I figured that since the Interlull continues, and we're all bored out of our damn skulls waiting for the Arsenal to come back, I'd try to start a new trendy feature here at The Short Fuse. I got this idea from similar things 7500 to Holte and Toblerone Jones have done (among others, I assume...but these are the people who inspired me); the hardest part was coming up with an inventive title for the whole thing. I went with something that I learned on the Indianapolis punk message boards as a youth (read: the past couple of years). So, without any further ado, Gervinho appresh thread go!
I like new players. It's part of why, against all odds, I actually sort of enjoy the transfer madness that gets planted around this time of year and grows slowly into a maniacal, horrifically beautiful monster flower in January. The first time a new player puts on the shirt it's pure potential and possibility - you know nothing of what's to come, whether a player could grow into one of the greatest in the club's history, or just a footnote. But you hope for glory.
I have no idea what Gervinho's final place in Arsenal lore will be. Obviously that's impossible to predict, and at some point in the future I may turn on him, like I've had to turn on other players I've liked in the past. It's early, but I am a dyed-in-the-wool Gervinho fanboy already. He's not the best player in the world, and he certainly isn't a perfect player. But his strengths are almost perfectly aligned with the things I love most in a footballer.
First of all, he's fast. Speed is possibly my favorite thing. I don't know what it is, but there's just something about watching a person move really quickly that's entrancing. Speed in its purest form isn't necessarily useful on the football pitch on its own, but combined with other traits - intelligence, skill - it's devastating. Gervinho doesn't just have good straight-line speed, he has agility and spacial awareness to match. He has the touch to knock the ball past a defender and the strength to get around him back to his ball.
I've noticed something aesthetically about Gervinho that I haven't about a lot of other players (maybe because I haven't been looking, but I don't think so). This is a purely visual thing, and has nothing to do with his quality as a player, but in a sport we refer colloquially to as "the beautiful game," I think things like that are relevant. I noticed it about Thierry Henry, as well. That thing is this: When Gervinho runs, his lower legs look like they're moving about twice as fast as they really are. It's really an oddly beautiful thing to see, and when he makes runs down the sideline sometimes I get hypnotized by it. His legs look like they're chopping the pitch up as he rockets along it, cutting the distance between himself and the goal to bits. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I think it has something to do with our white socks. Watch Gervinho and Henry run, and hopefully you'll see what I mean.
As if that wasn't enough, he's aggressive, which is a must for me. While rationally I understand the motives behind the lurking, probing attack, what I find more enjoyable is the brutal cutting attack. I like taking control of the situation, putting the defense on its heels, panicking as it's torn apart. And I feel like in some ways, this year's Arsenal is different from last year's because of a subtle change in attacking style from the former to the latter. Our players wait for the perfect pass less often now than in the recent past, and instead batter the opposition with salvos of crosses and incisive runs. And Gervinho is at the forefront. In one of the friendlies this year I saw him try to break into the box from the left wing, taking on at least two defenders and (probably) losing the ball. Yeah, it didn't work. But there will be (and already have been) times where it will. Is it better than the old style? I don't know. But I like it better, and Gervinho is a big part of the shift. He has the aggression to take on a defense on his own if he has to, and the skill to make it work, and the vision to get the ball to someone else if necessary.
This is something I've been thinking about since the transfer exodus of the summer. In a lot of ways, Gervinho is basically the opposite of Samir Nasri. Gervinho has pace, where that wasn't really a focal point of Nasri's game. Gervinho is aggressive; I remember Nasri standing there at the edge of the box for what seemed minutes, surveying the situation, only to end up passing backwards to Gael Clichy or something like that. Nasri had a stupid face, Gervinho doesn't. (Sorry.) And that was part of the reason why I was perfectly happy (well, maybe not, but you know what I mean) to see Nasri go - he represented and acted out a lot of the things I didn't like about the Arsenal style, and was replaced with basically the kind of player I would be if I had the choice.
He's not perfect. His aggression can lead to unnecessary dispossessions. Sometimes he misses the good option in favor of an attempt at the more awesome one. He's missed some sitters already this year. These imperfections almost serve to make him more endearing, though, in a weird way. He's a bit of a cult figure (at least to me, a cult of one) because he's almost too awesome for the laws of physics. He tries to do things that are impossible and sometimes fails, and flubs the easy at times, and for some insane reason that's part of why I can't take my eyes off him on the pitch.
Gervinho, the flashy assassin. He'll kill you with a trick shot, and if he misses he'll do it again.