23 July 2014

Eisfeld's off to Fulham. Should Gnabry go out on loan?

With a midfield about as crowded as a sardine-tin, Thomas Eisfeld has seen that his chances of breaking into the first team are slimmer than a—well, slimmer than a sardine, come to think of it. He's signed a contract with Fulham, where he'll have a greater chance at regular football. Fair play to him, too. I respect a man who wants to play and compete, and he's not getting that at Arsenal. I might have preferred a loan-deal for him, preserving the right to recall him should the need arise, but so be it. He only made two appearances, both of them in the League Cup, although he did score an important goal against West Brom to help us advance. His departure may not make any ripples, but it does raise the question of how to handle another German midfielder: Serge Gnabry. He's sparkled here and there in his appearances, enough that I hope we hold onto him. However, a loan might be in order for him...

There was talk of Newcastle offering to take him, but this just brings the bile to the back of my throat. I just don't see him getting the kind of coaching that would actually help him learn or develop from Alan "I'll headbutt you" Pardew, nor do I see anyone in Newcastle's squad who could mentor or model for him. The only tangible benefit would be time on the pitch, but even this could be compromised by Pardew's predilections, which might include playing him out of position, among other peccadilloes.

If we are to loan him out, please make it somewhere that plays positive, attacking football similar in some sense to ours. Failing that, could we loan him to a manager known for developing young players. Both requests seem to point towards Everton, but I'm not sure I'm willing to arm them with someone as talented as Gnabry, given how squeaky they made things for us towards the end of last season. It's a pity that Pocchetino left Southampton and that Laudrup was sacked by Swansea, as those were managers and clubs that I could see Gnabry flourishing at. Given a choice between the two (because this is, after all, how Arsenal decide where to loan players...ahem), I have to admit a preference for Southampton. Am I being seduced by the idea that Koeman, as a more-attack-minded player than Gerry Monk, could have more to offer Gnabry?

I don't think so. It's not as if Koeman is some kind of ingenue. He played with Bergkamp for the Dutch national team. He played for Cruyff at Barcelona. He's familiar with the brand of football that Arsenal currently borrow from, and the fact that Southampton played a similar style themselves last season suggest that Koeman will be building on that foundation rather than starting from scratch. His reputation for developing young players also intrigues, as he's been involved in guiding a fair few players through youth academies during his time managing Ajax, PSV, and Feyenoord. With factors like these in mind, if we are to send Gnabry out on loan, we could do far-worse than Southampton.

Eisfeld might not have been good enough to break through at Arsenal, but I've seen enough from Gnabry to believe that he could become something special. Loaning him out might be the best way to prove that true—if we can find the right place for him. Southampton might be in a bit of disarray, but each player who leaves creates more space for Gnabry to play. We owe them a favor or two after snatching up Theo and Ox, after all. Why not lend them a pacy attacker to see how things turn out?