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Serge Gnabry is exactly what is required

Arsenal lost Serge Gnabry. He has become one of the best goalscoring wingers in world football. And right now, he is precisely what the team requires.

Serge Gnabry was one of the brightest talents that Arsenal had. Arsene Wenger always spoke highly of the young winger, even during his dark loan days, like being sent back to north London as Tony Pulis deemed him surplus to requirements.

But Gnabry had set his heart on leaving the club. He believed he was deserving of more game time and that Wenger’s more patient approach to his development was stenting growth. Afraid that his career would flame out, as many young players before him have suffered, Gnabry wanted to make something happen. And so he did. He forced an exit.

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Gnabry was sold in 2016. He moved to Werder Bremen at 21. Fast forward four years and he is one of the best players in the world, starting every week for one of the best teams in the world, on a career trajectory that could see him win innumerable titles and trophies and individual honours when all is said and done. He was named Bayern Munich’s Player of the Season last year and has an outrageous 18 goals and 11 assists in all competitions this year. And Arsenal sold him.

In actuality, they had to sell him. Gnabry loved the club and would have wanted to stay, but the lack of opportunity frustrated him and he chose not to sign a new contract, forcing Wenger’s hand. But ever since his exit, Gnabry has always held a special relationship with the club.

He tweeted out that ‘North London is Red’ after he ran Spurs ragged in the Champions League, scoring four goals in the process. He then tweeted out ‘London is Red’ after circling Chelsea into utter confusion in the knockout stages earlier this season. And now he has been spotted training in his house in an Arsenal shirt, with Mesut Ozil sending a special message to the young winger.

Obviously, this has led to the half-real, half-fake jokes that Gnabry might one day return to the Emirates. Like Paul Pogba and Manchester United, it would be like the prodigal son returning to his rightful home, one that he never wanted to leave in the first place. In reality, that is never going to happen, at least not any time soon. Bayern are competing for titles and Champions League. Arsenal are not even in the latter.

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But the feigned Gnabry chase does reveal something about the current makeup of the squad: the Gunners desperately need a goalscoring winger, especially if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is to leave in the summer as has been muted.

Nicolas Pepe was meant to be this type of player, and he might yet be, despite an underwhelming first season at the club, but as modern football has increasingly illustrated, having two highly productive wide players who can beat defenders, explode on counter-attacks and score goals is vital to forming a prolific attack. Gnabry, or a Gnabry-like player, to replace Aubameyang on the left side, offering greater offensive balance and wing play, would be ideal.

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The tale of Gnabry at Arsenal, then, is one of missed opportunity. His departure will haunt the club for years to come, even if there was nothing they could do about it. But his exit, and the hole he leaves behind, highlights a new need that the team must find: a goalscoring winger.

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