Serge Gnabry will always feel like one that got away.
An extremely talented youth, he decided against renewing his contract with Arsenal back in 2016, instead returning to Germany to sign for Werder Breman.
You have to delve deep to discover what actually happened with Gnbary at Arsenal, and what led to him leaving the club that he agreed to join at 15.
Having agreed to join Arsenal in 2010 in a £100,000 deal from home town club former club VfB Stuttgart, Gnabry officially joined Arsenal for the 2011–12 season.
He played for the under-18s for the majority of the season but was then promoted to the reserves after impressive displays.
That summer he was promoted to Arsenal’s first team squad, joining the senior professionals at pre-season; playing for the Arsenal first team for a against FC Köln.
He then made his professional first-team debut for Arsenal at 17-years-old on 26 September 2012 against Coventry City in the League Cup as a 72nd-minute substitute for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain as Arsenal routed Coventry 6–1.
Less than a month later he made his Premier League debut in the 1–0 defeat against Norwich City at Carrow Road.
At 17 years and 98 days, he became Arsenal’s second-youngest player in the league’s history after Jack Wilshere. Four days later, he made his Champions League debut, coming on as a substitute in Arsenal’s 2–0 home loss to FC Schalke 04.
It certainly felt like a star was born as he spent the rest of the season jumping between U19’s and reserves whilst appearing a few times on the bench.
In the first game of the 2013–14 season, Gnabry was included in Arsenal’s first-team squad against Aston Villa and started the game on the bench. He then made his first start for the club on 22 September 2013 in the Premier League against Stoke City after Theo Walcott was ruled out just before kick-off. He played 73 minutes before being subbed out for Ryo Miyaichi as Arsenal won the match 3–1.
He scored his first professional goal in the next league match against Swansea City to lead Arsenal to a 2–1 victory and leave them top of the Premier League table. On 26 October, he won a penalty away at Crystal Palace in an eventual 2–0 victory for Arsenal.
Gnabry’s impressive start to the season resulted in a nomination for the 2013 Golden Boy Award, and a new five-year contract with Arsenal. He was still just 18.
It was at the beginning of the 2014 season that things started to go downhill for the German.
2014/15 really should have been the breakthrough year for the teenager. The year he went bit-part player to getting some proper game time at Arsenal. Instead it was the beginning of a hellish period for him as he picked up a serious knee injury which would keep him away from first team action for over a year, and he would never be seen playing for Arsenal’s first team again.
Having got himself to full fitness, it joined West Bromwich Albion on a season-long loan in August 2015. The idea being that he would get game time, prove his worth, and return to Arsenal at the beginning of 2016 as a Premier League-ready player.
Instead Tony Pulis ruined him, not playing him as he was not a centre back. In January 2016, he was recalled from his loan after lacking first-team action at West Brom, but Arsenal were unable to play him.
With a year left on his contract, there was a new deal on the table, but having played just 12 minutes of Premier League football in 2 years, Arsenal wanted to send him out on loan once more. Gnabry refused the new deal and pushed through a transfer to Werder Breman.
He would only stay at the club for a single season, making 27 league appearances scoring 11 goals while Werder Bremen finished 8th in the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich then came in for him, signing Gnabry on a three-year deal for €8 million after activating a clause in his contract with Werder Bremen.
At this point, a lot of Arsenal fans begun pointing fingers. Not good enough for Arsenal but good enough for Bayern Munich they cried.
It would be justifiable if Arsenal had not offered him a new contract. They did.
3 days after joining Bayern Munich, they announced Gnabry would be moving to 1899 Hoffenheim on a season-long loan.
This is where it gets a bit confusing.
Gnabry left Arsenal for first team football because he did not want to go out on loan. 12 months after leaving, he was once again at a big club, and once again sent on loan. In an interview, Gnabry declared he decided to go out on loan to “gain more experience”.
And it is at this point I wonder if he regretted leaving Arsenal.
When you look at the minutes Alex Iwobi played last season – 1844 in the Premier League – these would have gone to Gnabry if he was at the club.
Taking into account what happened with Alexis Sanchez, Gnabry would be going into this season fighting Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Ozil for a starting place.
Instead he has spent a season on loan in Germany, and is now a member of Bayern Munich’s fringe squad, having finally been given a shirt number this summer. it will be itneresting to see how much game time he actually gets.
In a years time Gnabry will only have a 12 months left on his contract. He will be just 23 and considered as “home grown” in England.
Arsenal could do a lot worse than reuniting with their former prodigy in 2019.