Injury halted the early promise
The future once looked bright for Serge Gnabry during his Arsenal career. The young German showed glimpses of promise as fans remained hopeful of that next player in the Robert Pires mould – a goalscoring wide-man.
Arriving in London from Stuttgart as a 16-year-old is no easy task. Alas, Gnabry made the bold move given the emphasis that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger had on youth players. Impressive performances for the U18s side warranted his debut the following season in the League Cup against Coventry City.
A routine win for the Gunners, Gnabry made his Premier League debut days later, before coming off the bench against Schalke in the Champions League at the age of 17. The 2013/14 campaign saw Gnabry really kick on. Impressive performances saw the youngster pen a new five-year deal with Arsenal, whilst he was nominated for the 2013 Golden Boy.
Unfortunately, injuries kept the German out the following season, which prompted a loan move to fellow Premier League club West Bromwich Albion in a bid regain fitness and show the Arsenal coaching staff just what he’s capable of.
Less than impressive loan spell at West Bromwich Albion
In what was a six-month loan spell with WBA, coached by Tony Pulis, Serge Gnabry played just 12 minutes of Premier League football. Deemed surplus to requirements and failing to break into the first team at the Midlands club prompted Arsene Wenger to think long and hard about the future of the young German.
“Serge has come here to play games but he just hasn’t been for me, at the moment, at that level to play the games,” said Pulis. “He’s come from academy football and not played much league football. Does academy football really prepare players for league football? And we’re talking about Premier League football here.”
A reasonable question from Pulis. Unfortunately for Gnabry and English football in general, they will never be on the same level as Germany and Spain in producing players through academies. With all the money in the Premier League, clubs can afford to go spend £20 million on one player, whilst foreign clubs are sometimes forced to bring academy players into the first team.
As a result, playing time became sparse for Gnabry at Arsenal and with the situation not looking any brighter, he decided to return to his homeland with World Cup 2018 in Russia just around the corner.
Year in Werder Bremen
At €5 million, Serge Gnabry was a steal for Werder Bremen. The potential was always there, but unfortunately, he was unable to showcase it in the Premier League. Under Alexander Nouri, the 21-year-old got constant playing time, where he could showcase his skill – whilst he arguably became Bremen’s most valuable player for the 2016/17 season, as they turned their form around from relegation candidates to just missing out on the Europa League.
The German took no settling in at all in northern Germany. Gnabry scored 11 goals in 27 Bundesliga games, scoring his first – a sublime volley – in a 4-1 away defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach just two matches into his Bremen career.
Of Gnabry’s 11 goal tally, 10 of them came away from home, which is arguably where Bremen struggled in the early stages of the season. His form warranted his first international cap, albeit against San Marino, but to score a hat-trick is a great way to catch the attention of your national team coach.
There had been comments raised by the media in Germany that Bayern Munich had paid Werder Bremen the €5m to sign him from Arsenal, with an agreement that Bayern would then sign Gnabry this summer. However, these turned out to be false.
Just weeks after the season came to an end, Gnabry confirmed he would be leaving Bremen. Hoffenheim were in pole position to land the 21-year-old for some time but as always, it was Bayern Munich who snatched yet another German talent.
What does the future hold for Gnabry?
With the move to Ancelotti’s Bayern Munich, there’s no doubt that he’s going to be winning trophies now, be it the Champions League, DFB Pokal or the Bundesliga. His form at Werder Bremen warranted his first call-up to the Germany national team, whilst playing regular football at the Bundesliga champions will put him in real contention for a place in Joachim Low’s Germany squad in Russia for the 2018 World Cup.