By Chris Harris

Gilberto had the distinction of captaining an Arsenal side at their fluent, ruthless best on Saturday.

The Brazilian took the skipper's armband after Thierry Henry was substituted in the second half, but his delight at a thumping win over Aston Villa was tempered with frustration that it's taken Arsenal so long to find their best form this season.

In the past month, Arsenal's football has echoed the grace and style of the 2003/04 'Invincibles'. If they'd scaled those heights earlier in the campaign, the title may still be a realistic target. Instead, it's much too late to catch Chelsea.

"It's quite frustrating because when we started the season we were making plans to play our best and fight for the title but now we have no chance, it is too far from us," said Gilberto.

"The only thing is to fight for the fourth place now. It's not what we planned at the beginning, and of course I feel upset because we just found our best performances at the end."

There has been much talk of Arsenal as a team in 'transition', but recent evidence suggests that Arsène Wenger's new generation are well worth the wait. As Gilberto points out, the tough times of the past six months will hold the youngsters in good stead.

"I think we will learn a lesson from this season because it has been hard for us," he said.

"We have struggled with some results and lots of players have got injured. Others have joined the team and they needed time to settle, they needed time to grow, but now you can see the difference, they play much better now.

"It was completely different at the beginning of the season. We struggled with a couple of results and the team wasn't as comfortable, but you can see the difference on the pitch now.

"Everyone wants the ball, everyone wants to play and when we don't have the ball everyone works hard to get it back."

7/2 - Arsenal to win the 2005/06 UEFA Champions League

Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to as the source
Chris Harris 3 Apr 2006