Maximilian Arnold is a player who could certainly benefit from a change of scenery. It was a mere two years ago during the 2014/15 campaign, that Arnold alongside Kevin De Bruyne, had Wolfsburg dreaming of a Bundesliga championship.
The Wolves cut Bayern Munich to shreds in their return fixture in the spring of 2015 and were crowned DFB Pokal Champions, where they beat Dortmund decisively in the final, 3-1. Arnold was a star on the rise and followed up his 2014/15 season with another stellar effort in 2015/16. After the De Bruyne exit, Wolfsburg struggled to keep their form in the Bundesliga.
This was not the case in the Champions League. A mere 90 minutes away from the semi-finals, Wolfsburg took a 2-0 aggregate lead into the Bernabeu against eventual Champions, Real Madrid. Wolfsburg would go on to lose the second leg 3-0 and were eliminated on aggregate, 3-2. Not to be overlooked are Arnold’s efforts during Wolfsburg’s deep run in the Champions League.
He was instrumental in the 2-0 win against Madrid at the Volkswagen Arena, scoring the second goal himself while constantly creating chances up front against a world-class defence. So what happened to this one-time “can’t miss” Arsenal target?
The transfer of Kevin De Bruyne from Wolfsburg has been the single-most damaging departure from any club in recent history. The Wolves slid from a second place finish in the Bundesliga and “Bayernjäger” (Bayern hunters) to the relegation playoff and fight for top flight survival in just two years.
The acquisition of Julian Draxler did not help matters. Initially, Draxler played well, but after one season wanted out of the Volkswagon city. Draxler’s poor attitude assured him a permanent spot on the Wolfsburg bench until he was sold during the 2017 winter transfer window. Then there was the managerial change midseason and another managerial change in the Spring.
All of this had a major impact on Max Arnold. It exposed flaws within his game. It showed while he can be a complimentary piece to a great playmaker such as De Bruyne or Draxler, he often struggles to be the creator himself.
Arnold is a central midfielder by trade and certainly does not lack the dribbling, pace, or passing to be considered a good one. He formed a partnership with De Bruyne that was simply magnificent and created a tonne of chances in a sidekick role, but not as the focal point.
A similar style of play transpired with Draxler the following season. Arnold was extremely important in the Wolves’ link up play. Once it was his chance to be the leader of the offence and the playmaker, he failed to live up to expectations.
In addition, he is rather poor defensively for a central midfielder. His tackling needs improvement and his defensive contributions are underwhelming in general. These are crucial areas that must be addressed if he is to become the best all-around deep lying centre mid in the Bundesliga, as former Wolfsburg manager Dieter Hecking once envisioned.
As Wolfsburg’s roster has become a patchwork group of mercenaries with very little team spirit, it is clear that a player with this much potential could be best suited to improve his skills in a more positive setting. So which club is the best fit?
Maximilian Arnold is a great complimentary piece for an offence with a good central attacking midfielder. Of course, you might say, just reconnect him with Kevin De Bruyne at Manchester City.
That is not going to work, if for no other reason than Manchester City simply does not need him. There is frankly far too much quality on their roster. Arnold would never sniff the pitch. So in that regard, let’s rule out the “Big 6” and instead examine some clubs where Arnold could actually be a key player and at the very least, fit in. Two such clubs come to mind.
Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke form a formidable attack without a doubt. Add Max Arnold to the lineup and you have the potential for that brilliant link up play we discussed previously. Arnold could either displace or share time with Jason Puncheon.
All of this and with Andros Townsend playing on the wing, suddenly Palace could have something special cooking in their attack. Frank De Boer could opt for either a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 formation to best utilise these players. Acquiring Arnold would give Crystal Palace a far more consistent attack, which had a tendency to disappear at times last season.
Only a year removed from a Europa League qualification spot finish in the Premier League, the Saints are trying to regain their footing after last season’s departure of mega-talent Sadio Mané.
A wise option could be to add Max Arnold to their roster and insert him into a 4-2-3-1 formation as a winger playing next to Dušan Tadić at centre mid. This would give them Charlie Austin up front, joined by Arnold, Tadić and either James Ward-Prowse or Nathan Redmond as the other winger.
The Saints re-signed Fraser Forster to a new contract but still could lose Virgil Van Dijk. This is a blow that could be lessened by the addition of a very affordable and talented player like Max Arnold.