Wigan Preview: Gervinho Talks The Talk – Time To Walk The Walk
Arsenal head to the DW Stadium this afternoon ready to show their critics have far this season has turned around. The big test, we were told, is how they react to defeat. That happened on Tuesday and today is the answer. The squad remains intact with no new injuries, Diaby out for another week which is sooner than Ryo will return whilst Tomas Rosicky is on his way back to fitness but has yet to reach his final destination. It is, largely, as you were.
Which is fine by me. The tweaks after last weekend’s performance will happen with most of those concerned having had a week’s rest, training aside. One man who did not was Gervinho. Speaking to The Guardian , the Ivorian is another who says that which you expect to hear but adds a tougher realism to his words,
Ivory Coast is like Arsenal. We have not won a tournament since 1992 so that’s a number of years. We’ve got good players and it’s very similar to the situation at Arsenal. Every time we approach a tournament, we say we are going to win it and then we miss out.
To be honest, the ACN is a double-edged sword for Arsenal. We have seen what can happen to players if a tournament does not go as expected, today’s visit to Wigan brings back memories of 2008s visit and a ploughed field with an unfit Kolo Toure. That, of course, is not the norm; key players missing during a busy time of the season is never good. And an entirely selfish view as well, parochial. Yes and a known risk. Wenger will have weighed the loss of his key player for a month to the other eight in a season. And thus far you would have to say that the risk is worth it.
And he is hungry for silverware. His desire to win is a refreshing change to last season’s players talking of the same thing, more believable:
We’re going to try and win everything. All of England expects Arsenal to win something and so do the fans. The league, the Champions League, the FA Cup … we can win it all. Everything is possible. The most important thing is to win a trophy or two by the end of the season and that’s what I want. I really got the taste for winning titles at Lille.
Perhaps he is more believable because he is not tarnished by the same failures as last season. Perhaps it is because he is not saying the right thing looking at you whilst conniving an exit when you have turned away. Maybe it is simply that he has won something at club level. At least he has recognised the levels of expectation placed on his shoulder and having been at the club since the Summer, he might well be aware of the disappointments that are vocalised when things do not go to plan.
His words this morning suggest a new steel to those of Johan Djourou,
I think that people write us off but as an Arsenal player I am still fighting for it. I know my team-mates are as well. We need to get into a good position, take it game by game and anything is possible – the season doesn’t finish until May. There’s a long way to go
It is hard to articulate but there is a feeling that this set of players – the combination of characters, leadership and events – has forged a toughness that the previous groups lacked. More and more, last season’s failure finds its focus drawn to the mental attitude of those who wanted away.
Back to Gervinho. The directness of his play, the unpredictability – let’s be honest, not all of his team-mates know what he is going to do so how can an opponent – have added a different dimension to Arsenal’s attacking play. Yet the goals are not there. The opportunities have but the finishes whether by ill-fortune or bad timing, have not. Like other wider players before him – and no doubt after as well – the Ivorian has not yet provided an outlet for goals. This is key and not unique to him.
Arsenal are not a one-man team and others do chip in with goals, just not often enough. With the form Robin van Persie is in, that is not surprising. Reliance upon an in-form player is not unique to Arsenal but there is a pattern over recent seasons of talented players not scoring their share of the goals and in tight games, that is often crucial; for example last weekend’s point against Fulham. A decent enough performance but with van Persie shackled, Walcott, Arshavin, Arteta or Gervinho needed to come up with something and it did not happen. This highlights the need for that little bit extra; a ten-to-fifteen goal a season player to augment those who don’t make double-figures and van Persie’s total. For me, Gervinho looks likeliest to be that man. If Theo can manage that as well, it is as potent an attacking force as anywhere else in the division.
Arsène is not planning on adding to his forward line to cover the ACN though. Quite why anyone is surprised by the public backing of his squad is beyond me. What is the manager going to say? “Yes, we will sign because Chamakh, Park and Arshavin despite being good players have all suddenly become sh*t“? That anyone would expect him to say that he is after a striker baffles me and leaves me utterly humourless. And more to the point, if you read the context he was only talking of forwards, not of other positions before anyone takes that route.
So to this afternoon. Wigan are horribly out of form, having lost their last four home games and not won on their own turf since August’s 2-0 victory over Queen’s Park Rangers. Last weekend’s victory at Sunderland will have bouyed them and Arsenal cannot afford to be lacklustre. These are players used to battling for relegation; at least Roberto Martinez has avoided the trap that many at the wrong end of the table fall into and his charges play the ball not the man.
Arsenal’s record at Wigan is not brilliant in recent years; 1 win in their last 4 visits. That win was the last time that the goalkeeper was not Lukasz Fabianski; will Szczesny fare better in Cheshire? I expect the line-up to be:
Szczesny; Koscielny, Mertesacker, Vermaelen, Santos; Ramsey, Song, Arteta; Walcott, van Persie, Gervinho
Enjoy the match wherever you are watching it. ’til Tomorrow.