LONDON: Arsenal assistant coach Steve Bould has challenged Ivory Coast striker Gervinho to emulate Thierry Henry’s impact with the Gunners.
Gervinho scored his fifth goal of the season on Wednesday as Arsenal overcame a sluggish start to maintain their 100-percent start to their Champions League campaign with a 3-1 win over Olympiakos at the Emirates Stadium.
After an underwhelming first season with Arsene Wenger’s side, Gervinho is showing signs of fulfilling his potential following his switch from a wide role to a more central position in Arsenal’s attack.
Gervinho looked to have an uncertain future at the start of the season after Wenger splashed out on Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski.
But Wenger’s decision to make Gervinho the focal point of his three-man forward line is reminiscent of the way he gradually built his team around Henry, who arrived at Arsenal as an inconsistent winger and left as arguably the best striker in the club’s history.
And, while Gervinho is some way short of Henry’s standards, Bould – standing in for Wenger at the post-match press conference while the Arsenal boss served a European ban – is convinced he has the talent to follow in the legendary French striker’s footsteps.
“Number one, he is scoring goals so his confidence is sky high and his link play is gradually improving as well,” Bould said.
“He is still learning his trade. I don’t think he’s played there (in the central role) a lot, but he is starting to learn when he drops deeper and he has set up chances for Santi (Cazorla) a few times already.
“His pace and movement make him dangerous. He can be a top player. If he gets anywhere near Thierry Henry we will take that all day long.”
Gervinho’s 42nd minute goal, a low strike from the edge of the penalty area, put Arsenal ahead against Olympiakos, only for the Greek side to equalise on the stroke of half-time when Kostas Mitroglou punished slack defending to glance a superb header past Vito Mannone.
Arsenal were able to overcome their sloppy first half thanks to Gervinho and Podolski, who combined for the crucial second goal when the Ivorian’s cross was finished off by the German forward’s sharp turn and clinical strike.
Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey came off the bench to seal the win with a cool, chipped finish in stoppage-time and Bould is hopeful the result will restore Arsenal’s confidence after their morale-sapping loss to Chelsea.
“We looked nervy at times. There was a hangover from the Chelsea game. That probably knocked our confidence as we got beat when we felt we could have got something from the game,” Bould said.
“We’re hoping now we’ve won we’ve got the Chelsea result out of our system and are back on track. Hopefully it will give us a bit more confidence for the weekend, which will be a tough game against West Ham.”
While Bould was relieved to see Arsenal take another step towards the last 16, the former Arsenal defender admitted he was concerned with the way the current back-four conceded yet another goal from a cross.
Both of Chelsea’s goals in Saturday’s match came from free-kicks and Bould, brought in by Wenger to pass on his knowledge to the Gunners defenders, is determined to keep working on the flaws at the back.
“We haven’t conceded an awful lot of goals but in the main those goals have been from set pieces, which we are all disappointed with,” he said.
“We are working on that. I guess that is my responsibility.”
Arsenal’s defensive frailties weren’t helped by the absence of Per Mertesacker and Bould revealed the German centre-back had missed the game with a virus that has now sidelined four Gunners stars at various times in recent weeks.
“He was ill this morning,” Bould said. “He has a bit of a virus. We’re hoping he is fit for the weekend.
“We’ve had about four of them ill over the period of about two weeks.”