LONDON, England, March 31 – Arsene Wenger praised Gervinho’s dazzling performance after the Ivorian forward inspired Arsenal’s 4-1 demolition of struggling Reading.
Starting for the first time since December 8 after falling out of favour, and then representing his country at the African Cup of Nations in South Africa, the 25-year-old scored in the first half at the Emirates Stadium before turning provider after the break for Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud.
A Mikel Arteta penalty after Hal Robson-Kanu had pulled one back for the visitors rounded off the win for fifth placed Arsenal to leave them just two points behind Chelsea and four behind Tottenham in the quest for a top-four finish.
Wenger admitted he was delighted with Gervinho’s attacking contribution after a difficult 18 months since his arrival in north London from Lille.
“He was always dangerous and looked always like he could score,” Wenger said.
“I believe sometimes that Gervinho has lost confidence because he played in a very negative atmosphere during a period.
“Strikers need confidence and his game even more. When you lose confidence that is a dangerous game.
“But when he has that back he is a very dangerous player. At the African Nations Cup he was the best striker there.”
From the moment Gervinho tapped home Cazorla’s cross in the 11th minute, there was only going to be one winner in this match.
Reading had lost their last six in all competitions and should have been out of contention by half-time after Arsenal missed a hatful of chances and had two penalty appeals turned down by referee Chris Foy.
Cazorla’s precise curled finish from a Gervinho pass two minutes after the break finally gave them the second goal they deserved and another assist enabled Giroud to put the game out of sight.
Robson-Kanu did pull one back with a diving header from Jobi McAnuff’s cross, but a Arteta penalty, when substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was brought down, rounded off a miserable afternoon for new Reading manager Nigel Adkins, who saw his new side sink to the bottom of the table on goal difference.
Nonetheless, the former Southampton manager, who replaced Brian McDermott last week, insists he has not given up hope of avoiding relegation.
“We’ve got to be concentrating on the next game. I joined a club in the Premier League and that’s where we want to be playing next year,” he said.
“Naturally confidence isn’t as high as it could be so it’s up to us to try and pick things up for the next game.”
Arsenal’s third successive victory ensured they still have a good chance of securing Champions League football for a 16th successive season under Wenger.
However the French manager warned they still have plenty of work to do if they are to finish ahead of one or both of Chelsea and Tottenham.
“What we do is we look at the table and we are still behind Chelsea and Tottenham,” he said.
“I’m not in a calculating mood but we have to win our next game and keep doing what we have been doing. We are on a run so let’s take care of ourselves and after we will see where we stand. It will be less predictable than it was predicted.
“Let’s take care of the way we play and take care of our spirit. But we have the experience and we have done it before and that’s what we want to do again.
“I’m sure we will but it demands a lot of dedication and nerves until the end.”