Maximilian Arnold and VfL Wolfsburg take on RB Leipzig on Wednesday (20:45 CET) in the DFB-Pokal last eight. The 26-year-old midfielder spoke to DFB.de about the upcoming game against the in-form side, club loyalty and the national team.
DFB.de: Have VfL Wolfsburg been dealt the most difficult tie in facing RB Leipzig?
Maximilian Arnold: It’s definitely one of the most difficult draws that we could have had. When you look at the league table, you can see it’s a huge game. Whether the game is played home and away isn’t much of a factor as the game is being played without fans. Like us, they have a good spatial game.
DFB.de: The last meeting with Leipzig was a 2-2 draw in the Bundesliga. You had to watch the game from the stands due to a suspension. What can you take away from the game?
Arnold: Leipzig pressed a lot and we conceded an early goal. But we drew the conclusion that we can't allow that much pressure. If we can get more relief in the cup game, we'll have a good chance of advancing. It will be an interesting game to look forward to.
DFB.de: You’ve faced RB Leipzig ten times, winning two games and losing five. What makes them such a tough team to play against?
Arnold: It’s not for nothing that Leipzig are one of the best three teams in Germany. They have a brutal pressing game, and have a very fast and direct style. You need to have a good day and good teamwork to beat them. But at the same time, we're very difficult to beat at the moment.
DFB.de: What do you have to do to beat RB Leipzig?
Arnold: We simply have to be ready. We have to be involved in every play from the back and work forward, and we have to be united and compact. That will make it hard for them to score against us.
DFB.de: In 2015, you won the DFB-Pokal with VfL Wolfsburg, beating Borussia Dortmund in the final. Was this your personal career highlight so far?
Arnold: Of course, winning a title is incredible, but playing in the Champions League and becoming European champion with the U21 national team were absolute highlights for me.
DFB.de: It's been a rollercoaster ride with VfL Wolfsburg recently: Not only did you win the Pokal, but you also finished runners-up in 2015 and reached the Champions League quarterfinals against Real Madrid. At the other end of the spectrum, however, you were in the relegation playoff twice, since then, there has been another turnaround and you're of the top teams in the Bundesliga again. What is the explanation behind that?
Arnold: That's very difficult to explain, because it was a slow process. It's not as if we suddenly couldn't run or play football anymore. It wasn't easy to play Champions League games during the week, for example against Real Madrid, and then play Mainz or Freiburg again at the weekend. We also had a bit of bad luck with new signings, because some of them didn't perform as well as we needed them to. However, for the past two and a half years we've had a bit of stability, which has paid off.
DFB.de: How big a part did Bruno Labbadia play in keeping VfL Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga in 2018 and leading them to the Europa League the following season?
Arnold: Of course, he was very important and brought structure to the club. However we above all have to thank Marcel Schäfer (sporting director) and Jörg Schmadtke (managing director for sport), who joined us in summer 2018. They provided the right structure for us to work without distractions and continue to develop. It's important not to always make wide-scale changes, but also to have a bit of tranquillity.
DFB.de: To what extent has coach Oliver Glasner further developed the team?
Arnold: As unfortunate as it was, failing to qualify for the Europa League was a blessing in disguise for us. It gave us the opportunity to train more during the week and work on certain things, which has been key. Last season, we didn't have the opportunity to do that because of the Europa League and the many midweek games.
DFB.de: You have played with many very well-known players at Wolfsburg, such as Kevin de Bruyne, Julian Draxler, Mario Gomez, André Schürrle and Bas Dost. Who was the best teammate you ever had?
Arnold: Kevin de Bruyne. He way he reads the game and the kind of passes that he plays is just impressive. And he’s developed even more since he left here. I also had other really good teammates, like Diego or Luiz Gustavo.
DFB.de: All the players we mentioned left Wolfsburg at some point, but you recently extended your contract until 2026. Has another club never appealed to you?
Arnold: I always weigh things like that up very carefully. I also don't feel like I'm stagnating with regard to my development. I still think that I can develop best here. If that weren't the case, I'd have to reconsider. But as I said, there is a lot going on at this club. We are becoming more and more professional and I want to be a part of that.
DFB.de: Would you like to see more Bundesliga players commit to a club the way you do?
Arnold: That's something every player has to decide for himself. Just because you sign a contract doesn't mean that nothing else will ever happen. You review every season: What went well? What went badly? Do I still have that fire inside me? At the moment, I do because I'm having a lot of fun here.
DFB.de: Regarding the national team, you've said, "If not now, when?" How high are your hopes of making the national team in time for the European Championships?
Arnold: You can't get carried away. Of course, it would be nice if a call up came in March; I'd be vey pleased with that. Given my performances on the pitch, I don't think I have to hide. If I don't get called up, it's not the end of the world. There is also no benefit to talking about it too much; I've never seen anyone talk their way into the national team.
DFB.de: You played your only international match to date in May 2014. In your opinion, is making the national team particularly difficult due to the amount of good central midfielders, such as Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gündogan and Leon Goretzka?
Arnold: I think it's difficult to make the national team at any position. In my position, there is definitely a bit more competition. But as I said, I'd be happy if I got the chance.