Bayern Munich’s summer transfer window was so quiet, it almost felt as if no new players arrived at the Allianz Arena. Leon Goretzka’s move from Schalke had been agreed in January, while the other two new additions to this season’s squad were already on the books at Bayern, but just had spent time out on loan.
Renato Sanches had a disappointing spell in the Premier League with Swansea City, but has been offered a chance at redemption under new head coach Niko Kovac, who started the former European Golden Boy in midfield against his old club Benfica, with the 21-year-old showing why he was once so highly rated with some driving runs and a cool finish in the Champions League opener.
Bayern Munich’s other new squad member was also given a chance in the trip to Portugal, with Serge Gnabry replacing Franck Ribery after an hour. The change was a symbolic one as Gnabry is seen as the long-term replacement for the French winger, who will be 36 by the time next season rolls around.
Gnabry spent last season at Hoffenheim and was crucial in their historic Bundesliga season, where their third place finish ensured they qualified for the Champions League group stage for the first time ever. The 23-year-old netted 10 of their 66 league goals, a fantastic return for a winger who had once failed to make the grade at Arsenal.
The Gunners had hoped to keep the young attacker back in 2016, but he was determined to be a first team player and moved back to his homeland to join Werder Bremen for just £5 million. A year later that fee had almost doubled as Bayern Munich decided to sign another of Germany’s young talents before immediately loaning him to Hoffenheim.
After missing much of pre-season and the Bundesliga opener with his former club, Gnabry was given a 13-minute run out in the 3-0 win over Stuttgart before the international break. His first start of the season followed when domestic action returned, and with Kingsley Coman now sidelined until January, he is one of only three fit wingers in the squad.
Kovac has other options out wide with James Rodriguez, Thomas Muller and Goretzka all capable of playing anywhere behind the striker, but the new Bayern boss has long been a fan of traditional widemen. Rafinha’s injury also leaves little option at full-back, meaning that even a shift to 3-5-2 would provide ample opportunities for Gnabry.
He has only been able to show glimpses of his talent so far, but with Coman sidelined for so long, Bayern Munich fans are eager to see something new and promising as they look toward the future – especially after such an anticlimactic transfer window. Wherever he has played before, it hasn’t taken Gnabry long to open his account, scoring a hat-trick on his international debut with Germany, and his first Bundesliga goal in just his second game for Bremen.
Kovac’s slick attacking play creates plenty of chances for not only Robert Lewandowski, but all of his forward-thinking players. This will surely be reflected in Gnabry’s end-of-season statistics, as he looks to record a third successive Bundesliga season with a double-figure goal tally. With games coming thick and fast in the league and Champions League, expect a maiden Bayern Munich goal for Gnabry very, very soon.