He may have grown up supporting Borussia Dortmund, but for Wolfsburg midfielder Maximilian Arnold there was only one club with which to fulfill his potential and this season he's set to take his talents back 18 of those haonto the European stage.
The 25-year-old has experienced plenty of highs and lows during his decade on the books at Wolfsburg and only club legends Diego Benaglio and Marcel Schäfer boast more than his 234 appearances in all competitions. Of those outings, 18 have come in European competition, a tally that's set to rise with the Wolves gearing up for action in UEFA Europa League Group I.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Arnold discusses his status as a one-club player, Wolfsburg's ambitions in the current campaign and how big news off the pitch changed his life.
bundesliga.com: Maximilian Arnold, you have been with VfL Wolfsburg for 10 years! Talk to us about your club loyalty?
Maximilian Arnold: "I think it's very difficult to put it into words, you really need to experience it yourself because it may not come across properly when I describe it. I'm very comfortable here and so is my family, I'm not too far away from my home-town either. This was especially the case when I was in boarding school, those were some really good times and I think as a professional you can quickly forget all that you are thankful for. For me this is a crucial point, I have a lot to thank the club for and that is why I am still here."
bundesliga.com: What sets VfL Wolfsburg apart?
Arnold: "To me it's the familiarity. What helped me at the beginning was that this place was really on my level, which is what I had been looking for. At the boarding school everyone from the cleaning lady to the kitchen staff knew who I was, at the try-outs this is what impressed me the most, the warmth and kind-heartedness. This filters throughout the club. I have a good relationship with the staff too, not everyone as we're a club with quite a lot of people, but the warmth and familiarity is what makes me very happy here."
Watch: Arnold scores screamer as Wolfsburg beat Cologne in season-opener!
bundesliga.com: When you were younger you were a Borussia Dortmund fan. Following your time with Dynamo Dresden you moved to VfL in 2009, even though you also had try-outs with BVB. Why?
Arnold: "That is true, I was a Dortmund fan. I was also at the try-outs, which was something special, and I even watched a Dortmund vs Hoffenheim game. Unfortunately it was goalless draw, quite an awful game but it was when Hoffenheim were very good and top of the league at the end of the first half of the season. That is when I had my try-outs, however, it did not click as well as it did in Wolfsburg. In Wolfsburg I was blown away right away. I was taken to the cinema by Patrick Drewes, who is now at VfL Bochum, despite having only met these people five hours ago. It fascinated me, that they made me feel so welcome, and that was the main reason."
bundesliga.com: You have made a good start to the new season. How would you rate the first three matches?
Arnold: "Good, but not very good. It must be said that we still have some work to do. You could see against Paderborn that we had a few communication errors, when we play with three at the back we may have two keeping a high back line but not the third. There are just a few small communicative parts that are missing. We've got room to improve, especially when going forward."
bundesliga.com: What are Wolfsburg capable of in the Bundesliga and the Europa League?
Arnold: "Now we have the Europa League as well, we'll of course try to stay in the competition for as long as possible. The main goal is to get past the winter and to establish a place in the upper third of the Bundesliga. Given that we're up against Leipzig, the DFB Pokal will not be an easy task, but we are at home where something is always possible. Many challenges lie ahead and it would be wrong to make early claims of achievement."
bundesliga.com: Will the added fixtures be an advantage or disadvantage?
Arnold: "For the last three years I haven't had to deal with the European schedule so right now I'm just looking forward to it. I think Frankfurt showed us last season the effect it can have on teams, both the euphoria you can get but also how it wore them out. However, I don't think that we will be complaining about being tired if we're playing in the Europa League, we will get into the flow after a while."
bundesliga.com: Oliver Glasner has taken over as Wolfsburg head coach and brought a different style with him. What have you made of his approach and how far along are you in integrating his ideas?
Arnold: "I have had a lot of coaches lately. You try to soak it all up as quickly as possible and to put it into action on the pitch. However, we aren’t there yet, we're all just human. In some situations, the understanding between players is the same and other times it takes a while. He is also someone who is meticulous during the game and will interrupt the game more as we are still in the early stages of learning his system. I think we've had roughly ten weeks with him so far. This all needs some time, with more games it will all get better."
bundesliga.com: You have already won a few titles in your career; a domestic title at U19 level, the U21 European championships with Germany, a DFB Cup and the Supercup. What would you describe as the highest point in your career?
Arnold: "I think in my youth it was the U21 title, I don't think you can win more than that at that age. As a professional it would be the DFB Pokal that we won in 2015. That was pretty awesome. I have to say, I get goosebumps just thinking about it. Moments such as these are ones I like to look back on."
bundesliga.com: In August you became a father. Describe your life as a father and how have your priorities changed?
Arnold: "Everything has changed. The relationship with my wife is currently different because of the little rascal with us. When you see what women endure it is incredible, men would never manage that. I don't know what we would do but we would definitely not be able to give birth to a child. It was really the most incredible experience of my whole life. It really does not even compare to football, friendships or our wedding. In terms of my life, it has completely flipped on its head. Everything revolves around; what is the baby doing, how is he and we try to fit everything else around that schedule. It is all a lot of fun, except the nights. They are sometimes a little different, very difficult."
bundesliga.com: In the 2013/14 season you were brought into the starting line-up to replace Ivan Perisic and ended up being sent off in the 32nd minute. As a result, you are the youngest player in Wolfsburg history to receive a red card. What are you memories of that day and how has it affected your career?
Arnold: "I can see it in front of me right now. I’m in Hannover, the first matchday of the new season in 2013/14. After 32 minutes I was shown the red card. I had already been fouled and then, with my young age, I was too eager and went too hard into a challenge. I think it was Karim Haggui who I took down, he is quite big so I'm not sure whether he needed to fall down so easily given that I was such a small kid. I was not as strong then as I am now. After that, I was shown a straight red. It did not really affect me much. The fact that the team lost because of that was worse, Tim Klose got a second yellow in the 52nd minutes so we were down to nine men but we had played really well until my red. I was the first turning point in that game. I had to first serve my two-match ban, but when I joined up with the squad I ended up being dropped. Then we lost a game 2-0 against Eintracht Braunschweig. After that, there was the international break where I really pushed myself and since then every game I have featured in was with the starting eleven."
bundesliga.com: With your physical presence and running ability you made a strong contribution to the successful last season. How do you see yourself on and off the pitch?
Arnold: "I always try to push myself and be 100% committed. I try to pull the game in my direction and guide, or lead, proceedings. That works better some days than others. I try to help the team to be as dangerous as possible up front. Off the pitch I still give 100% in all situations and want to win."
bundesliga.com: As a footballer, which goals do you have in life?
Arnold: "Every footballer has the aim of achieving as much as humanly possible. It is relatively difficult to do this because the density of good quality players is enormous in the Bundesliga. I cannot say that I want to score ten goals and get 15 assists. That doesn't help me if I don't achieve it. I always want to achieve as much as possible but I don't set myself a specific number of goals and assists. I try to just play as many games as possible because this is what I enjoy the most; running onto the pitch surrounded by fans, that is something special."
bundesliga.com: For the next match VfL will be meeting Fortuna Düsseldorf. What are you expecting?
Arnold: "Düsseldorf is of course a difficult opponent but we will have to play for the win."