Gilberto Silva had the knack of always being in the right place at the right time, utilising his strong physical presence to win the ball back without going to ground and then calmly shifting the ball on.
His work on the ball has been overshadowed by the bigger names in the hugely successful teams he has played with for both club and country.
Silva was an integral member of Arsenal’s unbeaten side, featuring in 32 of 38 games (46 appearances in all competitions).
During his time in London, the Brazilian gained a reputation as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, catching the eye of coaches everywhere. The Gunners still have yet to find a suitable replacement for him.
The midfielder told Arsenal the highlight of his six year Arsenal career, he said:
“Without any doubt it was the 2003/04 season. That was remarkable. Winning the Premier League without losing a game was incredible! And managing to extend the unbeaten streak to 49 games was amazing too - something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
The season that followed Arsenal’s unbeaten Premier League campaign, Silva unknowingly kicked played the first couple of games with a broken back. This saw a short and premature end to his playing days until he returned in time to help Arsenal suffocate Manchester United in the FA Cup final in 2005.
Shortly after he was able to offer his services, reimposing his barricade in front of a makeshift defence, featuring Philippe Senderos, Emmanuel Eboue and Mathieu Flamini, en route to a record-breaking 10 UEFA Champions League clean sheets and the final in 2006 against Barcelona.
‘The invisible wall’
As an Invincible and a FIFA World Cup winner, the Brazilian achieved sporting immortality with two special teams in quick succession.
Silva soon became known as ‘the invisible wall’ after continuously breaking up many attacks, his diligent work set the stage for others to perform.
For The Gunners it was the likes of Thierry Henry, Robert Pires and Dennis Bergkamp who were more likely to receive praise although Silva made it all possible. It a similar situation with Brazil, where a fearsome frontline of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho led them to their last World Cup success in 2002.
The 44-year-old has broken a few records at Arsenal during his spell at the North London club.
Silva holds a distinct record at Arsenal, recording their first ever competitive goal at their new home, Emirates Stadium, in a 1-1 draw against Aston Villa in 2006.
He also is the club’s record holder for their fastest ever goal, scoring in 20.07 seconds from kickoff against PSV Eindhoven in the 2002–03 UEFA Champions League.
One of the most important stats to Arsenal fans everywhere would be that’s Silva has never lost to Tottenham Hotspur in 11 North London derby matches!
Overall, the better he played, the less you noticed him. He had more influence on the game, the brighter his team-mates shone, thereby casting his own contribution into the shade.
Silva’s pivotal role in arguably the greatest Premier League side ever is criminally downplayed.
Quite simply, Gilberto Silva is one of the most underrated players in the history of Arsenal football club.