Gervinho: nice to see you again

By Walter Broeckx

With the signing of Gervinho looking very much on the cards  (according to L’Equipe Arsenal are holding talks with in Lille since Wednesday) I will be trying to give you a bit of a view on my memory of  him. Because for most readers I suspect Gervinho is a player who you have never seen play before. And so I am a bit proud to say to you that I have seen him play at “De Freethiel” in Beveren.

Most Arsenal fans will have heard the name Beveren before. As you will remember Arsenal had some kind of partnership with this Belgium club for many years. The partnership was eventually stopped by Uefa regulations but it was a great time for Belgium based Arsenal Gooners in fact.

It meant that Arsenal would come around in pre season games with what could be called a Carling cup side to Beveren to play a friendly pre-season fixture. I was  always there (except when I was on holiday in that period) as it gave us a chance in those days to see a live game of Arsenal from the stands. And I remember seeing the then very young guns like  Cesc, Kolo Toure  and Van Persie play at Beveren.

Now Beveren itself was a rarity in Belgium football. It was a small town club with an old stadium apart from one new stand. The strangest of stadium configuration with one high, big brick wall covering almost 1/3 of the length of the pitch on one side for many years. But they managed to become champions a few times in the seventies and eighties and to win some cups. But then it went downhill until Beveren formed a partner ship with Jean Marc Gillou and the Ivory Coast link became visible.

And then we had the fact that Beveren was the first team in Belgium football history to field an “all black” team.  Almost all the players came from Ivory Coast in those days and started a career in Belgium. And in some seasons they had an Arsenal player loaned to them. So I felt a bit of sympathy for this little club in those days.  But the way those Ivory Coast players played the game was amazing.

They were young and fresh and brought some enthusiasm with them. They were skilful, full of trickery and always played an open and attacking game. It was a shock compared to the more boring playing style we had in Belgium in those days. Oh, and for most of the time we still have it.   Many of the now well known players all over Europe played in the little town and for the little club Beveren and started their European career over there.

I must admit in those days that when I wanted to go to see a game in Belgium I usually chose to go to Beveren. And there were many clubs in the Jupiler League much closer to my home than Beveren but they had something magic about them. You never knew what you would get. From brilliant attacking to allowing very bad goals.

And in those days I have seen the likes of Eboue, Yaya Toure,  Romaric, Diallo, Dissa, play over there at the start of their career.

In fact the last real player that has made who came to Beveren was Gervinho. At that time I think Uefa had stopped Arsenal in participating at Beveren (or was about to stop them) and the Ivory Coast project was fading away.

Gervinho came to Beveren as a 17-18 year old young boy. But despite his young age he became a player who was almost always in the team. He played some 61 games in his two season in Belgium and he scored  some 14 goals in those 2 seasons.  And what I remember of him was that he was a player with a lot of tricks and technique. Fast on the ball. But not the best finished in the world. But this was something Beveren was famous for in those days. They created a lot of chances but missed also a lot of chances. But they did managed a few famous victories in those days.

After his first season at Beveren there was some interest from some teams to get him. Utrecht was very interested in signing him. And he also could have moved to London then because …Arsenal wanted him in those days. In fact it was written in the Belgium papers that in the January transfer window the president of Beveren had been going to London and Arsenal wanted to buy Gervinho. But the manager of Beveren in those days was determined that he should stay in Beveren. And the manager won the fight and Gervinho stayed in Beveren.

At the end of his second season Beveren was in turmoil. Because of all the better players, apart from Gervinho, had been leaving in the years before and the new players didn’t have the same quality Beveren went down. And then Gervinho left them and went to France. He went to Le Mans where he also played a big part and scored a few goals. And then moved on to Lille.

And his current record at Lille doesn’t look that bad. 36 goals in 92 games so far. 1 goal in 3 games is not that bad I would think. So if he can keep up this record we should have another player who can score some 10-15 goals a season.

So if Gervinho comes it will be for most of you a completely new face. For me it will be a bit strange to think that I have seen him play at “De Freethiel” in front of crowds of some 6.000 people and now I will see him at the Emirates in front of some 60.000 people. For me it will be a  bit more of seeing an old boy back who now has become a man.

And for those who wonder what happened to Beveren after their relegation. Well it got from bad to worse. Players leaving, no more money, no funds. They were very close to going bankrupt and then they even had to merge with another local team to survive. But last season things slowly started getting better again. They had a great start in the second Belgium division which secured them a play off place at the end of the season. In those play offs they finished with the same points as Bergen. So a final test game between those two had to decide who would come back to the Jupiler League. Unfortunately Beveren lost that last game. But the future does look a bit brighter over there for the moment. Certainly when compared to the years after Gervinho left them.

And for those who wonder about his current hair cut: in those days at first he didn’t have the special hair cut that he has now.

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35 Replies to “Gervinho: nice to see you again”

  1. This was a delightful article. Thank you for the insight into Gervinho. I now have a rough idea of what to expect from him.

    However, I’m a little concerned about something. You mentioned that Gervinho isn’t an outstanding finisher. My question is, isn’t that the missing piece in our team? A clinical finisher to tap in the simple goals and get at the end of every loose pass?

    Also, in your opinion what does Gervinho bring into the team that we don’t already have?

    Would love to hear your views on this.

    Cheers 🙂

  2. To be fair Bendtner’s record doesn’t look bad either. However, it is hard to come by records that list missed chances, from what i have seen of Gervinho, he also misses far more than he takes. However, i also think that he been bought as a support striker to RVP and Chamakh or as wide player of the fornt 3. He will occupy either of those positions better than Bendtner who is neither a winger or a “no.10”

  3. Abishek,

    I think Gervinho is a player that will not only score something between 10-15 goals a season but he will also make the same amount of goals for others.
    But you have to remember in those days at Beveren he was some 18 years old and wasn’t cool enough in front of goal. But such things only get better with age. Just look at Drogba his statistics in his early days. In fact Drogba only started scoring goals when he was around 25 years old. I see a similar pattern in the career of Gervhino. In fact Gervinho his statistic is now already much better tan Drogba was around this moment in his career.

    It is also important that he can play from the flanks or in the centre. My personal opinion is he will play from the flanks. But I am not a Wenger so I leave it up to the manager to give him the best position.
    Interesting about the rumours about us signing Alvarez from Velez Sarsfield as he looks a bit of a similar player to Gervinho.
    I wrote the article before the rumours appeared in the media. Or will we buy them both? Who knows

  4. You’re right. I overlooked the fact that he’s come a long way since then and will obviously be a more complete player now. You’re spot on about Drogba. Infact, drogba had a very similar reputation to Gervinho back in his days at France. He was never a target man but really worked on his finishing at Chelsea. The end product is evident.

    Ok so let us assume what you’re saying is right.. that he will end up playing on the flanks (i believe this too). In your opinion, will this solve our problem of being a little off at the final third?

    To be very honest, I’m a little apprehensive about Alvarez. I’ve only seen videos of him on the net, but from whatever I’ve seen he doesnt seem to be the physical sort. Also, unlike Theo, Alvarez doesnt seem to have a low centre of gravity. Do you think this might be a problem at Arsenal.. or is it something that can be rectified in a month or 2?

  5. not the first time ive heard that hes poo at finishing. not good and will be frustrating to say the leeest.
    which still baffles me becos all they do is kick balls 24/7 so id have to agree that he’s most likely gonna feature on the flanks as he has pace, skill and isnt afraid to take players on, with theo moving further forward which suits me fine. i think he can become a 20 goal man. plus from what ive red mr please just go bald has a 90 min battle attitude which should make him a fan fav the same way chamack season started.

    ricardo im not so sure about, seems like a risk to me given his injuries plus wouldnt he be behind nasri and shavin? i guess if they were both brought in the attacking combinations whould bee ridiculous. the opposition wood find it hard knowing who to mark i think.

    biswas as i said above i fink theo will fill the clinical finisher role, i at least hope so, he aint wearing 14 for nowt i reckon.

  6. Exactly and how old was henry wen he came to arsenal and wenger put him in the middle from a difficult period on the wing…22/23, now is theos turn!

  7. I think Gervinho’s a solid signing, he’s unlikely to be a star player but definitely adds something. He has pace, he’s quite skillful, he both scores and assists (15 goals and 10 assists from the right wing last season), he’s versatile, works hard for the team, good fitness record, already experienced but still young enough to improve, practiced in the 4-3-3.

    I’m not surprised to see that most aren’t too excited about him, but I think he ticks a lot of boxes. Should add good depth to the squad and give Wenger extra options and combinations.

  8. To my lights, we ought look to focus/spend in this context: on those who have already demonstrated clinical finishing, and on players who can partake in combinations with potential to defeat the omnipresent parked bus. This plus offensive players who have demonstrated or likely commitment to a Barca-like swarming defense that helps lessen the other side’s forays into our final third.

    On a related note, I think UA/we should consider an entire posting on suggested ways to overcome the parked bus and which players are out there – including our own – who can be creative or rugged or whatever combination enough to do so. And, how to practice this in the pre-season as we have not shown the capacity to overcome it in the last season.

  9. The puzzle peices are coming up together now. It is obvious that Alverez is being bought for the left wing position. We all know that this means that Nasri will play in the Mid position since Fabregas will be off to Barca or Whoever this year. Honestly, i feel that it is time for Fab to go since he is intimidating the other players with his instable state of mind. Players are always afraid and under pressure to give results so that he wouldnt want to leave. Gervinho will go for the middle ot the right wing to replace Bendtner. The thing that pisses me off is that so far i have heared no news about the departure of Diaby. This fellow should head out along with Denilson,squillachi. I am really sad for Bendtner since i have a good feeling that we will regret his departure in 2 years.

  10. @bob
    Regarding the ‘parked bus’, I don’t think breaking that down comes to individuals, it’s only a concerted team effort that can reliably break through such deep, packed defences. There’s probably no one individual, not even Messi, who can regularly find a way through a team which has put 9/10 men in and around its own penalty box, be that through dribbling, or long range shooting, or crossing, etc.

    I believe it has to be done through very quick and incisive passing, lightning quick combinations that pull players out of position and opens up spaces. To achieve that you need a group of players all of whom have superb technique and a strong understanding of one another.

    I also believe we make it worse for ourselves at time, we can push teams back into their box and compress the space when we should look to tease them out and open the spaces. Again that’s perhaps down to the collective team intelligence and experience not being as highly attuned as the likes of Utd or Chelsea or Barca, despite our individuals being just as talented, if not more so. Barcelona in particular are so good at using not just the width but the length of the pitch to stretch teams and create the space they want; they’ll happily pass the ball around the halfway line (seemingly without menace) but they are looking to attract players towards them and away from their own goal, increasing the space between the opposition’s defence and midfield they want to operate in. Arsenal on the other hand seem to get more easily suckered in to passing the ball around 15-20 yards further forward, pushing the opposition’s midfield back and creating a brick wall on the edge of the penalty box.

  11. i agree with bob to an extent, above all else i would like to see us imitate barcas swarming defence (bumble bee defence tactic?/dumble bee?) throughout the season right up until season end. from what i remember we did at the start of last season but for some reason it faded away to much disappointment.
    i think with the parked bus it will take confidence illustrated in nasri rvp and cesc to unlock.
    players jus need to take a risk instead of playing safe at times. though that will come with age. i wouldnt consider it a problem as apart from the last few games we had no trouble scoring.

  12. @Wrenny: I think your analysis on the parked bus problem is great. Learned a lot from it. Cheers!

  13. @ak47: I appreciate your comment. My fears on the parked bus would be less that we can’t score against it, but that we can’t score enough against it. Basically I fear that we get frustrated, profligate, out of ideas and wind up in too many draws. I don’t know how many of those draws were down to parked-bus scenarios, but everyone from mid-table down (and ManUre going defensive on us) has been parking the bus and I don’t see it stopping until we find a way through/around/even under.

  14. Very interesting post. I am based in Germany and always drove to Beveren to watch the pre season Arsenal games. I still have many “close up” photo’s of Arsenal’s young stars who played there.

  15. It would be good to feel re-assured that the parked-bus and the set-piece are massive objects of pre-season training; and that there are people who can assist in these, especially when our side does not have players who can do these in practice, as it is outside of their accustomed/natural styles.

  16. @Wrenny

    Players like Messi defeat the ‘parked bus’ time after time. You don’t score 53 goals in a season without being able to individually beat defensive systems like men behind the ball. Shots from distance, pulling defenders out of place with dribbling and constant movement means that even one player can disrupt the defensive shape of a team. Only the most tactically astute teams (like Inter) are able to keep the bus parked for 90 mins under constant pressure. It only takes one error for a goal to be scored.

  17. @bob
    Thanks, I’ve started taking an interest in football tactics but I’m far from an expert on these things 😀 there’s plenty of good tactical blogs around that discuss these much better than I could.

    Another point about Barca though (I know I bang on about them, but I think if there’s one team whose aspects of play we should borrow/learn from it’s them rather than Chelsea or Utd, despite the difference between PL and La Liga). Once they’ve created that pocket of space behind the opposition midfield and have the ball in in that area (usually with Messi), as they bear down on the defence at speed they have a small window of opportunity to score before the opposition’s back-tracking midfield arrive to help their poor defenders. Once that happens there will be a lot more bodies in that congested central area and Barca will find it difficult to break through. Most other teams in that situation would then try and force a way through or around those bodies, usually by crossing the ball or have a shot from outside the box. That is highly inefficient though and much more likely to just turnover the ball to the opposition instead of creating a goal, so Barca don’t do it (Arsenal also refrain from this but it’s deemed to be ‘wrong’ and ‘trying to walk it in the net’ when we do it, yet wonderful and to be applauded when Barca stick to their principles in this way. Typical, eh?). Instead, once they’ve seen that the opposition are too tight and compressed for them to do anything, Barca keep the ball, take it back to the halfway line, and stretch out the opposition again.

  18. Why would that mean Cesc is going? Is this because The Sun has called Alvarez “the new Cesc”, even though they’re nothing alike?

  19. @wrenny

    Too many in the midfield, nasri may sit in the middle and with Alvarez on the left or could it mean Arshavins days are numbered?

    Rosicky,Ramsey,Jack,diaby also there me thinks someone has to go.

  20. @bob
    There’s a few I have bookmarked, and there’s a number of high quality Arsenal-specific tactics focused blogs so we’re quite lucky. I would recommend anyone interested in tactics to bookmark all of these below, and new articles don’t come thick and fast like they do on Untold if you’re worried about not being able to keep up.

    Arsenal Report

    Arsenal Column

    The Backwards Gooner:

    Desi Gunner

    For a general tactics blog, is excellent. He covers club football all over Europe, South America, Internationals, etc. Very well written and insightful. is interesting too, not so much tactics but they write some interesting analysis pieces based on all the stats they compile.

  21. I`ll leave `tactical analysis`to others it would only lead me into trouble.Suffice to say I support the `wolf pack` approach.

  22. @Walter: great article and insights.
    And I for one will welcome Gervinho with great hopes.
    Hope at least one more ex-Beveren /Beerschot will sign.

  23. I share the hope Ivory.
    I think Jan Vertonghen would be a great signing. But nothing mentioned in the press over here about that one.

  24. @Walter, all: Anyone find any names of Referees caught up in the Greek (football) Tragedy as yet? Were matches with EPL teams involved in the 41 bent matches (that UEFA!! itself identified as “suspicious”)? Is it all a diversion from Greece’s acute economic crisis? Is the level of corruption a symptom of that economic crisis?
    Perhaps UEFA’s own Webb-Master – that (indeed, Webb-endorsed) Ref who saw no choke holds but pooped red oover RvP’s post-whistle shot) – now that would be Headlines around here, no?

  25. @Ivory Goonz: you seem to dismiss Wrenny’s analysis as much ado about nothing: “handball tactics, used for decades, nothing new…”
    But do you find anything useful in any of it that might help Arsenal? and if not, why not? I’d like to hear your analysis of what is useful or not in Wrenny’s analysis. Where someone takes the time and effort to set forth something thoughtful, then, even if you disagree, why not set forth your specifics instead of a quickie drive-by?

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