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 27 November 2014

Eduardo focuses on Arsenal after World Cup woes

Eduardo is ready to put Croatia's World Cup disappointment behind him by helping fire Arsenal to both Barclays Premier League and European success.

Nearly all of the Gunners squad are away on international duty over the next fortnight.

However, instead of preparing for a crunch play-off to secure a place in South Africa, Slaven Bilic's men will host a friendly with Liechtenstein after finishing third behind Ukraine in the race for runners-up to Group Six winners England.

Brazilian-born Eduardo, 26, saw his impact limited by injury, but did return to action in the 5-1 defeat at Wembley during September, when he netted a consolation goal for the visitors.

With Arsenal forward Nicklas Bendtner sidelined with a groin problem which needed minor surgery, Eduardo - who missed Croatia's run to the quarter-finals of Euro 2008 because of a broken leg - is likely to get the opportunity to secure his place in Arsene Wenger's free-scoring side.

The Gunners are currently second in the Premier League table, ahead of Manchester United on goal difference, some five points behind Chelsea, on whom they have a game in hand and face at Emirates Stadium later this month.

Eduardo is in no doubt of just what Arsenal - unbeaten now in 13 games through all competitions - can achieve.

"At the moment we are improving a lot and feel stronger mentally - the atmosphere inside the squad is good, we are very together," Eduardo said.

"We are doing very well at the moment and I hope we can produce a big surprise this year.

"I am feeling good. At the beginning of the season I had a few injury niggles, but I am okay now and ready to help the team rise to the top of the table, as well as progressing in the Champions League."

Eduardo, though, admitted the disappointment of failing to reach South Africa still does not sit right.

"There were a few games in which we didn't play well," he said.

"We have caused surprises in a lot of major tournaments in recent years, so this was very disappointing for us.

"There are a lot of good players in our team and maybe we could have done something in South Africa, but it is difficult for a country like Croatia to go to every single World Cup - we are not like Brazil, who never fail to qualify.

"We will learn from what has happened and put our efforts into preparing for the Euro 2012 qualifiers."

Wenger has deployed a new, fluid 4-3-3 system to great effect this season, with the Gunners having scored a record 36 goals from the first 11 league games.

Captain Cesc Fabregas has been given more freedom to get forward in support of Robin van Persie, with the likes of Bendtner, Andrey Arshavin and now Eduardo playing off the Gunners' main striker.

Eduardo, who missed a couple of gilt-edged chances after coming on as a substitute against Tottenham, could feel somewhat aggrieved not to have been credited with Arsenal's second goal at Wolves, when his chip was deflected in off defender Jody Craddock which would have been a first strike in seven appearances.

The Croatia forward, though, is just happy to be doing his bit for the side.

"For me it is fine to play on the left or right, no problem, the most important thing is to help the team and I feel good in those positions," he said.

"The boss knows our qualities and how they can fit into a formation.

"It is a formation which gives us more movement and more creativity through the middle, although it is not easy because we have to balance defence and attack, and that can be difficult for us as strikers."

While no specific timeframe has been set for Bendtner's rehabilitation, it is hoped the Denmark striker could return by early December.

Brazilian midfielder Denilson, who has been sidelined since mid-September by a back problem, is expected to be available after the international break, while England forward Theo Walcott may well be match fit following his knee injury for the visit of Chelsea on November 29.

That clash, though, is likely to come too soon for defender Gael Clichy, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his lower back.

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