Gilberto: 'It's so hard to see Arsenal in the position they are now'

Former player says youngsters need help to restore club's fortunes
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The Independent Football

Gilberto Silva, Brazil's former Arsenal midfielder, has called upon the club's senior players to help the young team emerge from their current torpor. Gilberto, who returned to the Emirates for the first time since his summer departure for Brazil's match against Italy last night, said he thought some of the young players were struggling to cope with the pressure of expectations and needed support.

"It's hard for a big club like Arsenal to be so long without a title and the team is also very young," he said. "They need time and this is the problem at Arsenal – when you are in a big club you don't have much time to grow up and they don't know how to cope under pressure. The pressure is there and the young players need a lot of support from the experienced players to get them through, but it's hard for the experienced players to help them in the situation they have."

Gilberto's qualities were not always appreciated by Arsenal fans during his six seasons at the club but the defensive midfielder has been missed this season. Not that he would admit it.

"I don't know if they're missing a player like me but they had several experienced players like myself, Patrick Vieira, Robert Pires, other important players who did a great job for Arsenal. Suddenly things changed, young players came in, some players left the club. What matters at this time is that the experienced players stand up for the club and make sure everyone works together. I'm sure everyone is working really hard."

Gilberto, who now plays in Greece with Panathinaikos but has retained his place in the selecao with whom he won the 2002 World Cup, added: "It's so hard to see Arsenal in the position they are at the moment. I hope they can change their situation. I've spoke to some of the players and of course they are really disappointed but I'm sure they'll change very soon.

"It's a big period for Arsenal. Since I was there they haven't experienced a situation like this. Now they are out of the Champions League places which is very uncomfortable but I'm sure they will pick up points and get back and qualify for the Champions League like we expect. They've got quality and a good manager, Arsène Wenger, will do a good job with them."

Gilberto praised Robinho for his speed of integration into the Premier League but was not surprised that another Brazilian, Kaka, had not joined Robinho at Manchester City.

"Robinho's done a very good job. Sometimes it's hard because he is so skilful and the style of the Premier League is totally different from Spain where he was before. But he's adapted quite well, improving game by game.

"Kaka is very focused on what he wants. His priority is to be the best player in the world again, this was in his thinking. I didn't speak to him at all about this but staying in Milan gives him the chance to be first in the world."

The Arsenal winger Theo Walcott hopes to be back in action by the end of the month. The 19-year-old has been sidelined since suffering a shoulder injury while on international duty in November, which required surgery.

"I am nearly there, and hopefully [will be back] by the end of this month," Walcott said. "I am doing a lot of rehab work now with the shoulder, landing on it, and also in the gym with a lot of weights to build the muscle strength back. I just feel it will be when I am ready. Obviously I do not want to do it again, so I have got to be 100 per cent fit."

Walcott revealed the shoulder problem is an inherited condition, but believes the latest operation will see him return stronger. "My dad had an operation on his right side [shoulder] as well, and when I had my left side done, they did a scan on my right and said that something might have to be done at a different stage," Walcott added.