By Pete Sanderson
Arsenal FC's midfield player Gilberto is living proof that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
Whether he is rustling up his favourite Brazilian dish in his kitchen or scooting around London, the Brazilian likes nothing more than keeping things simple. The same could be said of his football. Never one to overcomplicate matters, Gilberto has emerged as one of the most polished footballers in the Premiership in his role alongside Patrick Vieira in the Arsenal engine room.
"Every good team needs a player to sweep up in midfield and play the efficient game and I am more than happy for that to be me," Gilberto told uefa.com. "My whole career I have played around players with outrageous ball skills like Ronaldinho with Brazil and Thierry Henry at Arsenal. I accept I am not one of those players and I am happy to leave the fancy flicks to them. My strengths are more mental than physical. I see things before they happen and like to think I do the right thing at the right time."
It is no coincidence Arsenal struggled for consistency during Gilberto's absence through injury earlier in the season. In the 13 games he has played this season the Gunners have won eleven and drawn two. No wonder Arsène Wenger hailed him as Vieira's perfect partner and one of the "most naturally gifted players" he has ever worked alongside.
"Patrick is definitely one of the best players I have played with," said Gilberto. "I think we combine well for the team. He makes my own work easier at times and I hope he feels the same. We are always helping each other during the match. I love playing with him. In his position, he is one of the best in the world."
Gilberto's attitude is a refreshing change from your run-of-the-mill footballer. When he first arrived in London he admits he snubbed the glitzy lifestyle and fast cars in favour of using the London Underground because it got him where he wanted to in a quicker, faster and more efficient way. "When I first joined Arsenal I got the tube," he said. "Nowadays I tend to drive everywhere instead because I know my way around the city a lot better but I know for a fact that Edu still uses the tube quite regularly."
Such a lucid approach would appear to go against the grain of your average Brazilian, but the midfield player is quick to point out that he is the next in a long line of famous 'number fives'. "There is a real art to the defensive midfield position," said Gilberto. "In Brazil we have had some real stars there ever since the great Clodoaldo in 1970 and more recently Dunga who I rated very highly. When I was younger I loved watching Franco Baresi play at sweeper. Even though he isn't a defensive midfielder there are similar skills involved."
After a Premiership winners' medal last year, Gilberto must be content with a place in the FA Cup final in 2004/05. The midfield player admits everyone at Highbury is praying Arsenal can overcome Manchester United FC in what promises to be a high-octane tussle. "This season hasn't turned out like we planned because we felt we would be challenging for the Premiership title again," he said. "We need to win the FA Cup to make sure this season isn't remembered as a tragedy for Arsenal."
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