Serge Gnabry showed English football fans exactly what they let go when he scored four goals past Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League. - © 2019 Getty Images
Serge Gnabry showed English football fans exactly what they let go when he scored four goals past Tottenham Hotspur in the UEFA Champions League. - © 2019 Getty Images
bundesliga

Bayern Munich's Serge Gnabry: "Leaving Arsenal the right decision"

Bayern Munich and Germany attacker Serge Gnabry says leaving English Premier League club Arsenal three years ago was the best decision he could have possibly made for his career.

Gnabry scarcely got a look-in under Arsene Wenger at Arsenal after moving to London from the VfB Stuttgart academy, and was similarly left out in the cold by Tony Pulis during an ill-fated loan spell at West Bromwich Albion - but blossomed on his return to Germany.

He scored 11 goals in 27 games for Werder Bremen in 2016/17, numbers which earned him a permanent transfer to Bayern. The record champions sent him out on loan to Hoffenheim, where he underlined his top-level credentials by registering 10 goals and seven assists in 26 appearances.

Bayern duly welcomed Gnabry back for the start of 2018/19, which the 23-year-old ended as the club's Player of the Season thanks in no small part to his 14-goal hand in the Bavarians' Bundesliga and DFB Cup double triumph.

To paraphrase Edith Piaf, Gnabry doesn't regret a thing...

"[Arsenal] had so many wingers at the time - [Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain], [Tomas] Rosicky, Theo [Walcott], [Santi] Cazorla, Alexis [Sanchez], Mesut Özil - so I just had to go," Gnabry told the Athletic ahead of his return to the English capital for Bayern's UEFA Champions League group game against Arsenal's fierce loval rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, in which he scored an incredible four times in a 7-2 rout.

Watch: A tactical look at what Serge Gnabry brings to Bayern

"I was still confident I could've got in the team but I didn’t want to wait. I didn't want to be fourth or fifth choice any longer.

"It was the hardest decision I had to make in football, leaving a club like Arsenal - the fans, the players - but to keep playing I had to take a step back and it was the right decision."

And how. As well as plundering 32 goals and 18 assists in 84 Bundesliga appearances since joining Bremen in summer 2016 - he registered one goal and one assist in 11 outings in two-and-a-half seasons in the English Premier League - Gnabry has become a fully fledged Germany international.

Gnabry (2nd.l) lifted the Bundesliga title in his debut season at Bayern; Arsenal haven't won the English Premier League in 15 years. - 2019 DFL

Gnabry helped Germany win silver at the Summer Olympic Games, before marking his senior international debut in November 2016 with a hat-trick against San Marino.

Overlooked for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, he started every game as the U21s lifted the 2017 Euros and eventually played his way back into national team coach Joachim Löw's plans in October 2018.

He has started eight of Germany's last 10 matches, scoring six goals in the process and winning over Löw once and for all.

"Gnabry will always play under me," the Germany boss said recently.

Too much for Virgil van Dijk: Gnabry typically lines up on the right flank for Bayern, but has been used through the middle to devastating effect for Germany. - imago images / Uwe Kraft

Gnabry's next objective is to re-establish Bayern as the team to beat in the Champions League.

The Stuttgart-born ace created Bayern's only goal in last term's 3-1 aggregate defeat to eventual winners Liverpool in the round of 16 as the Munich giants failed to reach the quarter-finals of the competition for the first time in eight seasons.

The five-time European champions contested the semi-finals in four of the previous five seasons, however, and went all the way in 2012/13.

"Before I arrived, they were almost always in the last four. They played better than their opponents, but were unable to win it," Gnabry said, referring to Bayern's narrow losses to Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid.

"Last year we had a very young team, with me, Niklas [Süle], Joshua [Kimmich]. But our goal is always to compete at the highest level, and we have the potential to do that.

"Have we got a better team now? I don't know. [Philippe] Coutinho, Ivan [Perisic], Lucas [Hernandez] and Benji [Pavard] have all come in, and have all played at the highest level. We need to be strong mentally to beat the top teams."

Bundesliga leaders Bayern top Group B after beating Red Star Belgrade 3-0 in their opening fixture, and thrashing last season's beaten finalists Spurs in an ominous display of muscle.

"It's difficult to put this into words, winning 7-2," Gnabry told Sky after the game. "None of us would have imagined this. To have scored four goals is also an amazing feeling. Obviously it's a great result for us, but we have to keep it up."