Brokeback Montanha: One Man's Love-Hate Relationship with Gilberto Silva

Brad SimkuletSenior Analyst IJuly 17, 2008

Gilberto Silva has rarely done anything other than frustrate me, yet I find myself misty eyed at his departure.

Why? Easy.

Despite his being an energy sucking hole in the midfield, his tendency to make sloppy, poorly timed tackles, his occasional sketchiness as a protective shield for the defense, his lack of pace and his overwhelming desire to pass backwards, Gilberto seems to be a truly kind and inspirational guy.

He is well known to Arsenal fans as the man with the sad eyes, the big smile, and the mandolin. He's been a father figure to many of the younger players, particularly Denilson (whom he took under his wing shortly after the young Brazilian came to Arsenal). And more importantly, there never appeared to be a single teammate who didn't get along with him.

Then when Arsenal were sorely in need of a captain with Thierry Henry injured, Gilberto suddenly upped his game and filled the void to great effect. In fact, that short glowing period was probably Gilberto Silva’s finest spell at the club.

He scored goals from free kicks and the spot. He started pressing forward (a rarity from Gilberto), and he gave some much needed experience, and thereby confidence, to the very young Gunners that surrounded him.

And all of this after recovering from a broken bone in his vertebrae, which healed after only a year off.

But Gilberto Silva’s best moment in an Arsenal kit came last season when he was displaced in the midfield by Mathieu Flamini. While Jens Lehmann grumbled and complained about losing the number one spot to Manuel Almunia, Gilberto Silva quietly went about his business, training well, coming on when needed, and supporting the team the best he could.

Even when pressed by journalists to express his discontent over sitting on the bench, Gilberto maintained a “wait and see” attitude. The man is obviously a class act, and I am truly happy for him that he received a hero’s welcome at Panathanaikos.

He was easy to mock and shake my head at when he was wearing the gun, but I am going to miss him.

Now that he’s moved on, though, I have a new summer dilemma: Who is going to be the target of my anger and frustration all season long? After Pascal Cygan left it became Gilberto, but now that Gilberto’s gone it could be a tough call.

Oh wait... I just remembered that big, bald, Swiss bloke who likes to run really slowly in front of goal. Senderos, you’re the new man I'll love to hate. Promise.