Anyone watching Serge Gnabry run rings around opposition defences in the Bundesliga would hardly believe that the Werder Bremen forward is still only in his first season as a regular first-team player. For all the ease with which he plays on the field, the 21-year-old is just as grounded off it. As well as his outstanding sporting ability, this grip on reality is an important component of his success.
Watch: The making of Serge Gnabry:
Although he featured for a total of just 483 minutes in the Premier League during his five years with Arsenal – including 12 during an unsuccessful loan spell with West Bromwich Albion – Gnabry learnt a lot from his time in London. The most important lesson has been how crucial playing time is for young players, and that loan players are not always held in the same esteem as players owned by the club.
Özil and Mertesacker as advisors
Following an excellent Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the 21-year-old was coveted around Europe, but there were two critical factors in his decision for a new club: How many appearances and a permanent contract. A loan deal was out of the question for the rapid attacking all-rounder following his experience with West Brom.
After conversations with former Green-White players and Arsenal teammates Per Mertesacker and Mesut Özil, Gnabry decided on a move to Bremen. A decision that seems to have paid off for all sides. The youngster has already clocked up 1,800 minutes of Bundesliga action after 24 match days, and his impressive performances have been rewarded with his first international caps for Germany.
Gnabry’s importance does not just lie on the pitch, as he displayed when he missed the match against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 24 through injury but still travelled with the team to support his fellow players. “Having him here as a supporter is important for the team,” said defender Niklas Moisander, “It’s a great signal to the team.” Moreover, it underlines how mature Gnabry is for his age.
Hrubesch is a Gnabry fan
For one person, this monumental rise has been no surprise. Horst Hrubesch, who took charge of the Germany team at the Rio 2016 Olympics, has long been convinced by the 21-year-old’s ability. “He has super technique, an eye for a pass, is dangerous in front of goal and possesses the sort of quality you need for your team,” lauded Hrubesch.
Following 16 years in charge of the Germany Under-21s, Hrubesch is the current sporting director of the German FA (DFB), and the former Hamburger SV and Borussia Dortmund striker made a spot-on prediction early in the 2016/17 season: “If he can settle down at Bremen and then get a good pre-season under his belt in the winter, then we will see the best of Serge Gnabry in the new year.”
The Werder forward scored three goals in four Bundesliga games in February, including his first brace in the 2-1 victory away at Wolfsburg. Things are going well for Gnabry, but particularly away from home, where he has bagged nine of his ten goals this campaign – only Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been more successful on the road. Performances that have seen the youngster deservedly nominated for the Bundesliga's Rookie of the Month award.