When he was enjoying his impressive breakthrough campaign in 2013/14, Serge Gnabry probably wouldn’t have envisioned that he would end the following season back in the Arsenal U21 team.
A troublesome injury, however, has meant that the German has endured a stop-start season, with fitness problems depriving him of the opportunity to represent the first-team this campaign.
A player who doesn’t turn 20 until July, Gnabry still has time on his side, though, and, as he demonstrated with a virtuoso performance for the second-string against Wolverhampton Wanderers last night, he is edging closer to full sharpness following his lengthy injury lay-off.
Arsene Wenger is a believer in Gnabry’s talent, but the competition for places in the Arsenal squad may mean that the former Stuttgart player will have to head out on loan at some point next season to further his development.
Given his physique and the experience he already possesses of top-flight football, a temporary stint at a Premier League club shouldn’t be beyond Gnabry, although it is hugely important that he goes to a club where he is likely to play regularly, as opposed to many of Arsenal’s recent loanees who have spent far too much time on the bench.
Given his ability to operate across the forward line and slightly deeper (he has shown some especially encouraging signs as a playmaker in the number ten position), Gnabry would be a useful asset for several clubs, with his pace and trickery his key attributes. His finishing is improving, too, although there are some aspects of his game that the young German needs to rectify, most notably his particularly heavy first touch.
There is still much to be optimistic about as far as Gnabry is concerned, despite injuries wreaking havoc with his progress this season. He seems perfectly suited to Arsenal’s style of play and doesn’t seem fazed when placed in a first-team environment. A hard worker and willing learner, Gnabry’s determination has also seen him rewarded on the international stage as he was called up to the Germany U21 squad this season for the first time.
He will inevitably have designs on representing the World Cup holders at senior level in the future, but, for now, his primary focus should be on his club career. A loan spell will hopefully help to smooth out some of the rough edges in his game and see him return to Arsenal ready to compete for a regular place in the side.