At a BTSport live Facebook event, Arsene Wenger confirmed that he wanted to keep Serge Gnabry at the club during the summer.
“We didn’t want to get rid of Gnabry, we wanted to keep him,” Wenger said.
“But he was in the last year of his contract. We were close to extending his contract but finally he changed his mind and went to Werder Bremen.
“But I think we taught him a lot and I think if you ask him he would agree with that.”
While youngsters often leave Arsenal, rarely do they ever do a Paul Pogba.
The closest in recent years, perhaps, is Oguzhan Ozyakup who was sold for just under €500k and is now valued at around €20m. Mostly, however, the youngsters never reach price tags anywhere close to that.
Serge Gnabry feels like he is going to smash that trend and will become the player who really makes it big after walking away from Arsenal.
So why did he want to leave?
It was clear that Arsenal and Arsene Wenger wanted to keep him, even before Wenger’s comments.
During the summer, as talk mounted over his contract on the back of his Olympic displays, the boss even seemed to issue a warning to the German – he owed the club for standing by him though a serious knee injury that took him out of the game for over a year. They nursed him back to the point where he could shine in Brazil.
It seemed inconceivable that he would reject a new deal.
As with most things, it’s unlikely that there is just one answer to this question.
A number of things could have played a part, but perhaps the biggest factor of it all was simply Bayern Munich.
When reports started to emerge that Serge could leave Arsenal rather than signing a new deal, it was Bayern Munich who were the side first linked. First drafts of the reports claimed that Bayern would purchase him and then loan him out immediately to Werder Bremen, the side that ultimately, ‘purchased’ him.
The rumours then switched and it was claimed that Werder Bremen would buy him but that Bayern would have an option on him next summer, an odd claim given they have never been involved in Serge’s career.
Then it was claimed that Bayern were giving the money to Werder to enable them to buy Gnabry.
There has been much speculation over why they would do this with the leading conspiracy contender claiming that it was because Arsenal would have charged Bayern more for him than they would Bremen.
I can’t say that I’ve dug into Bayern’s other transfers to see if they are indeed overcharged, or if they have entered into a deal like this before, but it would seem very strange. At most, it would have saved them a couple of million, not a huge saving when you think what could happen if they’re caught.
You see, ‘parking’ a player is illegal.
It’s no wonder that Werder were very quirk to deny any Bayern involvement, but even the message coming from their club was not consistent. Something very fishy was floating around.
We will likely never know what really went on, even if Serge moves to Bayern Munich next summer, or the year after that, there is enough plausible deniability here that Bayern can simply say they identified him as a talented young player after watching him closely playing in Germany.
Bayern Munich, as with Real Madrid and Barcelona, are a hard club to say no to, and their involvement would certainly make Gnabry’s decision to quit Arsenal for Werder Bremen more understandable, especially when anyone with eyes could tell you that there was a slot in the Arsenal first team waiting for him should he decide to try and take it.
He would not have had to do much to displace the Ox or Theo from the starting lineup, the former especially.
Then there was the Tony Pulis factor.
Arsenal agreed to Gnabry joining West Brom on loan, a decision that proved disastrous for the forward as he tried to return to form after that knee injury.
Many ask why Arsenal let him get to the last year of his contract, but that decision is not a hard one to understand.
Knee injuries can destroy a player and after coming back from it and failing to nail down a place with West Brom for whatever reason, Arsenal most likely had doubts over Serge’s ability to get up to the top level and were waiting for evidence that he had, or, at the very least, could get back on track.
Let’s not forget, before his performances at the Olympic in the summer, nobody was talking about him. Serge Gnabry was not a player high on many club’s shopping lists and Arsenal would have felt confident that, after employing him for five years and guiding him back from that injury, they had a little time to play with, albeit not very much.
The loan spell at West Brom also had a negative effect on Gnabry’s confidence, a fact that Wenger mentioned over the summer when he said, “He went to West Brom, didn’t play, we had to rebuild his confidence. I allowed him to go to the Olympics to help Germany.”
Footballers, like many people, can be inherently selfish, but with his whole career still ahead of him, most people would have felt a debt to Arsenal.
Serge clearly did not.
As already mentioned, I do believe that Gnabry will be one of a very small group of players that we will look back on in a few years and wonder what might have been had he remained at Arsenal. It’s hard not to see him becoming a star at the top level and there’s no reason why, with regular football, he can’t become a player who commands the most ridiculous of transfer fees.
Should that happen, the paltry £4.25m Arsenal got for him this summer will seem even more ridiculous than it already does in a summer that saw Paul Pogba go for a gazillion pounds just a year after Anthony Martial moved for half a gazillion.
Nobody is claiming Serge is at their level, but give him time.
The fun part will be having to listen to the media bang on constantly about how we let him go in the first place without ever questioning if the player should have shown a bit more loyalty and respect to the club who allowed him to get to a place where he could shine in Rio in the first place.