As far as common football parlance is concerned, the term “world class” is rather overused. Even so, it still carries some weight. As fans of Bayern Munich, we’re used to having world-class players at every position. Guys like Robert Lewandowski, Thiago Alcantara, Thomas Muller — all these players have proven that they deserve the moniker, over years and years of consistent performances.
Yet ever since Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery steadily declined from 2017 onward, Bayern have sorely missed a truly world-class player at a key position — the wings. This has been a source of much frustration for both the management and the fanbase, leading to the club’s dogged attempt to pry Leroy Sané from the clutches of Manchester City. Finding a replacement to the Robbery-partnership has become the most important item on Bayern’s transfer agenda.
However, what if I told you that we’ve already found one piece of the puzzle? Yes, as you’ve probably guessed by now, this article makes the case that Serge Gnabry, German national team superstar and the destroyer of London, is actually world class. And by that, we mean to say that he is world class RIGHT NOW, a true top-5 player at his position.
In 2019/20, Gnabry has elevated his performances to a level where they’re on par with the best in the world. However, for whatever reason, he seems to be going under the radar. So here’s our attempt to fix that problem, by comparing him to some of the most well known names in the sport. If anyone ever tells you that Gnabry’s “not that great,” shove this article in their face. The numbers are staggering.
In the Bundesliga
The Bundesliga is no stranger to great winger pairings. Pretty much every team uses wide players very extensively, and this is reflected in the league’s abundance of outstanding wingers. There’s Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, who has been tearing the league apart as of late — and his teammates Marco Reus and Julian Brandt. Bayer Leverkusen has Leon Bailey, and there’s Werder Bremen’s Milot Rashica as well.
How do we compare these guys to Gnabry? Well, understat.com has a handy comparison tool that lets us see their performance radars, which includes numbers for buildup, goals, assists, and key passes — all adjusted to per 90 minute stats to eliminate the impact of minutes played. Let’s take a look at what we get:
As we can see, Gnabry compares favorably to literally everyone on that list. The only player that soundly beats him in any category is Sancho, whose rate of assists per 90 minutes (A90) is 50% higher. However, Gnabry’s expected assists (xA90) is higher than Sancho’s, implying that the Englishman is benefiting from some exceptional finishing by his teammates. The implication is clear, but there is more.
In the Premier League
As far as wingers are concerned, the English Premier League has some of the best names in the business. They’re mostly concentrated around the big two — Liverpool and Manchester City — but before any Manchester United fans start screeching, I’ve included Anthony Martial on the list so that it’s abundantly clear how much better Gnabry is. Also included is Tottenham Hotspur’s Son Heung-min and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Adama Traore.
Let’s see how they stack up against Gnabry:
Are you convinced yet? Those are some of the best names in the business (plus Martial), and Gnabry stomps all over them. The biggest surprise is how close Gnabry is to Sadio Mané and Mohamed Salah, the two current wingers arguably the closest to Robben and Ribery in their prime. And if you want to make the argument that the English league is tougher than the Bundesliga, I will direct you to this year’s European results. Let’s move on.
As far as other leagues are concerned, there are few heavy hitters. La Liga and Serie A just play so differently from the EPL and the Bundesliga that it’s not an exact comparison, while Ligue 1 isn’t quite the same level of competition. Even so, here are some quick numbers:
Cristiano Ronaldo beats Gnabry when it comes to scoring goals, but not much else. The Juventus forward falls well short in buildup and creating chances for his teammates — key attributes for a winger. Napoli’s Dries Mertens also falls short.
Mbappé compares better, but he plays in Ligue 1 and his numbers might be considered inflated. The same goes for Neymar. Even so, Gnabry holds his own against the pair, even though he cost Bayern €8m versus €300m.
In case you’re wondering why there are no La Liga players — well comparing Gnabry to Messi is just unfair, and doing it with Eden Hazard is also unfair — for different reasons. Let’s leave it at that. If any Barcelona or Real Madrid fans are interested, you can go on understat and check the numbers yourself.
Serge Gnabry is one of the highest scorers in Europe this season. With six goals and one assist, he is third behind his teammate Robert Lewandowski and the 18-year-old Erling Haaland, both of whom are strikers, not wingers.
Additionally, the German’s goals came in big games — four against Tottenham in London, and two more against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. Gnabry is doing it versus legitimate contenders, not long-shot clubs. If the football season hadn’t been suspended, those numbers would probably be higher by now.
Of course there are some who may take issue with using only understat comparisons, so here is one from StatsBomb. In their article, they say the following:
But even without Lewandowski, and in addition to the excellent form Thomas Müller has displayed ever since Flick took over, Bayern still have another world-class attacker. Because if we zoom out a little bit, we’d see 2019–20 as the season where Serge Gnabry took the jump from ‘very good player’ to ‘legit star’.
Conclusion: Serge Gnabry is 100% world class
Arsenal must be kicking themselves (harder) right now. I don’t know how anyone can look at all the evidence that’s been gathered and conclude that Serge Gnabry is anything but world class right now. He’s definitely one of the best wingers in the world, and one of the true heirs of Robbery. But let’s see what the people think. Here’s a poll. Do you think our boy is world class?
Is Serge Gnabry truly world class?
This poll is closed
No, but he will be
No, he won’t be