As Arsenal progress quietly and effectively into the Christmas period there is a growing feeling that our marquee summer signing from Lille is truly making an impact already this season.
He has become a firm fan favourite in his short time at the Emirates and his contribution on the pitch has been meaningful. Many from French football, even the great Robert Pires, have taken their time to settle in the English top flight, so his return in the Premier League of 3 goals and 5 assists in only 12 starts is impressive.
However, the goal against Wigan was important to our tricky Ivorian winger as there was a slight sense that confidence in front of goal was wavering. I truly think Gervinho will kick on now and deliver even more, so it is a slight concern that the team will lose this growing influence for sometime in January and possibly February when he travels to Gabon and Equatorial Guinea with his national side for the African Cup of Nations.
There are several aspects to explore when we consider the negative impact this could have on Arsenal’s strong recovery and progress into the second half of the season:
Firstly, how long might we be without his services, given that the Ivory Coast are hot favourites at about 6/4 to lift the trophy? I think we have to assume that he will be asked to leave a week before the opening group game on the 22nd of January, which means he will certainly miss Swansea away on the 15th.
Given that their group is far from threatening, with the opponents being Sudan, Burkina Faso and Angola, we can also assume that Manchester United on the 22nd, the FA Cup fourth round on the 28th and Bolton away on the 31st will also be missed by Geo, as well as Blackburn at home on the 4th of February when the forward should be helping his country win a quarter-final.
The semi-final, assuming Ivory coast make it that far, will see Geo also away for Sunderland on the 11th, and should he make the final on the 12th, he would be hard pushed to make the first-leg of our Champions League match on the 14/15th of February.
Therefore, on the face of it, it is likely that Gervinho could miss as many as 7 games. But if we are honest, looking at the matches for which we will be without him, the fixture list could have been considerably less friendly to us. On paper it is only the Manchester United fixture in the league that stands out as a real challenge and of course potentially our knock out opener in the next phase of Europe.
Matches against Swansea, Bolton, Blackburn and Sunderland should all be winnable with one or more of our readymade replacements and right now I am not certain that even United at home is as daunting a prospect as it might have seemed even a month or so ago.