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By ESPN Staff

Wenger backs Eduardo to continue scoring form

Arsene Wenger admits the form of striker Eduardo has left the rest of the Arsenal team expecting him to score every time he gets the ball in the box.

The Brazil-born Croatia international took some time to settle into life in England following an £8million summer move from Dinamo Zagreb, which came after the high-profile departure of Thierry Henry to Barcelona.

However, Eduardo has now netted six goals in his last four appearances after getting on target during the 2-0 win at Burnley in the FA Cup on Sunday, and is set to lead the attack once more against Tottenham in the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final tonight.

The 24-year-old was voted the player of the month for December by a poll on Arsenal's official website - and Wenger can understand why.

'Look at the numbers he has - 14 starts, 11 goals. That is top, top numbers for any striker anywhere in the world. It is exceptional,' the Arsenal boss declared.

'What struck me on Sunday [against Burnley] is not the goal he did score, but the one he didn't score. That shows you how big an improvement he has made in our minds because every time he is in front of the `keeper you expect him to score.'

Wenger has Holland forward Robin van Persie fit again following injury, but maintains he will field a 'young side' tonight which has served him so well in the competition once again.

Arsenal reached the final of the Carling Cup last season, beating rivals Spurs in the semis en route to defeat by Chelsea at the Millennium Stadium.

Wenger sees no reason why they should not go one better in 2008.

He said: 'Of course you want to win trophies especially when you have a very young side which has already been in two finals.

'For every team when you are in a final you might win it - and this year we have a good chance.'

Arsenal will be without defender Kolo Toure, winger Emmanuel Eboue and utility man Alex Song because of the African Nations Cup, which could see the trio away for a month.

Everton, who played Chelsea in the first leg of their semi-final last night, had asked for South Africa midfielder Steven Pienaar to be allowed to delay his departure to the tournament in Ghana, but were forced to release him by FIFA, the sport's world governing body.

Arsenal looked to get a similar request sanctioned by the Ivory Coast for Toure and Eboue ahead of the 2006 tournament, but were knocked back.

This time around, Wenger has not bothered to ask for any special dispensation.

The Arsenal manager said: 'Last time we tried to keep them a little bit longer and it didn't work, so this time we have just respected the rules because some argue that the competition for their country starts a bit later.

'The rules, though, are clear and the FIFA rules say that you have to release your players 14 days before the start of the competition no matter when the country starts. It is the official start of the competition that counts.'