A LOOK BACK: Serge Gnabry said it was a “dream” to score for Arsenal as a youngster but a lack of opportunities at the Emirates saw him head to Germany, where he has become a superstar
Serge Gnabry – the man who left Arsenal before they got to see the best of him and returned to score four times across north London at Tottenham before going on to win the Champions League.
When it comes to the 26-year-old there is very much a sense of ‘the one that got away’ – but we’ve said that about the Gunners on several occasions. The German was set for big things at the Emirates before he was allowed to leave and its a decision that continues to haunt Arsenal.
Gnabry moved to north London in 2011 as a 16-year-old and was developed under Arsene Wenger’s watchful eye, being tipped for the top. Arsenal have nurtured plenty of young players over the years and Gnabry looked set to continue that trend and become a star in the first team.
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However, a lack of opportunities would end up undermining the club’s early work and it is they who would lose out. The winger’s talent was obvious – as was his affection for the north London outfit. After being given sporadic minutes here and there his breakout moment came in a win at Swansea in 2013.
Arsenal were recovering from an opening day defeat and a win in Wales saw them go top. Gnabry opened the scoring in the second-half en route to a 2-1 win at the Liberty Stadium. It was the chance he’d been craving and he couldn’t keep the grin off his face post match.
He told Sky Sports : “I’m happy that we won, happy that we got the three points and I’m happy that I could score to help the team. Scoring my first goal for Arsenal in the Premier League is just something amazing, something you dream of.” However he wouldn’t be afforded enough chances to continue helping the team – and there lay the problem.
A knee injury halted his progress as he missed much of the following campaign, but upon his returns doors that were once open seemed to have closed. A loan switch to West Brom did little to impress then Baggies boss Tony Pulis, who said” “You could knock me over with a feather” as he delivered a damning verdict.
Wenger was keen to see Gnabry extend his deal at the Emirates but the player himself had doubts over first team opportunities, which had not been coming his way. He would return to Germany with Werder Bremen, who paid just £5m to sign the highly-talented forward.
An impressive year saw Bayern come calling and for a cut-price deal, owing to a clause in his contract, and Gnabry was on his way to the Allianz Arena, but spent another season on loan at Hoffenheim before bursting into life as the Bavarians won the treble in 2020.
Gnabry scored 23 times that season – his most prolific campaign to date. Silverware has also continued to come his way and his trophy cabinet now boasts a hat-trick of league titles, two cups and Europe’s top prize. He has also become an integral figure for the German national side, who are very much on their way back.
It seemed written in the stars that the winger would return to north London in October 2019 to dismantle Arsenal’s arch rivals Tottenham. Gnabry scored four times as he lit up the club’s newly built stadium, that was quickly vacated as the Germans tore apart their Premier League opponents.
Months later he was back in London, this time tormenting Chelsea as Bayern won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge in the last 16 of the Champions League. Arsenal have fallen behind the Blues and Tottenham in the capital pecking order in recent seasons, whilst Gnabry has made light work of both defences.
“I always enjoy coming back,” he smiled after scoring a brace against Chelsea. Those on the red half of north London must be wondering how they ever let him leave.
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