Munich - Ever since VfL Wolfsburg caused the mother of all upsets by lifting the Bundesliga crown in 2009, the question has repeatedly been asked when the Wolves will be a serious challenger again.

Had that question been asked after Matchday 8, there would have been the usual shrug of the shoulders and grunts of negativity. Since then, however, Dieter Hecking's team have not lost a single game, evidently determined to provide the answer to that age-old question by qualifying for Europe this season.

It took an unusual, unexpected and certainly undesired experience to kick-start Wolfsburg's season. A 2-0 defeat at home to local rivals Eintracht Braunschweig saw the storm clouds gather and aroused prospects of another season of struggle. That loss served as a wake-up call, however, with the Wolves going on to win six and draw three of the next nine games. They currently sit fifth and are on course for a return to Europe.

He may have been sent off twice in his first three matches for the club, but has proven why even FC Bayern coach Pep Guardiola was so reluctant to see him leave. The Brazilian defensive midfielder has assumed the role taken by Josue in the Wolves' 2008/09 title-winning season, fitting in just in front of the defence and doing the necessary dirty work, as well as setting up three goals for his team-mates and scoring one himself. A towering presence, the Wolves have lost only two of 12 games with him on the field.

When Wolfsburg won the title in 2009, they won 16 and drew one at home; this term they have six wins from eight home matches, losing only to Eintracht Braunschweig. With FC Bayern München, Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach - who currently occupy the top three positions in the Bundesliga - all still to pay the Volkswagen Arena a visit this season, the Wolves' European destiny looks very much in their own hands.

"I've bought myself two pieces of rope and I'm going to tie him down with it," said Wolfsburg goalkeeper after witnessing 's wonder-goal against SV Werder Bremen. He needn't worry about that strike going to the 19-year-old's head, though. "It's nothing to do with self-confidence, it's just a matter of not thinking and just hitting it," said Arnold of his volleyed goal.

Had Wolfsburg not been beaten at home by Braunschweig, the Bundesliga may not have got to know so much about Arnold. The precocious 19-year-old attacking midfielder was one of the main beneficiaries of that defeat and he took his chance in style, scoring in Wolfsburg's next three games. With five goals to his name already and playing with supreme confidence of a talented teenager, the Wolves' European qualification hopes are resting firmly on his shoulders.