Wolfsburg - For VfL Wolfsburg head coach Dieter Hecking, last Saturday's 1-1 draw at 1. FC Nürnberg was very much a case of two points dropped rather than one gained.
Season in turnaround
“We had so many chances in the second half, all we had to do was put one away,” Hecking reflected after the contest at his former Franconian stomping ground. Instead, it was Daniel Ginczek who found the net for the hosts inside the final 20 minutes, cancelling out 's first-half opener and denying the Wolves what would have been a fifth straight league win.
To make matters worse, also picked up his fifth yellow card of the campaign and will miss Friday evening's Matchday 14 opener as the Wolves seek to get back to winning ways at home to Hamburger SV. Hecking however soon accepted the absence of his gifted no.10, an ever-present so far this season, pointing out that “suspensions are part and parcel of the Bundesliga. We beat Dortmund without Diego and I think we'll find a good alternative against Hamburg as well.”
On recent evidence, the ‘good alternative’ is already primed and ready in the shape of the 19-year-old midfielder who fired them in front at Nürnberg. Arnold's season may have got off to a singularly inauspicious start, with a straight red card 35 minutes into the 2-0 loss at Lower Saxony rivals Hannover 96 on the opening weekend, but he has more than made good on that over the past few weeks. His strike against der Club was his fourth in five games for Wolfsburg - a sequence which just happens to coincide with the about-turn in form that has propelled them from the lower reaches of the table up to fifth, right in the thick of the race for a UEFA Champions League qualifying berth.
At least as pertinent as that prolific scoring burst, however, is the role that Hecking has delegated to his young prospect over the past few weeks. Arnold made his “comeback” in the starting XI on the right side of midfield at FC Augsburg on Matchday 9, enjoying an altogether more productive 35th minute this time around as he netted the equaliser in an eventual 2-1 win. His four games since, however, have all been played in the central position, normally the domain of Diego himself, who has been shifted out to the right of midfield.
Diego has continued to play his part in VfL's recent success but it is Arnold that is proving himself to be the team's foremost playmaker, and one in the cutting-edge Bundesliga mould, dispatching the ball forward with razor-sharp precision in the quickest timeframe possible. Originally from Riesa in Saxony and on the Wolves’ books since U-17 level, he is one of relatively few current first-teamers to have worked their way up through the ranks at Wolfsburg, whose success has been modest at best since they stormed to a surprise debut Bundesliga title under Felix Magath in 2009.
Europe in their sights again
The club's ambition remains undiminished, with a return to the European stage in some shape or form the avowed season aim. That was starting to look a bit of a stretch by the end of Matchday 8, when another 2-0 Lower Saxony derby defeat, this time at home to struggling newcomers Eintracht Braunschweig left them just above the drop zone on a meagre nine points.
On the contrary, though, the loss proved the catalyst for an abrupt change in the desired direction - and with the aid of the 'Arnold effect', Wolfsburg's prospects look altogether brighter now.