Where will Gervinho fit in to Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal formation?
Versatile Ivory Coast forward gives Gunners new options
With all the uncertainty surrounding who is coming and going at the Emirates this summer, there has at least been some concrete news in the form of Gervinho’s long-awaited arrival at Arsenal.
The Ivory Coast international has been training at London Colney this week having completed his protracted �10.6m move from French champions Lille.
Much like the arrival of Laurent Koscielny from Lorient a year ago, the 24-year-old’s move has taken a painfully long time to reach a conclusion.
Quite why Arsenal seem to take an eternity to achieve anything in the transfer market is something that is of growing concern to supporters, but at least they now have one new arrival confirmed.
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Make no mistake, Arsene Wenger has known all about Gervinho since the player came through the famed ASEC Abidjan academy run by the Arsenal manager’s close friend, Jean-Marc Guillou.
Gervinho, full name Gervais Yao Kouassi, even trod the familiar path for young Ivorian players of joining Arsenal’s Belgian feeder club, BSK Beveren, as an 18-year-old in 2005.
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He went on to play 61 games there, and scored 14 goals in his two seasons at the club, form which earned him a move to French side Le Mans in 2007.
By that time he had also made his international bow for Ivory Coast, and although he only scored 14 goals in 67 games at Le Mans, Lille came calling in the summer of 2009.
Two years later and Gervinho has completed an impressive career progression with a move to Arsenal, following 31 goals in 75 games for Lille, including 15 in their Ligue 1 triumph last season, their first for 57 years.
So what kind of player have Arsenal signed? One French scout described Gervinho as like a combination of Sylvain Wiltord and Robert Pires, which would certainly please Arsenal fans were it to be the case.
Gervinho spent much of last season playing on the right side of an attacking 4-3-3 formation, although he is comfortable on either flank.
He did not play at the front of that formation in the lone striker role, although he can operate as a second striker in a 4-4-2 formation.
That would suggest that Wenger sees him as more of a wide player unless, as has been suggested recently, the Gunners boss is considering returning to 4-4-2.
Presuming he keeps faith with the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 formation of the last couple of seasons, Robin van Persie would seem likely to continue in the main central striker’s role, with Marouane Chamakh as his understudy given that Nicklas Bendtner looks likely to depart.
Gervinho’s main attributes are his pace, his strength, and his finishing, while his direct running is also a feature of his game.
Whether or not Arsenal start the season with Samir Nasri and/or Cesc Fabregas, Gervinho would appear to be more in competition with the wide men, Theo Walcott and Andrey Arshavin.
Neither can count themselves as first-choice regulars now, with Walcott scoring an impressive 13 goals in 38 appearances last season, but again struggling with injury and lacking consistency.
Arshavin had a hugely disappointing campaign, and spent much of the second half of the season on the bench as Wenger preferred to use Nasri or even Bendtner on the left side of the attacking trio.
While Gervinho, like Emmanuel Eboue and possibly Cameroon’s Alex Song, will probably depart mid-season for the Africa Cup of Nations, Wenger will be hoping he provides extra competition in Arsenal’s attacking armoury and, most importantly, an added goal threat.