Burnley 0 - 2 Arsenal
Even in dispensing with one of the Premier League's great individuals, Arsenal may have become still more idiosyncratic. Exit Thierry Henry last summer, a conspicuously unique talent, yet in his replacement, Arsene Wenger may have found someone even more relaxed than the Frenchman and so laidback in front of goal that, to borrow the descriptions that David Gower used to attract, he is almost horizontal.
Whether or not he is the best finisher in England, Eduardo da Silva is almost certainly the calmest. The concept of blasting in the ball is clearly alien to the Croatian, as his 11th of the season illustrated. Accepting Kolo Toure's deft, dinked pass over the Burnley defence and unworried by a nudge from Steven Caldwell, he rolled the ball past Gabor Kiraly with admirable nonchalance. Perhaps the lack of backlift required enables him to baffle goalkeepers, but it is technique that continues to confound them.
Even his passing is gentle, with a perfectly-weighted ball guided through the Burnley back four for Nicklas Bendtner to stroll round Kiraly and score the second, thus securing Arsenal's place in the last 32 of the FA Cup.
Eduardo's deceptively mild approach had almost condemned Burnley to death by silk earlier, but he sidefooted narrowly wide. As Wenger said: 'The surprise is that he missed that one, but he has scored one and has got an assist and overall I believe the strikers have done very well.'
In the process, and once again, Wenger found himself vindicated. His maxim that it takes six months for imports to acclimatise to English football was coined years before most - except, presumably, Wenger himself - had heard of Eduardo.
Yet it is as true for the Brazilian-born forward as it was for Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires before him. Because December appeared marked the turning point for the slight left-footer. He now has six goals in four games and provided further proof that natural finishers permit below-par teams to emerge victorious.
Indeed Arsenal were some way below their best, but possessed, in Eduardo, the coollest man at a cold Turf Moor. The fringe players have produced some scintillating displays - most recently in the Carling Cup at Blackburn - but this was not an addition to that list.
That is to Burnley's credit and Wenger was very complimentary. By overloading his team with six-footers, Eduardo and Denilson excepted, he had indicated he expected a physical test. Instead, he said: 'What surprised me was how quickly they could pass and how well they played in midfield with their combinations. I'm surprised that Burnley are where they are in the Championship (12th). Perhaps it is better to be in the Premier League.'
They could have taken the lead, too. Three minutes before Eduardo scored, Andy Gray's cross was headed on to the bar by the unmarked Kyle Lafferty. 'I believe that header could have had a big effect on the game,' added Wenger.
Nor was it Burnley's only opportunity to capitalise on lax defending. Robbie Blake had latched on to Philippe Senderos' weak header to drill a shot over the bar while Armand Traore almost emulated his namesake Djimi, whose comical own goal allowed Burnley to beat Liverpool three seasons ago. Contriving to lose the ball between his feet, the Frenchman was dispossessed by Wade Elliott. The winger set up Chris McCann, but he blazed over.
But, after being the better side for much of the first hour, Burnley's chances disappeared with Lafferty, dismissed for a challenge on Denilson. Studs were raised but the Burnley manager Owen Coyle said: 'My initial thought was it was a yellow card. There is not a bad bone in his body and it certainly wasn't two-footed. But the referee [Alan Wiley] felt that Kyle went over the ball.' Wenger, needless to say, didn't see it.
Perhaps, too, his myopia had extended to Saturday's results. Sometimes there is the sense that Arsenal are they are impervious to the rest of the Premier League. It is a strength at times and a weakness at others, but it enabled them to remain undistracted by the spate of upsets in the FA Cup on Saturday. Others may have panicked and sent for the first-choice team. Wenger, however, said: 'I have a squad and I am not afraid to rotate.'
MAN OF THE MATCH: Jon Harley - A reminder of why the energetic left-back was tipped for a stellar future upon his emergence at Chelsea. Excelled in his passing and won numerous challenges to just pip his team-mates Robbie Blake and James O'Connor and, of course, Eduardo.
BURNLEY VERDICT: They remain one of the Championship's enigmas, still unable to win at home under Owen Coyle. Yet they displayed enough ability - the inventive Blake in particular - to suggest they could become outsiders for the play-offs if they can secure that elusive victory at Turf Moor.
ARSENAL VERDICT: The importance of William Gallas to marshall the defence is apparent in his absence. With Toure heading off to the African Nations Cup, Arsenal's captain will also be their most important player for the next seven weeks, especially with Senderos producing another tentative display. However, the consistently wasteful Emmanuel Eboue is likely to be missed rather less when in Africa while the omission of Cesc Fabregas, Tomas Rosicky and Alexander Hleb led to a lack of their usual fluency at Turf Moor.
AUF WIEDERSEHEN? It may have been a valedictory appearance in the Arsenal goal from Jens Lehmann who, if so, bowed out without any of his trademark eccentricities. 'I wish he stays but we will know in the next few games,' added Wenger.
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