£11 million Arsenal flop continues Italian renaissance

Gervinho was at the centre of AS Roma’s crucial 2-1 victory over Fiorentina at the Stadio Olimpico.

The Giallorossi had remained unbeaten since losing talismanic captain Francesco Totti to a hamstring issue nearly two months ago, but had failed to win in four straight Serie A encounters previous to this weekend’s triumph.

Goals had dried up without the legendary native of the Italian capital in the line up, five strikes over his absence standing in stark contrast to the 22 netted prior to his sustaining of injury against Napoli on October 18, with boss Rudi Garcia forced to reshuffle his plans up front.

Gervinho similarly landed on the treatment table after limping off against Roma’s southern rivals on the same day, only returning in late November and regaining fitness over the past fortnight.

With Roma facing a talent-laden Fiorentina side on Sunday and desperately needing to return to winning ways to keep the pace with Juventus in the race for the Scudetto, Totti at last returned to the bench but was quite clearly not ready to take to the pitch.

However, the Ivorian winger made quite sure his side came out on top without the exalted Italian fully recovered.

His pace and trickery a severe menace to the attack-minded Viola, bursting forward forays both on and off the ball made him the chief threat for Roma throughout but it was his final product, so often the object of supporters’ malaise during his stint with Arsenal, that proved decisive.

A pair of surging runs to the byline saw Gervinho pull back for former Manchester City man Maicon and a resurgent Mattia Destro to turn home at close range, the first in the opening 10 minutes of the contest and the second coming midway through the second half with the score level at 1-1.

All told the ex-Gunner completed six dribbles over the 90 minutes and picked out a teammate with 79% of his passes, also playing a crucial role defensively in closing down counterpart Juan Cuadrado on a number of occasions.

It wasn’t the first time this campaign that the 26-year-old powered the capital outfit to success since his August move, having headlined victories over Sampdoria, Bologna and Inter to win the affection of the Giallorossi faithful after being initially greeted with scepticism.

His current situation at the Stadio Olimpico is a far cry from his final days at Arsenal, when he faced widespread criticism for not living up to expectations as supporters claimed he lacked the quality to succeed at the highest level, appearing reborn in Serie A.

Even Roma transfer guru Walter Sabatini reportedly expressed hesitance at pursuing the wide-man’s signature following a personal request from Garcia that he be brought in, yet the Frenchman was able to assure the club hierarchy doing so would be a shrewd move.

Gervinho’s star had first risen under his current coach at Le Mans and then Lille in Ligue 1 prior to his ill-fated sojourn to England, and it looks that Garcia indeed knows how to get the best out of the Ivorian as he continues to produce.

A renaissance indeed it’s been in Italy for the one-time object of frustration at the Emirates, with his Roma switch having provided the best for all parties involved.

And should it continue, Gervinho just might have found new home for years to come as he still has plenty left to prove on the pitch.

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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