Arsenal

nvincible challenges Havertz critics and praises Arsenal for securing dream midfield successor

Gilberto Silva has told football.london that Arsenal have got their dream man in Declan Rice and that fans should show patience with Kai Havertz after the Brazilian was named the new CALM ambassador.

Arsenal have seen a significant transformation in their midfield prowess in the last couple of years with Mikel Arteta working with the likes of Sporting Director Edu Gaspar to transform the side’s core to reflect that of a team aiming to compete for the biggest honours. The acquisitions of Thomas Partey, Martin Odegaard, Kai Havertz and now Declan Rice have been critical to the club’s evolution and rise.

It is perhaps the greatest group midfielders the club has had since the early 2000s and that of the Invincibles. Arsene Wenger constructed a group of technical yet powerful players who could operate effectively to help beat, or at the very least avoid defeat, against any side in the world.

Part of that team was Gilberto Silva. The Brazilian arrived in 2002 and formed a key partnership with Patrick Vieira to become one of the most underrated and influential pieces of the Invincibles squad.

Fast forward to 2023, and Gilberto’s professional career has taken a different turn whilst continuing his love of both football and Arsenal. Gilberto has been announced as an ambassador for CALM, Campaign Against Living Miserably, a fantastic cause designed to provide support and awareness of mental health with the aim of saving lives.

Gilberto sat down with me at football.london to discuss his passion and attachment to the topic of mental health. We also discussed the success of his eventual successor Declan Rice and the journey Kai Havertz has gone on already including some of the mental challenges he has faced along the way.

His work with the new app Striver is well known, but I was curious about what it was about CALM that stood out and made him want to be a part of the organisation. One that the aforementioned Declan Rice is also a big part of.

Well, a long time I know about the work they do, which is very impressive and very important for everybody,” Gilberto explained. “This is the reason just to join people who are ready to serve others, to improve them, to help them out.

“Sometimes it’s not so easy when you need some help to find somebody that’s ready to help you and sometimes especially for men. Sometimes we are scared of asking for help because we believe that we are superheroes, sometimes we believe we cannot cry and sometimes we believe that we are the Iron Man.

This can turn into problems. The work CALM have done over the years has been so impressive and to join them is to find a way to cooperate and be helpful to spread the message and to help as much as I can.”

Football has become a sport utterly intertwined with the new age of social media. Fans have greater access to their heroes than ever before leading to examples of joy and sentiment at one end of the spectrum to the abhorrent abuse we see on an hourly basis through our feeds.

The anonymity has allowed people something of a superpower to direct fearless hatred toward anyone they choose. Gilberto doesn’t believe however that the existence of social media is indeed the core of the problem, but the people instead that use it.

“I don’t know exactly if social media is the problem, but the people’s behaviour is the problem.” Adding, “Because the social media itself doesn’t harm anybody but the people’s behaviour, yes.

“The way they interact in social media, the way they act there, if they would go on the street sometime and talk to somebody as they do on social media, probably they would get arrested. They would have a big problem on the streets, but they feel that social media there is no problem.

You can say whatever you want to anybody the way you like and just disrespect people and this is not right. I believe it’s how you use social media, I think the purpose of it is not for people to spread their hate or to abuse anybody.

“This is what my opinion is, it’s not the purpose of it. The purpose is to engage, but also you can learn from social media.

“I’ve learned a lot from social media and some channels, some people they have a very interesting message. The way they do it is in a very interesting way and I’ve learned a lot.”

Footballers have faced the brunt of plenty of it and at Arsenal, it is no different. Aaron Ramsdale admitted to turning off his social feeds before he had even signed for Arsenal because of the horrific things that many ‘fans’ directed at him.

Mistakes are made and Gilberto has emphasised the reality that can twisted regarding the money players can earn. The humungous wages appear to lead people to think that this grants them some right to be able to spout the hideous bilge you see online or even inside the stadiums.

“Nowadays, especially for football players, one of the toughest things has been social media because of the games, because of the results, because of the performance and the people.

“Sometimes they don’t understand that the players they are humans. They are allowed to make mistakes.

“It doesn’t matter if they got paid or they don’t get paid. If they are paid a low salary, high salary it’s not the point they are humans and they are allowed to make mistakes.

Sometimes through the passion, because they are sometimes so passionate they don’t really understand. I have a question: If all of them are real fans – because real fans respect, this is what I want to believe – the real fans believe and understand that the player of their club is allowed to make mistakes?

“They are not there to make mistakes. They train hard, they make sacrifices, but sometimes it’s going to happen.”

A player who has received a significant brunt of online judgement that has in many cases crossed the line into abuse is Kai Havertz. Signed from Chelsea in the summer for more than £60million, the deal was certainly something of a risk by Mikel Arteta.

Havertz had seen success in west London, scoring in a Champions League final against Manchester City. However, he had his struggles too and many felt that he had not adapted yet to life in the Premier League and now he was moving to the Gunners.

Three goals in four games now have dramatically seen a shift in the perception of the German international. It is the resilience that Gilberto sees as a critical aspect of his potential success at the club.

“I think one of the important aspects for Kai is to stay resilient and keep believing in himself. I think this is one of the important aspects because he is at Arsenal because he is a talent, somebody trusts him which is the manager and the teammates, the club and he’s there.

“Because before he arrived at the club he did well in another club and he’s there, otherwise [the move] wouldn’t happen, but sometimes it changes. It takes a little bit of time for you to adapt to the new system, the new way of work, the new environments, the new team, the teammates, which is normal.

“He was used to playing on a different style from Arsenal. Now he’s adapting to it.

It’s tough because the people expect you to come and deliver, score goals and especially in his position and play a fantastic game and when it does not happen it’s so frustrating for the fans, but I think the patience is the key for the fans to understand. Listen, give him time. the first year is difficult.”

Gilberto arrived in 2002 from Atletico Mineiro after spending some time with the team in pre-season following a brilliant World Cup. Despite playing for one of the most successful nations in the world, he still had trouble settling in North London.

“I had a lot of difficulties when I first came. In the first few matches with me at Arsenal back in 2002, it was so tough to cope with the speed of the game, the physicality and coming from Brazil, from South America, different type of game and style and speed and culture.

“I have to adapt but at the beginning it was tough. Even for the players in the Premier League when they change from one club to another they face some difficulties. For some things work a little bit easier, not because the work is easy, because they adapt faster.

For some will take a little bit of time because of the style of the team, how they play, how the manager wants them to play, the approach the manager expects from the player. It depends, sometimes the player sacrifices himself for the purpose of the team.

“But the fans don’t understand that. Only the people inside, the manager and the teammates and the players himself do understand.”

Gilberto’s position in defensive midfield has been an area of debate for Arsenal supporters for the better part of more than a decade prior to the arrival of Thomas Partey in 2020. It never felt as though the Gunners had signed the key player needed to shield the back four and the arrival of Granit Xhaka never seemed a good fit – which was realised when Mikel Arteta moved him last season into a box-to-box role and unleashed his true potential.

Many discuss the idea that after Patrick Vieira left the club in 2005, he was never replaced and that is why Arsenal suffered even with the success of Cesc Fabregas. I felt always though that it was Gilberto who was the player Arsenal never managed to find a successor to until Partey. – it is fair to say Gilberto enjoyed this little admission.

First my compliments for your words Tom, to defend me. Patrick was fantastic, to play alongside him, I learned a lot.

“I think the partnership worked really well, very solidly. And one helped the other, growing up in the game. That’s why I think we had a very good time.

“After me and Patrick left, we struggled a little bit to find a replacement in that position. It was quite tense for me to see that, I think for all of us to see that it took a little bit of time.

“Then they have [Thomas] Partey, they have [Granit] Xhaka. Xhaka had some ups and downs and then in the end he recovered again and he did fantastic.

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