We asked Serge Gnabry how it felt to make his debut, what it was like to score his first goal and how he has coped with a long-term injury. You can read the full transcript of the Q&A below.
How did it feel to join up with the first team last season?
It was pretty exciting. It gives you an excitement and energy as well. You think, ‘Okay, I have a chance now’ and it’s up to you to take that chance. It’s those kinds of things. We have a very good and very big squad so it’s hard to get into it when you’re a young player but the boss told me, ‘I think you have potential, it’s up to you now to show me in training what you can do’. I try my best every day in training to give him a good opportunity to let me play. From then on. t’s his decision. It was brilliant. All my team mates helped me integrate and I was very, very happy to be in the team and I was very pleased with the way I played and hope the manager was too. This season I’m hoping to be even more aggressive on the pitch and get some more games.
When did Arsene Wenger tell you that you would play your first game?
I got told 20 minutes before kick-off that I was playing against Stoke City. Before I had obviously trained with the first team and played a couple of friendlies but it’s not like a competitive game, so when I got to play it was very physical which I wasn’t used to but it was a lot of fun. In the first team we have players who have played in World Cup finals and they have a lot of experience that as young players, we don’t have yet. I think under-21s level is still a good level to play at and you can get a lot out of it but there is a massive difference in tempo, physicality and other stuff.
You got your name on the scoresheet against Swansea City. How did it feel to score your first senior goal for Arsenal?
It’s amazing. It’s everything you’ve dreamed of since you were a young boy. In that moment I was just very happy and I can’t even remember what went through my head when I was celebrating. After you realise and I was very pleased to help the team. At the beginning I was very excited about it and people talk to you about it but after a certain amount of time you need to let it go and settle down. If you just keep thinking about one moment it’s not going to help you in the future so you have to keep working and try to score the next one.
What was it like to play against Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium?
The north London derby is special every time. I was very happy to be starting in that game. There was a lot of pressure from outside and the fans but it was great. We played at home and that gave us a lot of hype and I think it was a great game and my best game so far from a personal perspective. I really enjoyed playing in that game. I felt like that from the start of the season - I’ve got quality and I know my role. The manager’s there to help me and other players can get me in the team and help me out. I felt very comfortable in that game and I felt like I was having a good time on the pitch and that’s very important for me as an offensive player, to be creative and to enjoy the game.
How have you coped with your long-term injury?
It’s very tough. It’s the worst thing that can happen to you as a footballer. You have to learn from it in terms of discipline - you have to be resting as much as you can and not doing bad stuff that will effect your health. It’s good for your mind as it makes you keep going and stay focused. I’ve been out for a long time now, which isn’t easy to see players out there enjoying football and you aren’t running. You have to take it as a learning curve and try and get into the best shape after you come back. I’ve learned a lot about my body, what exercises are good for me, what exercises are bad for me. When you watch games you see more than you do when you’re on the pitch so I’ve learned a lot from that. I try to stay positive most of the time - it’s part of our job. It’s not the best part but it’s there.
Is it hard to stay positive when you’re sidelined for so long?
I don’t think you can be a player without getting injured at least once in your career so I try stay focus and motivate myself from day to day. I tell myself, ‘if you keep going then you’ll get the result out of it’, so that’s what keeps me motivated. I’m very happy. I came here with a target of being a first-team player and I’ve achieved that so far. Now I’ve had a good season but I’ve been injured since the end of it. From now on I’m looking forward to giving my best this season and trying to get a few games under my belt to establish myself. I’m just coming back from my knee problem so I hope I’m in better shape than I was before. In training I try to improve, give my best and show that I’m ready to be involved again.
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