Arsenal invincible Lauren spoke to the media this week, and he recalled how ultra-competitive the training ground was in that era of success under Arsene Wenger.
In a team starring the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Freddie Ljungberg, it’s perhaps not surprising that people don’t spend quite as much time talking about full-backs and defensive midfielders. Arsenal were more famous for their devastating counter-attacks than solid defending (rightly or wrongly).
Nonetheless, Lauren and Gilberto Silva both had important parts to play in that squad, and the former defender recalled an amusing story about his Brazilian teammate realising just how competitive things were at the club.
“They were good people,” Lauren began. “On the training ground, everyone wanted to be the best – when they picked two sides, no-one wanted to be the referee. It was competitive with any discussion about anything – we were arguing about everything. Thierry Henry was a pain in the backside; it was unbelievable.
“I remember there was a challenge by Martin Keown on Rami Shaaban – his own goalkeeper – and, unfortunately, he broke his leg.
“I remember Gilberto Silva was there and he came up to me and said: “Aqui, estan todos locos?” (“Are they all crazy here”?) The next day, and for every single training session after that, Gilberto wore shin pads – just in case.”
Later, in the invincible season, Lauren ended up making 47 appearances for Arsenal, despite a knee injury that kept him out for most of November and December. Clearly, he was the man Arsene Wenger felt he could rely on whenever he was available. Gilberto also made 45 appearances that year, so thankfully, the shinpads did the trick.