Mikel Arteta has admitted that Gervinho has been affected by the weight of criticism directed at him this season, and says that the Ivorian – just like rap star turned actor, LL Cool J – needs love.
Having started the season with something of a flourish, scoring 5 goals in his first 7 games, the former Lille man hit something of a slump, characterised by some dreadful misses – not least of which saw him scuff wide from a couple of yards against Bradford in the Capital One Cup.
But Arteta believes there’s a ‘top player’ in there, and is hoping that he’ll contribute well between now and the end of the season.
“The big thing Gerv needed was confidence,” Arteta said in the programme for the Everton game. “He’s been playing in an environment where, sometimes, people were getting a bit frustrated.
“He was aware of that, and it’s not easy to play when you’re carrying that on your back. When he’s felt a bit of freedom and support from everyone, he’s shown his potential. He’s a very dangerous player, quick and mobile, and it’s hard to play against him.
“When he’s at his most accurate in front of goal, he’s a top player.”
The Spaniard believes that some players need a bit of an arm around the shoulder.
“Gerv is one of them,” he continued. “You have to get yourself on his side and talk to him in a positive way. He hasn’t found it easy with the language barrier either – it’s been tough for him to understand and speak English.
“Sometimes it can feel a bit lonely if things aren’t going right, so we have to give him love. With the way we play and attack, exciting players like him are exactly what we need.
“Now he looks full of energy and confidence and can’t wait for the next game to come.”
The Ivorian can probably consider himself unlucky not to have been involved against the Toffees last night, but after Theo Walcott’s ineffectual display may find himself back in the team for Fulham on Saturday.
Clearly Arteta’s words are meant to boost Gervinho’s confidence, and although it’s impossible not to be frustrated by him at times, it does seem as if the vocalisation of that has affected him in a negative way.
The flip-side of that coin, however, is that professional footballers should show more balls and play their way back into form and people’s hearts – Aaron Ramsey springs to mind – but that makes the assumption they’re all the same.
In conclusion, we don’t know, but we’ll hope for a few more Gervingoals between now and the final day of the season. In the meantime: