What do Callum McManaman, Stephane Sessegnon and James McClean have in common?
Tony Pulis deemed all of them to be better options than Serge ‘North London Is RED!!!‘ Gnabry during West Brom’s 2015/16 Premier League campaign.
Looked at in the light of Gnabry’s four-goal Champions League haul against Spurs, Pulis’ decision to hand the German a single league appearance before sending him back to Arsenal appears a bizarre one.
But the more you think about it, the easier it is to understand Pulis’ logic.
Gnabry joined a West Brom side that finished 13th the previous campaign- nine points off relegation- having had three managers across the course of the season.
Given the managerial turmoil of the previous season, stability was the main buzzword ahead of Pulis’ first full campaign.
As such, putting faith in a 20-year-old with 10 previous Premier League appearances to his name was always going to be unlikely.
With ten games of the 2015/16 Premier League season played, and Gnabry having made a solitary appearance off the bench, West Brom found themselves sitting eighth in the table.
The Baggies set up in a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 formation and, depending on how adventurous Pulis was feeling, either Craig Gardner, McManaman or Sessegnon started on the right, leaving Gnabry kicking his heels.
Fast forward to January, when Gnabry was sent back to Arsenal, and West Brom were 12th, sitting comfortably above the relegation places.
It might sound cutthroat, but Pulis’ priority wasn’t to improve an Arsenal loanee. All he was concerned about was keeping West Brom in the Premier League.
Had Gnabry been performing at the level he currently is then Pulis would undoubtedly have built his team around the German. But the simple truth is that Gnabry was still a youthful prospect with little to no top-flight experience.
Pulis isn’t a complete dinosaur in the transfer market, as some would have you believe due to his decision to disregard Gnabry.
Salomon Rondon, Jonny Evans and McClean all arrived in the same window as the German and were pivotal in guiding West Brom to 14th in the table come the end of the season.
It’s not like Gnabry went back to Arsenal and set the world alight in the second half of the season.
Only when the winger joined Werder Bremen, off the back of a successful 2016 Olympics, did we start to see the makings of a player that Spurs would come to have nightmares about three years later.
So if you’re looking for someone to blame, hold Arsene Wenger to account for his decision to loan one of his brightest prospects out to a club that were never going to be compatible.
In fact, don’t blame Arsene. Accept football is a real-life business and not a game of Football Manager. That way we can all get on with our lives.
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