FC Bayern sign Serge Gnabry

Jan Separator June 12, 2017

Gnabry has signed a contract until 2020. However, he could be loaned out straight away. A loan to TSG Hoffenheim could be on the cards. Even the departure of Douglas Costa is no less likely with Gnabry. There were already rumours last summer that Gnabry would join Bayern. And yet it went a little differently. Gnabry ended up in Bremen. It was a transitional year for the German international.

FC Bayern were probably involved in the move from London, even if nobody will confirm it officially. Gnabry was parked in Bremen for a year to encourage his development and to observe him.

Gnabry scored eleven goals for Bremen and set up three. In the first half of the season, he was certainly one of the few consistent Bremen players. In the second half of the season – and during Werder’s remarkable run – Gnabry was injured for a long time. He missed seven games and on the last matchdays he came off the bench for three out of four appearances.

No Arsenal breakthrough

The winger had gone via Stuttgarter Kickers and VfB Stuttgart to London at a young age (16). There, Gnabry, mostly being played as a right-sided attacking midfielder, began to appear for the academy team. From the beginning of 2012, he started playing for the Arsenal reserves. On the 31st of July 2012, Gnabry signed his first professional contract with the Gunners, and made his debut on matchday 8 of the 2012/13 season in the Premier League, being brought on for Aaron Ramsey in the 82nd minute against Norwich City.

Serge Gnabry celebrates after scoring Arsenal U19’s first goal during the UEFA Youth League Quarter Final match against FC Barcelona U19 in 2014.
(Photo: David Ramos/Getty Images)

After a promising start to his career, it somewhat came to a halt in the following years. While he made nine more senior appearances in the 2013/14 season, there was no room for him in the squad the following year. His loan to West Bromwich Albion was only a logical next step. But he wasn’t able to make his mark there, or rather wasn’t able to get much playing time. His league debut on the 23rd of August 2015 as a substitute in the 2-3 home defeat to Chelsea remained his only Premier League appearances for the Baggies.

In spite of that, Gnabry remained a key part of the German national youth sides.

His career recently received a big boost at the Olympic Games as a part of Germany’s Olympics squad. Against Mexico and South Korea, Gnabry was the match-winner, and kept Germany in the tournament with his goals and his individual quality. He contributed to a big victory against Fiji with more goals. In the quarter-final against Portugal, there was yet another goal, in total his sixth in six games. With that tournament, he played himself back into focus.

Gamble for the future

Gnabry is a fast, technically-capable dribbler and so in principle fits in with Bayern’s usual kind of winger, a necessity this summer due to the age of Robben and Ribéry.

With his hyperactive, fast-paced style, Gnabry is strongly reminiscent of Douglas Costa. Like the Brazilian, Gnabry sometimes has a tendency towards hasty play and also hasn’t always been so calm in front of goal. His goals at the Olympics and during the previous season did show, however, that he can develop that. It was also notable in Rio how comfortably Gnabry felt dribbling on the left when he was able to cut in at speed. Independent of his goals, he was also a constant asset with many pleasantly direct plays against admittedly not the most experienced of back-lines. His left foot, by the by, is also very tidy.

Meanwhile, it’s unlikely that the Olympics was the first time Gnabry caught Bayern’s attention. The young German, who was in the VfB Stuttgart youth side that contested the semi-final of the under-17 Bundesliga championship alongside Joshua Kimmich in 2011, has been a consistent presence in international youth teams for years and has thus been on Bayern’s extended radar for some time.

Gnabry, at first glance, doesn’t particularly stand out in the really huge pool of small, fast wingers who can dribble. He was also absolutely not the first choice in Bayern’s search for another attacking player with vision.

However, the realities of the transfer market have shown that players in high demand like Julian Brandt, Leroy Sané, Gabriel Jesus and others are either not available or only are for astronomical prices.

Gnabry is rather more a gamble than a sound investment. The example of Kevin de Bruyne, who came to SV Werder in 2012 at 21 years old and made a big leap forward in his development there, shows that young players can make big strides forward with regular playing time. Bayern’s decision-makers clearly see Gnabry as capable of making a similar leap. That’s not an automatic response, as Julian Green’s loan to HSV recently showed.

Such a transfer is thoroughly typical of the way Bayern’s sporting director Michael Reschke works, as he already pulled off similar deals in Leverkusen, bringing young players like Julian Brandt, Karim Bellarabi and Levin Öztunali into the club early on, so that they could develop them themselves. The signing of Joshua Kimmich fits that pattern too.

All in all, Gnabry’s signing is not a particularly usual move for the Rekordmeister, showing how creative Bayern’s decision-makers will have to be in the current transfer market climate.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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