The injuries are piling up and fixture congestion looms large on the horizon. Not a bad time to welcome back someone like Gilberto.

The Brazilian's stellar season was rudely interrupted by a red card at Blackburn earlier this month. Gilberto's retaliation to Robbie Savage's provocation was out of character and he paid a hefty price - a three-match ban which ruled him out of big games against Manchester United, Tottenham and Bolton.

The good news is that Gilberto is fit, fresh and raring to go as Arsenal prepare for the second leg of their Carling Cup Semi Final against Spurs on Wednesday. And as far as that moment of madness at Ewood Park is concerned, the World Cup winner has learned his lesson.

"It was quite frustrating for me when I think about what happened," Gilberto told "I know I should not react in those circumstances but I felt upset. The referee had stopped the game and I was preparing to get up when I got a kick in my back.

"That is why I reacted but I know it wasn't the right decision. It's another lesson, because you never learn everything in football even if you play 20 years.

"Now I am really looking forward to coming back. I have been training slightly differently in the last few weeks, working more with the fitness coach Tony Colbert and doing more work in the gym. I've been preparing myself for my return to action.

"It's been hard for me just watching the game on the sidelines. I try to keep myself calm and controlled on the outside but it is not easy because I would love to be there."

Arsenal would love him to be there too. Gilberto has been a consistent performer ever since arriving in London in the summer of 2002 but he has added an extra ingredient to his game this season - goals, and lots of them.

The 30-year-old has struck eight times this term and was voted Player of the Month for December after five goals and a string of captain's performances while Thierry Henry recovered from injury. Even now, Gilberto struggles to put his finger on why he has been so prolific.

"It's very difficult to say why this has happened, why I have scored more goals compared to other seasons," he said.

"December was a great month for me at the Club. I was the captain in Thierry's absence and the goals came as well. I was proud of that. I was happy about what happened to me but it wasn't just down to me, it was down to the whole team.

"Sometimes I had a chance to put the ball in the back of the net more times than usual and then I was the penalty taker. But I was happy for the responsibility and happy that Arsène Wenger put his confidence in me by making me captain. I will just keep going and doing my job when I get back."

Whenever Wenger decides to recall him, Gilberto can expect the warmest of welcomes.

10/1 - Arsenal v Tottenham: Tomas Rosicky to score the first goal

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30 Jan 2007