Scouting Spotlight: Serge Gnabry, Odsonne Edouard and Ollie Watkins
Scouting Spotlight takes a look at loanees from Bayern and PSG who are flying in their respective new homes and a Championship newcomer making his mark.
Serge Gnabry -- Hoffenheim (on loan from Bayern Munich)
After missing much of the season through injury, Gnabry returned to the Hoffenheim lineup in late November and demonstrated his quality at the weekend with a brace in a pulsating 4-0 win over RB Leipzig.
A powerful and pacy dribbler, Gnabry can play across the front line but impressed mostly on the left wing for Werder Bremen last term. Favouring his right foot, the 22-year-old showcased his finishing ability with 11 strikes in 27 matches -- including a thunderous volley against Borussia Monchengladbach -- which helped earn a summer move to Bayern Munich.
Given the competition for places at Bayern, Gnabry joined Hoffenheim on loan almost immediately, where he continues to develop the talent that saw him handed a Premier League debut as a 17-year-old at Arsenal in 2012.
An industrious wide forward who possesses trickery and flair down the flank, Gnabry is also mindful of his defensive duties as he learns the tactical side of the game in the Bundesliga.
He has struggled with injuries in his nascent career and will be looking to push on after a punctuated start to the current campaign.
Gnabry marked his first team return at Hoffenheim with an assist for Mark Uth's last-minute equaliser against Eintracht Frankfurt in November, and has gradually built up his fitness as Julian Nagelsmann eases him back into action.
An explosive performance against Leipzig underlined why the former Arsenal youngster is so highly rated in Germany, having already scored three times in two appearances for the national team.
With Hoffenheim brushing Leipzig aside in convincing fashion, Gnabry opened his account by latching on to a long ball and firing past Peter Gulacsi, before catching the goalkeeper off his line 10 minutes later when he struck a wonder goal from 45 yards.
Where would he fit in?
Bayern appear keen for Gnabry to return to the Allianz Arena when his season-long loan comes to an end, but it's likely he will continue to look for first team opportunities after asking to join Hoffenheim in the summer.
A move back to England is a possibility, with Arsenal wistfully keeping track of his progress and Chelsea also linked with the forward during his impressive spell at Werder Bremen last year.
Odsonne Edouard -- Celtic (on loan from Paris Saint-Germain)
Hailed as an outstanding talent by Brendan Rodgers and a "real killer" in front of goal, Edouard has had to remain patient for opportunities at Celtic. He took his chance to impress on Saturday with a hat trick in a 5-1 demolition of Motherwell.
With quick acceleration and sharp movement around the penalty area, Edouard looks a natural poacher at just 19 years of age. He is capable of darting behind the defence or playing with his back to goal, using his strength to hold up the ball and bring teammates into play.
Rodgers has commended Edouard's anticipation, touch and versatility, with the striker's close control making it difficult for defenders to dispossess him.
Enjoying only his second season of senior football, he is still a raw talent, but the French youth international has displayed plenty of early promise.
Edouard's hat trick against Motherwell, on only his third start for Celtic, illustrated the variety of goals he can plunder, claiming two instinctive finishes in the box and a third from outside the area after putting the defence on the back-foot with a driving run.
A loan spell at Toulouse last season, in which he scored once in 16 appearances, wasn't quite so productive, but Edouard appears likely to be given more minutes under Rodgers after claiming four strikes in seven games so far.
Where would he fit in?
Celtic are understandably keen to pursue a permanent deal for the PSG forward and may be encouraged by the Ligue 1 club's focus on acquiring 'Galacticos' ahead of promoting academy graduates.
Jean-Kevin Augustin's €13 million move to RB Leipzig last summer is an example of the fees PSG can command for their young stars, however, with Edouard bound to attract further interest if he maintains his form as Moussa Dembele's understudy in Glasgow.
Ollie Watkins -- Brentford
Despite climbing two divisions when he joined Brentford from Exeter City in the summer, Watkins has quickly adapted to life in the English Championship and is already being tipped for a move to the Premier League in the near future.
A flying inverted winger who plays on the left but surges in-field on his stronger right foot, Watkins is a menace to Championship defences. His slaloming dribbling style, upper body strength and rapid acceleration allow him to burst past defenders on direct runs towards goal.
Around the box, the 21-year-old is hugely productive. He possesses a keen eye for goal, capable of finishing on either foot, along with the awareness to pick out teammates.
Watkins has averaged more shots per game than any other player in the second tier this season, although occasionally his direct style can lead to careless decisions in the final third.
With seven goals and two assists in 20 league appearances this term, Watkins has picked up where he left off at Exeter with 16 strikes in League Two last season.
His goals for Brentford have often proved pivotal, snatching a late victory at Preston in October and playing a part in all three strikes in a 3-1 win over Fulham at the weekend.
Where would he fit in?
Given his impressive form in the Championship, Brentford are set to make a healthy profit on their £1.8 million investment should Premier League clubs come calling for Watkins.
He would suit a team looking for an injection of pace and creativity, with Bournemouth and Watford two of the more suitable top-flight destinations.
Matthew Stanger covers European football for ESPN and is the editor of The Set Pieces. Twitter: @MatthewStanger