By Mo Khan
Arsenal will travel to Manchester City on Saturday afternoon with both sides looking to secure their first Premiership victory of the new campaign.
Stuart Pearce’s team have a draw and a defeat to show for their two games thus far while Arsenal drew 1-1 against Aston Villa on the opening day, courtesy of a late goal by Gilberto.
After rescuing a point against the Midlanders, the Gunners’ new vice-captain will have to be on top form again at Eastlands as he comes head to head with City’s very own all-action central midfielder — Joey Barton.
We know both players shield their defences with gusto and love to pop up in the opposition box to grab the odd vital goal, but can last term’s end-of-season Premiership stats tell us any more about the determined duo?
Gilberto made 33 appearances, scoring twice, while Barton played 31 times, scoring five goals. The City man also produced six assists compared to none by Gilberto. This indicates that Barton has greater attacking instincts than his Arsenal counterpart, but does that detract from his defensive capabilities in comparison with the World Cup winner?
The stats show that Gilberto is marginally the better tackler, achieving a success rate of 60 per cent compared to Barton’s 59 per cent. The Arsenal man also made 25 clearances last term - four more than Barton - and two more interceptions with 31.
Admirably for such a midfield grafter, Gilberto was only booked once last season compared with Barton’s seven yellow cards. The City man was also sent off three times and Gilberto once — away to Newcastle in December 2005.
So their statistics suggest the players are closely matched but their styles can be very contrasting. Gilberto assumes the role of the shielding the back four almost exclusively, winning the ball and playing it simply which allows his partner Cesc Fabregas to dictate play for the Gunners.
In contrast, Barton drives City forward and is more of a a ‘box-to-box’ man with a keen eye for goal complementing some good long-range shooting.
Barton’s tendency to carry the ball more than Gilberto is also evident when you examine the stats. The City man attempted 23 more dribbles  than Gilberto and was successful 49 per cent of the time compared with the Arsenal man’s 40 per cent.
But the duo are almost inseparable when it comes to shooting accuracy with Gilberto achieving a 42 percent accuracy rate compared to Barton’s 43.
They may not always grab the headlines, but the performances of Gilberto and Barton will be as influential as any in determining the destination of the points on Saturday.
View Gilberto's player profile
|Minutes on pitch||2904||2769|
|Shots on target||13||26|
|Shots off target||14||27|
[ Friday, August 25, 2006]