Arsenal face Montpellier in their first match in Champions League Group B on Tuesday night.
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CENTRAL CASTING - THE INCISIVE IVORIAN
Gervinho has spent the majority of his Arsenal career on the flanks, and before Saturday's match against Southampton had contributed four goals. But against Nigel Adkins' side the Ivorian was handed his chance through the middle of the attacking trio, and responded with a superb performance and two goals.
Only time will tell if he has done enough to convince Arsène Wenger to play him as a central striker on a more regular basis, but his display against Southampton (Fig. 1) suggests he deserves the opportunity. Gervinho was at the heart of the action throughout the afternoon, and had 48 touches of the ball, winning 33.3 per cent of his duels. Not only that, but the Ivorian scored with two of his four shots on goal.
In contrast, he was stationed on the right flank against Stoke (Fig. 2) and had less freedom to roam. As a result he was less influential, touching the ball 40 times and only winning 14.3 per cent of his duels. He had one shot on goal, but it was off target.
Gervinho may have been a surprise choice to take the central striking role, but his eye-catching performance against Southampton means he is now a viable alternative up front for the Gunners this season.
Figure 1 - Gervinho v Southampton Figure 2 - Gervinho v Stoke
Key: Ball = goal; Green = pass; Red = cross/shot Key: Green = pass; Red = cross/shot
KEEPING CONUNDRUM - PLAYER COMPARISON
Wojciech Szczesny's ankle injury means that Vito Mannone returns in goal for Arsenal at the Stade de la Mosson on Tuesday night - and he is yet to concede a goal this season.
The Italian was tipped by some for a summer departure, but a month into the new campaign he is still at the Club and has flourished. Szczesny was Arsenal's undisputed No 1 last season, but after sustaining a rib injury Mannone was drafted in for the games against Stoke and Liverpool and was unflappable.
As our player comparison (below) shows, there is little to choose between the two goalkeepers this season, and Wenger will feel confident that his team are in safe hands with Mannone between the posts.
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