Friday 18 August 2017

Gervinho brightens Gunners' horizons as Barca wait on Cesc

Jeremy Wilson

Gervinho. Just the name hints at fantasy. Born Gervais Yao Kouassi, he was awarded his sobriquet as a 14-year-old by a Brazilian coach at the renowned ASEC Mimosas academy in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast.

It was at the time when Ronaldinho was emerging as the outstanding individual in world football and, even at such a young age, there was a sense that Gervinho possessed comparable technical skill.

The name has stuck and, a decade later, Gervinho is poised for his own opportunity to showcase himself at Arsenal, who were yesterday finalising a £10.7m deal with Lille.

Arsene Wenger has promised a busy summer in the transfer market and, amid the discontent that surrounds Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri, this is Arsenal's first really positive statement since Stan Kroenke became majority owner in April.

That it should be in the form of a mercurial forward rather than an experienced centre-half is typical Wenger.

According to those who have closely followed Gervinho in recent seasons, another entertainer is on his way to the Emirates.

Having developed many of his skills while playing barefoot on the streets of Anyama, there is a pace and swagger to his approach that remains the hallmark of many of the best African players.

It is that unpredictability which has attracted Wenger, who watched with increasing concern as the likes of Birmingham, Blackburn and Sunderland made Arsenal look uncharacteristically one-dimensional at critical moments of last season.

"He is a very exciting, flamboyant and attacking player," said Julien Laurens, a football writer for French newspaper 'Le Parisien'. "He is the sort of player who is comfortable dribbling with the ball and he is definitely a showman. He is ideally suited to Arsenal and their style."

Kolo Toure, who plays in the Ivory Coast national team alongside Gervinho, even makes the comparison with Samuel Eto'o.

"Gervinho is very skilful, he's young, swift and technical," said Toure. "I call him the next Eto'o."

With Lille winning a league and cup double in France, Gervinho finished an outstanding season with 18 goals and, equally important to Wenger, a total of 10 assists. That he will add creativity is not in question. The recurring note of caution, however, surrounds his consistency.

Gervinho's impact for Lille diminished during the middle two months of last season and, at 24, he remains unproven in the Champions League. "He will score some incredible goals but there will also be moments when you do not see much of him," said Laurens.

"The one question would be over his consistency but he is at an age where there is still scope for big improvement."

Barcelona, meanwhile, are prepared to wait until transfer deadline day if necessary to complete the signing of Fabregas and have no plans to improve their offer before the player goes on Arsenal's pre-season tour of Asia on Sunday.

Barca's vice-president Josep Bartomeu said last night: "The experience of the last few years and of last season shows us that we have right up until the last minute before the season starts (to sign players). We made signings very late last season. We have the best team in the world so we can afford to be patient."

Barca signed Javier Mascherano on August 30 last year and with him now a fixture in the squad alongside the 19-year-old star of Spain's U-21 European Championships, Thiago Alcantara, they have even less reason to go elsewhere for midfield reinforcements to add to first-choice trio Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets, if Fabregas does not arrive. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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