The Ivory Coast international would always look good in the "meaningless" fixtures that the club would play to get the year going. But once the regular season rolled around and his team actually needed him to start performing, he was nowhere to be found.
It has been true ever since his time in the Jupiler Pro League: Gervinho couldn't quite get it going in the important matches like he could when they was absolutely nothing to play for.
Last year, he simply wasn't the goal-scoring, attacking threat that Arsenal wanted him to be, and he certainly wasn't the same player that he had shown he could be only weeks earlier.
He wasn't the free-flowiing goal-scorer from Ligue 1 who was tethering on the brink of becoming one of the most dynamic midfielders in world football.
He was just mediocre, and nothing like what he had shown he could do in the club friendlies prior to the commencement of the season.
As I said, Gervinho: King of the Preseason.
When the 2012-13 season rolled around and Gervinho was, once again, looking good early for the Gunners, there was, naturally, a sense of caution and hesitance to declare that the 25-year-old was primed for his breakout season in the Premier League.
He had, after all, only scored four goals in 28 appearances for Arsenal last year, and couldn't hold down a spot in the starting lineup.
Despite the fact that this year is only six matches old and the 25-year-old has only played a total of 503 minutes of competitive football this year, it appears that Gervinho might finally be ready for the season that he had promised all along.
He's been scoring goals, creating chances and, for the most part, has been one of the Gunners' best attacking options. His runs throughout midfield and link-up work with Santi Cazorla, in particular, has held the North London club in great stead so far this year. The 25-year-old has posted the second-highest average match rating for Arsenal this year.
So what has happened for Gervinho? Why is he suddenly the goal-scoring sensation and star-midfielder that the Gunners always wanted but never quite had?
There's several key factors at work here, but they all relate back to the same, essential point—the success and departure of Robin van Persie from the Emirates.
Last season in the English Premier League, Gervinho made 14 appearances for the club on the left flank and five appearances on the right flank. Notably, he did not appear once up front in attack. At the time, Arsenal had Van Persie. As a result, there was no need for Gervinho to play at the top of the attack.
However, this year, with the departure of Van Persie, and with his heir apparent, Olivier Giroud, struggling to find his feet in the Premier League, Gervinho has been used at the top of the attack, achieving great success in the process.
Through his four appearances as the center forward, Gervinho has recorded four goals and an assist—the same number of goals that he scored the entire last season.
The absence of Van Persie as well as the struggles of Olivier Giroud and to a lesser extent, Theo Walcott, have afforded Gervinho opportunities that he would otherwise might not have—opportunities that he has successfully capitalized on.
Now that he's the focal point of the attack, Gervinho is far more involved in the game this year than he was last year.
He is averaging more passes, more chances created, more shots per game and more dribbles this year than he was last season. As a result, it is only natural that he is scoring more goals and threatening defensive units more than he was previously.
The addition of Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla into the Gunners midfield has surely helped, with Cazorla's creative mastery, in particular, aiding the Ivorian international. Combined, these players have given the 25-year-old the midfield platform required for him to succeed at the top of the attack.
Giroud has not filled the Van Persie void and Gervinho is doing all that he can do to make the position his own. He's certainly doing an excellent job so far.
Gervinho is not perfect, nor is he anywhere near, and hasn't quite yet developed the consistency to pressure defenses for the full 90 minutes. He does try to do too much later on in the match—particularly if the Gunners are not winning—and can be responsible for the breakdown of several attacks as a result of his "trying" to win the game.
But having said all of that, Gervinho is clearly a different player, and a better player, so far this year than any other year in his career.
What's helped Gervinho more?
The departure of Van Persie has allowed the 25-year-old to thrive in both the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League, and for the sake of both the player and the club, we can only hope that his fine run of form and goal-scoring continues for many weeks to come.
The king of the preseason might just be ready for graduation.
Has Gervinho been impressive to you so far this season?
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