The Ivory Coast forward scored his fifth goal of the season and set up another for Lukas Podolski during last night’s victory that highlighted his remarkable and improbable renaissance.
The result leaves Arsenal top of Group B with two wins from two games and saw Gervinho, who also scored in the opening round victory over Montpellier, leave the field to a standing ovation from the home fans, before Aaron Ramsey added a late goal to seal three points
This really is a story that not many journalists were expecting to write. Of course following the departure of van Persie it was always going to be necessary for Arsenal to share the goals around this year; because finding a replacement to score 30-odd goals in a Premier League season is virtually impossible unless you have the kind of money found only in Russia, Abu Dhabi or Qatar.
But what has been completely unexpected is the contribution from Arsenal’s latest anti-hero.
Until this month the Ivory Coastinternational was on the verge of becoming a figure of fun for Arsenal fans — in the mould of Emmanuel Eboue. Nobody could fault his attitude or commitment but when the legs whirled and the ball spun off his shin in a myriad of directions it was hard to imagine him ever becoming the answer to Arsenal’s striking problems.
Last season the 25-year-old was sent off on his league debut at Newcastle and scored only four goals in 37 appearances — and not a single one between December 28 and the end of a largely frustrating campaign.
But things can change quickly.
By scoring against Olympiacos, Gervinho took his total to five goals already in just seven appearances.
Steve Bould, standing in for Wenger who was forced to sit in the stands because of a Uefa ban, led the praise by saying: “He’s scoring goals and playing with a lot of confidence at the minute. I’m certain there is more to come from him. I don’t think he’s played up front an awful lot and he’s improving with every game.”
Gervinho’s goal came after 42 minutes of a slightly nervy first half against the Greek side, courtesy of a cleverly-reversed shot from 20 yards that wrong-footed goalkeeper Balazs Megyeri.
The fact that Olympiacos equalised before half time, Kostas Mitroglou sending home an excellent glancing header from a Leandro Greco cross from the left, underlined that this was by no means a vintage performance from the Gunners.
But Gervinho’s energy, trickery and willingness to take on opponents was a key feature of their eventual victory which leaves Arsenal as favourites to reach the knockout stages yet again.
His persistence also set up a crucial second for Podolski after 56 minutes, cutting the ball back at the second attempt for his German team-mate to drill home.
Substitute Ramsey, put clean through seconds before the end, finished the game with a flourish by flicking home a third that gave the scoreline a gloss that Arsenal probably didn’t deserve.
But the difference in the end was the trickery and directness of Gervinho; Arsenal’s new striking sensation.
Now who could have predicted that?
ARSENAL: Mannone 6, Jenkinson 7, Koscielny 6, Vermaelen 5, Gibbs 6, Arteta 7, Coquelin 6, Cazorla 7, Chamberlain 5 (Walcott 70; 6), Podolski 7 (Ramsey 79; 7), Gervinho 9 (Giroud 79; 6).
OLYMPIACOS: Megyeri 6, Diakite 6 (Ibagaza 72; 6), Manolas 6, Contreras 6, Holebas 6, Slovas 6, Maniatis 7, Greco 7 (Abdoun 67; 6), David Fuster 7, Paulo Machado 7 (Pantelic 79; 6), Mitroglou 7.
Referee: Svein Oddvar Moen (Norway).