Gilberto Silva has given a super-long interview to Fox Sports in which he talks about his time at Arsenal, Arsene Wenger, and the current crop of players whom he believes could be doing more.
“The players could do something more,” Gilberto said.
“I believe they can, for their quality, their ability – that’s why they’re at the club, why Arsene brought them to the club. He believed in them.
“I think it’s now time for them to give something back.
“Sometimes, if you look outside, we can see everything we want. But the only thing for me, seeing from outside, it’s time for everyone to give the support for the man who believed in them.
“Give something back, get together.
“It’s the only way to handle the pressure and get through this situation, because nobody is in this situation alone. It didn’t create itself alone, the player didn’t create the pressure alone – if there is something that didn’t go well, everyone was part of it. Everyone must stick together, that’s the best way to deal with it.”
“I hope (Wenger) handles the pressure, the circumstance and the player gets on his side and supports him more – even more than what they are doing.
“Not just by playing games, but when they have to talk about the coach, the manager, the man, they understand the important of this man to them on the pitch and outside in the club.
“[It’s] Very hard [to watch]; of course it was very hard as a former player. For the fans, the players, the manager, all the persons that work for the club.
“When you have this kind of defeat you have to look back to yourself and see what you have done. If the way you are doing was correct or not, what was missing, what can improve? This is the only way to get to the next level.
“It is up to them to believe; I’m sure there is a quality there, that’s why they are at the club. He stuck with them because he believed in them from the first day he signed those players. I hope they can find a way to cross this line and to release a little pressure.
“It doesn’t matter if they win the FA Cup – the people will still say ‘they haven’t won the Premier League’. If they win the Premier League, they’ll say ‘oh they didn’t win the Champions League’. As a player you must understand this pressure all the time. When you win, the fans, press, expect you to do something more.
“It is the price you pay to play for a top level club.
“He [Wenger] was a top, top guy. As a coach, as a manager, as a person, he handled the situation around him in a very good way. He paid attention to everything.
“He’s the type of person who loves football – 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He’s passionate.
“The pressure he has been getting is quite normal because many fans expect him to win the league and sometimes they forget what he’s done. Sometimes they follow the pressure someone creates around to make things worse.
“He changed the way of the club, he changed Arsenal from one situation to the other.
“If you see what he has done is massive, a great achievement.
“The way he works is simple and effective. Everyone understands quickly, he gets to the point. Some people complicate their methodology to teach somebody else but the way he works is very open, direct, and simple and he lets the players create themselves without losing what he wants from them.
“The way he approaches the players, doesn’t matter if you’re the best or a young player he treats everyone the same.
“This (man management) is one very good advantage he’s got apart from what he does on the pitch. When I look back 10 years ago, if you put the team on the paper you have Thierry (Henry), Patrick (Vieira), Sol Campbell – many big superstars in the best moment of their career. It would be so easy for any of us to say ‘I am the man here’. Nobody said that because he kept everyone under control. Respect the players and you get the respect back.
“But, if somebody tried to get away from the line, he put them away. It doesn’t matter if it was me, you, whoever. He says what he has to, to keep the atmosphere and respect.
“Anyone, doesn’t matter who. But the good thing is we didn’t have this kind of problem because everyone respected each other because we knew who we had on our side. Everyone was a big player.
“Of course he can (re-build).
“Sometimes he’s kind of mysterious because he can re-invent himself, the game and the way he works.
“For example, when I arrived at Arsenal in 2002, they had won the double the year before. In this season, we were 12 points ahead of Manchester United, eight games left. Unfortunately we lost the league, which was a big disappointment. We won the FA Cup, but it was not enough for us, for him especially.
“In the beginning of the coming season, before it starts, he said to the press we would win the league unbeaten.
“We did that.
“Of course, it put the pressure on us, but he knew what he had at hand, in terms of the players and the characters.
“That’s why I say to you now, it’s the moment for the players to be the best squad they can to finalise the season in the best way. It’s quite impossible to win the league. But the FA Cup means a lot.
“I still get in touch with some of the players – Thierry, Patrick, Jens Lehmann, Sol Campbell, Lauren – some others I missed the contact, but I still have news from them from other players.
“When things don’t work well we get the same feeling because we know how important Arsenal was for our careers, lives, families and what it represents to us.
“Let’s see if one day some of us go back to the club in any position just to do something.
“We know the importance of the club, it’s something we respect. Everywhere we go, from all the players I spoke, it’s visible when you see them speak in the press, how important the club was for us, the same as the manager … for us, it’s important we be honest to ourselves for what we achieved there and what we’ve got.
“What made them for me great was the attitude in training.
“The way people saw them play was very little from what I’ve seen them training – that was real competition.
“Patrick Vieira sometimes confront each other. Sometimes a strong tackle would have (lead to) an argument between players… But everyone was with respect. In training everyone had a desire to win. We transformed that attitude to the game. This was the difference.
“Some people like to compare this team to my time; for me, we cannot compare this. We achieved something fantastic for the club.
“I do believe there is a lot of quality. Maybe they haven’t explored the potential they’ve got with the quality they’ve got and believed 100% in themselves and become the boss of every position to compete with the other teams. The other teams spend a lot of money buying the best players in the world – in this way, it’s not so easy to compete.
“But, for Arsenal, who works on a different way, it’s about the players to find a solution. Okay, in the past, there was a kind of gap with the other clubs as the team was being built. Now they have an opportunity. It’s up to them to believe in themselves.”
While I understand what the former players are trying to do when it comes to defending Wenger, it’s hard not to think about how it is his role to extract the maximum out of these under-performing players.
Sure, the players must take a large portion of the blame, but isn’t a huge part of the manager’s job to get the best out of his players on a regular basis? Isn’t he there to instil them with actual mental strength?