Arsène Wenger admits Gervinho's lack of form in front of goal is such that he is "in the opposite position" to his in-form Arsenal team-mate Robin van Persie. The Arsenal manager also fears the Ivorian's progression could be stymied by his participation in the African Cup of Nations early next year.
Wenger, whose side face Fulham at the Emirates today, has spoken to Gervinho over his lack of goals – he has scored two in the Premier League – but claims that neither he nor his player are worried by his failure to match the form he enjoyed last season in Lille, when he scored 18 goals. Wenger said: "The problem with Gervinho is he is in the opposite position of Robin van Persie. He is desperate for a goal and once you are in that situation...
"For a long time you don't talk about it, but at some stage you have to say, 'don't worry – try to be natural'. But at some stage you can say what you want. I spoke to him today about that, but he is not obsessed with scoring goals, it will come naturally. At the moment Gervinho is a fantastic provider but he creates space as well for the other players because he always goes behind. You could see the other night he had the chance to score but sometimes as a player, you start to think. When you start to think you are already finished, but the rest of his game is fantastic. He works hard for the team, provides, creates space and makes great runs and I'm very happy with his game."
What does concern Wenger, however, is the prospect of losing Gervinho for up to seven weeks, or 11 games, from the beginning of January. The African Nations Cup lasts from 21 January to12 February, meaning Gervinho could be away from the new year, until the north London derby on 18 February, as his federation has the right to call him up two weeks before. Wenger will give him two weeks' recovery after the tournament.
"It is a concern that he will be away," Wenger said. "I feel with the African Nations Cup, they take all the Fifa [international] dates and on top of that they go for the African Nations Cup, so you lose them two weeks before the competition starts.
"Sometimes they come back really exhausted. The pitches have improved in Africa, sometimes the weather conditions are completely different. When they come back, they look exhausted, and I always give them extra time off."