Brazil's 'Invisible Wall' providing foundation for Arsenal recovery

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The Independent Football

The Arsenal manager, Arsène Wenger, believes that Gilberto Silva is finally gaining the recognition he has always deserved.

The Brazilian has been wearing the captain's armband in the absence of the injured Thierry Henry and led his side to victory at Watford on Boxing Day as Robin van Persie's late strike sealed a 2-1 win. The defensive midfielder is nicknamed the "Invisible Wall" in his homeland but the 30-year-old has also started to score goals, with his headed opener against the Hornets his eighth of the season and third in as many games.

Wenger insisted that the 2002 World Cup winner has proved himself to be a vital component in his team, even if everyone else had not noticed. He said: "Gilberto was tremendous. He scored the first goal but as well he was intelligent and dictated the game in the middle of the park. Finally he gets the credit he deserves, which after four years is good.

"He is a guy who always plays with one or two touches but when you have no armband people don't usually see that. The first alert was when he was out for three months and we had problems winning games. When he came back we won again and people realised how important these kind of players are."

The win took the Gunners above Liverpool, Bolton and Portsmouth into third place but second-placed Chelsea still have a comfortable 10-point cushion. Manchester United are four points beyond the champions, but Wenger insisted they had not given up on the title yet.

Wenger said: "Of course to be 14 points behind bothers me and I cannot say that it does not. I know we sound a bit crazy but no matter how big the gap is we want to get it down as much as possible. The first step for us is to be consistent and get the points. After that we will see."

The result left Watford still at the bottom of the Premiership table with just 11 points from 19 games. Tommy Smith blasted a fine equaliser four minutes after Gilberto had scored but that was only their 12th goal of a campaign which looks destined to end in relegation.

Their manager, Adrian Boothroyd, is keen to use the January transfer window to bring in a proven goalscorer, especially as Hameur Bouazza suffered a suspected dislocated shoulder in the second half. But he admitted persuading players to join a seemingly lost cause was no easy task.

He said: "We are competing but we are not winning. You can see that our fans applaud and they keep going because they know the team will keep going but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that we have got to score more goals.

"The biggest thing is obviously having the money to do it and then having the conversational skills to get players to come and join a team that is bottom of the league. And other people are chasing them as well so it depends on the character of the person you are after."

Back at Highbury, Julio Baptista hopes to stay beyond this season but admits his future is uncertain. The 25-year-old Brazilian attacking midfielder, signed on a season-long loan from Real Madrid in a move which saw Jose Antonio Reyes go in the opposite direction, has struggled to make an impact.

The Brazilian, however, is adamant he will be a success when he has fully adapted to the Premiership.

"Wenger tells me he will wait until I get used to this league, but until I play regularly I won't achieve that," Baptista said. "The idea is to participate as much as possible and at the end of the year evaluate everything and decide if the positives outweigh the negatives. I don't want to be just one more player. I want to help the team. But I imagine being here for a few seasons."