Did we let Gervinho go too soon?

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It is hard to imagine Gervinho has only been gone for half a season. It somehow feels a lot longer. It is fair to say the man with the LCD sized forehead was not a great success at Arsenal. But I reckon Arsene did not give him long enough, as he, uncharacteristically, let him go after just two seasons.

I don’t think we, the supporters, always realise enough what an incredible step it is for an African player to come and play in Europe; and a move from a medium sized city like Lille to world city London is also not to be pooh-poohed at.

Gervinho clearly lacked confidence at times, but in each and every game there were at least glimpses of his potential. I guess his low point was the League Cup game against Bradford, on a cold, wet and windy autumn night in the grim North. Giroud was rested and Gervinho led the line. He missed a number of sitters and the rest is bleak history. It was not just Gervinho who had a below par game that day; the whole team let us down badly.

After that, many fans had it in for our former meandering Ivorian and he never got properly over this. I was not Gervinho’s biggest fan, but I could see his potential and value to the team. He had speed, dribbling skills, decent first touch and close ball control. He was the only one of all our players who could penetrate a well protected box. His understanding with fellow players was not great and neither was his finishing. The question is, though, could this have been worked on within the team and on the training ground?

Four goals and four assists in sixteen games for Roma tell us he is settling quite well into his new environment. I have seen him play a few times and he appears to fit well into his new team. Roma play with pace and quickly turn defence into attack, and for this Tricky Gervais is a great outlet. His winner (1-0), against Juventus for the Italian Cup, will no doubt be one of his club career highlights, and I am really pleased he is doing so well right now.

I don’t really want him back now, but I do wish we had kept him a bit longer, especially now that Theo is out of for the season.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Pre-Season: Ego-Check & Real Hunger of Rambo, OG & Gibbs

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Well, another football weekend has just concluded; one not as successful as the others. We lost the Emirates cup to Didier the drama queen but quite simply put, I do not care. I can’t sit here and deny that losing the cup, in our home turf to Galatasaray is not embarrassing, because it is. But to me that’s all it is, embarrassing. An ego check if you will.

In fact from the way I see things, I’m glad we did not win it.

There are plenty of positives that have come from this embarrassment. I have to warn you that this post will be a mildly controversial one but someone needs to tell things as they are.

The first and foremost is the ego check I mentioned earlier was well and truly due. We went to Asia and swept aside every team we met there. We scored 16 goals in 3 games and the squad built up its confidence, which is a good thing. But I got the feeling  that going into the cup, we were a tad overconfident. The players were even unusually vocal about all matters Arsenal. We didn’t win a single game in this tournament, and let me remind you that Napoli and Gala are very second rate teams. I’m quite happy about it, because while confidence is good, overconfidence is self destructive. Especially when you aren’t as good as you think we are.
To build on to the point above, the results of the weekend were a sobering reminder to the team that the champions league qualifier we are to play holds a very real chance of early elimination. Now this wouldn’t just be embarrassing, this would be catastrophic. Thing is, the kind of competition we will be up against will be more or less of the caliber of our Emirates cup opponents. More or less. What’s more encouraging (for me at least) is that Wenger looked visibly shaken when asked about the qualifier following the weekends results. He didn’t answer with his usual tone of confidence and belief. Now don’t get me wrong, all yesterday’s loss is, is a timely reminder that we have to work hard to achieve results and there is no place for complacency if we are to move forward as a club.
Then there’ are the performances of some of our first-teamer: Giroud, Ramsey and Gibbs specifically. Let me be the first to point out that there is a real hunger in this squad. Even journalists, like John cross who has handled our full preseason, have picked up on this. But there are certain players who are taking this hunger to a whole new level and are looking like stepping things up several notches. The three above are the players I have in mind. Along with Rosicky, Ox, Per and Bac. Their performances over the whole pre-season have shown that they are ready to earn their keep. They have shown a fighting spirit that considering these were just friendlies, is very encouraging. We will definitely need this if we are to have the kind of start we desire.
Finally (on this) I think that based on these results, Wenger has a clearer picture of where he needs to strengthen the team. I really won’t go into details because my opinion and Wenger’s may or may not align and it is his that matters. That said, I think the Emirates cup has exposed some of our weaknesses which over the next few weeks would need to be ironed out before we go into the new campaign. This can’t be anything but good.
In other news, Chamakh is finally leaving!! And so is Gervinho. At this point it doesn’t matter what your opinion of the Ivorian is because what’s done is done.He’s having his medical at Roma so the only thing to do now is thank him for his contribution at Arsenal and wish him all the best in his future endeavours.
Further on the subject of departures, Bendtner still has no takers. This is a bit ironical because for a player who thinks he is a Ballon D’or candidate, no one wants him. His agent said that 5 teams wanted him, so my question is what happened? I understand that he keeps disagreeing with clubs over his wages. Someone really needs to tell him that he isn’t even half the player he thinks he is.
To conclude this post, I have to point out that booing Higuain was very classless. I found that rather crude and uncalled for, not even taking into consideration the circumstances of his transfer. We are better than that gooners!!!!
Written by: Marcus

With the possible arrivals of Higuain and Fellaini, Gervinho should be kept at Arsenal.

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Gervinho is a player who always gives his all. He is also a safe pair of hands when it comes to holding on to the ball and breaking through a defensive line from the wing, in order to make it to the by-line. He possesses skills that nobody else, except maybe The Ox, can offer to our team. He makes clever runs into the box, with or without the ball, as he reads the game better than most of us give him credit for.

This season, he played just 18 PL games for us in which he scored five goals and produced three assists: not great, but not a bad return either. He also played in six CL games, in which he scored two and also had two assists: a record he can be satisfied with.

Gervinho offers a good alternative to the likes of Podolski and Cazorla on the left wing, and he can also play on the right wing. He clearly needed time to settle in, and playing in two successive ACN tournaments since joining us from Lille, has not helped him much in doing so.

However, there is every reason to believe he will improve further next season.

It is fair to say, a number of bad, painful misses, against the likes of Bradford (away) and Blackburn (at home) for the cups, have done a lot of damage to both his image – and, subsequently, the support levels by the fans – and his confidence. Some fans are always looking to vent their frustration with anything Arsenal, and just like bullies do, they focus on the (perceived) weakest member of the squad. The season before last it was Rambo, and last season it was the Gerv. If there is anything I loathe about fellow supporters, it’s this.

His decision making and finishing are not always at the required level, and in general, he finds it difficult to gel with his team mates, and vice versa. With regards to the latter, it cannot have been easy for him last season, with new arrivals Podolski (German), Giroud (French), and Nacho and Cazorla (Spanish) all needing to settle into the team, as well as the PL in general. The Ivorian ball wizard appears to be an introvert person anyway, and he probably has limited command of English, let alone German or Spanish.

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But once again, after a transitional season, there is reason now to believe that the (telepathic) relationships between all these players will improve significantly next season. The Gerv should benefit from this tremendously.

There are quite a few fellow Gooners who would instantly swap him for Nani of Manure. Nani, who played this season just 10 PL games, managed to score only two goals, and he scored none in four CL games. Nani scored a meagre 51 goals in 288 appearances, compared to 75 in 284 by Gervinho – that is about 50% more. They are of the same age, but if I had to put my money on who will make more progress in the PL next season and beyond, it would go to the Gerv.

Do I believe he is the best LW around? No. Could we improve on him? Yes. Do I believe Nani is the player to do? I doubt it very much!

It would be a big gamble by Arsene, and sticking with Gervinho for another season might be the far better gamble. I would like him to stay another season, in which he hopefully improves significantly.

With the now highly likely arrival of Higuain, and possibly another central midfielder/nr.10 – Fellaini, Jovetic, or Rooney (?) etc – we will see the likes of Cazorla, Theo, Ox and Podolski, or even Gibbs, playing a lot on the left or right wing. There will be no space in the squad for a top level classical (left) winger – which Nani clearly isn’t anyway – even if we were to sell Gervinho (a point which was made very well by fellow blogger AFC only a few days ago).

But when we play the ‘park the bus teams’ and we are just not getting through, there are very few players who accept sitting on the bench a lot during a season, and yet can come on and make a difference – a plan-B if you want – by breaking through the lines and feed the likes of Higuain, Giroud, Pod, Theo and Cazorla, etc.

To have such a player – at least on the bench – is a necessity for a silverware-winning squad. That player is Gervinho and for me he deserves at least one more season at the home of football.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

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Giroud suspended: Podolski, Gervinho or Walcott to lead the line?

Giroud Red Card

As you all know, Giroud has a three match ban after being sent off by referee Andre Marriner in the 90th minute of our last match against Fulham, when he caught Manolev with a slide tackle. Giroud has told Arsène Wenger that is was accidental and that he slipped, and our manager has said he can understand why Giroud was shown a red card. Nevertheless, Arsenal have appealed against Giroud’s dismissal.

A statement from Arsenal says “We have lodged an appeal to the Football Association for the wrongful dismissal of Olivier Giroud against Fulham.”

If Arsenal’s appeal is unsuccessful Giroud will remain suspended until May 19th which more or less means that the season is over for him. But if Arsenal’s appeal is successful, Giroud will still be suspended for at least one game.

Giroud has been criticized by lots of Arsenal fans for his missed opportunities this season, so there are plenty of Gooners who will not miss him; but there is no doubt that Giroud will be missed by our team. In our current team Giroud is very important to our attack. His work rate is excellent; he has the desire to do well for himself and the team and is the focal point for our attack.

So now with Giroud suspended for three matches (although if Arsenal are successful in their appeal against Giroud’s dismissal, Giroud would only be suspended for one match), Wenger will have to choose someone else to lead the line for us.

Gervinho has played as our main striker on a number of occasions this season but has been very inconsistent throughout the season, so I doubt he will start any of our upcoming matches- that is unless there are injuries. Gervinho is also much more effective on the wings where he can add the much needed width, which we so often lack.

So Wenger is now left with the dilemma of who should lead the line: Podolski or Walcott.

Podolski and Walcott are very different in terms of what they have to offer when leading the line. Walcott offers his lightening pace, meanwhile Podolski offers his clinical finishing with his powerful and accurate shots from distance, which can trouble any keeper.

Podolski
is a clinical finisher who thrives from getting into the correct positions in and around the box, where he can look to get into good goal scoring opportunities and then score capitalise on them. His long shots are also something to be desired. They are accurate and powerful. He will run at defenders and take them on, dragging them out of position which allow his teammates to exploit the spaces left behind by the defenders.

Podolski is also no pushover and is an absolute beast. He will score goals inside or outside the box, on the volley or even by his head. He is by far our most experienced striker with over 100 caps for Germany.

Walcott has superb pace and he is usually the quickest player on the pitch. I cannot think of many players much faster than Walcott. Walcott can use his lightening pace to draw defenders out of position which makes it much easier for our other players to get into good goal scoring opportunities, or Walcott can simply use his pace to knock the ball past defenders and beat defenders to the ball, at will.

He often does the latter when playing on the right wing. When Walcott is playing up front he still uses his incredible pace to very good effect. Walcott will often get in between two defenders of a team who are playing a high line and look to beat
the offside trap. Teams playing against Walcott know this is what he will try to do but it is very hard for them to stop him from him from doing this. Once Walcott has beaten the offside trap no defender can even get back in time to make a challenge on him. This often leaves him with a one on one with the GK of the opposing team where he will look to simply slot the ball low into the corner of the opposition’s net with a cool finish.

However teams can manage to tame Walcott by defending deep in their own halve. Many teams who defend deep will often deploy two banks of four which means that Walcott no longer has pockets of space in front of defenders where he can run into sometimes, making his lightning pace pretty superfluous.

So for me, if the team(s) we are facing in our next fixture(s) are defending with a high line Walcott is the man to lead the line. However, if we are coming up against team(s) who defend very deep in their own halve, Walcott is not very effective so Podolski is the man to lead the line.

For me it is very hard to tell whether Wenger will pick Walcott or Podolski to lead the line. It is said that Wenger is grooming Podolski for this role, and Podolski does have more experience than Walcott playing as the main striker throughout his career, but Walcott has excelled when leading the line for us early this season, when Wenger gave him an opportunity to do so with our manager being very impressed with him. So whether Wenger will choose Podolski or Walcott to play as our main striker, is any man’s guess.

Who do you want now to see lead the line?

Who do you think Wenger will choose to lead the line?

Do you think the team will perform better with Walcott or Podolski up front?

Written by: AFC.

Rosicky, Ramsey and Gerv: invaluable ‘fringers’ – BFG’s mistake last chance for TV5 – Ideal TH-Che result?

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Fringers Rosicky, Ramsey and Gerv prove to be invaluable

I was only able to watch the match highlights of our game against WBA, but have now read a few match reports as well. We have often debated on BK about the team lacking strength in depth but with key players missing or being ‘rested on the bench’, it is becoming clear our squad is stronger than many of us thought. No Diaby and no wilshere, but Ramsey and Rosicky have been filling their hiatuses more than adequately. No Podolski or Walcott, but Gervinho is both scoring and creating assists at an impressive rate at the moment; and Cazorla is proving to be super valuable – being able to play in various position with apparent ease and effectiveness.

Although our home win against Reading was to be expected, winning away against Bayern, Swansea and now West Brom with key players missing is not a mean feat at all. It is great to see our fringe players pulling their weight at the moment. Rosicky’s experience and never-say-die attitude is driving our team on, which must be a great relieve to the likes of Cazorla and Wilshere who just cannot do it in each and every game. From what I have read, Cazorla had a relatively quiet game, but Ramsey, Rosicky and Gervinho compensated for this with their drive and desire to win.

Ramsey missed a real sitter, but he just keeps going and does a lot of the dirty work for the team. And he also produced the assist for Rosicky’s second goal. Gervinho took the ball into the box on a number of occasions, and, at least at the moment, he has the composure and the skills to create real danger for us where we need to hurt our opponents most.

Gervinho, Rosicky and Ramsey are all not regarded as first-11 players this season, but they are proving to be invaluable for us at the moment, and long may it continue. Have they got enough, though, to make it into our first-11 team on a more permanent basis; and if not, will they be happy to stay at Arsenal for much longer?

Their performances underlined for me that we have plenty of strength in depth in the squad, and that we do not need a great number of new players this summer: a DM, another attacker, and an experienced GK as back up, and we are ready to rock next season (assuming that no key players will be sold this summer). Do fellow Gooners agree?

BFG’s mistake last chance for TV5?

I was disappointed in Per on Saturday: with leading the game 2-0 there was no need for him to take a big risk with a misjudged and clumsy challenge. A player of his experience should know the risk of making such a dangerous interception. Maybe he did not think he would get a red card, but the detrimental impact to our team of conceding a goal was a lot smaller than him being sent off with a straight red card and missing the next match; something he should have been aware of.

Our improved defensive performances in recent games are for a big part due to the leadership vacuum at the back having been filled through leaving (our captain) Vermaelen out and the BFG taking over control, instead. We all know that Mertesacker has some weaknesses, but he is good at reading the game and organising the back. I reckon, he will be missed in the next game, but at least it gives Vermaelen a chance to proof himself again.

As the Belgian is our captain, I reckon he will be responsible again for organising our defence and I am hoping he will come good again. Fingers crossed!

I am convinced that if Vermaelen’s performances in the remaining fixtures this season are not to the expected standard, he will become either a squad player or be sold in the summer. What do you reckon: will Vermaelen be able to fill the organisational void left behind as a result of the BFG’s suspension?

What would be the Ideal Spuds-Chavs result this weekend [please ignore reference to the game being played this weekend: it is a mistake]?

Let’s hope we will win our home game against Norwich. I don’t need to tell you that the single biggest risk we run regarding this game is the team underestimating our opponents. Norwich need the points and played really well at the Emirates last year, and with a nothing to lose attitude, they could cause an upset.

But let’s assume the boys are focussed and give their all and the three points will come our way; what would be the ideal result in the Spuds-Chavs game this weekend? This question is all about whether we think we can finish third or whether we believe fourth is the most realistic final position for us this season.

With only two points between us and the Chavs, I reckon we should aim for third, and therefore hope for, and this sounds truly horrible, so I will whisper it: a Spuds win. It would mean that we get ahead of the Chavs in the table  and with our game in hand – compared to the Spuds – we should be able to get ahead of them as  well. However, a Chavs win and Arsenal winning their games against Norwich and Everton, would create a healthy four points gap between us and the Spuddies…. This also sounds very attractive, as the Chavs could still be caught at a later stage…. What do you reckon, fellow Gooners?

Written by: TotalArsenal.

It is time to show our Gervinho some love!

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Yes, Gervinho needs some love, hugs and songs from us the supporters and his fellow players.

I know there are as many Gooners out there who rate him as don’t rate him, but Gervinho is one of us, always works his socks off when he plays for us, and can add that extra dimension to our football that we often badly miss.

Our man from the Ivory Coast is not the most self-confident footballer, and as we all know, confidence is a vital part of being successful on the pitch. Our nr.27 (I guess he chose that number because he was born on the 27 of May) appears to be very introvert and lacking friendship with other players on the pitch.

It is about time us, the fans, and the players try harder to make him properly part of the Arsenal family.

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Born in Anyama, a Northern suburb of Abidjan, the capital of Cote d’Ivoire, it cannot have been easy to come here and settle in straightaway. He has been away from his home country for quite a while, with spells at Beveren, Le Mans and Lille; and he must have learned to adapt to different environments by now.

But London is a modern, world city, and it is not easy to settle there, especially without a good command of the language, which I am assuming he doesn’t possess. Many Englishmen and Europeans find it hard to feel at home and make a success in such a large city. So it should come as no surprise that Gervinho is having some difficulties in adapting to life in London, and playing for/ settling into Arsenal right now.

I was at the FA cup game, at home against Blackburn a couple of months ago, and Gervinho, who had only just returned from international duty, was struggling a bit with form. Many ‘supporters’ around me started to moan about Gervinho from the first moment he did something wrong. There was no leeway; no ‘let’s give him a chance to settle in’, but most of the fellow Gooners around me were simply eager to confirm to themselves what they had decided in their heads was a fact: Gervinho is rubbish.

It was the weekend after Valentines Day and I realized soon that many supporters were taken to the Home of Football by their partners as a surprise gift. These people wanted to be entertained and show their partners – in most cases women – how frustrated and embarrassed they were at the poor performance of the team; by shouting, swearing, yelling at our players from the word go.

We played rubbish and the team deserved the fans’ scorn to some extent, but as supporters we have a duty to support (the clue is in the word!); only if and when certain players do not work their socks off, and look like they do not want to be on the pitch, should they be showered with our anger and frustration.

And by supporting our players from the start, we will help them build their confidence; and the stronger the confidence – combined with a strong willingness to do well – the better they will perform.

Gervinho is a fully committed, hard-working player. He gives his all, always makes himself available and never gives up trying to create something for the team. Gervinho is an enigma: he can be equally totally frustrating as absolutely fabulous from one moment, or game, to the next. I reckon, Gervinho will always be prone to missing sitters, even if we were to embrace him fully and show him the love and respect he needs and deserves.

But I am sure, he would become more consistent and play with even more energy and desire to make things happen for us, and the number of goals and assists would also improve; if we were to become more supportive of Gervinho from now on.

There is no other player in our team, except Wilshere maybe, who is as good as our Ivorian in taking on players in front of him and move into space with the ball at his feet. He is one of the few who can receive the ball in a tight space and can keep hold of it, without needing to pass it to another player as soon as possible. Currently, he is also better than any other player in effective wing-play and ensuring that our team has enough width. 

There are very few players in our team who position themselves better in the box than Gervinho: how many times was he at the right place, at the right time against Reading on Saturday, for example? Gervinho almost always offers another dimension to our team and football, but a large number of  supporters just seem to focus on his glaring misses rather than his overall performance and contributions to the team.

Ultimately, Gervinho will be judged on his return in assists and goals for the team, and I agree with many critics that he needs to improve further regarding these. It could well turn out that he is not capable of making the grade at Arsenal.

But I believe there is more to come from Gervinho and that we, the supporters, and the players have an important role to fulfil here: the more the Ivorian gets supported and forgiven for occasionally producing a bad miss, the more he will keep going for us and his confidence will grow; and the more assists and goals he will produce. But the opposite is equally true: love and trust is likely to lead to a successfully performing Gerv, but hate and rejection will most probably lead to a failing one.

Let’s love and embrace him, and shower him with songs of praise when he does well. The Gerv, I am pretty sure, will pay us back handsomely.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

The swerve of Gerv, rhythm of Ramsey & Rosicky, coolness of Cazorla, and Mikel’s Mastery

Zorro is back!
Zorro is back!

Well that was a fine and much-needed win today. It is only fair to say that Reading were easy prey this afternoon, and that a stronger team might have punished us for not finishing off our chances in the first half. But, once again, we played a lot better in the second half and, despite one costly lapse in concentration, Arsenal totally dominated the game from start to finish, and very much deserved their win today.

It was great to see Gervinho start a game again, and he took his opportunity to shine for us really well. The Gerv and Santi were clearly our drivers in the first half, and for most of the second half as well. Gervinho was everywhere and always made himself available, and he is the one of the few who wants to keep hold of the ball and attack the space in  front of him, rather than just pass the ball to the nearest player as soon as possible.

Gervinho’s  performance was by no means perfect, and he can delight us as much as frustrate us from one moment to the next, but with a goal and two assists, he deserves a lot of praise today. His positioning was great (especially in the box) and his ability to take the ball forward and make things happen was also on show today once more.

He took his goal well and provided two fine assists. The one for Santi was simple and effective; after he created a bit of space, by keeping the ball and moving forward towards the goal, he played a simple, low and  well-measured pass to Santi, who this time round did show the required composure, and finished really well with a placed, curling shot past some Reading defenders and goalkeeper Taylor.

The second assist was the best one; The Gerv held off defenders around the box and then made a good, measured pass towards Giroud’s left foot, who could do nothing else but score.

I was impressed with Giroud willingness to work for the team today, and he created a lot of space in the box through his movement and ability to occupy more than one defender most of the time. And his work for the team was reciprocated by the fine pass Gervinho provided to him for our third goal.

Throughout the game, and especially in the first half, we were still wasteful with our chances, and both Cazorla and Gervinho deserve some criticism for some disappointing finishing. I guess this is something we have to accept of both players: they work hard, get themselves in good positions, and are attack-minded, but both of them – Gervinho more than Cazorla – will waste a lot of chances in the process as well.

However, Cazorla’s coolness for the second goal and Gervinho’s composure for his goal and assists, made the difference today, and in the end that is all that really matters.

Our defence was shielded magnificently today by Mikel Arteta, and you could see how much he has benefited from a well-needed interlull break. When Arteta plays like this, the whole team plays better. It allowed Ramsey to support Rosicky and Cazorla, who was found mostly in the middle of the pitch, in putting pressure on the opposition’s defence high up the pitch. Today that made all the difference.

However, I thought that Ramsey and especially Rosicky were a bit rusty in the first half and not dynamic enough. Luckily, they both improved strongly in the second half and it was their drive that kept our rhythm going throughout the second half. Towards the end of the game, Arsenal started to play some wonderful football and both Ramsey and Rosicky had big contributions in this.

Reading scored a good goal through Robson-kanu, who sneaked in behind Monreal to score with a diving header from a fine cross by McAnuff.

Ox did well coming on as a sub and winning a penalty straightaway, which was well taken by Arteta.

In summary, an easy win, and an important one; with the Spuds winning (as expected) at Swansea, and the Chavs dropping three very costly points at Southampton, our win today keeps the pressure up on both of them; and that’s all we can do. Our next game against West Brom will no doubt be a tougher nut to crack.

Written by: TotalArsenal.

Can the real Gervinho please stand up?

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Gervinho is one player who can inspire and exasperate in equal measure, especially when in the red and white of Arsenal. Signed for 10 Million pounds from Lille, Gervinho arrived on the back of a fairly impressive campaign, scoring 18 goals in all competitions in France: a statistic that beat the then ‘Ligue 1 player of the year’ (and team mate), Eden hazard.

He then moved to arsenal and on his debut scored a wonderful brace. His first a well lobbed ball above the Koln keeper; a goal that turned back the clock to the days Pires would thrill Highbury in similar fashion.

He began last season on the same stride, his electric pace and dazzling dribbling sending the Emirates faithful into animated frenzies. He bagged four goals and four assists before he departed for the Africa Cup of Nations in January. There he continued his red hot form, even scoring a goal – against Mali in the semi-final – which Messi would have been proud of. He picked the ball on the halfway line, nut-megged a Mali player and dribbled all the way to the goal, and scored (watch it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UPGTA0rJ6M). Fantastic stuff.

In the final he continued his form, being a constant thorn in the side of the Zambian national team with his pace and trickery. Unfortunately for him, the game went on to a penalty shoot-out where he missed a crucial spot kick, handing Zambia the crown. This was the turning point because the Gervinho that left for the AFCON wasn’t the one that returned to London. He would misplace passes, lose possession, waste clear cut chances, dribble his way into trouble, and generally frustrate the Arsenal faithful.

Luckily for him, Arsenal were in inspired form at that point, with the mercurial Dutchman at the helm of the team’s success. He never regained the form that had endeared him to the fans, and by the end of season they were calling for his head.

Fast forward to the beginning of this season, and the Gervinho of old seemed to have returned. He finished the pre-season as the top scorer, putting in inspiring performances that turned out to be one of the few positives in a time when our talisman left us for one of our fiercest rivals.

The domestic league began and his fantastic performances, coupled with the poor ones of new signing Olivier Giroud, earned him a starting place up front; ahead of Theo and Poldi. He scored 5 goals, epitomized by a brace against premier league newcomers Southampton in a game that saw Arsenal put 6 past them.

However, his wasteful side reared its ugly head again. He missed a sitter against Man City after being put clear by Ramsey: a miss that ultimately cost arsenal 2 points. His form quickly died out and (again) he was wasting chance after chance, and his departure to this year’s AFCON came as a breath of fresh air to most Gooners. Some are even hoping that Ivory Coast will get to the final, so as to keep him out of the side for as long as possible.

What really puzzles me about him is that when he dons the Ivory Coast jersey, he turns into this breath taking winger whose dribbles are purposeful and amazing, scoring goals for fun. Believe it or not, lately Gervinho has become more prolific for them than (dare I say it) Didier Drogba. Case in point, so far he has scored twice for them (one in a warm up match and one in their opening game against Togo). The one against Togo was a terrific finish the Arsenal contingent dream of seeing (watch it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8vHtuiu0hA).

However when he plays for Arsenal he is the ultimate embodiment of inconsistency, a trait which has seen most fans turn against him. Some say that he just isn’t good enough; others believe that the pressures of playing in the world’s toughest league eventually got to him.

Whatever the case, Gervinho has managed to step on the nerves of many with his inconsistent and unpredictable performances. He has claimed that he wants to be Arsenal’s new Robert Pires, and maybe putting that kind of pressure on himself wasn’t the best idea.

One thing is for sure, though, he better step up his game if he hopes to be playing for Arsenal for the foreseeable future. He has already lost his place to Poldi, Chamberlain, Theo and Giroud who lately are becoming more and more formidable. With the imminent acquisition of a new player, he could fall even further down the pecking order.

It is a shame because Gervinho has the potential to be the player fans envisioned him to be when they gave him a Brazilian nickname. We could continue to speculate about what is the true cause of his failings but that would be a waste of time, because ultimately only he can decide what he wants his career trajectory to be.

Most fans have written him off as an awful purchase, and soon the incredible patience Wenger is known to have WILL run out. He is 25 years old, so time is quickly running out for him to make his mark at the top level.

My advice: Wenger saw something special in him when he signed him from Lille and gave him a chance in the world’s number one league. Gervinho: TAKE IT!

Written by: Marcus – a Kenya based Gooner.

 

Reading pre-view: Gervinho has to play, Jack to lead, Cazorla to assist better

Arsenal-vs-Reading-7-5

Three areas for Arsenal to focus on during our game against Reading game.

It has been a long wait since that humiliating cup-exit almost a week ago, but tonight Arsenal will finally get the chance to make up for it. In order to do so, we need to see a number of improvements from our game against Bradford City, and it will go either really well or not well at all.

In a way, the game against Reading is pretty similar to the game against BC: Reading are bottom of the league and we are the favourites to win tonight, but we all know that if Arsenal are not fully focussed and give their all, we could end up with another painful away loss.

Area one: The shape of the team and system of football.

This is the main area of concern at the moment: Arsenal are desperately seeking their identity, their style of play and shape of the team. In my view, Arsenal have not played a version of Wengerball since the departure of Fabregas: last season we played a ‘plan-B’ for the entire season, and this year we continue to struggle to play the Arsenal way.

However, things are improving, despite the set-back against Bradford. With Jack getting better and better, he will be able to guard our shape and drive the team in the most central role of our 4-3-3 formation. With Arteta playing in the anchor role behind him, and Cazorla ahead of him, Wilshere holds the key in supporting our ‘back-five’, and linking up with the ‘front-four’ in order to instigate deadly attacking moves.

We also need Jack to inspire the team with his extrovert character and never-say-die attitude tonight. He might be young, and still not fully fit, but we need him to be able to put his stamp on the match: without it, it’s very unlikely we will find and keep our shape in this game.

Area two: Better service to our three attackers.

Other than the shape of the team, we are also struggling in providing our attackers with quality service. Cazorla has hardly had any assists in the last 12 PL games, and in the pivotal role that he plays in, this simply is not good enough.

I remember many fellow Gooners calling for us to shoot more and in Cazorla they now got what they asked for. The little Spaniard shoots whenever he can, but unfortunately, seldom scores; and many a chance goes to waste. I would like him to start concentrating again on setting up other players: his main aim should be to provide direct assists and indirect assists to Giroud and the wingers.

I am also hoping that our ‘wing-back’ play will become a lot more effective again. We are desperate for a steep improvement in our crossing ability to find the heads (or legs) of Giroud and Podolski. Both Sagna and Gibbs have to really concentrate and be more effective when going forward, and we need to see a far more fluid link-up play between the full-backs and the wingers tonight.

Area three: Proper wing-play to add a must needed dimension to our football.

This is another main area where we have struggled this season. In our 4-3-3 formation, we need effective wing-play to attack with speed and from the sides; to give us width and another dimension with regards to our attacking play. Yet, with Podolski and, I regret to say, Ox on the wings we have been far too predictable (also directly influenced by areas one and two, as per above).

That’s why I strongly believe we need to play Gervinho tonight – and I am assuming that Theo will not play tonight (or ever again for Arsenal?!). The Ivorian might have missed a number of seemingly easy chances recently, which has been very disappointing, but he is able to provide us with proper wing-play better than anybody else in our team at the moment.

Gervinho always makes himself available and once he has got the ball he seldom looses it. He is always keen to take on defenders and penetrate the opposition’s defensive shape, thus making things happen. In every game, he manages to get to the by-line at least a few times and set somebody up to score. I fully expected Ox to be able to do the same now, but it is somehow not happening for him; and the Pod is clearly not a proper winger and can only play on the wing if there is a proper winger on the right, and he gets the right support from his full-back. If this is not happening the Pod looks both ineffective and frustrated on the LW.

Other areas to focus on.

I have no doubt that Reading will try to press us continuously and will not let us settle. So we need to be up for it, and make sure we’ll pass the ball round a lot better than we have done recently. We also need to press them a lot better and that means the whole team has to take part in it and play as one tonight.

We we will also have to concentrate hard in defence, especially in the air during set-pieces. Let’s hope we will see good organisation and link-up between our defenders, and between the defence and the rest of the team.

Predicted Line-up:

Szczesny

Sagna – BFG – TV – Gibb

——–Arteta—Jack——–

———–Cazorla————-

Ox——–Giroud——Gerv

 

Preferred Line-up:

Szczesny

Sagna -– BFG –- TV -– Gibb

———-Arteta—Jack———

————Rosicky————–

Cazorla—-Giroud—–Gerv

I don’t need to tell you how desperate we are for a convincing win tonight.

Come on You Rip-Roaring Gunners!

Total Arsenal.

Wilfried Zaha: Arsenal’s Missing Link is Holloway’s ‘Precious’

Wilfred-Zaha

After extensively watching Wilfried Zaha ply his trade for CrystalPalace this year, I must say that I’m a big fan.

Zaha has great balance, pace, ball control and the goal scoring instincts needed from a forward.  He has a very unique running style that involves a wide stance, which is very deceptive and provides a great center of balance when running with the ball.  There are so many tricks at his disposal that he seems to create new feints, step-overs and turns with each passing game.  More importantly, from an Arsenal standpoint, he offers a more direct footballing style.   Despite over dribbling at times, Zaha relentlessly takes on opposing defenders with the desire to always cut inside, opposed to staying out wide, a la Gervinho.

First, I would like to take you back to a game he played vs. Manchester United last year in the Capital One Cup.  It was evident in this game that Zaha would have the talent to succeed at the highest level; however, I questioned his defensive work rate and his decision to not use his teammates more often, leading to a few errant passes and touches that left him with nowhere to go.

His trickery did lead to many Utd fouls though.  Still, I saw an extraordinary talent that only needed to refine his game before teams at the next level would start taking notice of him.  Fast forward a year later and he has assumed a lot more defensive responsibility than prior seasons and has become even more creative when taking defenders on.  He’s noticeably stronger and is using his strength effectively to shield the ball from opposing players.  He has shown true dedication to evolve his game and has become a well-rounded footballer.

The typical question that clouds such a big talent is whether he has the prima donna attitude that comes along with the talent. Zaha blends his confidence, boldly stating only Messi and Ronaldo are better than him, with humility; he credits his success to the faith put into him at Crystal Palace and those in the squad around him, in particular Yannick Bolasie, his winger across the pitch.

If Zaha were to make the jump to the Premier League, there are a few concerns that I would raise.  As previously mentioned, Zaha over dribbles and could still use his teammates more.  Often, his fullback makes darting runs down the flank, only to pass it to Zaha who does too many step overs/dribbles to no avail.  Fortunately, Zaha has the ability to make you forget a mistake very quickly by taking on three defenders and creating a scoring chance that only exceptional talents could produce.  Arsenal football is all about passing and moving into space (or it is intended to be that way) and Zaha would need to adjust his game to truly make an impact and break into the starting eleven.

Another concern is delivery.  Arsenal is in desperate need of a winger who can create space for those in the center of the pitch, provide crosses in the air and passes on the ground from out wide to our forwards.  Zaha’s excellent at creating space for others and has produced some dangerous in-swinging balls, but I have not seen consistent top-notch delivery from him yet.  However, this could be related to the lack of top-end talent surrounding him rather than a criticism of his ability.  Next, I question how Zaha’s game will translate to the top flight.  He’s used to dribbling around Championship defenders but EPL defenders are more adept at taking away space and knocking you off the ball.

At this point, I’m not convinced of two things regarding these rumours:

1)      Arsene Wenger would break his previous record transfer fee to acquire an unproven entity.  Zaha represents the typical Wenger signing; a young talent with loads of potential.  However, Wenger currently has Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gnabry trying to break into the first team and both are being played at the same wing positions with arguably just as much potential.  Arsenal’s rumoured offer to CP is in the range of £7-9 million with add-ons, which is nowhere near CP’s valuation of £20 million.  Typically, the asking price of young, English talent is inflated, so this should come as no surprise.

2)      Crystal Palace will actually let Zaha leave.  Holloway and CP really have no reason to sell their best player in January.  A bid for Zaha in June would likely garner just as much in a transfer fee, if not more.  Attaining promotion is more important for the club than whatever sum they’ll eventually get from selling Zaha.

With that said, there are some positives working in Arsenal’s favour.  Zaha is an admirer of Arsenal football and the Gunners have always been his boyhood club.  There’s also the matter of him being an England international now, where Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs, Jenkinson and Walcott can convince him that Arsenal is where his future lies.  I believe the only remote possibility Arsenal has of landing Zaha in January, is if the player himself requests a move to the club.

E

It’s impossible to predict how quickly a player from a lower division will adapt to the rigours of the Premier League, but I feel that Zaha is a special talent similar to that of Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain.  After 19 games in the Championship this season, Zaha has roughly managed to score a goal every 5 games, assist every 6 games, generate 2 shots with one on goal per game and is fouled almost 3 times each game. Not exactly the most overwhelming stats, but one must bear in mind that he already has 102 appearances in the Championship to his name at the tender age of 20.

The ability he’s shown in beating defenders is reminiscent of the greats (think of the flair of both Ronaldos).

In fact, I believe Zaha to be a hybrid between all three of Walcott, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gervinho.  He has the goal scoring instincts of Theo, the combination of pace, flair and ability to take on defenders in tight spaces like Gervinho and AOC (if not more), the directness of AOC and the willingness to play out wide like Gervinho.  Zaha could be that special ‘top, top’ player that would be worthy of Wenger’s pursuit.  All that remains is being tested at the highest level and seeing if he can realize his vast potential.  The latest news round-ups have Arsenal as the favourites to land him in January, but it will take an exceptional offer to pry Zaha away from Palace.

What do you Gooners think about Zaha as a player?  Is he the solution for our lack of delivery and directness from out wide?  Would that amount of money be better spent elsewhere?

 

Written by: The Gooner