Tag Archives: Gervinho

Time to bid Gervinho adieu…

First and foremost, let me preface what follows: I like Gervinho and wish him nothing but the best. He doesn’t strike me as a loafer. He genuinely seems to want to do well, and he has shown in bits and flashes that he does have some quality. However, as we’ve learned in the past from holding onto limited players, hoping to loan them out to develop, we simply have to find a way to move a player while we still can. It’s a shame that Arshavin faded so fast, Squillaci just never amounted to much, and Fabianski never truly impressed, but it’s also a bit of a shame that they’re out of contract. We lost out on possible transfer-fees, and they carry a dented reputation. Once they’ve gone out of contract, it’s that much harder for them or their agents to convince other teams to give them a chance.

Gervinho’s had two years now to adjust to Prem life, and, if anything, he’s regressed. In the 2011-12 season, he made 28 appearances (nine as a sub) and tallied four goals and six assists. In this past season, he made only 18 appearances (six as a sub). While he managed one more goal, he added just three assists. When he’s on, he can very good. However, he’s so rarely on. In this past season, he went on one heck of a purple-patch, with five goals and an assist in six games, earning three MOTM awards from whoscored.com. Then, there was nothing. 14 matches with a lone assist. To be fair, he subbed on in a few of these matches for 10 minutes or less, but we’re still looking at 705 minutes of action with very little, um, action. He did hit an oasis of sorts, adding two goals and three assists in three matches, but that’s all it was: an oasis amid a dry, expansive desert. If that dry spell were the result of hitting the woodwork, great saves from keepers, goal-line clearances, and the like, we could be more charitable in our assessment.

However, as we know all too well, Gervinho lacks the confidence and skill that a reliable if not lethal finisher needs. He scuffs too many, mishits others, misses sitters…it’s ludicrously tragic. Or tragically ludicrous. I can’t decide which. However, it’s a problem that compounds itself. One error seems to doom the, sending him on a downward spiral of self-doubt that prevents him from accomplishing much else. He disappears from matches all too often and struggles to find other ways to contribute. He’s so right-footed it’s a wonder to me that defenders don’t just park on his right hip and dare him to go left.

I don’t mean to bash the lad, so I’ll stop there. He’s playing for one of the Prem’s most demanding fan-bases, and the pressure might just be too much for him here. If Ligue 1’s Marseille is interested, this could be good news for all involved. Gervinho finds a home that permits him somewhat less pressure and scrutiny, Marseille gets a striker with two seasons of action in the Prem and Champions League (albeit a bit worse for wear), and we get to unload a player who just didn’t make the grade. In fact, the only drawback to the move would be the prospect of a reunion with Joey Barton. Just typing that name chafes me. Then again, maybe it would give Gervinho a chance to finish what he started with that oaf back in 2011.

If Marseille is willing to take him and hold onto Barton for another season, that’s their problem. We have enough headaches of our own. Look at the trouble we’ve had unloading the likes of Bendtner, Aboue, and Chamakh. The longer we hold onto Gervinho, the harder it may get to move him along. I’m not terribly concerned with the transfer-fee we get. I doubt we’ll recoup what we spent, but I worry that holding out for a better deal will only backfire, leaving us stuck together for another six months. If Marseille is willing to pay, say, £7m for him, I say take it.

Maybe I’m wrong, though. I’d be willing to admit it. Is there something that Gervinho brings (or could bring to the squad? I’m all ears.

Gervinho Reverts to Form, Poldi Answers the Call

After a run of sparkling performances, Gervinho fell back to Earth against Norwich on Sunday, reminding us all of the many frustrating gaps in his gamepoor touches, hesitation, bad decisions, and so on. It was revealing of Wenger’s frustration that, at a time when our need for more offense became more urgent, Gervinho was subbed off, an admission that he was not in the kind of form we needed. More tellingly, his sub Lukas Podolski was an impact player almost from the moment he took the field. Whether this is enough to see Gervinho dropped and Podolski restored is up to Wenger, but with a tough match against Everton in two days, it’s unlikely that the Ivorian showed enough on the ball to lay claim to a starting position. It may be harsh after three strong games, but that’s football. His replacement helped to turn the game around, and with Walcott’s return to fitness, there’s little room for sentiment in these decisions.

A two-minute sequence in the first half sums up Gervinho’s afternoon. He had two glorious chances to put Arsenal ahead and wasted both, each one highlighting key flaws in Gervinho’s game. In the first, at the 26th minute, Gervinho stole the ball on the left wing and charged forward. As he got inside the 18, he had two defenders between him and goal, and he had at one point three open teammates filling lanesRamsey, Giroud, and Cazorla. Gervinho danced on the ball, and with his extreme right-footedness, coughed up the ball, a moment so frustrating that Ramsey and Cazorla slap the ground angrily with both hands while Giroud looks to the sky in despair. The reactions of Ramsey and Cazorla seem born of frustration deeper than from just this moment (Ramsey’s in particular, as he is usually about as demonstrative as warm lettuce).

Two minutes later, Cazorla, showing immense faith in Gervinho, offers an absolutely beautiful through-ball from midfieldmidfield, mind you—which meets Gervinho right at the top of the box. With Bunn caught out in mid-charge. all Gervinho had to do was tap it (and how Bunn didn’t guess that Gervinho was going to his own right stuns me) and dribble on in. There wasn’t a defender within ten yards of the play. However, Gervinho, perhaps mindful of how many sitters he’s missed, decided to make it harder for himself and put his first touch so far out to the side that he had to take a shot from outside the six and barely a yard off the end-line. At this angle, the best he could do was scuff it harmlessly across the mouth of an open goal. The first touch, then, seemed heavier than the shot, which petered out as it rolled out of bounds, coming to a stop just outside the six.

There were others, to be sure. The first was a chance, and even a pass to a teammate would not have guaranteed a goal, but making that pass would have been the smarter play. The poor touch, while it could happen to anyone, happens to Gervinho with such regularity that it’s hard to be generous. These lapses also further erode his fragile confidence, and I’d suggest he needs a break rather than risking another poor performance on Tuesday. 

When Podolski came in, he had a near-immediate impact on the game. However, his first was a lamentable one, as a cross fell to his feet right at the six, but it must have been too soon for him and he was caught off-guard as it glanced away. In the 77th minute, though, Podolski almost broke the game open with a cannon-like shot that Bunn just barely got a finger to, just enough to deflect the ball off the crossbar. It was a nice bit of work from Giroud, who chested the ball off to Podolski to strike, evidence of their ability to work well together. 

Podolski came close to tallying ten minutes later when he had a nifty little 1-2 with the Ox, and he almost finished Ox’s cross, missing by a hair only to see Giroud finish it anyway. As with the previous chance, he showed no hesitation, made the right decision, and we took the lead with his help. But he wasn’t done. With six minutes of stoppage-time added, an insurance goal was called for, and Podolski answered. Collecting a nice pass from Walcott, who had fought his way across the box, Podolski took two touches before splitting tow defenders witth a well-placed curler past Bunn to seal the deal.

I won’t go so far as to call Podolski’s finishing “clinical” but he certainly showed a stronger sense for how to shoot and when. His blasted shot was enough to go in or create a rebound (sadly, no one was on the right side to follow), and his goal showed deftness as he went for touch rather than power.  All told, then, a tough afternoon for Gervinho, and a glittering cameo from Podolski, who showed no trace of the injuries that have slowed him of late. He’s one of our best finishers, and his pace, workrate, and sense of the game were strong enough today to earn him some game-time against Everton. 

Arsenal Vs. West Brom Preview

After yesterday’s drama in the Europa, we sit and wait to hear the results of the scan on Gareth Bale’s ankle injury. He’ll probably miss at least two weeks, according to Andre Villas-Boas. The match report at the Tottenham site is upbeat, mentioning only that Bale “joined Lennon in limping out of the action.” We’ll have to keep an eye on that and wish him well. Closer to home, we look ahead to our own tricky match with West Brom. They started the season on a fine run, climbing as high as 3rd in the table at one point, but have since settled into 8th place. When we hosted back in December, we needed two Arteta penalty kicks, the first after a bit of a dive from Cazorla to ensure victory. At the time, we sat in 6th place behind West Brom, who were in 5th. Since then, however, we’ve been on a fine run of form, with five wins and one loss in our last six matches while West Brom have labored a bit more, with three wins, one draw, and two losses. That first match gave us the epic photo of Jack Wilshere going forehead-to-chin with Jack Olsson. Sadly, with Wilshere out, we won’t get a replay of that little scene. Instead, I’ll settle for a replay of the score.

As for them, they come in a bit short-handed after Mulumbu earned a three-game rest after seeing read against West Ham for drop-kicking a ball into Gary O’Neill. Silly stuff, even if he was fouled. They’ve been without Gary Zoltan and George Thorne for a while as well. Other than that, no other significant injuries have been reported.  The Baggies are among the ruder hosts around, having conceded 14 goals in 15 home games and sporting a record of nine wins, two losses, and four draws. This will be a tricky one, no doubt about that. I admire the form they’ve been in for most of the season, and they look set for one of their highest finishes in the Prem. I’ll stop short of saying we should give them any help in that department. If there’s good news for us in their position, they are perched in the Goldilocks zone, so to speak: too far from relegation to worry, too far from qualifying for European competition to strive. I don’t think this will affect their mindset all that much, but it does remove those motivating elements from the equation.

As for us, I’d like to see Gervinho up top again. He’s been in fine form in his last few appearances, resurrecting memories of the form he showed early in the season when he was actually our leading scorer for a while. Joining him, I would like to see more pace and energy than Giroud brings and hope that Podolski or Oxlade-Chamberlain join Gervinho up top. Giroud was ineffective against West Brom last time out, even if his size matches him up well with Olsson. As I’ve said before, I’m not thrilled with how Giroud sometimes stretches us out of shape, tempting us into sending more long balls and crosses at him to see what happens. That’s not purely his fault, but we’re much better when we’re picking a defense a part through movement and intelligent passing. With that in mind, the midfield would look good with Arteta, Cazorla, Rosický, and Ramsey in it. We all know how well Cazorla has been lately, and Ramsey has rightly earned plaudits for his work-rate, effort, and performance. What’s more, he can offer more of the defensive mindset to balance Cazorla and Rosický’s upfield forays.

On the backline, the only real question in my mind is whether we can bring Vermaelen back in. Monreal’s out, so the left-back position is apparently available, offering Arsène a convenient excuse to insert Vermaelen there without unduly disrupting the Koscielny-Mertesacker partnership. Alternately, as I suggested a few posts back, Vermaelen could rotate in to rest Kos or Mertesacker, and then do the same next week to rest the other defender, giving Vermaelen his preferred role two weeks running and allowing Arsène a chance to evaluate the form of all three (especially Vermaelen) as we go into the cluttered part of our schedule and prepare for Everton, which could shape up to be a bigger match after they play a depleted Spurs on Sunday. Right back goes to Sagna, who looked fit and strong against Reading

Last but not least, is it time to bring back Szczęsny? He’s sat for a spell now, and Fabianski should have done better on the goal against Reading. Fabianski’s done well, but I still see Szczęsny as our #1 keeper. His drop from the starting line-up has lasted enough to send its message, so I say put him back in and let him regain his match-readiness. I worry that if he sits much longer, the benching will have the effect of undermining his confidence too much and leaving him rusty to boot.

If we can continue our recent form, scoring an early goal to set the tone, I’ll be happy with whoever our starting XI includes. One game at time. Let’s put this one to bed early.

A Clinic in Finishing

The problem with winning 4-1 is that it feels awfully good. Too good, in fact. It glosses over issues and convinces us that all is well. That a win like this comes as the third in a streak further complicates matters, as we’ve netted eight goals in three games, enough to suggest to us that we’re doing great. We are on a nice run, it’s true. However, at the risk of getting nit-picky, there’s still room for improvement, especially when it comes to finishing. It seems ironic to bring this up after scoring four goals, but the fact remains that we are far too wasteful of the opportunities we create. Bill Walton, once a very good basketball player and never a very good commentator, once said that it doesn’t matter how many shots you make, what matters is how many shots you take. In what sport does the number of shots taken matter more than the shots made? I’d rather take one shot and make it than take 100 and miss ’em all. By Walton’s logic, we’re in even better shape than we seem. Too bad that this logic is so god-awful. If we expect to overtake Chelsea and/or Spurs, we’d do well to start putting more of our shots on-frame, not to mention in the back of the net.

Start with Reading, a game in which we took 26 shots, put six on target, and scored four, as a solid example. 26 shots against any team is a incredibly high number, but only 23% bothered the keeper. Yes, 66% of on-frame shots went in, but this only further proves my point: a shot is only a proper shot if it’s on-target, and when a shot’s on target, the chances of it going in are just a smidge higher than a shot sent into the cheap seats.We were 0-for-20 on off-target shots, 4 for 6 on on-target shots. Even our men of the match, Gervinho and Santi Cazorla, despite scoring nifty goals, were misfiring. Cazorla hit on one of six shots, Gervinho, on one of seven.

Considering that critics deride us as wanting to pass the ball into the back of the net, you’d think we’d sport a higher accuracy rate. After all, the closer one is to the net, the easier it is to put a shot on-target. A quick glance at whoscored.com shows that we average 16 shots per game, putting a mere five on target for an average of 31.25%. This might seem quibblesome when we acknowledge that we are, in fact, scoring goals quite well, with 59 goals in 30 games, 3rd-best in the league. If we could just put a few more shots per game on target, a few of these would go in, and we might be checking our rearview mirror to see Chelsea, Spurs, and Man City trailing us, if not also Man U.

In contrast to previous years, we’ve adopted a more committee-like approach to scoring, distributing goals among four or five players instead of getting almost all from one. While the egalitarian element to this is noble, we might do well to target a striker in the summer transfer who is more lethal in his finishing. Here, for a quick comparison (not that I intend to suggest that we target any of them for signing), are the Prem’s top goal-scorers’ on-target percentages. The top three all put a healthy 44% or more of their shots on frame. Of further notice is the sheer number of shots these players have taken, all comfortably above 100 except for Michu. These are players who are not just more accurate, but more accurate despite their teams relying on them to take shot after shot after shot, even to the point of taking ill-advised, low-percentage shots. By comparison, our most accurate shooter is one Theo Walcott, who has put 41.18% of his shots on target, good for 4th on the table above. However, due in part to our more-democratic spirit, no one has taken 100 shots for us yet.

It’s surprising to see Giroud, who has been guilty of missing a fair number of sitters, be on-frame more often than Cazorla, who just seems like the more accurate shooter. This is almost certainly down to distance; Cazorla takes more shots from outside the box while Giroud takes almost all of his from inside it. If the two of them could 40% of their shots on target, Giroud would have three more on-target shots, and Cazorla would have almost six more. If Walcott could increase his shooting frequency without undermining his accuracy, we might see goals by the bucket.

With games coming up against the likes of West Brom (41  goals conceded), Norwich (47), and Fulham (46),  we face some of the more generous defenses in the Prem, and we should seize the opportunity to score early and often through some on-target shooting. As I bring my case to a close, I submit one last piece of evidence. Let Bayern bear witness: in our 2-0 defeat of them, they put five of 23 shots on goal, scoring none. We put two of five on target, both of them goals. I rest my case.

Arsenal 4-1 Reading: Knockin' on 4th Place's Door

What a brilliant, brilliant game. Even our misses looked beautiful. This was the kind of dominating, swash-buckling game we’ve needed after a few tenser, tighter matches (even a few 2-0 games can feel that way). Passes were tight and audacious, and shots were plentiful, so much so that we could afford to squander a few. Gervinho tallied early, giving us space to relax and to attack with more verve, and the second half saw the floodgates open with three more goals. Yes, we conceded one, but I did after all predict a 3-1 score and don’t mind that Fabianski’s string of clean sheets comes to an end. It’s enough wiggle-room to permit Wenger to bring Szczęsny back to the first team next week without anyone complaining too much. Another clean-sheet might have proved difficult for Wenger to make that change. Back to the actual game, though…

Goals from Gervinho (11′, Cazorla assists), Cazorla (47′, Gervinho assists), Giroud (67′, Gervinho assists), and Arteta (77′ penalty) saw Arsenal eviscerate Reading despite a pretty headed goal from Robson-Kanu in the 68th minute. More seriously, Monreal was injured on the goal as he went for the block. Gibbs came on for him and deputized well. The only real complaint to make, and it’s a tetchy one after scoring four, is that we were so profligate in front of goal. We really could have put a more on frame, if not in the back of the net. I won’t complain too loudly, as the scoreline says all that really needs to be said. In a game we were really supposed to win, we did so in style, and the dominance was so thorough that even the Reading goal should provoke little more than an “aw, shucks.”

It was disappointing to see Gervinho come off for the Ox in the 75th minute, but I’m giving him my MOTM for the day anyway. Cazorla had another one of his games, and it’s a sign of the high expectations that he’s creating for himself that he ends up as second-fiddle despite the strength of his play today, which includes a new career-high for goals in a season, but Gervinho gets the nod because he came in, showed no signs of rust, and was bright and intelligent all game long. His runs, his hold-up play, and his passing were all spot-on for most of the game. I’ll admit that I’m engaging in a bit of self-esteem-building, not normally something I wallow in, but Gervinho seems to need a boost, even on a day when he scored and notched two assists. I hope that Cazorla is generous enough not to hoard the accolades.

A few numbers for the wonkier fans:

  • Possession: Arsenal 70%-30% Reading
  • Shots (on goal): Arsenal 26 (6), Reading 5 (2)
  • Corners: Arsenal 11, Reading 3
  • Passing Accuracy: Arsenal 88%, Reading 71%
  • Final score (all that really matters): Arsenal 4-1 Reading
Just as important as the three points, we added to our goal differential as we pursue the top four finish. We now stand at +26 on the season, while Spurs are at +15, Chelsea +27, and Everton, who play later today, are at a mere +11. In other words, should it come down to a tie with Spurs or Everton on points, our goal-differential is strong enough to see us through. A tie with Chelsea is a bit more touch-and-go. We’ll see, though. At our current rate, we may just have enough momentum to seize a top-four finish outright. Spurs did just enough against Swansea to win today 2-1, while Chelsea stumbled to a loss against Southampton by the same score. We’ll keep pace with Spurs for the week, four points behind (keeping in mind we still have a game in hand) while closing to two back of Chelsea (no game in hand there).  A closer look at these scenarios is forthcoming.
For now, sit back, relax, and enjoy a win. Not just any win, but an Arsenal kind of win. Enough passing to make an opponent dizzy, goals left and right, and winning with style, passion, and skill. Brilliant.