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Monday, 10 October 2016

How Wenger and Arsenal let Gnabry slip through their fingers

"I want to keep Serge Gnabry and extend his contract. I think he's here now for a long time." Two weeks after Arsene Wenger announced his intention to tie Arsenal’s German hotshot down to a new long-term contract, it was confirmed that the 21-year-old had signed for Werder Bremen on a permanent deal. 

It was a decision which Gnabry mulled over all summer. Enquiries for the versatile forward kept on arriving following an array of superb performances with Germany at the Olympics, during which he scored six goals to finish as top scorer.
Several major European clubs, including Bayern Munich, expressed a keen interest in signing Gnabry but were quickly told that he was not for sale — until the player eventually came to the conclusion with his father and agent Jean-Hermann that leaving Arsenal would benefit his career.

Gnabry joined Arsenal from Stuttgart in 2011 for a fee in the region of 100,000 euros. He flourished in the Gunners' academy system and revealed that the reason why he left Germany for England was because of Wenger’s philosophy in giving young players a chance.

“I knew that the manager [Wenger] banks on young players and I will get my chance here.” Unfortunately for Gnabry a mixture of injuries and players ahead of him in the pecking order curtailed his opportunities to show what he could do on the pitch.

“He is really uncomplicated in day-to-day life”, Gnabry said about Wenger. “He talks a lot to me, and points me in the right direction. But what the future has in store for me is entirely up to me and how I present myself in training and during the games.”

Perhaps the key is reading between the lines when you analyze why Gnabry didn’t make it at Arsenal. Was it a mixture of impatience and stubbornness or simply a burning desire to show everyone what he can do elsewhere?

Knee injuries can destroy players and the lingering doubts in Gnabry’s mind were made stronger when he agreed to join West Brom on loan last season. He made just one appearance under Tony Pulis, a manager who didn’t like Gnabry’s defensive work rate and reported reluctance to track back. Arsenal exercised an option to cut the loan deal short and Gnabry was left feeling dismayed at the way he was treated.

There were doubts from the Arsenal hierarchy as to whether Gnabry could recover from the knee injury he suffered against Bayern Munich in March 2014. It came at a time when he was playing regular first-team football and meant that he wouldn’t play at all in the following season.

While Gnabry remained unsure whether he would be offered a new contract, Arsenal waited to see whether a full recovery was in sight. Coming into the 2016-17 season with less than a year left on his contract put Gnabry in an excellent bargaining position and allowed him to leave the club for a fee just under 5 million pounds ($6M), much to the frustration of many Arsenal supporters.

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