Serge Gnabry Can Replace Theo Walcott at Arsenal

Shona BlackContributor IIOctober 25, 2012

NORWICH, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 20:  Serge Gnabry of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between  Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on October 20, 2012 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Arsenal's season so far has been decidedly mixed. 

Sometimes, there are exciting glimpses of a new, free-scoring, defensively sound Arsenal, something supporters have been waiting for with increasingly threadbare patience since the dispersal of the Invincible side of 2004. 

And sometimes there resurfaces the same toothless, frustrating Arsenal of the past few years, often dominating but never really menacing, prone to defensive frailties and ultimately paying for their inability to convert attacking talent into points on the board. 

Their recent two losses have been an unwelcome display of the latter. 

But there was at least one promising sight in both the league loss to Norwich and last night's Champions League defeat to Schalke—the introduction of Serge Gnabry.

The Germany Under-17 international made a mark earlier this season in Arsenal's 6-1 League Cup victory over Coventry. Though he failed to add his name to the bulging score sheet, Gnabry emerged as by far the most eye-catching of the youth players blooded that night. 

But it is his expedited emergence as a first-team candidate in the Premier League and Champions League that has particularly caught attention. 

Strategically, there is no overlooking the fact that the pacy winger is a ready-made replacement for Theo Walcott, a fact that will not be lost on Walcott as he negotiates his contract. 

Arsène Wenger has explicitly compared Gnabry to Walcott in an interview with the club website. 

Even more significant, Wenger's assertion in that interview that Gnabry "could play for the first team this year" is outdated just a month later.

But while the press have seized on Gnabry's significance as a bargaining tool for Arsenal in their efforts to keep Walcott, Gnabry's more direct value as a player should not be underestimated.

In both matches, Gnabry's late substitution introduced a much-needed positive approach. 

Against Norwich, his dynamism and movement immediately marked him out as one of Arsenal's most threatening players, and his through-ball to Gervinho could have resulted in an equaliser.

Against Schalke, in just 10 minutes on the pitch, Gnabry provided Arsenal with their only shot on target the entire match. 

Clearly, the 17-year-old needs more experience. But the signs are promising that he is more than a bargaining chip.

Just weeks ago considered merely a promising prospect, Gnabry is already a valuable option in the first team.