Personally I’ve been quite a big fan of Serge for a while. Since his debut for Arsenal in late 2012, he has proved himself another part of Arsenal’s wide array of midfield talent going forward. Possessing the pace of a sprinter (a career he actually declined prior to football) the 19 year old German established himself as a strong dribbler in a similar mould to The Ox back in 2013-2014, making up to 10 appearances in the league and scoring his first goal against Swansea. In fact he even got a nomination for the Golden Boy Awards on top of getting his name on the lips of those at the Emirates, impressed by what they saw as another youth product to crack into the first team.
However not all has gone to plan. An injury picked up in a Champions league tie against Bayern Munich has put a spanner in the works and since, Gnabry has made only a handful of Under 21 appearances. Even worse for Gnabry is that in the meantime, Alexis Sanchez has been signed. The Germany U21 star has been talking a good game in his slow return, hoping for a big pre season in which he can establish himself as a first team player. Unfortunately though, despite my liking for the winger I can’t see him beating off the competition.
Arguably Arsenal’s most saturated position is on the wings which is his first problem. The likes of Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Alexis are all predominantly wingers who would presumably are ahead of Gnabry in the pecking order regardless of form. Not to mention the likes of Santi Cazorla, Tomas Rosicky, Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck who are all perfectly capable of filling in on either side. This places Serge Gnabry at around eighth in the pecking order for a fully fit side in which two wingers are fielded. His second problem is the age of these players, only Rosicky and Cazorla are above the age of 26 which means Gnabry – even if he were to stay a few years – may always have limited opportunities in his preferred position. Equally if he were to try move into the middle he would still face even stiffer competition, not to mention there are other younger options coming through in that postition arguably more admired than Gnabry. Youngsters such as the highly rated Gedion Zelalem and Daniel Crowley who has suddenly become the hip Arsenal fans new favourite youth prospect. This competition is something that will undoubtedly hamper his development and it doesn’t look like it will stop either, with Arsenal’s rumoured interest in the likes of Pedro, and the absolute rejection of Atletico’s interest in Santi Cazorla implying that the German may not have the chances he so craves in the near future either.
However I would like to look on the bright side. He was a genuinely bright prospect when he had a long run in the side, and looked completely comfortable in the first team which is something that cannot be said of the youth Arsenal have blooded in recent years with the likes of Denilson, Bendtner and Ryo Miyaichi to name a few all failing to make the cut. Gnabry however is a seasoned German international through all youth levels, and with Podolski leaving there is a space opening up for a fringe player to maybe get some game time, and Serge is the perfect fit. Gnabry’s aim that he outlined in May to become a regular in the coming season was a bit ambitious (via Daily Star). But with some solid performances, and time on his side, who knows. We may be looking at a future fan favourite.