Serge Gnabry made quite an impression during his first official performance as an Arsenal player. On a Friday evening at Boreham Wood in the summer of 2011, the then unfamiliar youngster, who had just arrived at the club from Stuttgart, impressed throughout the 7-1 trouncing at Meadow Park, capping off a show-stopping performance with a memorable diving header late on.
Fast forward two years and Gnabry, now a Germany U19 international, finds himself officially part of the first-team squad at Emirates Stadium, with the winger set to provide much-needed back-up to the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Right from that display at Boreham Wood, it has been clear that Gnabry possesses a considerable amount of talent, as he frequently dominated games at U18 level before pushing into what was then the Reserves side during his first season at the club.
Last season, his ability and potential became clear to all as he was involved, albeit intermittently, with the first-team squad in the early months of the season. After featuring in the pre-season friendly in Cologne, he went on to make his Premier League and Champions League debuts, against Norwich City and Schalke respectively, within the space of a few days.
He featured less regularly for the senior side in the second half of the campaign, but underlined his undoubted talent during Arsenal’s run to the semi-finals of the NextGen Series, scoring superb goals against CSKA Moscow and Chelsea, before featuring heavily again in pre-season this time around.
With Gervinho and Andrey Arshavin having departed and no natural winger having been acquired to replace them, it always seemed likely that Gnabry would be called upon at some point this season. Indeed, although he is yet to feature competitively, the 18 year old has been amongst the substitutes for four of the first-team’s five fixtures so far this season.
Gnabry will almost certainly be involved from the offset against West Bromwich Albion in the Capital One Cup later this month, but manager Arsene Wenger did admit in his programme notes at the weekend that Gnabry still has some developing to do. Wenger said: “Serge is close to playing, but he is still only 18 and it’s important to remember that. He is learning a lot from the bench, so I have no doubt he will make good progress.”
Those quotes suggest that, despite his promotion, Gnabry will not be involved with the first-team for every fixture and could still turn out for the U21s on occasion. The very fact that he can now be called a first-team player at the age of 18 does, however, provide an indication of just how highly-rated he is within the club.