Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Gervinho's directness is something we've missed from other players

Inside The Formation is a new feature on AshburtonGrove.co.uk for the 2011/12 season. We'll be asking a writer to look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Joss Bennett looks at Gervinho's role within the side at St James Park.

Arsenal’s only ‘major’ first-team signing this summer, Gervais Yao Kouassi, or simply ‘Gervinho’ had a mixed competitive debut.

In what was undoubtedly a difficult game in which to start his Arsenal career – putting aside his sending off - the Ivorian looked a little nervous throughout but did show some promising signs ahead of his first season in the Premier League (even if we’ll miss him for the next three games).

For a start, while Gervinho’s 79% pass accuracy against Newcastle seems impressive, Guardian’s chalkboards show that the majority of Gervinho’s passes were actually fairly simple passes linking up play.

EPL Index, for example, show that 16 of his 28 passes were on the wing (eight on each side) and that he didn’t attempt a single through-ball. Furthermore, his passing break-down shows that more than half of his passes went either backwards or sideways – with only 11 going forward.

Gervinho made plenty of simple passes on the wings, but lacked end product in the box.

On the other hand, Gervinho’s direct dribbling style rightly earned plaudits from ESPN’s studio analysts – he was successful in all four of his dribble attempts and as some Arsenal fans will already have seen in pre-season, this is one of his best attributes.

Indeed this was almost certainly one of the main reasons Wenger signed him - Gervinho’s best performance in the 2010/11 was no doubt the 3-1 win over Caen, where he had four shots on target, made two key passes (one assist), attempted nine dribbles and was named man of the match by a mile with an almost perfect 9.79
rating (by WhoScored).

But while dribbling is often a good way to break down a ‘parked bus’ on a cold, rainy day in Stoke, it means little if there is on end product. Somewhat surprisingly after his two goal haul against Koln and his assist against Boca Juniors at the Emirates Cup, end product was something Gervinho lacked against Newcastle.

Gervinho attempted just one shot (which was blocked), and completed only one of his (five attempted) crosses.

However, Gervinho’s seemingly disappointing crossing can also be put down to van Persie’s minimal ability in the air, and the general lack of bodies in the box at most points during last season, and again against Newcastle on Saturday.

Instead, we should perhaps be encouraged by Gervinho’s directness and forgive him for what seemed to be a nervous start to his Arsenal career.

Overall, Gervinho’s first competitive game for Arsenal suggests a sign of things to come from the forward – a rather inconsistent performance which started well, but lacked end product.

Last season, for example, the Ivorian missed 27 “clear-cut chances” compared to team-mate Eden Hazard’s modest six. On the other hand, Gervinho also scored in 15 “clear-cut chances”.

However, his ability to get into goal-scoring positions – as pointed out by Wenger on several occasions –
is clear, as together with centre forward Moussa Sow, he contributed to 59% of all Lille’s goals (goals + assists) during the 2010/2011 season while he was also the only player in Ligue 1 to get into double-figures for both goals and assists.

Joss Bennett is co-editor and head writer of Arsenal blog Arsenal Report - a site for all Gooners interested in tactics, stats and the inner workings of the club. You can follow him on twitter and his read is work at Arsenal Report.

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