Monday, 24 October 2011

RVP stole the show but Gervinho’s performance won us the game

On Inside The Formation we'll look at an individual player's performance and analyse their input into the game. Joss Bennett looks at Gervinho's performance against Stoke City.



Two second-half goals from ‘Captain Vantastic’ Robin van Persie salvaged Arsenal’s pride and kept the confidence in the dressing room high as The Gunners moved up to seventh in the league, just two points behind big-spenders Liverpool.

But in truth, it was the outstanding Gervinho who won the game for Arsenal with the opening goal and two assists in a rounded and mature performance against a tough-tackling Stoke side who gave away twelve fouls*. The Ivorian ended the game with a 100% passing accuracy (completing all 22 passes)* and was a menace to the Stoke defence all game; dragging his full-back all over the pitch with a constant flurry of movement.

Starting on the left, Gervinho seemed to thrive on the movement of Marouane Chamakh, whose average position shows him dropping back to a deeper position than Aaron Ramsey. Indeed, Gervinho exploited the space the Morrocan striker made on two occasions early on – miscontrolling the ball for the first chance, but superbly finishing the second with a clinical touch Arsenal have lacked from players other than Van Persie this season.

Unlike a lot of players tend to do after an early goal – Arsenal players very much included – Gervinho didn’t stop there. The former Lille forward was the only player in the French Ligue 1 to reach double figures for both goals and assists and his performance against Stoke showed why; racking up three shots and bringing directness to Arsenal’s wing play with one successful dribble and four attempted crosses*.

One thing Marouane Chamakh didn’t bring to the side was an attacking threat in the box however. So when Van Persie came on, Gervinho took just six minutes to get the two assists he deserved in the final 20 minutes. While Gervinho’s playing-style could be criticised for being too simple, critics fail to realise this is exactly what Arsenal have lacked in recent years. Against Stoke he was constantly dropping back to play ‘one-twos’ before spinning away from his marker and looking to create chances with a pull-back or cross, or indeed taking a shot himself.


 by Guardian Chalkboards

Part and parcel of being a wide-forward at Arsenal is in-game swapping – Walcott/Arshavin, Chamakh/Van Persie, and Gervinho were constantly switching and Gervinho thrived in each role. Gervinho’s goal came from a centre-forward position, while his first assist came from a bit of skill and a low cross from the right. Finally, Arsenal’s third goal came as Van Persie moved in from the right-wing; Arshavin cut in towards the right with the ball and played in Gervinho on the left side of the box. Gervinho’s job was made simple by Van Persie’s movement in the box and the Gunners wrapped up victory with a classic counter-attack.

Of course there are also negatives to Gervinho’s game. The Ivorian will have to take a fair share of the blame for the equaliser for allowing Shawcross (who he was meant to be marking) to head back across goal from the free-kick completely unchallenged. Gervinho has also struggled to find consistency so far this season – a quiet performance against Dortmund in the Champions League (6.28 WhoScored rating) was followed by a goal and 7.58 rating against Blackburn, for example. Despite perhaps not dazzling pundits recently, however, Gervinho has been steadily improving – at least since the Tottenham game; picking up an assist in each of his last three games (including Stoke).

If Gervinho and Arsenal can push on from a very encouraging display against a side we usually struggle against, then the supposed “crisis” may well be over sooner than anticipated. Next week, Arsenal travel to Stamford Bridge and Gervinho will be looking to trouble José Bosingwa in the same way Sean Wright-Phillips did for QPR in their 1-0 win over Chelsea.

*OPTA statistics courtesy of WhoScored (who also provide ratings)

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.

Video produced by CWDailyGooner.
Culann Davies is founder, head writer and video editor of Arsenal blog CWDailyGooner - a site for all Gooners interested in analysis of Arsenal's first teamers, youngsters and loanees in video form. You can follow him on twitter and read his work at CWDailyGooner.



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