I've been talking about Serge Gnabry since it was first rumored that Arsenal were trying to bring him in from VfB Stuttgart. I'm not taking credit for anything, as it was mostly based on the fact that I saw Jamie Sanderson tweet about him being a "talent," or something like that. But for whatever reason, I've been following him and talking him up for so long that it seems like he should be about 25 years old by now.
While there were a lot of players who could have gotten recognition after Arsenal defeated Swansea City 2-1 on Saturday - Aaron Ramsey had a goal and an assist, Per Mertesacker played well again in defense, Kieran Gibbs essentially disappeared Nathan Dyer. But for consistency, Gnabry was the man.
And who would have expected it? When Theo Walcott was "ill" against Stoke, I was concerned. As we probably all were. Despite the complaining we all do, Walcott is one of Arsenal's better players, and he's important as he stretches defenses to create space for others to work. He's so important to Arsenal's counterattack, and with the subtle change in style Arsenal have made in the past year or so, losing him looked like it could be a big problem.
But Lt. Serge came straight into the team and looked like he belonged. He was good against Stoke if a little simple; it looked like he was playing extremely conservatively to avoid mistakes, but that meant he didn't have a strong impact on the game either. But after being part of the midweek Capital One Cup win against West Bromwich Albion, he looked more confident at Swansea. He hadn't looked out of place against Stoke, but here he looked like he belonged.
He has talent, and it was readily visible. Olivier Giroud's late-first-half chance came from a Gnabry through-ball. And, of course, his goal to put Arsenal ahead in the 58th minute. It's his first Premier League goal and his first for Arsenal's first team, and it looked like it could have been his hundredth. Aaron Ramsey's pass was controlled perfectly, and slotted home with the composure of a striker half again his age.
But his composure and intelligence was visible all over the game. He keeps possession well, with strength and guile. He has the presence of mind not to try moves that are likely to lose possession. Will Benn on Twitter mentioned one example that perfectly describes his intelligence. Gnabry was played in deep but was the only Arsenal player there. He used his strength to ditch a defender, but rather than running pell-mell towards goal, he took the ball into the corner to wait for reinforcements. With that and his ability and desire to track back defensively - he had several important blocks back when Swansea were threatening at 0-0 - he looks less like a kid in his second start and more like a veteran.
It's unlikely that once Walcott and eventually Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain become available, Gnabry will play a huge role in Arsenal's team. He's not quite ready yet. But he's very close to it, judging by his last few performances. He can do the job, or better. And I'm pretty excited to see how he develops.