Arsenal 4 Reading 1 match report: Arsène Wenger revels in trying to unlock potential of star turn Gervinho

Ivorian's passion for the game, if not his consistency, pleases the Arsenal manager

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The Independent Football

Arsène Wenger was never going to be comfortable, following through his threat to rid Arsenal of assorted under-achievers. His instinct is to psycho-analyse, rather than punish. Give him a puzzle like Gervinho to solve, even at a critical point in the season, and he is in his element.

The Ivorian plays as if his shorts are on fire, and his jock strap is simmering gently, at gas mark two. Everything is done at cartoon speed, which makes him a compelling spectacle for the neutral, and a constant challenge to the faith and blood pressure of his manager.

Gervinho scored the opening goal, in a 4-1 home win over Reading which should have been much more conclusive, and set up others for Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud. Despite his pre-match pronouncement that players were playing for their future, Wenger made a point of insisting Gervinho was safe.

"In all honesty, he is not a clinical finisher," the Arsenal manager admitted, with a paternal grin.

"He rushes his finishes. He's a winger, don't forget. Sometimes he arrives in front of goal after a 60 or 70-yard run.

'He's so quick with the ball he makes it difficult for himself. By the time he faces the goalkeeper he is not fresh any more.

"You can develop composure with experience. The big goalscorers just pass it in and that's what he has to learn.

"He wants to do well. He loves football. He is a hard worker. Physically, you cannot fault his effort. Even when he had a bad period, he always tried very hard.

"The big problem the last two years has been the African Nations Cup. Every time he came back it took him a while to recover. But we work with him on his mentality in front of goal. His finishing is linked with his psychology. Players are up and down. Strikers and goalkeepers are similar. Each is dependent on confidence. My worry was that he was playing in a negative atmosphere.

"You always think you should persist, to give him the confidence, but it was a big risk to play him, because it could have pushed him further down."

It was, in truth, no day to make significant judgements. Reading were awful, and Nigel Adkins, their new manager after replacing Brian McDermott on Tuesday, completed the process of anaesthetisation. He is the unquotable, in pursuit of the impossible. Somewhere, buried beneath the lexicon of corporate caution, there is a football man, trying to get out.

That is a shame, since he should elicit sympathy on Saturday, when Southampton visit the Majedski. The disrespect shown to him by his former club has been compounded by the need to take them to court to gain appropriate compensation. Adkins should prepare himself for the worst.

Match report

Goals: Arsenal Gervinho 11, Cazorla 48, Giroud 67, Arteta pen 77. Reading Robson-Kanu 68. Subs: Ars Gibbs (Monreal, 71), Podolski (Giroud, 75), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Gervinho, 75). Rea Hunt 6 (Pogrebnyak, 61), Akpan (Karacan, 76), McCleary (Robson-Kanu, 80). Booked: Rea Guthrie. Man of the match Cazorla. Match rating 6/10. Possession: Arsenal 61%. Reading 39%. Attempts on target: Arsenal 14. Reading 2. Referee C Foy (Lancs). Attendance 60,082