Gervinho Will Be Vital To Arsenal's Strong Finish To The Season

Hey may've become the butt of jokes in recent months, but the Ivorian will be crucial to Arsenal securing a top four finish and a return to the Champions League.
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Hey may've become the butt of jokes in recent months, but the Ivorian will be crucial to Arsenal securing a top four finish and a return to the Champions League.

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All of the statistics before the Arsenal - Reading match on Saturday pointed to goals; the two previous meetings between the sides, both at the Madejski Stadium, heralded 19 goals, while the Gunners had earlier beaten new Royals boss Nigel Adkins' old side Southampton 6-1 at the Emirates.

Adkins' Southampton team had shown signs of being less naive in the meeting between the two at St Mary's, with the Saints showing much more defensive resolution than they had in their early season thrashing. Here, however, Adkins' side were cut open time and time again by Arsene Wenger's men.

The key tormentors were Gervinho and Santi Cazorla; the Spaniard laid on a goal for Gervinho in the first half, before the Ivorian repaid the favour early in the second. He set up Giroud for a third, before his replacement, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, won a penalty, which Mikel Arteta converted.

Reading had grabbed what turned out to be a consolation through Hal Robson-Kanu, but other than that barely threatened Lukasz Fabianski in goal. Arsenal were able to focus on attacking - unlike in their last two games. Bayern Munich and Swansea both dominated possession on their own grounds with Arsenal emerging 2-0 winners against each side, so it was going to be interesting to see how this slightly different-looking Arsenal side did with the onus on them.

Quite well, as it turned out - the key positive, in addition to good individual showings from Aaron Ramsey, Gervinho and others, was the interplay between players, which was a joy to watch. The Gunners could have done with being more clinical; several chances went begging, but the main thing is that the chances were created, and stylishly so.

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Often, they've struggled to break teams down this season, but there were no such problems against Reading. The Royals may not have made it too difficult for them, but it was still great to see one-touch moves between the likes of Ramsey, Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky. The tendency to overplay reared its ugly head once again, but happily for Arsenal, it mattered not.

Playing a midfielder in Santi Cazorla out wide seemed to help Arsenal find balance - with Gervinho, the more classic winger, on the right, the guile and technique of Cazorla on the left balanced things out well, and he was able to cut inside and dovetail with the rest of the attackers well, which is what happened for goals one and two for Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger has often favoured balance on the wings, with one direct option and one technical. Yossi Benayoun came to the fore near the end of the season last year, helping his side reach the Champions League from the left wing, and it may be that Cazorla plays a similar role. The Spaniard seems to be hitting form just at the right time.

On the other side, Gervinho looked to be building confidence as he recorded a goal and two assists. He looked unsure of himself at times, but he's a classic confidence player, and adding to his tally will no doubt help him in the coming weeks. He constantly got into dangerous positions, worrying Reading defenders who didn't know what he was going to do next. Probably because he himself didn't quite know either - but that unpredictability seems to work quite well for him at times.

It's been a topsy-turvy season for Arsenal - as soon as they hit form, they seem to hit a blip, and just as they seem down and out, they string together a few wins. It's been three in a row for the Gunners now, with all being very encouraging performances too. With Chelsea slipping up and Tottenham still in reach, it could be a good end to the season for them.