News that former Arsenal midfield man Serge Gnabry has signed for Bayern Munich leaves me with an acute feeling of foreboding.
The 21-year-old German spent four seasons at Arsenal and, after a decent run of first team starts early in his Gunners career, around the 2013/14 season, looked set for big things at the club.
However, a combination of injury, loss of form, and an abundance of options in midfield, left Serge out in the cold somewhat and, when he was offered a new deal by Arsenal last year, he opted not to sign it, deciding on a return to Germany with Werder Bremen.
Scarcely a year on and the German giants have swooped in to trigger a release clause in Gnabry’s contract, snapping him up for about 8million euros.
Now, a big team moving in on one of your former youth team players is worrying enough, but the dastardly, cunning-to-the-point-of-conniving wheeler dealers of Bayern swooping in on a youth team product increases the worry factor considerably.
Bayern have long had a monopoly on any talent that breaks through in the Bundesliga, and it is a large part of why they remain the foremost team in Germany, simply by virtue of their ability to buy up the talent of all their rivals.
I remember them doing so as far back as the Michael Ballack days, with the German international brought to the club from Leverkusen by means of a sneaky pre-contract deal. In short, they are old hands at this sort of game.
Arsene Wenger himself suggested back in January that Bayern were in some way involved in Gnabry’s transfer to Bremen last summer, and the fact that they barely waited a season to move in on the German youngster merely serves to heighten those suspicions.
The end result is that Gunners fans are left wringing their hands thinking: ‘have we just made an enormous transfer gaffe?’.
The simple fact is that Serge was offered a new deal at Arsenal, clearly because Arsene saw his talent, but he turned it down. That’s fair enough.
It might be that his head (or, more likely, his agent’s head) was turned by Munich, who orchestrated the deal to Bremen in order to keep the costs low and move for him a season later, snapping up a big talent for a relatively small sum.
I don’t blame him for that. Bayern Munich are genuine European giants, Champions League contenders and trophy winners – who wouldn’t want that?
But it is frustrating that we never saw the best of Serge until the summer that he left, when he started pulling up trees at the Olympics in Rio.
He followed that up with a decent showing for Bremen in the Bundesliga, scoring 14 goals and bagging an assist in all competitions for club and country. For a 21-year-old at a club as small as Bremen, that’s a good return, but it came all too late to convince Arsenal to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Put him into a side like Bayern, with all of its talent and opportunity, and I think it is safe to say the conditions will be right for him to push on next year.
If Serge does blossom into the sort of player that Bayern believe he can be, of course the finger of blame is going to be pointed squarely at Arsene and Arsenal for allowing him to slip through the net, but I don’t think that would be entirely fair.
Perhaps they could have done a bit more, or taken more of a gamble on him, but there comes a time when a player either sinks or swims. Serge was sent out on loan to West Bromwich Albion in 2015/16 and played only 12 minutes of football.
That may not be his solely his fault but, if he was showing the sort of signs that he is now – or anything remotely like it – it could be argued that he would have been starting week in, week out at a club like West Brom.
Clearly, he didn’t and wasn’t so what more can Arsene be expected to do? You can’t keep holding on to a player in the hope they will come good, or convince them to stick it out on the bench for another year or two.
It would be churlish in the extreme to wish the youngster anything but success in his moved to Bayern. While I wish nothing but misfortune to the devious swine in charge at Munich, I hope that Serge builds on his undeniable talent and kicks on in 2017/18. Who knows, he may even have the chance to smash a few past Tottenham at Wembley next year – now wouldn’t that be something?