This week marked a whole calendar year since Serge Gnabry last represented Arsenal in a competitive fixture.
The German U19 international enjoyed a superb breakthrough season in 2013/14, but has endured a miserable time in the last twelve months owing to a succession of injury setbacks.
Gnabry sustained a knee problem in March last year, which ruled him out of the last couple of months of last season. After undergoing a successful period of rehabilitation he was able to represent the U21s in October, with the youngster’s confidence being boosted by a goal at that level away to Stoke City.
Then came another disappointment for Gnabry as an injury suffered in training meant that he was forced to spend another few weeks on the sidelines. He made another brief return for the U21s against Newcastle United last month, but hasn’t featured since and has been absent from the past few training sessions with the senior team.
It is looking increasingly unlikely that Gnabry will play a competitive game for the club this season. There had been hope that the dynamic winger would head on loan at some point this campaign, having underlined his credentials last season, but those plans have now been put on hold.
Gnabry’s 2013/14 campaign contained plenty of highlights, including his decisive goal against Swansea City in the Premier League and his memorable performance against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup. The youngster’s potential was rewarded with a new long-term contract, but, since then, he has had to bide his time and wait patiently for his wounds to heal.
When Gnabry does eventually return, which in all likelihood won’t be until next season, there is a genuine question as to how he will fit into the senior set-up. There is uncertainty about Theo Walcott’s contractual situation, but Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is progressing well and Danny Welbeck has also been utilised in Gnabry’s preferred position on the right wing.
Gnabry has shown on occasion that he is also capable of operating as an attacking midfielder, but his qualities are best suited out wide, where he can beat opponents with his trickery and pace.
All is certainly not lost for Gnabry. He doesn’t turn 20 until the summer, whilst he has the security of having three more years to run on his Arsenal contract.
The aim for him now is to simply avoid further setbacks and get used to playing regularly again. If he can prove his fitness then a loan spell could follow next season, enabling the promising youngster to get back on track in his quest to reach the top.