From Arsenal flop to Roma revelation - Gervinho is becoming a surprise Serie A star

Many in England remember the Ivorian as a failure, but his early form in Italy suggests Rudi Garcia knows what he's doing with his ex-Lille charge
By Kris Voakes

In January, Gervinho told Goal that he wanted to become Arsenal’s greatest ever signing. By July he was gone, destined to be remembered by most Premier League fans as the latest in a long list of players that simply never quite did it for the Gunners.

He famously suffered from self-doubt at Arsenal, with manager Arsene Wenger regularly suggesting the 26-year-old’s questionable form in front of goal was down to a lack of confidence. But it appeared that the more the problem was highlighted, the less likely it was to ever disappear. Wenger had shown a lack of understanding in how to best deal with Gervinho and, as a result, had lost any hope of getting the best out of him.

Gervinho was one of the major factors behind Lille win Ligue 1. During season 2010-11 he was arguably the most decisive player in France - perhaps even more so than Eden Hazard - scoring 15 goals as les Dogues won the title.

There can be little doubt that Garcia's style suited him down to the ground. He thrived playing in Lille's fast, attacking game and was no doubt aided by the fact that Hazard was often on the other wing offering a dual threat and sucking away much of the defenders' attentions.

However, he did not even get nominated for the shortlist of three for the Ligue 1 Player of the Season, a decision at which he publicly expressed his disgust.

When Garcia signed him for Le Mans from Beveren, he helped to cut away some of his more raw edges. He was initially prone to making poor decisions when he arrived in France and this was slowly worked out of him by the coach, although this propensity would return at Arsenal.

His relationship with Garcia has always been very good - otherwise he would not have signed him three times already! Even when he's had his little tantrums - a red card in a crucial game in Nancy that Lille lost in 2011 stands out - Garcia has backed him in the media.

- Robin Bairner

But now Gervinho is a man reborn.

Three goals in Serie A, including two in last Sunday’s 5-0 trouncing of Bologna, have helped his new Roma side to maintain a 100 per cent record over their first six matches. A small sample size though it might be, there can be no doubting that Gervinho’s run of excellent form on the wing and the sight of Rudi Garcia on the Giallorossi bench are interlinked.

Suddenly, the man who couldn’t hit a barn door with a banjo in Arsenal colours can seemingly do no wrong in Rome. From pilloried to praised in the space of a few short months, the Ivorian personifies Rudi’s Roma thus far. Where once there was a lack of belief, now there is hope for better things ahead. While nobody is getting giddy with title talk - nor even whispers of a return to the Champions League - there is a very real sense that the Frenchman is steering the wagon back onto the tracks.

And in Gervinho he has a player he has got the best out of before - on more than one occasion. Having first brought him into French football as a 20-year-old at Le Mans in 2007, Garcia made the Ivorian a key part of his project in Lille as les Dogues clinched their first Ligue 1 championship in 57 years.

During those two spells with Garcia, Gervinho had clearly progressed as a player and as an asset. An anaemic goalscoring record in his formative days at Le Mans had been cultivated into a glowing one at the Stade Metropole; in two seasons at LOSC, he netted 28 goals. If Arsenal fans were eventually left wondering what the appeal had been in the first place, that was it.

At Lille, Gervinho was a winger with an eye for goal who tapered perfectly with Eden Hazard. More than that, he was a footballer in his element. Entrusted with the job of getting at opposition defenders, and injected with the full confidence of a coach who seemed to know exactly what he was capable of, he delivered on a regular basis. And now that he has been reunited with his master, the apprentice looks like that same thrilling wide man once more.

There is no such thing as a certainty in football, but if anyone can get the best out of Gervinho it is Rudi Garcia. And high-flying Roma could yet reap further benefits from the pair having been reunited at Trigoria.

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