A reflective moment for all Gunner fans as Gilberto, our stout hearted defensive specialist departs for Panathinaikos. He spend many seasons shielding Arsenal from quick counterattacking teams while providing invaluable goals through set pieces.
His calm leadership during Thierry Henry’s injury absence in the early half of 2007 steadied the ship and his ten goals scored through a bunch of penalties and headers kept Arsenal ticking. Many remember this as his finest season which came on the heels of very strong rumours that he was to leave for Juventus that winter.
Just when it appeared that Gilberto was on track to finish his career in Arsenal a few crucial developments took place at the beginning of the 2007-2008 season. Wenger brought in William Gallas and made him captain and Mathieu Flamini’s form landed him the starting spot behind Fabregas. Gilberto was relegated to the bench.
He was not happy about these developments but rather than whining about it and demanding a transfer he decided to fight for his spot. Even as his minutes dwindled and his frustration mounted he still gave his best as a substitute. As Arsenal’s chances nosedived in the 2008 half, Gilberto came up with some strong starting performances in April. In retrospect, Gallas captaincy was undermined by his petulant outbursts and combativeness on the field. It was not a wise choice by Wenger.
With Flamini leaving for Milan, it would appear that Gilberto’s services would be required to fill the gap. Wenger also indicated that he would be loth to see Gilberto go. However Wenger in a tactical move is developing new transfer Aaron Ramsey into a defensive specialist playing behind Fabregas which would mean reduced minutes for Gilberto once again.
Gilberto will be remembered for a number of highlights in his Arsenal career including scoring the fastest goal in UEFA history against PSV Eindhoven and the first ever goal for the club in their new home, the Emirates Stadium.
From a larger perspective, Gilberto’s departure means that Arsenal and the Premiership lose one of the few players who were not defined by their mercenary interests or jarring histrionics but by unselfish devotion to club. A fine player and an equally fine human being. Gilberto was also deeply involved in fighting for the homeless. We shall miss him. Best of luck, Berto.
Chris Harris, reporter for Arsenal.com pays tribute >>