Serge Gnabry wants revenge against Borussia Dortmund when the Bundesliga's top two collide at the Allianz Arena on Saturday, with Bayern now two points behind Dortmund after dropping points against Freiburg.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com Gnabry discusses the upcoming, potentially title-deciding, Der Klassiker meeting, as well as the joy he's had in playing alongside Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, and why he chose to move to the English Premier League and Arsenal as a teenager.
bundesliga.com: What are your thoughts on the Dortmund game coming up?
Serge Gnabry: "We’re looking at the game with a positive mindset because we made up the nine points that they had on us. We’re pretty confident at the moment, they have slipped up a couple of times. For both teams there’s a lot at stake. We want to go and show them that we want to be champions this year and beat them at home."
Question: What does the game mean to you?
Gnabry: "It’s a rivalry. Dortmund are the other team in Germany who have been hot for a couple of years. It’s the biggest game of the season, we know we lost there but we’ve got home advantage this time. You look forward to such a big game with all the hype surrounding it. For us, having the chance to bounce back is huge."
Question: Did you watch these games when you were playing in England?
Gnabry: "I watched it on TV whenever they played. Even when I was in England we knew it was a massive game. It’s the biggest game in Germany. A lot of people watched it and, I come from Germany, so of course I did too! It’s going to be a big game."
Question: Jadon Sancho said beating Bayern was the highlight of his season, do you have a message for him?
Gnabry: "It’s going to be the other way round! We’ll see after the game but I am positive. We’re on a good run at the moment, we’ve scored so many goals in the last couple of games. Our confidence is high and I think we’ll win the game, so hopefully I can tell him that afterwards."
Watch: Highlights from Dortmund's win over Bayern in November
Question: What upper hand, if any, do Bayern have over Dortmund ahead of this game?
Gnabry: "I think we’ve played four games recently when we scored five or more goals so we’re very confident going forward. We know we can score, we’re on a good run. We made up the nine-point deficit from the winter break, which a lot of people doubted we’d do - I did too to be honest. Knowing we can potentially decide the championship next weekend by beating Dortmund is vital for us."
Question: What were your thoughts when you first arrived at Bayern?
Gnabry: "I hoped I’d play as many games as I have played so far. I’m hoping to play the rest of the games as well. My target was to break into the starting 11, I’ve been working hard every day. I knew what I could bring to the team and I’ve been trying to show that week in, week out. I’m just trying to do my best."
Question: What has it been like being surrounded by so many top players?
Gnabry: "It’s a blessing to be playing and training with these guys. You see some remarkable things and it makes you happy to see that quality. Growing up you want to become a professional but making it to Bayern and playing with these guys really is a blessing."
Question: How impressive are Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery?
Gnabry: "I got to meet Franck and Arjen in their last years. They are both great characters and great players as well. You can learn a lot from them. They have been at the top level for 10 or 12 years, which is my aim too. I think it’s everyone’s aim to have a career like they have had. They are remarkable and it’s sad that they are both leaving."
Question: What have you learned from them?
Gnabry: "His [Robben's] dribbling and cutting inside is remarkable. I haven’t quite got mine to his level yet, with my weak foot. I’m better from the other side. Mentally, too, they both want to win, you can see the passion they have. It’s their last year and they are not the youngest but they haven’t lost that passion. They want to work, want to play and they give their best. They still show the skill they have, it’s crazy. They have had amazing career."
Question: What has your football career been like for you so far?
Gnabry: "It’s been a long journey! I went to Arsenal when I was 16, had four years there but then wanted to play more regularly. I then decided to go to Werder Bremen before spending a year at Hoffenheim then joining Bayern Munich. Now I’m happy to be here."
Watch: Gnabry's incredible halfway line goal for Hoffenheim last season!
Question: But it all started for you at VfB Stuttgart?
Gnabry: "I started quite young, I think I was four or four and a half. I used to kick everything in the flat! My grandparents used to play football with me. I don’t think I was interested in anything else at the time. My parents took me to my home town, to the TSV Weissach sports club because they thought I needed to burn off my excess energy. I’ve been playing football ever since."
Question: When did you realise that turning professional was a possibility?
Gnabry: "The first time that I thought I could be professional I was around 14 or 15. That was when the first interest from big clubs came. I joined Arsenal later but I thought wow, it’s not just German clubs but international clubs as well. And clubs like those don’t mess around! I decided to take my chance there. You’re 16 years old though and you still have a long way to go before you’re a full professional. At the age of 16 or 17 I adapted quite well there and figured out what I needed to do."
Question: What was it like moving abroad at such a young age?
Gnabry: "I moved because I relished the risk, everyone else told me not to go. They said I wouldn’t make it, that England was too difficult, a different style of play. I thought Arsenal was an amazing club, Arsene Wenger was there at the time and he gave young players a chance. They played football in a way I liked, offensive, a lot of possession. I wanted to take the risk, go there and show everyone I could make it."
Question: You're a keen pianist. Does playing the piano help you as a footballer?
Gnabry: "You can kind of compare it. I’m not as good with my hands as I am with my feet! If you learn a new piece or get the feeling of playing a new combination it’s similar to football. It gives you a really good feeling. You’re happy and you get a boost if you do something really good in training and it’s kind of similar with the piano as you get better and better."
Question: What are your targets for the rest of the season?
Gnabry: "One of my personal goals for the rest of the season is, first of all, to stay fit so I can play all the matches and continue playing the way I am. I want to do more, to try and do better and offer more to the team offensively. I want to score more and make sure we win our games."
Question: You could see yourself looking down on the Marienplatz in Munich from the city's town hall. How would that feel?
Gnabry: "I’d love to see how it looks from up there. I’ve never been up there before so I want to experience that in my first year at Bayern, to stand up there and celebrate the title, if possible, holding two trophies up because we are still in the cup. I can tell you afterwards how that feels!"
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