Wolfsburg - Speaking to the assembled media in the wake of VfL Wolfsburg's 3-0 home win against Werder Bremen on Matchday 10, Maximilian Arnold could scarcely keep the grin off his face, and with good reason.
'I took a pot-shot and luckily it went in'
For the second match running, a fine finish from the 19-year-old midfield prospect had been instrumental in helping the Wolves to victory and those back-to-back successes have been enough to lift Dieter Hecking's team from 14th place up to fifth in a tightly-packed mid-table.
At FC Augsburg on Matchday 9, Arnold's long-drive had hauled the visitors back on level terms ten minutes before the break. At the Volkswagen Arena on Saturday evening, he needed all of seven minutes to drill Ivica Olic's back-heeled lay-off past guest keeper Sebastian Mielitz and get VfL up and running.
"The ball could have ended up somewhere other than the back of the net. But I did strike it well and I'm glad Ivi teed it up for me the way he did. Anyway, it went in, that's all that counts," he said when asked about the look of apparent wonderment that accompanied his subsequent celebrations. The spectacular strike on the full was not, he added, "down to self-confidence - you just shoot without thinking about it. I took a pot-shot and luckily it went in, and I was able to help the team out again."
Braunschweig defeat still hurts
And, again, it was his left foot that did the damage. "I've no idea where I get that from, I don't know if my mum had a good left foot," he joked. Asked, on a more serious note, whether the win against Bremen had helped atone with the fans for the surprise 2-0 loss to Lower Saxony neighbours Eintracht Braunschweig in their previous home assignment, Arnold admitted, "I think we're still making up for that derby defeat. We're trying to get them back on board by winning and playing well. We've got a long way to go yet, but we're going to go out there and do everything to try and win every game."
Part of Hecking's current strategy to that end has seen the Germany U-20 international take up a more central attacking midfield role, with Diego drifting further wide. "I'm enjoying the role. Diego's a great teammate, he knows exactly what has to be done whatever position he's playing in up front," said Arnold, adding that against Bremen the 33-time Brazil international had "played balls into the channel again that would have hurt any defence."
Business as usual for star ascendant
On current form, the teenager from Riesa, north-west of Dresden, looks well set to join the ranks of the Bundesliga's hottest shooting stars of 2013/14. He is taking absolutely nothing for granted, however, stressing that certain areas of his game in particular are still in need of improvement - such as his ability man-on-man: "I have to hold onto the ball even more often when it really counts and the action's moving up and down the pitch. That's something I'll keep working on."
So is Arnold's newfound scoring success and rising status within the team putting him under increasing pressure? Not at all, he said: "I've got to keep applying myself in training, and showing I'm there. And if the coach picks me again next time out, I'll be giving everything for the team. As far as that goes, nothing's changed."
Angus Davison/Petra Philippsen in Wolfsburg
Yet another star name in VfL Wolfsburg's midfield ranks as of this season is Luiz Gustavo. The Brazil international spoke with the official Bundesliga YouTube channel about life in the Bundesliga and next summer's World Cup on home turf.