Almost exactly two years ago, Serge Gnabry assisted Santi Cazorla as Arsenal went on to knock Spurs out of the FA Cup on their way to winning the trophy.
It was the last encouraging performance of the season for Gnabry, who soon after picked up an injury that he would struggle to shake off for 18 months. As a whole, the 2013/14 season should have been his breakthrough.
With Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain injured the German, just 18 at the time, came into the side and perfomed well. He played 14 times for Arsenal that season, an impressive tally for such a young player, and didn’t look out of place.
The injury robbed us of him last season, and we have since signed Alexis Sánchez and Danny Welbeck. With that in mind Gnabry, who is so well thought of back in Germany that he was promoted to the national team u21s for the European Championships last summer despite missing the previous summer’s successful u19 tournament, went out on loan to West Bromwich Albion in the summer.
Half a season and one Premier League substitute appearance (which saw him clock up 12 minutes on the pitch) later, he’s going to return to north London.
Capable of things like this, he shouldn’t be struggling to find football in the Premier League while out on loan. At the age of 20 he has a long time to put things right, but what if Tony Pulis’ harsh appraisal back in October wasn’t wrong?
“Serge has come here to play games but he just hasn’t been for me, at the moment, at that level to play games,” Pulis told reporters.
The Welshman saw Gnabry in training every day, so we’re not in much of a position to argue. Maybe the German has struggled since returning from injury?
But he’s looked fine for Germany u21s, and West Brom have only managed to score 20 Premier League goals this season, the fourth least in the league. They’re comfortably in mid table but, rather than play Gnabry, Pulis would rather select central midfielder Craig Gardner out wide.
Perhaps Gnabry is reluctant to play as conservatively as Pulis would ask him to, but he hasn’t actually been given the opportunity to disprove his manager in a game. His loan spell is now over and another will probably start soon, maybe in the Championship. To be frank Gnabry should be playing at a higher level than that but, as he must know now, nothing is going to come easy for him. If he wants to make it at Arsenal, it looks like he will have to take a step down to work his way back up.