It was no way for Arsenal's marquee attacking signing to begin. Harshly sent off on his debut at Newcastle United, after being accused of cheating, and banned for three matches, Gervinho's emotions took in helplessness as he watched his team implode.
The humiliation at Manchester United was the low point and Gervinho remembers watching the 8-2 defeat on television in his new house, having just moved out of his hotel lodgings. He bolted back to Lille afterwards, to the sanctuary of his family and friends. He says that helped. The 24-year-old's wife and three children have yet to join him in London.
On the Eurostar to France Gervinho had plenty to ponder. His friendSamir Nasri had walked out on Arsenal for Manchester City, having promised him that they would play together, and Cesc Fábregas had also left. Arsène Wenger, the manager, was being questioned as never before. It felt like the end of an era.
The lone positive was the Champions League play-off win against Udinese, Gervinho making the priceless first away goal for Robin van Persie, but for the Ivory Coast winger, things would get worse before they got better. His comeback game in the Premier League was the jolting defeat at Blackburn Rovers.
"When you get to a club and things are not going well, it's not easy to live," he says. "You don't necessarily regret your choice but you wonder why this had to happen in your early weeks. It was a very tough blow to lose Nasri and Fábregas. It rocked the team."
Gervinho, though, was never going to lose the faith. When he says that he has always dreamed of playing for Arsenal, it is not the cliched drivel of the serial badge-kisser. From his days at the fabled Asec Mimosas academy in Abidjan, founded by Wenger's friend, Jean-Marc Guillou, he has followed Arsenal. His favourite player was Thierry Henry.
The transfer in 2005 to the Belgian club Beveren, with whom Arsenal had a technical relationship, suggested he was already on Wenger's radar and Gervinho admits that he was thrilled to read the stories in 2006-07 linking him with a move to the Emirates. It was too soon, and he moved to France with Le Mans, which would be his stepping stone to Lille. "But the idea of coming to Arsenal was always there," he says. "I thought: 'One day, I will come to Arsenal.' It's always been the dream."
Gervinho had no shortage of suitors in the summer but, when Wenger made the call, there was no decision. A difficult start, no matter how traumatic, would not obscure the bigger picture. "I never had any doubts," Gervinho says. "The tough time we had at the start has helped us."
Gervinho speaks in French – he has little English yet – and there is a quiet humility about him. He talks about his father's appetite for the game and says he did not "play to a high level … like all of us", which is sweetly inclusive but rather overlooks the fact that Gervinho has played at the World Cup, the Africa Cup of Nations, the Olympic Games, Ligue 1 and, now, the Premier and Champions Leagues.
He is easygoing, polite; even shy. It is difficult to imagine him at the hub of the dressing-room wisecracks. But there is an unmistakable steel, a single-mindedness that has driven him from the commune of Abobo on Abidjan's north side. Gervinho arrived in London as a champion, his 15 goals and 10 assists helping Lille to their first league title in 56 years and, with things looking up once more at Arsenal, he is not afraid to make bold statements.
"We're going to try and win everything," he says. "All of England expects Arsenal to win something and so do the fans. The league, the Champions League, the FA Cup … we can win it all. Everything is possible. The most important thing is to win a trophy or two by the end of the season and that's what I want. I really got the taste for winning titles at Lille."
Gervinho says "there are challenges everywhere I look" and the one that begins on 21 January will take him away from Arsenal for up to three weeks. The Africa Cup of Nations has come to resemble the holy grail for Ivory Coast who, rather like a certain team in north London, boast talented individuals and have consistently high hopes but have fallen short in recent times.
"Ivory Coast is like Arsenal," Gervinho says. "We have not won a tournament since 1992 so that's a number of years. We've got good players and it's very similar to the situation at Arsenal. Every time we approach a tournament, we say we are going to win it and then we miss out."
Gervinho is feted in his homeland and not only because of his exploits with the national team; he came to prominence with a captain's performance in the group stage at the 2008 Bejing Olympics against Argentina. Lionel Messi scored one and made the other in a 2-1 victory but Gervinho's talent also shone.
France's top division is followed nearly as keenly as the Premier League in Ivory Coast and Gervinho's title triumph last season was celebrated wildly and commemorated unusually. "A group of artists in Ivory Coast recorded a song about me," Gervinho says. "The lyrics said the country had gone through some very difficult months and seeing me on TV with the title enabled the people to forget their troubles."
Ivory Coast has been wracked by civil war and Gervinho also remembers hardship in his youth in Abobo, which is one of the most densely populated communes in the country. "Life was tough for me and my family," he says. "We experienced very hard living conditions."
Football, though, brought hope and salvation. "Thanks to football," Gervinho says, "my family are able to live well. Football really has saved my family and it's true that it saves a lot of families in Africa. It gives us the means to be able to give a better life to our loved ones. I was taken into the academy in Abidjan in 1997, after I started at a small club called La Colombe, and for a family to see their child at the academy … they already hope that he is going to succeed."
It is easy to trace Gervinho's enthusiasm for the work of Save the Children, Arsenal's global charity partner, which aims to build better lives for children around the world. It was at the academy that Gervinho was given the Brazilian nickname, which is derived from his first name, Gervais, and it was where he formed deep bonds with the interns, who included Salomon Kalou, Didier Zokora, Emmanuel Eboué and the Touré brothers, Kolo and Yaya. "Kalou was my best friend," Gervinho says. "Before I came to Arsenal I'd already been to London to see him play for Chelsea so I knew the city a little bit. I love everything about it, apart from the cold."
Gervinho is close to Didier Drogba – he was a guest at the wedding of Chelsea's other Ivorian striker in Monaco last June – and his adaptation to his new surrounds has been eased by his funky entourage, whose presence has become a feature of Arsenal home games.
There has been a culture shock on the field, not least when Gervinho felt that he was fouled for a penalty by Cheik Tioté at Newcastle, only to be accused of diving and dragged to his feet by Joey Barton. The midfielder admitted that he made the most of Gervinho's subsequent slap to trigger the red card. "There was a foul on me, the video clearly showed this, but I regret the way I reacted," Gervinho says. "It's the way Barton plays, that's his character but I'm not thinking back to that now."
Gervinho has won admirers with his pacy dribbling and ability to make things happen, and his focus is on what lies ahead. There is the chance of a Champions League last-16 meeting with Lille and his former team-mate Eden Hazard, a player whom Wenger has tracked. "I would advise Mr Wenger to get Eden to pack his cases and come here," Gervinho says. "His game would really suit Arsenal's."
It is Gervinho, though, who has arrived. For him, the possibilities seem endless.
Arsenal's game with Fulham was the dedicated matchday for its charity partner, Save the Children, when fans were encouraged to get involved with fundraising activities. Ahead of the game, Gervinho and other Arsenal players donated a day's wages. The matchday raised £185,000, which will help Save the Children to support a range of education projects in the UK and overseas. For more information visit www.arsenal.com/savethechildren and to donate visit www.justgiving.com/beagoonerbeagiver