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Midweek Moan: Why Arsenal fans need to lay off Gervinho

Arsenal's Gervinho. Photo: Stephen Pond/EMPICS Sport Arsenal's Gervinho. Photo: Stephen Pond/EMPICS Sport

Thursday, January 24, 2013
2:24 PM

Arsenal fans everywhere rubbed their eyes in disbelief when Gervinho popped up with a stunning late winner for Ivory Coast in Tuesday’s Africa Cup of Nations clash against Togo.

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With just two minutes left on the clock and the match delicately poised at 1-1, Yaya Toure launched a looping free kick into the Togo box. It sailed beyond the far post and was met with perfect timing by Gervinho, whose expertly arrowed finish flashed off the outside of his right boot and into the net.

It was a piece of technical excellence the like of which has rarely been seen from the beleaguered Arsenal winger since his arrival at the Emirates in 2011.

But the goal served as a reminder that the 25-year-old is a footballer more than capable of moments of inspiration and invention.

Anyone who has watched him in Arsenal colours this season, however, could be excused for disagreeing.

After an encouraging start to the campaign in which he hit five goals in seven games, Gervinho’s performances have gone from bad to worse.

With his erratic style and questionable decision-making growing increasingly frustrating with every poor performance, Gervinho has become a joke among football fans.

But how could a player once so highly-regarded be reduced to a laughing stock so quickly?

In the 2010/2011 season, French side Lille romped to their first title win since the 1950s with Gervinho and Eden Hazard operating on either flank.

With 15 league goals and 11 assists, the Ivorian’s contribution even overshadowed that of the Belgian, who scored just seven times despite playing three more games.

Gervinho had proved devastating in the previous season too, when he scored 13 times and laid on nine assists as Lille finished fourth. He also captained Ivory Coast at the 2008 Olympic Games, and scored twice at the 2010 World Cup.

All this was enough to convince Arsene Wenger to part with around £10million to bring him to Arsenal.

But while Chelsea’s Hazard - ball-boy attacking aside - has enhanced his reputation since swapping Ligue 1 for the Premier League, Gervinho’s has been left in tatters.

As the Gunners’ trophy drought has rumbled on and key players have departed, discontent among Arsenal fans has intensified.

Wenger finds himself under mounting pressure, but the fans have directed their ire at players too, with the likes of Emmanuel Eboue, Marouane Chamakah and now Gervinho on the receiving end of ferocious criticism in recent seasons.

With Eboue sold to Galatasaray and Chamakh now loaned to West Ham, Gervinho has assumed the role of chief scapegoat.

While these players may have their limitations, there is no doubt that the hostile treatment has played a part in their declines.

Gervinho has not enjoyed the best of luck at Arsenal, starting with a red card on his debut against Newcastle, but if Arsenal fans want to see him improve he’ll need their support.

While some footballers have the thick-skin to ignore criticism from the stands, some are more vulnerable.

So it is no surprise to see Gervinho doing well on international duty, away from the jeers and groans which greet every misplaced pass at the Emirates.

Indeed, the Africa Cup of Nations has come at the perfect time for Gervinho as he bids to rebuild his battered confidence and self-belief.

He can be maddeningly frustrating, but his pace and unpredictability can also be devastatingly effective when combined with confidence.

If Arsenal fans want to see Gervinho light up the Emirates like he lit up Rustenburg’s Royal Bafokeng Stadium against Togo, they must back him, not barrack him.

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Arsenal

Nickname: The Gunners.

Ground: Emirates Stadium (capacity 60,361).

Founded: 1886.

Honours: First Division (until 1992) and Premier League: 1931, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1938, 1948, 1953, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2004.

FA Cup: 1930, 1936, 1950, 1971, 1989, 1991, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2005.

League Cup: 1987, 1993.

Fairs Cup: 1970.

Cup Winners’ Cup: 1994.

Leading goalscorer: Thierry Henry, 228.

Leading appearances: David O’Leary, 722.