After failing to impress many Arsenal fans last season, Ivory Coast international Gervinho has been more than a pleasant surprise so far this campaign. While he may not be as accomplished at finishing as Robin van Persie was, his five goals see him leading the club in the scoring department, just ahead of Lukas Podolski’s tally of four.
He impressed again on Oct. 3 with another fine goal out of nowhere in the Gunners 3-1 win over Greek side Olympiakos in their Champions League tilt. Many fans figured the club might struggle after last year’s Golden Boot winner van Persie headed north to Manchester United. And those who did feel the team would do okay, assumed it would be Podolski, Olivier Giroud, and perhaps Theo Walcott leading the way.
But to the surprise of perhaps everybody other than Gervinho himself and manager Arsene Wenger, the Ivorian has been making the most of his chances. Gervinho obviously must have shown something to Wenger when the Frenchman signed him from Lille prior to last season’s kickoff after scoring 36 goals in 93 games, but the fans weren’t sure just what it was. For some reason, Gervinho simply didn’t gel with his teammates last season and luckily for him, a lot of supporters went easy on him because of van Persie’s goal scoring heroics.
Gervinho only found the back of the net four times in the Premier League last season and set up six more in 28 games and didn’t manage any at all in seven appearances in the Champions League. He left Arsenal to play in the African Nations Cup and found himself sitting on the bench for much of the time after returning to London. Wenger couldn’t really be blamed for not playing him at that point since he simply wasn’t producing. Wenger stuck by him though and didn’t sell or loan him out and it’s paid off for the club so far.
Gervinho’s never been accused of being lazy, but he had the habit of giving the ball away cheaply last season after beating one or two opponents. He didn’t shoot enough and often made a bad decision. He’s started to shoot more this season though and his confidence seems to be growing with every outing. He’s scored three league goals and added two in the Champions League for five in his last five matches and five in seven contests overall. Not only that, he’s also helping out his partner Podolski and set him up for the game winner against Olympiacos.
Steve Bould, the Gunners’ assistant manager said the goals have clearly helped Gervinho’s confidence and he’s also improving his link-up play. Bould feels he has good movement and pace and is now just learning how to play as a striker after spending most of his career as a wide player. Bould feels Gervinho could possibly turn into another Thierry Henry if he keeps up his current pace and if he does, the club and supporters will be over the moon with delight.
With Gervinho playing so well with Podolski, it means newly-signed French striker Giroud, who came over from French champions Montpellier, must wait for his chances. He could find himself sitting on the bench while Gervinho continues to shine and will have to make the best of the minutes that Wenger sends his way.
Arsenal’s next league game will be a local derby on Sat. Oct. 6 at West Ham and they have two tough games on the horizon against German club Schalke 04 in the Champions League soon. The Gunners sit on top of Group B at the moment with six points and are eighth in the Premier League table with nine points, seven behind Chelsea. The game against West Ham is a huge one since the Hammers sit one place ahead of Arsenal with 11 points. Next weekend (Oct. 12) will bring about a break due to the resumption of the World Cup qualifiers.