Arsenal NextGen Series Preview: Serge Gnabry Is One to Watch for

Matthew Snyder@schnides14Analyst IIIAugust 29, 2012

Arsene Wenger has said that he plans to attend "every single game" of the inaugural NextGen competition this season, which will pit some of Arsenal's most talented youngsters against a medley of top teams from around Europe.

It's an Under-19 Champions League of sorts, and Arsenal will face off against a group consisting of Olympiacos, Atletic Bilbao and Wednesday night's opponent, Olympique de Marseille.

The entire competition comprises 24 teams from around Europe.

Terry Burton, charged with managing the side that will navigate its course throughout the tournament, has exhorted his charges to take full advantage of the opportunity to impress the first-team boss.

"It is a different challenge for the players, they will be set different problems and that is all good experience for them," Burton told the club's official website.

"They will come up against different types of players, which you hope will speed up the learning process in different areas."

The starting lineup at Underhill on Wednesday evening will be a veritable "who's who" of the top talent currently plying its trade at London Colney, but winger Serge Gnabry is one to keep a keen eye upon.

Seventeen years of age this past month, the German youth international was one of the surprise picks to attend Arsenal's preseason camp in his native country. Just rewards for a 2011-12 season that saw the former Stuttgart product score six goals for the U-18s and two goals in six games for the reserves.

It was enough to convince Wenger to grant Gnabry his first professional contract at the club, and since putting pen to paper, the youngster has continued to scintillate.

Rob Kelly, presiding over the U-21 side's Aug. 20 season debut against Bolton, said that Gnabry and fellow teenager Chuba Akpom were "at the heart of the attacking forays" that saw Thomas Eisfeld score the first of three unanswered goals for the Gunners, who overcame a tough start to sweep to a 3-1 victory.

Right-back Hector Bellerin, one of the top prospects in the academy, has listed Gnabry as one of the "really good players" who will allow Arsenal to compete in this NextGen venture.

A good showing against Marseille would go a long ways toward helping the German realize his goal of featuring for the first team this season. As Burton said, the competition offers youngsters like Gnabry the perfect chance to make a lasting impression upon Wenger, who will be thinking about his lineups for the Capital One and FA Cups as Arsenal grow closer to featuring in those competitions.