Good news everyone!
Gervinho is coming home to Arsenal from the Africa Cup of Nations sooner than expected.
His Ivory Coast team were knocked out of the tournament at the quarter final stage yesterday by Nigeria. It was a surprise result as Ivory Coast had been favourites to progress.
So the Dreadlocked Wonder returns to us having had a decent – if ultimately disappointing – campaign in Africa.
He scored twice in the group stages and was reckoned by observers to be one of the players of the tournament to date.
Yet it’s probably safe to assume that his next appearance at The Emirates will not be greeted with fanfares and garlands. His name will not be ringing round the stadium. Banners saying “We’ve Got Gervinho” will not be draped from the walls.
If fans were ambivalent towards Gerv the Swerve last season, they have hardened their hearts this time round. Not all, of course. But right know he’s about as popular as an adder in your underpants.
Is this fair?
Gervinho can show touches of brilliance: he is fast, he can turn defenders inside out for fun and he has tucked away some nice goals.
But then there’s the other side of our Ivorian: what I like to think of as his “Afghan hound” side. I once knew the owner of an Afghan hound and she told me that they could be incredibly frustrating dogs.
Most mutts, when let off the leash, will hare about madly for a while but they will always zero back in on their owner. But Afghans were bred as high endurance hunting dogs and, according to my friend, once let loose they like nothing more than to head off in a straight line. And when you think it must be time for them to turn round and head back… they just keep going.
Gervinho’s inner Afghan is apparent on all those occasions when he has beaten one or more defenders out on the wing and – obviously – needs to either cross the ball or cut into the box. Instead, he keeps going in a straight line right off the pitch, ball and all. If it wasn’t for the small inconvenience of a short wall and a large crowd, he would probably be half way across North London before anyone could stop him.
I think that’s what frustrates fans the most: that he seems to do the hard work (beating people and getting into good positions) then all too often fluffs the final ball either through bizarre decision making or poor execution.
His stats make for interesting reading. Last season – his first at Arsenal – he scored four goals and provided eight assists in 37 appearances. Not bad but hardly stellar. This season he has five goals already in 15 outings, but no assists.
Contrast that with some of our other wide players:
Walcott has 18 goals and 13 assists this season in 29 appearances; Podolski has 12 and 11 in 31 and even Oxlade-Chamberlain has 2 and 3 in 23.
By those standards Gervinho is very much our third choice wing man and arguably fourth.
He should be scoring more often and, despite the skepticism of the fans, he has the ability to do so.
In the two seasons before he joined us – at Lille in the French league – he bagged 18 goals each year. That fact perhaps goes some way to explaining why Arsene Wenger played him through the middle earlier in the season: you don’t get 18 goals a season in a European league – even the French one – unless you have an eye for goal.
I would like to think that a good ACN will mean he returns to us full of confidence and ready to help us fight for a place in the top four and a run at the FA Cup and Champions League.
Unfortunately our experience of players coming back from that particular tournament is not good. If they haven’t gone off radar for an extended party or contracted a tropical disease, they often return injured or simply knackered.
Let’s see what we get with Gerv.
I still feel he has something to offer and that he can perform better than he has been doing so far – but if patience is a virtue it’s one that’s in short supply at Arsenal in these inconsistent times.
My fear is that his mistakes will continue to draw loud groans and his confidence will fall further, leading him to make even more so mistakes and more groans and on and on into the vicious circle.
So what do you think?
Is Gervinho a returning asset? A liability? Or simply irrelevant to our struggles to come?