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Hrishi Anand writes a detailed scout report about Serge Gnabry, Werder Bremen’s talented winger.
In the recently concluded Olympic football tournament, German winger Serge Gnabry won the golden boot after a string of eye catching performances for Die Mannschaft.
Born to an Ivorian father and a German mother in Stuttgart, Germany, Gnabry spent his childhood in the country of his birth. Also a sprinter in his school days, Gnabry chose football over athletics but his sprinting no doubt was a precursor to his footballing abilities on the wings. He started his footballing career with TSV Weissach (1999-2003) and TSF Ditzingen (2003-2005) before moving to the Stuttgart youth model playing for the U-18 team. Arsenal, in 2010, agreed a 100,000 pound deal for Gnabry but the player had to wait until he turned 16 in 2011 to make the move.
Joining the Arsenal academy at the same time as the likes of Hector Bellerin , Gnabry settled in quickly and delivered promising performances for the U-18 team. Before long the German was promoted to the Reserve team and featured in the matchday squad against Norwich City for the senior team in the 2012-13 campaign. He also featured in a Champions League fixture against Schalke while at the same time impressing at the NextGen youth series.
The 2013-14 campaign was the breakout season for Gnabry as he made 14 senior team appearances. He scored his first Arsenal goal away to Swansea and was particularly impressive in an FA Cup derby against Tottenham Hotspur. The 2014-15 season was disappointing for the winger as injury robbed him of a season and he failed to make a single senior appearance. He was sent out on loan to Tony Pulis’ West Bromwich Albion in the 15-16 campaign where he made a solitary appearance and was recalled in January. Following his goal-scoring form at the Olympics for Germany, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger stated his motive to renew Gnabry’s contract. The German however returned to the country of his birth following a move to Werder Bremen in search of first team opportunities.
Usually employed as a left winger, Gnabry is more prone to cutting in from the left and does not cross as much. He has also been used on the right wing as well as an attacking midfielder. Versatile enough to play across the front three behind the striker, he has a good positional sense to receive passes and make runs through gaps in defenses, particularly in between lines. He has recently been employed at Werder as a false nine leading the line. This could very well result in his conversion to a complete center forward however it seems unlikely considering his style and build. Gnabry has also been used centrally as a playmaker and is very adept at picking out a pass.
In many ways, Gnabry is similar to someone like Raheem Sterling in a sense that he is a modern version of a pure winger capable of playing on either wing but at the same time effective through the middle. This also makes the winger lethal on the counter.
Gnabry’s biggest asset is his speed. A sprinter in his youth, Gnabry is extremely quick to get off the mark and is able to maintain a good pace even with the ball at his feet. This aspect is particularly useful for counter attacking. Another feature of his play is his close control and dribbling. Very fond of going on solo runs, the German is a technically strong dribbler and can get past defenders to carve chances for himself and teammates.
Short but well built, Gnabry has a low center of gravity enabling him to shrug off challenges and adapt physically if need be. This is what really helped him slot in at Arsenal where most players coming in from foreign league may require time to adapt. In the same sense, as a result of being accustomed to the style of play in England, Gnabry may not have to worry about adapting physically elsewhere. Werder should be able to utilize his versatility to the maximum without expecting a period of adaptation.
A good finisher, Gnabry is clinical in front of goal as seen with his impressive tally of 6 goals in 6 games at the Olympics. The winger is also adept at taking set pieces. He has found his feet quickly in the Bundesliga scoring a couple of goals including an exquisite volley against Gladbach. He has also shown the knack of showing up at the right place at the right time highlighting his efficient runs into the box as well as smart positioning that Thomas Muller would be proud of.
Standing at 1.71 meters, Gnabry isn’t particularly tall. Also sometimes lethargic in helping the team out defensively, willingness to track back and defend is not something he is regarded for. Still only 21, the young winger’s inexperience shows as he makes a wrong pass or fades out of the game. Working on his defensive contribution is definitely something Gnabry do considering that a team like Werder very often find themselves under pressure. In this sort of situation, Gnabry should be available to provide additional support to the wing backs if necessary and therefore create an opportunity for a counter.
Very often, Gnabry also overcomplicates, preferring to take on defenders rather than pick a simple pass. While pacey and skillful, the young German needs the awareness and patience to make the right decisions in the heat of the game.
However he has plenty of time on his side to improve upon the aspects of his game that require additional attention.
Following his move to Werder, Gnabry’s priority should be securing playing time and completing an injury free season. No doubt, his talent will definitely come through as long as he stays injury free. Werder should be a good match for Gnabry as they are known for maximizing pace on the wings. With the likes of Zlatko Junuzovic pulling the strings from midfield, Gnabry could also very easily become a prolific goal scorer as he attempts to become a reliable starter for Die Werderaner.