It’s hard not to pull a look of bemusement when you hear how former Arsenal player Gervinho is faring after his transfer to AS Roma. In his seven matches so far, he has already scored three goals and provided one assist — three if you count drawing two penalties.
During his two seasons in the Premier League, the Ivorian winger was better known for some astounding misses, slapping Joey Barton and prompting many “he couldn’t hit a-” statements. While seven games are too soon to really assess his season, it is a promising start. Gervinho’s darting runs seem to be outfoxing defenders instead of leading him to nowhere. His shots are finding the goal. Most importantly, he is slowly turning into a case for why clubs should take a chance on reviving other team’s players who are failing to live up to their hefty price tags.
Roma’s manager Rudi Garcia is mainly to thank for Gervnho’s change in fortune. The pair worked together before during Lille’s league and cup double-winning season. Here Gervinho put in the 34 goals and 14 assists that made Arsene Wenger willing to pay £10.6 million to bring him to the Premier League.
Arsenal’s set-up seemed perfectly suited for Gervinho to fit in. The trendy London club had a healthy Francophone constituent and there were no apparent rifts with teammates or management. Wenger practically wrote the modern guide on bringing in and developing promising foreign talent. Gervinho’s direct, attacking playing-style was similar to teammate Theo Walcott, who, while patchy at times, has been able to perform well for the side.
What it came down to was confidence, or a major lack of it. Gervinho felt that Wenger had “no confidence” in him, though supporters would argue the professor spent too much time trying to get the best out of his misfiring forward in the first season.
The decrease in playing time in his second season left him seeking first-team football elsewhere so as not to jeopardize his World Cup chances. While he may be missing out on Champions League football, Roma was more of a lateral move than a step down, especially considering he left before the Gunners had signed Germany star Mesut Özil.
In his first season in charge of the Italian side, Garcia had to practically twist the arm of Walter Sabatini, Roma’s sporting director, to sign Gervinho. At a reported transfer fee of £8million, Garcia might have even pitched it as a profit on his personal transfer record.
Gervinho has been respectful when speaking about his old club but honest enough to admit that he clearly was unsettled while there. His statements on the Champions League tie between Napoli and Arsenal have been used to cause a bit of a stir but really echo the same sentiment. It seems like more support for Italian football than an ungrateful jibe at Arsenal.
All three Roma goals have come from quick counter-attacking plays where the Ivorian could take advantage of the opposition defense’s frantic backtracking. The run for his second goal against Bologna was so impressive that opposition defender Mikael Antonsson could only watch on his stomach as the ball entered the goal.
After seven games, the Giallorossi have yet to lose or draw this season and after the international break they host second-place Napoli, a team also riding the wave of a new manager and his collection of some of Europe’s best castaway players. So Gervinho won’t be alone in terms of regained confidence but he definitely still has the most to show as far as what could have been at his previous club.