This is the editor here. I have been running Invisiblewall.net for the last few years, and I’ve been a big Gilberto Silva fan ever since he joined Arsenal back in 2002.
Last night, Gilberto played in Arsenal’s 5-1 defeat against Spurs. Gilberto’s apparent poor performance (I didn’t see the game, so I can’t personally comment on his performance) was criticised by many for being the main reason that Arsenal lost. Not only this; Gilberto has been criticised all season long for playing badly.
Basically, all the Gilberto criticism comes down to the fact that people don’t think he’s putting in as much effort as last season, and as a result playing badly. These people frequently go on to say that he should be subsequently sold. Here is my defence of Gilberto.
The claim that Gilberto is playing badly is probably a valid claim. I would not pretend that Gilberto was playing well, if he was actually playing badly. To do so would be blind. So, my qualms with the Gilberto criticisms are not about whether or not he is playing badly. My actual qualms are to do with the surrounding remarks which follow these observations.
Firstly, the assumption that Gilberto is choosing to play badly is ridiculous. Practically every journalist which has criticised Gilberto this season has said something like “…A shaddow of his former self, Gilberto isn’t even trying to impress Wenger.” This makes out that Gilberto is choosing to play badly, and thus, choosing to exclude himself from the first team. This is such a ridiculous claim that it makes my teeth itch. To claim that Gilberto’s bad form is simply down to him not “trying” to play as well as he did last season is ridiculous; Gilberto has said countless times this season that he is working 100% to get his place in the first team back - and even if he hadn’t declared this, what motivation would there be for him to play badly? Losing his place in the team to Flamini benefits Gilberto in no way. The only way in which it would, would be if Gilberto enjoyed sitting on the bench. His form last season makes this evidently not true, as does Wenger’s reports of Gilberto’s energetic performances in training.
The truth is this: rather than Gilberto’s form being down to his own fault, it actually has very little to do with him. The reason for his below-par form is this: Gilberto got back to Arsenal’s pre-season late due to being away with Brazil on their Confederation’s Cup tournament, and as a result, wasn’t as fit as the fresh Flamini. Consequently, Flamini started the first few games of the season instead of Gilberto. Gilberto’s lack of match fitness and freshness at the start of the season then became worse and worse as each game went by without him playing. It was a catch 22 situation for Gilberto: he was not able to get into the first eleven because he wasn’t match fit, but couldn’t get match fit because he wasn’t in the first eleven. Despite the apparent obviousness of this argument though, journalists seem to think that Gilberto’s bad form is simply “lack of effort”.
Next up, is the claim that Gilberto should be sold - as some sort of weird punishment as a result of playing badly. The ghastly Pete Gill of Football 365 made this claim last night in his horrible article titled “Wenger Still Unable To See The Invisible Wall“. I quote from his story:
It’s not a coincidence that Gilberto is the only Arsenal player to have started each of the club’s three defeats this season. If they don’t want to suffer any repeat humiliations, Arsenal supporters should consider a whip-round to buy out the Brazilian’s contract.
Such short sighted stupidity makes me want to throw myself off a bridge, but thankfully for this article, I will resist the urge and continue. People like Pete Gill are exactly the type of fickle ‘football fan’ which results in The Sun selling newspapers. Pete Gill is just a fickle football writer, who will react to the smallest glitch of a player or a club, and write a hate-article based on it. I loath his type because of his short memory: he was probably one of the journalists hyping up Gilberto last season when the Brazilian was Arsenal’s best player of the season, captain, and top goal scorer. But fickle minds forget, and how! He now publicly admits that he would pay money to see Gilberto fired as an Arsenal player. I am not saying that Wenger should keep players based SOLEY on past performances, but to throw out a player of Gilberto’s ability, experience and statute JUST because he’s not match fit as a result of not playing would be utter stupidity, and is probably the reason why Wenger has not done so. Wenger recognises that Gilbeto has a good chance of getting himself back into the first team at some point in the future, and will subsequently improve his form, and be of a great use to Arsenal. Contrast this sensible view of Pete Gill, who, if in charge of Arsenal, would no doubt fire every player who underwent a patch of poor form. Under Gill, one wonders if Arsenal would have any players at all by the end of the season. Maybe not, but he would at least be much happier not having to put up with bad patches! Or maybe he would be more upset at not being able to blame any players anymore…
In his article, Pete Gill then goes on to say that Gilberto was the sole reason that Arsenal lost against Spurs:
Nobody came close to matching the incompetence of Gilberto Silva. While Wenger remains perplexingly blind to the wretchedness of the ‘Invisible Wall’, seasoned Gilberto-watchers would have spotted the way he expertly tip-toed out of Jermaine Jenas’ way in the opening minute, gave up on the fourth goal, and then ducked out of challenging Jenas in the build-up to the fifth.
Without drawing attention to his erroneous claim that Wenger is ‘blind` to bad form, and the ridiculousness where he claims that Gilberto is actually trying to make Arsenal concede (can you believe he actually says this?), I’ll just point out something which he failed to mention, which proves that Gilberto wasn’t the only man at fault: Arsenal only scored one goal. Why is he not blaming the strikers? I’ll tell you why. Actually… I can’t tell you why. This is because I don’t know. He just blames Gilberto because, assumably, he is, at best, a bad journalist, and, at worst, completely incompetent when it comes to objectively analysing football matches. (Note: my judgement of Pete Gill extends no further than that of his judgement of football. I do not judge him as a person, only that of which I am privvy to: his views on football, and his journalistic abilities.)
Everything which I’ve said in this post comes down to one thing: if Gilberto had not come back late to Arsenal’s pre-season, he would not have suffered a lapse in fitness, and he would probably have played every one of Arsenal’s games this season, would still be captain, and would be getting praised by people like Pete Gill - who, as one commenter of his article points out, was probably criticising Wenger for leaving Gilberto out of the squad at the start of the season. Nothing else has changed about Gilberto. He is still the hard working midfielder we all loved last season; except that the roll of the dice saw him left out of the squad to the in-form Flamini. This was not of his doing: and to claim that it was, is a gross lie.