20 Midfielder VfL Wolfsburg Germany
2014 has been...
Fast then slow.
Born in Riesa, a mid sized town on the banks of the Elbe, attacking midfielder Maximilian Arnold would have been one of several current internationals eligible to play for the old East Germany as was. Indeed, his formative early teenage years were spent at the academy of Dynamo Dresden, a footballing leviathan from the old DDR.
Signed up by Wolfsburg as a 15 year old, Arnold stood out as a highly accomplished performer and scored prolifically at junior level. Having averaged almost a goal every other game for the Under-19 team, he made his Bundesliga debut for Die Wölfe as a late substitute in a 2-0 defeat to Augsburg in 2011. Although called into the squad once more by Felix Magath, it would be almost two years until he was again selected for the first team. A series of impressive cameos toward the end of the 2012/13 season were enough to convince coach Dieter Hecking that Arnold really couldn’t be overlooked and a late flurry of goals against Hoffenheim, Werder and Borussia Mönchengladbach made him impossible to ignore.
A starter for Wolfsbug in their opening day 2-0 defeat at Augsburg, the 2013/14 Bundesliga season didn’t begin well for the flame haired midfielder. A red card and subsequent suspension were a disappointing start but certainly weren’t indicative of what was about to unfurl. Once his suspension was complete, Arnold was back in the team and began scoring regularly as Wolfsburg arrested a run of five defeats from eight.
With Arnold excelling, Wolfsburg embarked on a scintillating run which would see them undefeated from October through to January (ok, winter break included), setting the club for a fifth place finish. Operating primarily behind Ivica Olić, the left-footed 19-year-old was the driving force for his team, firmly contradicting his age. His impressive form was acknowledged by Joachim Löw, with the youngster awarded a first cap for Germany in May. He was also selected for the provisional 30-man World Cup squad but didn’t make the final cut for Brazil.
Wolfsburg have started the current season in excellent form, stepping up as the main challenge to Bayern Munich as Dortmund slumber, but it is a bout of flu that has slowed the Maximilian Arnold juggernaut recently. Missing for much of September after being laid low by the virus, he returned to the Wolfsburg first XI against Augsburg, but didn’t look to be firing on all cylinders. Of late, the outstanding form of Kevin De Bruyne and Ivan Perišić has meant that he has had to return to bench duty. Frustrating perhaps, but a rest might not be a bad thing.
Wolfsburg are currently flying but have had a tendency to slip back once the winter break kicks in. They have a number of attacking options, but certainly don’t have the squad to mount a serious challenge to Bayern for the title. As things stand, securing a Champions League slot and the ensuing riches and profile that will deliver will be the target. If Hecking’s side are to deliver a high position finish they’ll need all of their charges in good shape and while De Bruyne has been the man of late, there will be an occasion when Arnold is needed to step up once more.
Very highly regarded by both club and country, the enforced step off the gas will unquestionably be discontenting for an exciting player that has made rapid progress in the last two years. Nevertheless, these are two years in which Arnold has played an awful lot of football so any kind of pause has to be a good thing. Football is littered with star names that burned a little too brightly, too soon.
There’s no doubt that his future is assured for both club and country, but there are still aspects of Arnold's game that require refinement. Goals certainly weren’t a problem in 2013, but they have been less conspicuous this year, perhaps the instruction has been to not lash quite so many shots in, which would be a huge shame, he really can catch a ball. Addressing that whole end product thing would be very welcome too, but at 20, we’re probably splitting hairs when considering such an exuberant player. A gifted lefty, which often bodes well, he’s clearly on the up.
"Often overlooked because of his many talented peers but Arnold can hold his own with the best and should get a look from Löw soon." - Cristian Nyari
"Maximilian Arnold's shot conversion rate last season in the Bundesliga (17.1%) was better than Heung-Min Son (15.9%) and Kevin Volland (14.3%)." - OptaJoe
C+ Looking good, keep delivering.
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