An Invincible Speaks

‘Suddenly, things changed, young players came in to have their chance, some players left the club. They need time and this is the problem at Arsenal — when you are in a big club you don’t have much time to grow up and they don’t know how to cope under pressure. I don’t know if they are missing a player like me, but the team is very young. The young players need a lot of support from the experienced players to get them through. What matters at this time is the experienced players stand up for the club and make sure everyone works together.’ Gilberto Silva

When an Invincible speaks, you must listen. Gilberto Silva is an Arsenal legend. His views and opinions are of great value. Admittedly, I have not watched his interview. I have extracted quotes attributed to Gilberto from reports online. There’s not much in what he has said that we haven’t heard or read before. We all know that the players are younger than when he played an important role for us, and that many great Arsenal players have left to create room for this new, emerging side. New in that the players are different, emerging in that they haven’t played but a few seasons together since the departure of the invincibles.

What Gilberto hasn’t talked about is how he himself was next to useless the season before he was sold. And if Matthieu Flamini hadn’t decided that he preferred to “play” in Milan, we would still have a player who was arguably as good as Gilberto had ever been for Arsenal.

He doesn’t mention how Patrick Vieira has played only one full season since leaving Arsenal and has been injured for most of the time he has been at his current club. And that Cesc has been lauded time and time again as the premier play maker in the EPL.

Gilberto does not detail the ups and downs of Robert Pires and Edu, who have averaged less than 20 games per season since leaving Arsenal, while having suffered long term knee injuries. And what of Pires’s replacement Samir Nasri who regardless of his inconsistent season so far has done nothing to suggest that he will not be a big player for Arsenal – perhaps not a Pires clone but certainly good enough to play for Arsenal.

The Brazilian also fails to note that while Thierry Henry has done fairly well at Barcelona, he has yet to regain the imperial form displayed for so many years in North London. He has actually had to defer to stars such as Lionel Messi and Samuel Eto’o. And would anyone bet against Robin van Persie becoming a top star in the game if he can stay injury free? And certainly Adebayor had all of football taking notice of his 30 goal season last term.

Freddie Ljungberg has had his contract terminated by West Ham and is now attempting to salvage the remains of his career in MLS. And surely Theo Walcott – a favorite of the current England manager – has shown dynamism and great promise.

Lauren has struggled to get into Portsmouth’s first team. And it is not even necessary to make comparisons to the best RB in the EPL last season. A player whose injury was arguably the key to us not winning the title.

I don’t think I need to mention Cole and Campbell.

To my mind, the experienced players who were brought in to replace some of those who left have not delivered for various reasons – Rosicky is STILL out injured, Eduardo nearly lost part of his leg last season, Hleb decided that London was suddenly not the place to be, and in Arshaviin, Arsene has finally found that “special talent” that he’s wanted for so long. It took some time and effort but he’s now a Gooner. More than anything else, this team needs time. I agree with Gilberto on that point.

I also agree that time is a luxury that we cannot afford. But I’ve read a fine post by a great man this week in which he puts the Arsenal “crisis” in perspective. I’ve got a lot of time for people who can take a deep breath, step back, and look at the bigger picture. We may have lost the aura of invincibility but we’ve gained the foundation for establishing long term supremacy. Whether or not you believe or feel that you can withstand the bumpy ride is up to you

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