Eduardo makes bold Arsenal title prediction, praises Martinelli and tips Saka for captaincy
Eduardo da Silva spent three seasons with Arsenal between 2007-10 and still takes a keen interest in the progress of the Gunners.
In the first part of his exclusive interview with Ladbrokes at the launch of the 5-A-Side bet on Monday’s match between Crystal Palace and Arsenal, the Brazilian-born former Croatia international spoke about joining the club, the terrible injury he suffered against Birmingham in 2008 and revealed the funniest player in the Gunners dressing room.
Now in part two, Eduardo discusses the progress under Mikel Arteta, praises some of the young players at the club and reveals how he could have joined West Brom instead!
Arteta’s side can replicate ’98 & ’04 squads… I believe they’ll win the league in the next five years
Arsenal are growing quickly; they’ve improved significantly over the last few years, in a transition phase from Arsene Wenger to Mikel Arteta’s side right now. This year, for me, is the best that they have looked as a team in around eight years. They’re very close to getting back into the Champions League, and for that they deserve a lot of credit – especially when you look at some of the teams they’re ahead of in the table right now.
Mikel deserves all the credit he gets. It’s very hard to compete with the likes of Manchester City and Liverpool, but they’re right up there behind those two as one of the best sides in the division right now. Man City have a dangerous combination of a lot of money and the top coach in the world, while Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp have built a really strong squad. But that’s taken a few years; when you look back at where Liverpool were when Klopp took over, and how long it took him to turn them into a title-challenging side with the identity they currently have, that’s maybe an approach Arsenal can look at taking. Klopp has strengthened in a couple of key areas with every transfer window, and it’s led to Liverpool challenging for the title.
Arsenal don’t spend a lot of money in comparison to those top teams, but they are building something special, step by step. I’m confident that Mikel Arteta – a fresh coach with new and exciting ideas – can replicate the success of 1998 and 2004 by turning this team into title winners in the next five years. I believe Arsenal can win the Premier League in the next five years.
Gabriel has been Arsenal’s most surprising player this season
I know a lot of the forwards are getting credit this season, and rightly so, because the likes of Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard have been so good. But, for me, the biggest surprise has been Gabriel. He’s growing up more and more with every match. You can see it; I know that in the beginning things were a little difficult for him, but that’s completely normal when you join a new team.
There’s so much confidence in the team going forward, and that stems from Saka, who is now in an extremely powerful and positive position for everyone associated with Arsenal, because he’s winning games from nothing. He’s turning draws into wins, just like he did at Aston Villa, and just like he has done on so many other occasions this season.
How Brazil can help propel Arsenal into the Champions League; Martinelli’s call-up will send his confidence through the roof
I want to give a lot of credit to Gabriel Martinelli. You know, I think he can really help this team a lot. He works very hard for the club, and I really feel like his recent international call-up has come at a perfect time in the season. He’ll come back to Arsenal with so much more confidence, because he’s getting recognition with the national side. I have no doubt it will release a new sense of freedom for him at his club, and I really feel like he can be one of Arsenal’s key players between now and the end of the season.
You have to remember this is a young guy who spent a lot of time out injured, and when that sort of thing happens, it has the potential to really impact your confidence. But he’s gone from strength to strength under Mikel Arteta, who clearly trusts him a lot.
I’ve never met Martinelli, but I can see he’s a character. He’s great. When you have a strong character, and you’re growing in strength with every game, and you look around and you have the likes of Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard, all of a similar age and going through this exciting period with you, you have to say Gabriel is absolutely at the right place for his career right now.
I believe he can be Arsenal’s main man for the rest of the season, and here’s why… he’s had a taste of international football, and with a World Cup just months away, he won’t want to drop out of Tite’s plans. So he’s going to come back to Arsenal with more confidence than ever, as every game will further strengthen his chances of making Qatar. It’s a great situation for everyone.
Summer plans; learn from ‘trouble’ Aubameyang mistake, but Rashford is not the answer
I’m not a coach, I’m not a manager, so I can only comment on what I see as a football fan and, like any big club, Arsenal should always be looking to bring in the best players in world football. Each position on the pitch needs to be treated like a pillar, and for each pillar, you need one big player, or a statement signing.
For Arsenal now, the future is about adding strength in depth, and improving competition for places. I would be looking at the wing-back positions, a midfielder and – for sure – one striker. A number nine; that’s what Arsenal now need; someone who can come in and decide games from nothing. When you’re playing out a 0-0 or a 1-1, you need someone to come in and turn those draws into wins.
But those big players are hard to come by. Can you realistically go in and get a Karim Benzema? A Robert Lewandowski? An Erling Haaland? I don’t know; Arsenal now have to look at other options aside from the elite; maybe someone playing in Europe who is clinical in front of goal, but also has the right character and mentality to join Mikel Arteta’s team. It’s all about finding a player with the right levels of motivation. Take Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as an example; he’s a top player, but there was always trouble with him. There would always be question marks around his future, throughout the season. That causes trouble in the dressing room, and then among fans, and so you have to avoid someone with that kind of mentality.
Marcus Rashford is one of the names who has been linked with Arsenal this summer. But is he the right player to come in and fill that role as a number nine? No. He doesn’t play as a striker for Manchester United, so why would Arsenal bring him in if they need a striker? I don’t know if he has the right capacity to come in and do the job Arsenal would need him to do. It’s hard to say because sometimes bigger players come to Arsenal and things don’t work out; look at Willian, David Luiz, and so on.
Bukayo Saka can be Arsenal’s captain
It’s so difficult to predict who will be Arsenal’s next captain. That role isn’t necessarily as political as it is at other clubs. It’s very easy in other teams to pick out who should be captain and why, and usually it’s down to who has been there the longest, but that’s not necessarily the case with Arsenal. During my time with the club, it was Cesc Fabregas and then Robin van Persie. But it always changed after that; Per Mertesacker came in and took the armband, you’ve had Laurent Koscielny, Granit Xhaka, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
I think maybe it’s a role you could give to Bukayo Saka. It has to be someone who sets an example, someone who delivers on the pitch, and someone who is consistently going to play – and you have to say he ticks all of those boxes. Maybe they should give it to him.
Before I signed for Arsenal, the people of West Bromwich Albion came to Zagreb to present me with a shirt with my name and number on the back!
Back in the 2006-07 season, I had a great campaign, both at club and international level. At the start of the campaign, Dinamo Zagreb played Champions League qualifiers against Arsenal, and I scored at the Emirates. From that moment, I went on to have a great season in Croatia; I finished the season with 54 goals in total.
I knew Arsenal were starting to watch me throughout that season, but before I moved to the Emirates, there were rumours every day in the Croatian newspapers that a big club in Europe was interested in me. Clubs from Italy, France, and Spain all made approaches with Dinamo Zagreb for me.
In fact, I’m not sure how many people know this, but I can tell you that the season before I joined Arsenal, the people from West Bromwich Albion – the board – came to Zagreb and gave me a shirt with my name and number on the back. That was before the start of the 2006-07 season; I met their people and they told me they were interested in me – so I nearly came to England to sign for West Brom, not Arsenal.