Week Four: Gilberto Silva

 

Testimony by / With thanks to: Goonerholic; a veteran Arsenal fan and blogger.  He's been following The Gunners for 50 years and writing about them for over 10 - and his considerable experience shows on his blog - a much-needed reminder that fan sites can succeed without forced banter, regurgitated memes or negativity.

Follow Goonerholic: @Goonerholic

There has only ever been one ‘invisible wall’, and Arsene Wenger built an invincible team around him. Gilberto Silva arrived at Highbury after making his name as the defensive midfielder in Brazil’s 2002 World Cup winning team in South Korea and Japan. The Gunners had not adequately replaced Emmanuel Petit after his departure to Barcelona two years earlier. Gilberto immediately formed an understanding with Patrick Vieira and the pair of them allowed the likes of Freddie Ljungberg, Robert Pires, Dennis Bergkamp, and Thierry Henry to flourish. Vieira had a free reign to roam from box to box while his shy but determined partner provided protection for what was already a back four of some repute.

Never have I seen anyone better at strangling attacks in the defensive third and yet he shunned publicity and acclaim. On his Arsenal debut he scored the winning goal in the FA Community Shield against Liverpool at the Millennium Stadium. His first season at the club ended at the same venue with a 1-0 win against Southampton to retain the FA Cup. However, it was the following season that will always stay in the memory. Gilberto played in 32 of Arsenal’s 38 Premier League fixtures at the end of which saw them lift the title with a record, unparalleled in the modern era, of Played 38, Won 26, Drew 12, Lost 0.

The following season he again scored the winner in the FA Community Shield and ended the season an FA Cup winner at Cardiff against Manchester United. Injury cut his Premier League appearances to just 13, and without him Arsenal finished 12 points short of retaining their title. In 2005/6 he took a teenage Cesc Fabregas under his wing and gave a makeshift defence astonishing protection as Arsenal went all the way to the Champions League Final, where they fell at the final hurdle in the closing minutes to Barcelona in Paris. Two years later the greatest defensive midfielder of a generation moved to Panathinaikos. It was a privilege to have seen him, and Arsenal are yet to replace him.

 

A little background information from me, the creator of Look What it Means to Him...

Mercifully, there's less self-indulgent rambling from me this week; the style of the Gilberto poster (British WW2 propaganda) is similar to last week's effort (Javier Mascherano). I wanted to rotate the poster themes from week-to-week but the British style was too a good fit for GIlberto; the traditional image of the 'brickie' was perfect for his nickname ('The Invisible Wall') while the washed-out colour schemes used in Allied propaganda suited Arsenal's tasteful 'farewell to Highbury' maroon kit.