Gervinho: Making a Case for Why He Should Stay at Arsenal Next Season

Charlie Melman@@charliemelmanCorrespondent IIApril 4, 2013

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Gervinho of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Reading at Emirates Stadium on March 30, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Gervinho receives more hatred than probably any other Arsenal player.

Aaron Ramsey is his close rival, but the Welshman's recent performances in the absence of Jack Wilshere have been consistently good enough to quiet his many detractors.

And there was once a time in Ramsey's Arsenal career when fans regarded him as a promising player.

None of those luxuries are afforded to Gervinho.

Despite a short goalscoring run at the beginning of the season, the Ivorian's form has mostly been abysmal. Lots of flair and brief sparks of quality have been the exception to an extremely disappointing end product and little team play.

After making a stunningly intricate run through the heart of the opposition's defense, no one is surprised to see Gervinho pull a meek shot wide of the goal or feebly attempt a dribbling pass that never threatens to reach its destination.

Arsenal played Olympiacos earlier this season, and I rated all of Arsenal's players after the match. Here's what I had to say about Gervinho, who was given a 5/10 score:

Gervinho is such an infuriating player because there is obviously so much talent housed in his skinny legs, but he can never seem to coax it out.

Early on, he had a shot at goal from reasonably close range and missed the target high and wide. That defined the Ivorian's performance, which was riddled with misplaced passes, obvious passes not made and chances wasted.

Sound familiar?

If it sounds like that description of Gervinho's performance, or something roughly analogous, is smattered across the Internet and repeated on television after every game he plays, your instinct is not wrong.

Even Arsene Wenger said this after Arsenal's victory over Reading last weekend (via

I believe that sometimes Gervinho has lost confidence because he played in a very negative atmosphere during a period. Strikers need confidence, and [with] his game, even more.

It is important to note, however, that Wenger was compelled to follow that up by stating that Gervinho now has his confidence back. And that led to a superb performance against the Royals.

Despite Santi Cazorla's brilliance on and off the ball that day, more than one commenter on my player ratings piece complained that I did not name Gervinho man of the match.

How quickly public opinion can change.

But it is not as if the Ivorian has suddenly undergone a miraculous transformation into the African Lionel Messi. Those who have observed his entire career at Arsenal know that he was perfectly capable of doing as well as he did against Reading.

For once, his mazy runs seemed to have some purpose to them. Especially during the first half, he was a constant threat to the Royals' defense, which could not figure out how to cope.

And there was end product, too.

The finish on his goal was quite simple, but one must refrain from judging the quality of a goal based on the touch that sends it into the net.

Gervinho saw how play was developing and intelligently cut inside from his position on the right wing, moving into the perfect spot to tap Santi Cazorla's misplaced shot past Stuart Taylor. It was a real poacher's goal.

But his two assists deserve most of the plaudits.

Gervinho is not the sort of player who can pick a pass. Watch him any time he plays, and, while his dribbling ability impresses, he always seems much too afraid to actually do anything substantive with the ball.

Yet his feeds to both Cazorla and Olivier Giroud were so good that neither needed to take a single touch before stroking the ball into the back of the net.

The former was a simple pass, but the latter was very impressive. In fact, the way Gervinho orchestrated an entire counterattack by himself, intelligently holding the ball up and slowly advancing while Giroud caught up, was as surprising as it was effective.

In tight space, he perfectly hit a moving target, and Arsenal sealed their victory.

Gervinho had some typically frustrating moments in the Reading game, too. There were the trademark dips and feints that resulted in a limp pass or horribly misplaced shot. The usual groans were heard.

But he converted his undoubted raw ability to actual performance far more than he has in the past. Arsene Wenger took a risk in starting Gervinho over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the manager's decision looked quite a shrewd one at the end of the game.

Arsenal do not need Gervinho to perform at this level every game. Few would contend at this point that he deserves to be a consistent starter, given Wenger's other options on the wings.

But the well of raw talent is sufficiently deep to merit the Ivorian keeping his job for at least another season, if only as a backup.

He will always be inconsistent. It is too easy to magnify those frustrations and boot him out during the summer.

Once we accept Gervinho as the talented but somewhat erratic player he is, and appreciate his slow improvement, the case for keeping him at Arsenal becomes much more compelling.


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