Arsenal wide man Gervinho has operated as a central striker on more than one occasion recently and the strategy might actually work.
Gervinho netted two goals in the role, as part of the Gunners' six-strike salvo against Southampton yesterday. Playing him through the middle is a novel idea from Arsene Wenger, who utilized him as a winger last season.
In truth, his debut campaign produced mixed results, despite Gervinho beginning life in England brightly. He was tricky and energetic in wide areas, creating a number of early goals.
However, by late-October the warning signs were present that Gervinho was struggling to adapt to the Premier League. His finishing was awful and he was often forced easily out of games, due to an inability to keep up with the pace of play.
By season's end, Gervinho was already being talked of as a flop in many circles, just one year after arriving from French Champions Lille. That's what makes his effectiveness in the middle so surprising.
He looked sharp in the role during preseason and that was clearly not lost on Wenger. When misfiring Olivier Giroud was benched for yesterday's game, many would have assumed Lukas Podolski would occupy the central striker position.
Yet the German maintained his place on the left, while Gervinho was clearly tasked with exploiting central areas. Two goals is a great way to show his worth in the role and also reveal why the switch could actually be a resounding success.
Gervinho's movement is the best part of his game. Yes his ball skills can be stellar, but they are often undermined by his hesitant decision-making.
However, his running off-the-ball perfectly suits Arsenal's fluid brand of play. So having him start through the middle expands what Arsenal can do in attack.
It gives Gervinho the option to use his pace in a more direct manner, presenting a straight-line challenge to a defense. The likes of Mikel Arteta, Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski can all exploit that kind of pace with clever, well-timed passes.
It's a different kind of threat to the one offered by the more bullish Giroud and also encourages Gervinho to be more decisive. Out wide he must first think about how to beat his marker and then more importantly, what to do once he has escaped a defender.
A role in the middle allows Gervinho to simply concentrate on getting in-behind a back four and threatening the goal. His first goal yesterday is a great example of this.
From a position between both central defenders, Gervinho ran across the defense, over to the outside right. From there he spun inside the trailing centre-back and right full-back.
His brilliant run was spotted by Mikel Arteta, who lofted a perfect ball over the top and into the Ivory Coast international's path. Arsenal fans were then treated to something they have seldom seen from Gervinho and that's decisive action.
He whalloped the ball with a powerful shot that thundered straight into the back of the net, to complete a great goal. All that was missing were the words "'ave some of that!!"
Arsene Wenger's delight was clearly visible and he was quick to congratulate Gervinho. However, helping himself is not the only benefit of Gervinho playing through the middle.
Allowing Gervinho to utilize a free range of movement from the middle, creates space for other areas of the team. When he darts from central positions to the wings, Gervinho allowes the likes of Lukas Podolski and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to drift into the middle.
It also leaves room for overlapping runs from Santi Cazorla. This fluidity of movement keeps the pace of Arsenal's possession high and varies the pattern of their passing.
He probably won't use the tactic every game, but deploying Gervinho as a central striker, is a great option for Wenger to have. It's a crazy-sounding idea that just might reap huge rewards for the Gunners this season.787527