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One for the near future? Serge Gnabry
At the start of the season many were surprised to hear the boss, Arsene Wenger declare that Serge Gnabry would likely feature for the first team this campaign. A rapid rise for the 17 year old who just two seasons ago was part of the youth setup at VfB Stuttgart. So does Gnabry really have what it takes to make the Arsenal first team or will he fail to make an impact like so many other prodigious talents in the past?
Gnabry was born in Stuttgart; the son of an Ivorian father and German mother. A sprinter growing up, he chose to ply his trade in football after being convinced that his talent would be best served on a football pitch by the coaches at Stuttgart. A natural winger, Gnabry ability to match his pace with finesse and deft touches expedited his progress through the youth ranks. Gnabry’s rapid development generated many admirers with Arsene Wenger moving in for him at the age of 15 to ensure that on turning 16 he would formally move to Arsenal. While moving for international prospects just shy of turning 16 isn’t surprising, Arsene’s desire to tie down the player only further illustrated how highly he rated him already.
Although Serge Gnabry was signed last summer it was the transfers of Bellerin and Toral from Barcelona that took the spotlight. However it was Gnabry who stood out most from all the prospects signed. A dazzling start with the Under-18s where he scored six goals after just eight games lead to a call up to the Reserves squad. While his goal scoring record wasn’t as impressive as with the Under-18s, his impact with the Reserves was immediately felt where his play was dominated with bursting runs down the flanks, him constantly taking on and beating players and his delightful laid off balls to team mates in the box.
While Gnabry’s pace has impressed many scouts across Europe, Arsenal have been greatly pleased with his skill on the ball and his physical development. Gnabry’s fantastic close control of the football and his ability to change pace and direction has led many to compare him to a younger Thierry Henry. In addition, his physical development over the last year has many at Arsenal optimistic that Gnabry will be physically capable of dealing with the rigors of the English game.
Serge’s rapid rise through the ranks at Arsenal culminated with him making his first team debut vs. Coventry at the Capital One cup. Although coming on at a time when victory was virtually assured, Gnabry showed fans glimpses of why he is so highly rated within the club by making numerous dangerous runs made down the left wing and creating a couple of great chances, all in all a fantastic cameo for a player still only 17 years of age.
Gnabry’s addition to the first team however has lead many to wonder if Arsene’s decision to push him closer to the first team has to do with the current situation surrounding contract rebel Theo Walcott. After all, Arsenal have always had numerous wingers to pick from it has felt like a strange move to register Gnabry as part of the squad when he could instead be on loan elsewhere. But there is a real feeling within the club that Gnabry is a talent in the same vein of a Cesc Fabregas, a man among boys when playing with the Reserves and who isn’t too far off from lacing it up with the first team at Arsenal.
The opportunities for young Serge however may be difficult to come by as Arsene Wenger continues to tinker with the lineup; pushing Gervinho upfront while giving Chamberlain opportunities in midfield. And although it is expected that he will ply his trade for the Capital One cup squad I fully expect him to get a few PL minutes under his belt. It should also be noted that Gnabry was also named to Arsenal ‘A’ Champions League squad and there are strong rumors linking him to a possible spot on the bench for Arsenal’s tie vs. Olympiakos tonight.
Serge Gnabry’s emergence should in no way be taken for granted as a lot is expected of him already. The coaching staff rate him extremely highly to the point that a loan move is not an option for the player and there is genuine excitement over his involvement with the first team over the coming years. A player with natural pace and delightful skill, expect Serge Gnabry to make the left wing his own and maybe one day walk in the footsteps of a majestic left-winger who had a fantastic eye for goal.