To choose just one faux pas to sum up Gervinho’s time at Arsenal would be a thankless task. But his outrageous open goal miss, from four yards out, against Bradford City in the League Cup – a match the Gunners went on to surprisingly lose – has to fulfll the majority of the criteria.
A gangly dangle of his left foot preceded a head-in-hands realisation from the Ivorian and an inexplicable reaction from his teammates – in many ways it was the archetypal Gervinho gaffe.
But, emerging as a second-half substitute in his side’s 2-0 win at Swansea City this weekend, Gervinho earned a rare moment of celebration as he scored the Gunners’ second goal right at the death. Will that be the trigger for some improved performances?
The winger has endured a difficult time at the Emirates Stadium since signing from newly-crowned French double winners Lille for a fee reported to be in the region of £10.8m in summer 2011. Having been part of a devastating frontline for Les Dogues, which also included Eden Hazard, Gunners fans were excited to see the tricky wide man in Premier League action.
Alas, he has found it difficult to settle in north London. Now used almost exclusively as a substitute, Gervinho has dropped down the pecking order at the Emirates Stadium due to a series of languid and slapdash performances over the last one and a half seasons.
In many ways, Arsene Wenger’s signing of Gervinho highlights the flaws in his outdated and lopsided recruitment policy. While the Ivorian ripped apart Ligue 1, he’s struggled to strike the same fear into Premier League defences and has barely justified his hefty price tag, which could easily have been spent on a dominant central midfielder, for example.
But despite his constant clumsy appearance on the ball, Gervinho does offer Arsenal something different in the wide positions. Theo Walcott has had a successful campaign during which his direct, speedy style has bared considerable fruit. Meanwhile Lukas Podolski’s ability to drift in from the left and play as a second striker has offered a variation to that, with Santi Cazorla’s trickery and guile also extremely useful.
In a strange way, Gervinho offers facets of each of these styles, admittedly without mastering any role. He has pace, flair and an ability to drift inside and get shots away, making him, potentially, a very useful squad member. Throw in a competence as a central forward and the attractions become more understandable.
The trouble is that he has not demonstrated these qualities enough for Arsenal – if indeed at all. Wenger remains fiercely loyal to each of his players but there must come a point where he cuts his losses – figuratively and literally. Maybe Gervinho’s weekend goal can act as a catalyst for improved performances.
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