Arsenal let one of the best talents in European football slip through their fingers and the German is now set for a Champions League final appearance
When Arsenal fans see Serge Gnabry dominating in Champions League blockbusters, it must bring a tear to the eye.
Once upon time, the superstar Bayern Munich winger was plying his trade in north London and looking set for a bright future at the Emirates.
But in an incredible story – that takes in a failed loan spell at West Brom and a subsequent move to Werder Bremen – Gnabry now finds himself going into a Champions League final as the Bavarians’ most in-form player.
The commonly held view on Gnabry’s departure from Arsenal in 2016 is that the club wanted to sell him because of his chequered injury history and lack of development.
This is not strictly accurate, though. The Gunners never wanted to get rid of the German but they are culpable for a decision that left the player wanting to seek a fresh start.
Gnabry joined Arsenal from Stuttgart as a 16-year-old in 2011 and, just over a year later, he made his debut for the first team in a League Cup match against Coventry.
A Premier League bow followed on October 12 versus Norwich, making him the Gunners’ second-youngest player to feature in a league match – at 17 years and 98 days old – behind Jack Wilshere.
Gnabry began to make an impact on the first team in the summer of 2013, at just 18 years of age, but a knee injury suffered against Bayern in March 2014 halted his progress and put him on the sidelines for the entirety of the following season.
However, as Gnabry returned to fitness for the 2015-16 campaign, Arsenal decided to loan him to West Brom – a move that proved crucial in the player’s decision to eventually leave England.
At West Brom, Gnabry made three appearances during a half-season spell that was brought to a premature end by Arsenal during the January transfer window, after Baggies coach Tony Pulis had made it clear that he did not rate the youngster.
“Serge has come here to play games but he just hasn’t been at the level required to play the games,” Pulis said while Gnabry was still at the club.
“He’s come from academy football and not played much league football. Does academy football really prepare players for league football? And we’re talking about Premier League football here.
“As a manager you pick a team that’s going to win a game of football. You pick your best team, you don’t leave people out because you don’t like them, because of this, that and the other.”