July 2011 Arsenal made the £10.8million signing of Gervinho from Lille.
The 23-year-old Ivorian was an exciting, naturally gifted talent who was a key member in Lille’s title winning team.
With 36 goals in his previous two seasons, Arsenal were adding pace, power, trickery and an end product out wide.
Gervinho never really settled in England.
His struggled began when he was sent off on his debut against Newcastle. Reports that he was being bullied by Emmanuel Frimpong, Carl Jenkinson and Jack Wilshere – who had nicknamed him Retardino – did not help.
Playing in the African Cup of Nations also stunted his development – he seemed to come back from the 2012 tournament a worse player and failed to score a single goal for Arsenal upon his return.
Gervinho’s 2nd season at Arsenal started brightly, with 5 goals in his first 7 games, but after this spell his form completely disappeared as he failed to score again until March.
Haunted by a miss against Bradford – Gervinho took a lot of the blame for Arsenal’s exit at the quarter final stage of the League Cup against the League 2 side. This turned a lot of fans against him.
By the time Gervinho had returned 2nd African Cup of Nations tournament in the space of a year, he lacked confidence and was clearly a player on his way out.
Arsenal sold him to Roma after just 2-years at the club.
8-years after the disaster signing of Gervinho, Arsenal are heavily linked with Nicolas Pepe.
Pepe is a 23-year-old Ivoirian currently playing for Lille.
With 33 goals in the last two years, he would be adding pace, power, trickery and an end product out wide.
The comparisons that could be made between the two are eerie.
On paper, Pepe would be an exciting signing for Arsenal.
He would provide a goal scoring threat from out wide and, alongside Alex Iwobi, Reiss Nelson and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, would give Arsenal plenty of options out wide.
The only downside is the flash backs to Gervinho.
It is very easy to make the comparison, with them both being 23-years-old (at the time of transfer), both play for Ivory Coast, and both coming from Lille with a similar goal scoring record. It is perhaps lazy to make the comparison.
Maybe instead we should make the comparison to another Lille alumni – Eden Hazard.
Pepe has just as much chance being the “new Gervinho” as he has being the “new Hazard”.
He will be a gamble, but every transfer is.
With no African cup of Nations until 2021, Pepe would have a much better chance of settling than Gervinho did.
Despite playing for Ivory Coast, Pepe was born in Northern France – a small town on the outskirts of Paris; basically France’s answer to Basildon. This will make it a lot easier to settle, and a lot easier for him to go home.
He would be joining a squad that contains fellow Frenchmen Matteo Guendouzi and Alexandre Lacazette, as well as French born Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The bullying of Gervinho would not be allowed to happen to Pepe with those 3 about.
Pepe would be an excellent addition to the Arsenal squad this summer.