Former Arsenal youngster Serge Gnabry has joined Bayern Munich, and valid points are being made by many Arsenal fans.
Just why did we let him go? Why have we not re-signed him? Is this Arsene Wenger’s Pogba moment? Well to have a proper discussion on the matter, we need to look at the full picture.
Why did Serge Gnabry leave Arsenal?
The key question in the Segre Gnabry scenario is just why did Arsenal let him join Werder Bremen? For your answer, you have to roll back not to last summer when he left The Gunners, but to 2014.
March 2014, Gnabry picked up a knee injury against, ironically, Bayern Munich. Arsenal took their time rehabilitating the then 18 year old. The injury ruled him out for pretty much an entire year as the clubs medical staff rebuilt his knee.
That meant 2014/15 was a write off for the youngster. It was supposed to be his break through season. Instead he spent it in rehabilitation. Ensuring that the knee injury would not plague him throughout his career.
By the time 2015/16 came around, Gnabry was fit and ready to go, but he lacked match practise. He needed game time. So a decision was made to loan him out to WBA for the season. He was just 20 so a year playing Premier League football for a mid table Premier League team would see him come back to Arsenal stronger, fitter, and ready to continue his career.
What followed was a year of frustration for Gnabry. For some reason, having bought Gnabry in on loan,Tony Pulis gave Gnabry just 12 minutes of Premier League football. The loan deal was a complete and utter failure.
Upon returning to Arsenal, Gnabry was in a position where he had played no football for 2 years, was coming up to his 21st birthday, and had a single year left on his contract.
Gnabry was offered a new deal but, having barely played for 2 years, he wanted assurances of first team football.
It was impossible for Arsene Wenger to guarantee first team football to Gnabry with him having Theo Walcott, Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain ahead of him in the pecking order. Add in a returning Danny Welbeck and up and coming Alex Iwobi, Gnabry might not have even been guaranteed a place in the Arsenal 1st team squad.
Gnabry turned down the contract, and engineered a move back to Germany where Werder Bremen could provide him the 1st team football he desired.
You could not blame Gnabry for wanting 1st team football, and you could not blame Arsenal for not being able to give him what he wanted. The two parted ways in mutual consent.
Were Arsenal proved correct?
Last season Serge Gnabry scored 11 goals in 27 games for Werder Bremen. He also netted a hat trick on his debut for Germany – although this was against San Marino.
This hat trick had man Arsenal fans screaming about the mistake Wenger had made in letting Gnabry go.
But then let’s look closer to home.
Gnabry is a right winger. And whilst his return of 11 goals in 27 games was exceptional, Theo Walcott quietly netted 19 goals in 33 games.
Walcott is massively underrated at Arsenal. 19 in 33 last season. So whilst Arsenal fans were screaming at the error in letting Gnabry go, they were ignoring the fact that on the right side of Arsenal’s midfield, Theo Walcott was having an exceptional season, and outperforming Gnabry.
Of course, a case could be made that Gnabry could have played left wing ahead of Alex Iwobi.
Last season for Werder Bremen, Gnabry played througout the front 4 position. Left, right, behind the striker, up front. Doing that job at Arsenal was a man called Alexis Sanchez.
Anyone who sits there and claims Gnabry should have started ahead of Sanchez is an idiot.
The fact that Joel Campbell was also allowed to leave (on loan) and Lucas Perez played so little games, highlights just how little game time would have been available to Gnabry.
And we have not even spoken about Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Should Arsenal have re-signed Gnabry?
On paper, a deal should have been obvious. We reportedly had a first option clause inserted int he deal with Werder Bremen, enabling us to have an offer accepted by Bremen if we equalled what other teams have offered. Arsenal could have put in a bid for Gnabry in the last couple of weeks but it ignores the fact that:
a) Gnabry would have had to have agreed to join Arsenal
b) Arsenal would have had space for Gnabry
On the first, reports from Germany are that Gnabry himself engineered a move away from Werder Bremen.
Werder Bremen chairman Klaus Filbry has been highly critical of the young German
“I would have hoped for some more perseverance from Serge,” Filbry told Werderstube. “Maybe he opted for the easiest way. I think it’s a pity, but I wish him all the best.
“I was hoping that he could imagine a longer stay at Bremen – and the talks we had also suggested that was an option. But then he did not really get going again after his injury. Maybe that made him change his mind.
“The decision made by the coach [to drop Gnabry] were absolutely understandable. We were successful and won.”
It seems Gnabry had decided to leave to join Bayern Munich before Munich had even put in a bid for him. Had Arsenal also come in for him, Gnabry would probably have picked Bayern Munich.
We then have the fact that, like last summer, Arsenal do not have a place for Serge Gnabry.
In the new 3-4-3 formation we are playing, the likes of Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi have seen their game time cut. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain has had to recreate himself as a wing back. Gnabry would have struggled for game time at Arsenal, and would have found himself as an understudy to Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil.
Of course, had either Ozil or Sanchez left, Gnabry could have replaced them. But would you, as a ready and a fan, been happy with selling Sanchez and replacing him with Gnabry? No you wouldn’t be.
Since joint Weder Bremen, Gnabry has recently seen a recurrence of his injury issues, picking up both back, knee and muscular problems in the last 3 months.
Arsenal simply do not have space for Gnabry. We need to be buying better than what we have, Gnabry is not that.
But what then for the question of him not being good enough for Arsenal but being good enough for Bayern Munich.
Gnabry future at Byaern Munich
So Serge Gnabry, not good enough for Arsenal, not even good enough for WBA, now finds himself at the German champions. Surely that shows his class. The mistakes made by others?
The deal actually reminds me of when Chelsea bought Shaun Wright-Phillips from Manchester City for £21m.
At the time, Wright-Phillips was being heavily linked with Arsenal. In came Chelsea who overpaid for the Englishman, sticking him on a big money contract. He ended up as a massive flop, scored just 3 league goals, and was sold back to Manchester City just 3 seasons later.
Chelsea did not sign Wright-Phillips because they needed him, or because he was good enough for them, they signed him to stop an opponent getting him.
Bayern Munich have a record of doing similar in Germany.
Over the years they have signed countless players from other German sides to either weaken an opponent or to simply stop an opponent signing them.
Had Gnabry gone to Borussia Dortmund or RB Leipzeg, he would have improved both outfits. So Bayern Munich went in for the kill. They signed a player who is not as good as Arjen Robben, Frank Ribeiry, Douglas Costa or Kingsley Coman, purely to stop him going to an opponent.
With their pursuit of Alexis Sanchez, they have clearly not signed Serge Gnabry because they believe him to be good enough for them, but because they want to stop an opponent getting better.
If is fairly ironic that Gnabry did not signed a new contract at Arsenal due to a lack of 1st team football, to a year later join Bayern Munich where he will not get 1st team football.
I was disappointed when Serge Gnabry left Arsenal. I felt at the time we should have tried our best to keep him. I saw his talent, his ability.
It was a mistake letting him leave last summer, but it certainly was not a Sir Alex Ferguson / Paul Pogba error.
He could have been a good back up / competition to the wingers last year, and this year could have been good back up for Sanchez and Ozil. But he clearly did not want to be back up. He wanted 1st team football.
I wonder why, 12 months later when joining Bayern Munich, 1st team football is no longer as important to him?