Serge Gnabry was already a familiar figure to most Arsenal supporters following his fleeting first-team appearances last season, but, in the past ten days or so the Germany U19 international has seen his stock rise considerably after being asked to fill in for the injured Theo Walcott in three consecutive fixtures for the senior side.
Arsene Wenger’s decision to entrust Gnabry with a starting berth yielded mixed results. The youngster started nervously in the Premier League against Stoke City, but gradually grew into the game before delivering what was, by his lofty standards, a rather disappointing showing against West Bromwich Albion in the Capital One Cup last week.
Even given the lack of options on the right wing, it was still something of a surprise to see Gnabry chosen in the starting line-up again for the visit to Swansea City last weekend, but the 18 year old certainly seized the opportunity, scoring his first senior goal and also creating a presentable goalscoring opportunity for Olivier Giroud following a breathtaking surge into the penalty area.
Gnabry also showed a willingness to track back and assist his team-mates defensively, something he has not always been known to do at youth level, and, overall, can be very pleased with how the month of September unfolded in terms of his footballing progression, particularly following his stellar showing against Marseille in the UEFA Youth League a couple of weeks previously.
Now, the challenge will be for Gnabry to continue to perform impressively when he inevitably finds himself back in the U21s in the coming months, particularly when Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Lukas Podolski return from injury. It has often been the case that players, after receiving a taste of senior football, lack the application upon returning to the second-string, but Gnabry certainly seems a determined individual, so hopefully there won’t be too many problems in that regard.
Depending on how the injury situation transpires and also on Arsenal’s progression in the Capital One Cup, Gnabry may head out on loan in the second half of the campaign as he seeks to accelerate his development even further. Perhaps Wenger will wait until next season before he allows Gnabry to experience regular football elsewhere, but the Frenchman seemed certain in his belief that Gnabry already possesses the physical attributes to compete at the top level, even if, in just his third season at the club since joining as a 16 year old from Stuttgart, he is still far from the finished article.
There are still many challenges ahead, but Serge Gnabry, having received a taste of the big-time, will be eager to re-assert himself at the top level as quickly as possible.