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At age 17, Serge Gnabry is one of Arsenal's brightest prospects, and, after making his debut for the first team, could be a lot closer to contributing than one might've expected.
A year after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made his first big mark at Arsenal against Olympiacos, Serge Gnabry is looking to do the same. The 17-year old German is apparently in Arsenal's squad tonight, and could be called upon from the bench if Arsenal are comfortably ahead of Olympiacos. It's been a rapid rise for Gnabry, who joined Arsenal just a year ago, for a nominal fee of £100k from Stuttgart. After excelling for Steve Bould's U-18s last season, the youngster found himself at Arsenal's pre-season training camp in Germany, and played a little over 20 minutes against Koln. He made his first team debut against Coventry last week, and has been touted as making an impact later in the season by Arsene Wenger.
Gnabry is remarkably quick, so much so that he claims to have never lost a race in sprinting. Yet unlike Theo Walcott, it's hard to knock Gnabry off the ball; he's got good upper body strength, like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. The similarities don't end there; Gnabry, like Oxlade-Chamberlain, is a powerful runner, who can dribble at pace and play excellent final passes; like Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry looks destined to end up in the middle of the park, because one feels his creative talents may be wasted out wide.
Last season, Oxlade-Chamberlain took advantage of injuries to Gervinho and Theo Walcott to excel against Olympiacos, getting Arsenal off the mark early with a fantastic left-footed finish. The goal had come after he had played well in the League Cup against Shrewsbury, and, until he was included as a starter against Manchester United in January, there were constant calls for Oxlade-Chamberlain to be starting.
While Gnabry has more players ahead of him, in Lukas Podolski, Gervinho, Theo Walcott, Aaron Ramsey, Andrei Arshavin and Oxlade-Chamberlain, there seems a bit of a opening for him; of those six players, there's a strong likelihood that Walcott and Arshavin could depart in January, while Gervinho will likely be at the African Cup of Nations. That leaves just three wide players, and then a gap opens for Gnabry. Oxlade-Chamberlain took that gap last year, buoyed by his successful outings in the League Cup and home performance against Olympiacos, the strongest team he had started against at the time. If Serge Gnabry performs similarly well to Oxlade-Chamberlain against Olympiacos, the strongest team he would've ever faced, he could easily stake a claim to contribute later this season.