By Chris Harris

Gilberto believes Arsenal can bridge the gap with Chelsea this season - but they have to hit the ground running when the new campaign gets underway.

The champions burst out of the blocks this time last year while Arsène Wenger's team mustered just two points from their opening five away games. Arsenal never recovered in terms of the title race and ended the season 24 points behind their London rivals.

As far as Gilberto is concerned, it is important that the team starts the season well this time. "We can catch Chelsea this season but we need to do that in our minds and on the pitch," he said.

"We struggled at the start of last season, especially in the Premier League, and now we have another opportunity. But we must start well, otherwise it is difficult. If we lose easy games like we did last season, we will have a problem.

"The young players have matured, they are improving and got a lot of experience last season, getting to the Final of the Champions League. They got the experience of playing in a game like that and now I think this season they are ready to fight for the club, game by game.

"But as I said, it is so important to start well. If not we will have the same situation that we had last season."

That's the last thing Gilberto wants. The midfielder left the World Cup under a cloud after Brazil were knocked out in the Quarter Finals, and he wants to make amends for his country's failure with success for his club.

"It was hard to accept, what happened was very frustrating," said Gilberto. "We didn't expect to come out of the competition like we did, especially because the way we played was not the real Brazil. That's why for me it was very frustrating and hard to accept.

"But now it has past, I have come back to Arsenal and started the new season again. In football you don't have too much time to complain about things that have gone wrong. When you don't achieve what you want you have to look forward.

"The big players always do that, it doesn't matter if they have won or lost. Always in my life and my professional career I have done that. If I won, I want to win again. If I lose I have to deal with the situation and take a lot of lessons, like what happened to Brazil. Now I try to improve and help Arsenal."

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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 11 Aug 2006