Gervinho and Lukas Podolski Partnership Helping Arsenal Forget Robin Van Persie

James DudkoFeatured Columnist IVMarch 13, 2017

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 03:  Lukas Podolski of Arsenal celebrates with teammate Gervinho after scoring his team's second goal during the UEFA Champions League Group B match between Arsenal FC and Olympiacos FC at Emirates Stadium on October 03, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Losing 37-goal striker Robin van Persie was always going to be a body blow for Arsenal. Yet thanks to a flourishing, emerging partnership, the Gunners are managing to roll with the punches.

That partnership is between new arrival Lukas Podolski and Gervinho, a player who endured a mixed first campaign with Arsenal last season. The surprising double act has inspired Arsenal to two-straight UEFA Champions League victories, after netting two of the Gunners' three goals in their 3-1 win over Olympiacos.

That's nine goals between the two already this season, with Gervinho leading the way with five. The Ivory Coast forward has been revitalised in a central role.

The ex-Lille man can often be a frustrating figure, due to inconsistent decision making. A position through the middle has made Gervinho more instinctive and taken advantage of his naturally smart movement.

His pacey, active style gives Arsenal an obvious outlet anywhere along the forward line. Gervinho's performance against Olympiacos was probably the best of an already stellar season.

He harassed the Greek defense down the left and right and always looked likely to stretch them through the middle as well. It's that kind of variety in his runs that is regularly creating space and scoring opportunities for Gervinho in every game.

He delivered a complete display by setting up Podolski for Arsenal's second goal with a neat pull back, following some determined work on the left. That allowed Podolski to score his second goal of the Gunners' Champions League campaign.

The powerful strike also showcased the level of intelligent movement that Podolski has added to Arsenal's attack. Nominally occupying the left side of the front three, Podolski often drifts into central areas to link up with advancing midfielders.

The cerebral and tenacious German international is providing an obvious and essential connection between the midfield and forward lines. That's something Arsenal lacked last season when they sought greater width in order to funnel the play to van Persie.

Interchanging as the focal point van Persie acted as is the key to the Gervinho-Podolski partnership. Their quickness, craft and movement dovetail perfectly and are constantly changing the picture for defenders.

Replacing van Persie was never going to be an easy task, but Podolski's and Gervinho's combined efforts are managing it ahead of schedule.