LONDON, February 17 – Arsene Wenger believes Eduardo's fairytale return to action with Arsenal can help his side get their spluttering season back on track.
After almost a year on the sidelines, Eduardo was back with a bang on Monday as his double strike inspired Arsenal’s 4-0 FA Cup fourth round replay win over Cardiff at the Emirates Stadium.
The Croatian forward showed no signs of any rust following his long rehabilitation from the horrific broken leg and ankle suffered in a challenge with Birmingham’s Martin Taylor last February.
Eduardo gave the kind of virtuoso display sorely lacking from any of his team-mates in recent weeks and, although he had to come off after 66 minutes with a slight hamstring strain, Wenger is confident the 25-year-old will play a key role in Arsenal’s bid to finish in the Premier League’s top four and win the Champions League and FA Cup.
"I am very happy to have him back because he gives us options," Wenger said. "He can play on the flank, he can play central, he can play behind the striker or up front on his own. It is fantastic for us.
"Of course everybody is happy for him. It was good to see us play with the handbrake off. Eduardo played a big part in that.
"He is intelligent, talented, he understands quickly what is happening and reacts well to every situation. That is why he is a striker."
Eduardo was overcome with emotion after his comeback and paid tribute to his family for helping him emerge unscathed from the gruelling recovery period.
"It was the best day of my life because it proved I can play again," he said adding, "It was a special moment to score and very emotional. I had tears in my eyes.
"I celebrated by kissing my wedding ring because my wife Andreja, daughter Lorena and family supported me right through this."
Wenger claimed it was Eduardo’s mental strength that was the key to his return to full fitness.
"I’m not surprised he did well. He made a big step forward in training a couple of weeks ago. You could see he had found sharpness and got rid of a bit of apprehension in the tackling," Wenger said.
"It has been a long time out but he has been extremely strong mentally. I could never see one minute of doubt when he said ‘no I don’t want to do it’.
"He was always wanting more. This guy is small but he has the mental strength of a mountain."
Eduardo’s double and goals from Nicklas Bendtner and Robin van Persie were just reward for a scintillating display that left Cardiff, last season’s FA Cup runners-up and serious contenders for promotion from the Championship, looking like a team of part-timers.
The Gunners host Burnley in the fifth round next month and will face Hull or Sheffield United in the last eight if they can get past the Clarets, who have already beaten them in the League Cup this season.
Despite the FA Cup looking like Arsenal’s best chance to end their four-year trophy-drought, Wenger is more concerned with securing a Champions League place by finishing in the Premier League’s top four.
"At the moment Manchester United looks untouchable because they are 12 points ahead of us. Our basic target is to get in the Champions League so the league remains the priority," he said.
"We are very consistent now. We missed some goals recently that we are capable of scoring but we are on a very strong run."
Cardiff boss Dave Jones was furious with his side’s lacklustre performance and warned his players they will have to rebound against Wolverhampton on Sunday or face the axe.
"I’m glad it’s over because we didn’t do ourselves any justice," he said."One or two started thinking about the league campaign. If I could have changed all 10 of them I would have.
"If I don’t get a reaction from my players I’ll move them on and that’s just the harsh world of football."