Considering how long he has been out of competitive action, it is easy to forget just how significant an impact Serge Gnabry had in the Arsenal first-team during the 2013/14 campaign.
The German winger, who was just 18 at the time, made nine league appearances, scoring the winner away to Swansea City, and also featured in the Champions League and the FA Cup as he impressed with his driving runs and technical ability.
Since then Gnabry has had to endure a prolonged period of frustration owing to various injury setbacks. Indeed, although he demonstrated some glimpses of his potential for the U21s last season, he hasn’t featured competitively for the first-team since March 2014.
Arsene Wenger confirmed in his press conference this morning that Gnabry is set to spend the entire 2015/16 campaign on loan at West Bromwich Albion. The initial signs are that this is a very positive move for the youngster as it will enable him to build up his sharpness and match fitness whilst also providing him with the opportunity to test himself against the best defences in the country.
With the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Alexis Sanchez at the forefront of the first-team picture at Arsenal, Gnabry would have been unlikely to feature prominently for the Gunners this term had he remained at Emirates Stadium. Instead he is set to be given a large sense of responsibility at The Hawthorns and he will be hopeful of making a substantial impact for Tony Pulis’ side prior to returning to Arsenal next summer.
This season’s crop of Arsenal loanees certainly appears to be the most exciting for quite some time, with Gnabry, Chuba Akpom, Isaac Hayden, Dan Crowley, Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Jon Toral all players of considerable talent. Inevitably they won’t all be able to succeed in the long-term at Arsenal but their performances elsewhere this campaign could go a long way towards dictating their respective futures.
There are still some issues regarding fringe players for the club to address, most notably the futures of Joel Campbell and Wellington. Campbell isn’t due back in training for another ten days after his exploits with Costa Rica this summer, but appears to be surplus to requirements having been strongly linked with a switch to Palermo during the transfer window.
Wellington, meanwhile, has been undergoing an individual fitness regime in the gym at London Colney for several weeks and didn’t feature for the club at any level during pre-season. At the age of 22, now is surely the time for a concrete decision on the winger’s future to be made, but at present we are no closer to knowing whether he will be an Arsenal player for the long-term.