Not too long ago, Serge David Gnabry was a highly rated youth player at Arsenal. Having joined the English side in 2011 from boyhood club Stuttgart, Gnabry was seen as one of the brightest prospects at the club, rising up the ranks quickly from under-18s to the reserves squad by the end of the year, and later, the under-19s. In the early part of the 2013/14 season, the German winger found an opportunity to break into the starting lineup after an injury to Theo Walcott. Relishing the chance, the then-18-year-old Gnabry impressed as Arsenal went top of the Premier League, scoring the opener in a 2-1 away win over Swansea City. He was soon after nominated for the Golden Boy award and received a new 5-year deal at Arsenal. With an assist vs. rivals Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup, things looked bright for the youngster. However, an injury against Bayern Munich in the Champions League in 2014 eventually kept him out for the majority of the following season, and he came back unfit and slightly overweight. A big fan of him, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger sent him on a year-long loan to fellow Premier league side West Bromwich Albion. However, their manager Tony Pulis was unimpressed with Gnabry and only played him three times throughout the season, two of which were in early League Cup games while the other was as a substitute appearance in the league in August. He was recalled from his loan in January.
Gnabry impressed for Germany in the 2016 Olympic Games, becoming joint top scorer as Germany reached the final, losing to Brazil on penalties. Wenger wanted to award him a new deal to convince him to stay, but Gnabry refused and left, fearing he may not receive many opportunities despite Wenger’s pleas for him to stay.
On August 31st, he moved to Werder Bremen for a fee of approximately £5m. In his second appearance for the club, Gnabry scored his first goal, a tremendous consolation in a 4-1 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Impressive performances followed for the winger in spite of it coming during a terrible run of form for Bremen, as they lost four games in a row on three different spells of the season, while languishing in the relegation zone, specifically the bottom spot. Head coach Viktor Skrypnyk was sacked in mid-September with interim coach (and later head coach) Alexander Nouri replacing him but the performances did not immediately improve, as Bremen under the Iranian did not win a single game until early December. After scoring four league goals and assisting one by the end of October, Gnabry was called up to the senior Germany side for the first time, and his debut was one to remember.
A sublime hat trick against lowly San Marino announced the winger on the international stage. His power, shooting, tricky dribbling and movement are his greatest attributes and he ruthlessly expressed it all for the German fans to see. He further impressed after the international break and scored equalisers against Hamburger SV, Köln and Hoffenheim. The winter break followed and after a third four-match losing streak at the turn of the year, Gnabry scored his 8th goal of the season in a 0-2 win at Mainz on February 18th. Still, his best and most influential performance in a Die Werderaner shirt followed 6 days later.
On February 24th, Gnabry scored an early quick-fire brace to down Wolfsburg as Bremen captured a 1-2 away win. This victory also coincidentally brought Bremen out of the relegation zone permanently, and they managed to stay above the bottom three for the rest of the season. Injuries followed for him during the latter part of the season, causing him to exit two games early before returning from the bench at Ingolstadt with Bremen 2-1 behind. He helped inspire his team to a 2-4 comeback victory, with team mate Max Kruse scoring all 4 goals including 2 after 85 minutes.
Gnabry later came off the bench in the penultimate fixture to again score against Köln, but this time it was a mere consolation. Bremen finally finished 8th place in the Bundesliga which came after an eleven match unbeaten streak from the Mainz match until the end of April, with Gnabry being injured for 6 of these games. Despite his injury issues (he failed to complete 90 minutes after match-day 23) and Bremen struggling in the first half of the season (and losing all of their May fixtures to drop from 6th to 8th), Gnabry dazzled throughout and was Bremen’s top scorer in the league until his injury. Eventually scoring 11 and assisting 1 goal in 27 appearances, this was the best goal/assist tally from a winger in the Bundesliga besides Ousmané Dembélé and Arjen Robben, with the latter scoring more than Gnabry. Only 9 players in total scored more than him, one of which being his teammate Max Kruse with 15. His blend of out-to-in runs from out wide, powerful running and trickery on the ball troubled right backs across the country, and was a delight to behold. This made the young player a wanted man in the transfer market, as reports earlier surfaced of a release clause in Gnabry’s contract with Werder Bremen that would allow him to leave in the summer if he wishes and this caused speculation of a move to another club to surface.
Gnabry signed a three-year deal with German champions Bayern Munich after the club activated the £7m release clause in Gnabry’s contract. Soon after, he signed a year-long loan with Hoffenheim before meeting up with the Germany U21 squad in Poland for the U21 Euros. Scoring one goal in the group stages versus Czech Republic, Serge and Germany eventually won the tournament after a 1-0 win over hot favourites Spain in the final to complete a rather successful year for the 22 year old.
Serge Gnabry has finally gotten his big move, now on loan to a club that will play in the Champions League play-offs against Liverpool, and now, he has attracted the attention of Germany head coach Joachim Löw. The next step for the young man is to impress again at Hoffenheim under highly rated coach Julian Nagelsmann and potentially be a member of the 2018 World Cup in Russia and Carlo Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich’s first team for the 2018/19 season.
As an Arsenal fan, I rated Gnabry highly as did Wenger, and I was devastated to see him go. However, Serge chose to leave on his own terms, and his decision has so far paid dividends for himself and his career. Although he will not be playing for the Gunners, expect deadly things from this cannon of a forward.
Photo: Louie Hendy/@LH_BCFC