Wenger plays down Gilberto ban

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Arsene Wenger is confident that Arsenal will cope with the absence of vice-captain Gilberto for three crucial games following his sending-off at the weekend.

The Brazilian international was shown a red card after 15 minutes of the 2-0 win over Blackburn for lashing out at Rovers midfielder Robbie Savage.

Gilberto will now be suspended for Sunday's Premiership showdown with Manchester United, the first leg of the Carling Cup semi-final against rivals Tottenham and the difficult-looking FA Cup fourth round tie with bogey team Bolton.

The loss of the experienced midfielder is a substantial blow for Wenger as Gilberto has arguably been The Gunners' most consistent performer this season.

However the Frenchman is confident his young squad can adequately fill the void in the three high-profile games Gilberto will miss due to suspension.

"Gilberto will be missing but we feel that, with the spirit and quality we have, we can cope with that," Wenger said.

"We have had three different teams in our last three games but produced the same quality. We are very proud of that at the club."

Wenger also had words of praise for Savage after the Rovers star claimed he told referee Rob Styles not to dismiss Gilberto.

"It is very fair from him and, if he has done that, I thank him because, from the outside, the red card looked harsh," Wenger continued.

"You have to accept it because Gilberto retaliated and really he should not have retaliated at all.

"Savage could have stayed on his feet but I think he realised he made more of it than he should have.

"He said to the referee 'don't send him off' because I think he realised he should not have gone down."