Gilberto under starter's orders
By Phil Jackson. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
Midfielder Gilberto believes Arsenal must start well if they are going to transfer their European form into The Premiership this season.
The 29-year-old Brazilian was a member of the Gunners side which so nearly conquered the continent last term.
Arsenal were defeated in their first ever UEFA Champions League final, but domestically they endured their worst season since 1997, only sneaking into fourth place on the last game of the season.
While coach Arsene Wenger has allowed Sol Campbell and Robert Pires to depart from that side, the Samba star still thinks his team have the quality to succeed.
"Although we didn't win any trophies last season, we finished the season holding our heads high. Our players were Europe's second-best team," Gilberto told the Star.
"We feel we proved to a lot of people who criticised us that this group of players love what they do.
"Now people have got to give this group more credit. We'll work twice as hard this season to make our supporters happy and our detractors sad.
"We can't come out of the blocks as slowly as we did last season because you get punished in a competition like The Premiership."
While the Emirates Stadium outfit have brought in talented players like Tomas Rosicky to strengthen the squad, the futures of Jose Antonio Reyes and Ashley Cole remain a matter for speculation.
But Gilberto knows how hard the loss of such quality would hit the squad and fears it could even scupper the North Londoners' hopes of adding consistency to their form in the top flight.
"It wouldn't be easy to lose a guy like Ashley," Gilberto added.
"We'd struggle a bit without a player as classy as him."
Arsenal will have their first chance to prove their doubters wrong when they kick off the new campaign at home to Aston Villa on Saturday.