Four years after he left Arsenal, Serge Gnabry now looks at home in London.
He has only played two games in the capital this season and yet has scored a barely believable six goals against Tottenham and Chelsea in the Champions League.
With 38 goals in 32 matches, and 10 in just five group stage games, Chelsea were on red alert for the challenge of keeping Robert Lewandowski quiet in the first leg of their last-16 tie at Stamford Bridge tonight.
But it was never going to be a case of nullifying one man, considering the Polish striker was supported by the wily Thomas Muller and flanked by the ingenuity of Gnabry and Kingsley Coman.
If that wasn’t enough, Bayern Munich now have the threatening pace of Alphonso Davies to call upon from left-back too.
As a beleaguered Spurs discovered in October, once Bayern get on a roll it is near impossible to keep pace with them.
A class apart
The transformation of Gnabry is hard to comprehend, when viewed from an England-centric perspective. Here is a player who Tony Pulis famously did not fancy during an ill-fated loan spell at West Brom now tearing apart the country’s best on the biggest stage in club football.
Frank Lampard chose to stick with the same team who beat Spurs 2-1 on Saturday, meaning the Blues had three centre-backs to deal with Lewandowski, in theory.
The home defence, which had coped relatively well with the intelligent, fluid football of the German side in the first half – with the help Willy Caballero as a sweeper-keeper – crumbled after the break.
Bayern’s relentless high press and effortless interplay made clear the chasm of quality between the two sides. All it took was one sign of weakness – a slip from Cesar Azpilicueta – and Bayern pounced, Gnabry playing a crisp, simple one-two with Lewandowski before the Pole’s reverse pass set up a tap-in for 1-0.
Three minutes and 22 seconds later the tie was effectively over. Lewandowski won a header from a Manuel Neuer clearance, before he and Gnabry cut the Chelsea defence to pieces to set up an unerring bottom-corner finish from the 24-year-old.
There is nothing flashy about Bayern under interim boss Hans-Dieter Flick, but every component appears in perfect balance.
Although it all stems from the calming, classy presence of Joshua Kimmich and Thiago Alcantara in midfield and it was ultimately Gnabry and Lewandowski who put Chelsea to the sword, the movement of Muller mustn’t be underappreciated.
The Champions League veteran, who is still only 30, was a thorn in the side of the Blues, evading Jorginho’s gaze and the attention of the defence with ease. He was exceptional in the first half, curling narrowly wide and hitting the crossbar with a deft header.
Chelsea showed flashes of their capabilities in attack, but the front three of Olivier Giroud, Mason Mount and Ross Barkley just couldn’t quite click like their opponents. Neuer was forced into a low save by Marcos Alonso, while the decision-making of substitute Tammy Abraham prevented any late consolations.
Salt in the wound
Instead it was the bright talent of Bayern’s Davies which shone in the closing stages, the left-back charging past Reece James with regularity before providing a coup de grace with the assist for Bayern’s third.
Jorginho and Andreas Christensen were left clutching at thin air by Davies, whose perfect low cross put the ball on a plate for the deserving Lewandowski.
Somehow it managed to get worse for Chelsea too. VAR, which had already ruled out a Bayern penalty for handball against Christensen, sent referee Clement Turpin over to the pitchside monitor to view a clash between Alonso and Lewandowski.
The Spanish full-back was shown a straight red card for lashing out at the Bayern striker off the ball and will join Jorginho in being suspended for the second leg in Munich, where Chelsea have a mountain to climb.