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Birthday boy Gilberto waiting for chance to regain Arsenal place


Brazilian captain Gilberto wil be hoping that one of his birthday presents today will be a recall to the Arsenal first team after watching most of the season so far from the sidelines.

The midfielder turns 31 today, but having had a fantastic season last year - much of which he played as Arsenal’s stand-in skipper - and leading his nation to retain the Copa America, he has found it difficult to regain his place in Arsene Wenger’s first team.

Gilberto has only appeared four times for the Gunners this campaign and only twice in his favoured midfield position, as the form of French team mate Mathieu Flamini has been good enough to keep the number 19 benched.

“It has been so frustrating,” said Gilberto. “I am on the bench not because of my quality or something like that but because I came back late [from the Copa America].”

However, he is philosophic and is determined to remain patient. “The only thing I need to do is do my job, respect the manager's decision, respect the other players and the way they play at the moment. Of course, when I have the opportunity I want to do the best I can for the team like I have done, but it's a slight difference compared to other years. It is the first time I haven't been in the team [since I came here]. I confess to you it has been so hard for me.”

That kind of selection headache is a boost not only to Wenger, but also to us Gooners, knowing that we have the captain of Brazil available as a substitute. And an added incentive for him to play was the goalscoring touch he discovered last season...

Gilberto was Arsenal’s top scoring midfielder last year, hitting 11 goals, 10 of which were in the Premier League.

His ability to drop into central defence also makes him a valuable player to have on the bench, but with competition heating up in midfield, especially with Lassana Diarra now at the club, Gilberto will be desperate to reassert his authority and win his place back in the starting line-up.

Having been snubbed in favour of William Gallas as club captain and with AC Milan, Juventus and Valencia all apparently interested in securing his services, it could be that today will be the final birthday that he celebrates in North London. The speculation linking him with a move has talked of a fee in the region of £10 million and Le Gaffer’s policy of only giving players over the age of 30 one-year contract extensions could prove a crucial factor in Gilberto’s decision process if a firm bid is made.

But I, for one, would miss him. Gilberto has been an excellent servant to the club and very rarely has a bad game. He’s certainly been the best Brazilian to pull on an Arsenal shirt and I really hope that we’ll see him figuring in the first team for a few years to come.

Let’s hope we all have something to celebrate this afternoon to make it a special day for the birthday boy.

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Posted by Gordon Masson on October 7, 2007 8:15 AM in News| Players
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