Arne Maier was born in the south of Berlin, a mere few kilometres from Hertha Berlin’s Olympiastadion. He joined the capital club as an 8-year-old before winning a bronze in the prestigious Fritz-Walter Medal at Under 17 level then winning a silver at Under 19 level with Kai Havertz winning the gold. He has become a mainstay in Pal Dardai’s side as a defensive and box-to-box midfielder despite being only 20-years-old. He has shown potential as a deep-lying midfield playmaker and a box-to-box engine as he is in the top tier of Germany’s up and coming talents.
Maier has an imposing physical stature for his age, but he wears a tight brace on his back to protect him from back-pain due to the mal-alignment of his teeth. The German has played in every age-group since the U15s and when he did not have games at youth level, he would take in Hertha’s atmosphere at the Olympiastadion. His first purchase with his own money was a dinner with his parents at the Brandenburg gate as he had them chauffeured to the restaurant, so they could enjoy a drink on the way there and the way back. He has frequently accepted criticism of his defensive ability from Valentin Lazaro and of his goalscoring prowess by Pal Dardai.
Lazaro’s criticism may have been well placed for a midfielder of his ilk, but Maier’s game is about more than just goals. He is involved in a sound and industrious double-pivot with Marko Grujic as Fabian Lustenberger can sometimes push up from his centre-back role and act as deep-lying playmaker in midfield. Maier can also drop in between the centre-backs and work balls through the lines to instigate attacks and help his team progress in possession through quick vertical passing moves. Maier’s confidence to thread unerring through balls in between the lines is his most endearing quality as his game has developed to more than just his technical abilities.
His first touch is exquisite as this allows him to control the ball and gain more time in an extra yard of space to play a well-weighted ball onto a teammate. In his box to box midfield role, Maier is intelligent at pushing up to press the opposition and win possession in the higher areas of the pitch. The Berliner excels as a ball-carrier, sometimes pulling off elastic skills to beat his man and drive the ball into space, searching for a teammate to distribute the ball to. He possesses the mobility to shuttle around the pitch and close down areas which is integral for modern day midfielders in the defensive phase of the game.
Hertha played Frankfurt in a home game where Grujic and Maier had to play against Jonathan de Guzman and Gelson Fernandes who are one of the Bundesliga’s most solid midfield units. Maier showed great tactical understanding to move up and press Frankfurt’s midfield duo with his partner but when Hertha switched to their 4-4-2 medium block, he would sit off his man and allow striker Vedad Ibisevic to shoulder his man-marking responsibility. In possession, Maier also controlled the game as the deepest-lying midfielder, demanding possession from the centre-backs and constructing moves to beat the opposition side’s first wave of pressure.
In the higher areas of the pitch, Maier was also influential as he received possession to play a diagonal pass to the right side of the pitch where Hertha’s attackers were marked, he then remained available for a pass to play a diagonal to the left flank where Hertha had a cross turned out for a corner. Marvin Plattenhardt scored from the corner to put Hertha ahead of Frankfurt. Maier walked off at half-time with the most touches on the pitch as he was orchestrating Hertha’s attacking moves as they dominated their opponents.
However, after half-time, Dardai placed more defensive responsibility on the shoulders of Maier who had single digits in touches in the first 20 minutes of the second-half. He remained in the same vertical line as his midfield partner, Grujic as they prevented Frankfurt from moving the ball through the lines and creating opportunities. Maier’s main focus in the second-half was to exhibit sound positioning in the medium to low block to close down spaces. This proved how Dardai has developed his attacking and defensive understanding of the game which has allowed the German to be a key player for Hertha with ample playing time.
Maier’s ability to play as a box-to-box midfielder has also helped him become a more pivotal part of this team as against Schalke, he and Grujic were denied time on the ball by the high press of the opposition. Dardai responded by moving Lustenberger from centre-back into midfield which resulted in increased liberation for the midfield duo. The German U21 international had more time and space on the ball as he could hold the ball and distribute it into the channels. The mobility facet of his game came to the fore as he used subtle feints to turn out of pressure, especially when he worked a ball to Lustenberger in the channels who played through Kalou to drive into the box.
Lustenberger’s contract will expire at the end of the season so it is possible that the man likened to Toni Kroos by large sections of the German media could see his immediate future at defensive midfield, especially if Grujic does not return from his loan from Liverpool. The blonde-haired midfield magician has been a constant performer at club level this season and could provide another option at a key position for Joachim Loew’s Die Mannschaft in the future. Currently, Pal Dardai is demanding more goals from him in his box-to-box role at club level.
"Arne has been a regular player for us for quite some time, and he was immediately involved in the U21. The next logical step must be the senior national team. Arne has the potential for that,” said Pal Dardai to the Berliner Zeitung in October.
“My game is characterized by calm on the ball and overview. I try to make the game and get to the ball as often as possible,” said the 20-year-old to the same Berlin-based news outlet.
The rumour mill was rife with speculation after Maier decided to part ways with his agent at the beginning of the year, but the youngster signed a long-term deal that expires in 2022 in May last year. Working with Dardai, who coached him at U15 level, has proved beneficial for his career as the Hungarian is developing him as a player and constantly putting him in the best position to succeed. Maier has blossomed as a burgeoning talent, fulfilling his early potential while looking to establish himself as an important player for club and country.