Arsenal vs. Southhampton: Gervinho's Performance Is Positive Sign for Gunners

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIISeptember 15, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 15:  Gervinho of Arsenal and Maya Yoshida of Southhampton fight for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Southampton at Emirates Stadium on September 15, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
Clive Mason/Getty Images

Arsenal certainly benefited from two own-goals in its Premier League tilt against a slumping Southhampton squad, but the sudden emergence of Gervinho in the club's 6-1 triumph is especially encouraging.

In his first year of action against England's finest football competition, the Ivorian striker struggled to adjust to the pace of the game, notching four goals in 25 league appearances.

On Saturday, Gervinho reached half of his 2011-12 scoring output in a single match, and it could be just the offensive spark the Gunners need to legitimately contend in the Premier League.

Gervinho may have been a bit tentative in his inaugural campaign, but he is not shy about his faith in his own abilities. In an interview with Arsenal.com writer Chris Harris, the 25-year-old points to Gunner great Robert Pires as the standard that he aspires to reach at some point.

I really hope to emulate Robert Pires in my second season, hopefully do even better, but I hope to carve out my own niche of course. I hope to push on...and to showcase my qualities.

As Harris notes, the possibility of resemblance remains this season, as Pires himself endured inconsistency as he transitioned with the Gunners 12 years ago. Thereafter, Pires became part of a formidable one-two punch alongside Thierry Henry, most notably during the majestic undefeated 2003-04 season.

It's easy to argue that Gervinho's showing Saturday came against a Saints team that was just promoted, and currently sits last in the Premier League. After all, they scored more goals on themselves than on the Gunners.

Still, it is a positive sign, because Arsenal will need all the offense it can muster against the upper echelon of the Premier League such as Chelsea, Man City and Manchester United.

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Although Gervinho will not be the primary attacker on the Arsenal squad moving forward, he could provide a nice complementary role alongside explosive newcomers Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla.

Heading into UEFA Champions League group play, which opens on Tuesday in a clash against Ligue 1 Montepellier, the Gunners and the supremely confident Gervinho are riding a wave of momentum.

It will be interesting to see what manager Arsene Wegner does with the lineup against the French football club. Another summer acquisition, Olivier Giroud, was replaced by Gervinho in the starting lineup this Saturday (via Josh Clarke of goal.com), but will face his former team in Montepellier in the next contest.

According to the Daily Mail, Giroud was the leading scorer in Ligue 1 last season, but has yet to find the net for the Gunners.

Wenger faces a difficult decision, but it seems as though Gervinho will have the edge, and Arsenal will be favorites against the French football club regardless. What follows won't prove to be as easy. An extremely tough slate within the Premier League looms: a road trip to Man City precedes a marquee matchup against Chelsea, which the Gunners will host in Emirates Stadium.

If Wenger keeps Gervinho as a starter for the next three matches, it will provide the opportunities for Gervinho to walk his talk as a reliable go-to option for the Gunners. More importantly, it will define the expectations for the rest of his season, and be telling as to whether it will even vaguely resemble the prowess of Pires.