Thomas Eisfeld had been waiting for this moment for three years. Last Tuesday it finally arrived as the midfielder learnt that he had been called up by the German U20 side for their friendly against Switzerland this week, ending his prolonged absence from the national team set-up.
Eisfeld could be said to have been in need of a boost. Despite scoring on his maiden start for the first-team in the Capital One Cup win over West Bromwich Albion in September and now appearing to be fully over the injury problems that plagued the early stages of his development, the 21 year old has struggled to receive much of a look in for the first-team and has had to watch on as his compatriot Serge Gnabry has made the breakthrough into the senior set-up.
A deadline-day signing from Borussia Dortmund in January 2012, Eisfeld immediately made his presence felt at Arsenal by finding the net with regularity, and his goalscoring record since joining the club has been mightily impressive as he has scored 14 times in 35 appearances for the U21 side to date, operating in numerous positions across the attacking line and even, on occasion, as a striker.
Now, though, Eisfeld is approaching a pivotal stage in his development. His contract expires at the end of next season and, with an abundance of creative players ahead of him in the first-team squad (Jack Wilshere, Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Tomas Rosicky are the most prominent), he will certainly have his work cut out to earn an extended stay.
Given his situation and the fact that he surely has little new to learn from second-string football, it was rather surprising that Eisfeld didn’t join the likes of Benik Afobe and Chuba Akpom in heading out on loan in January. He may well go on temporary transfer next campaign, with his performances elsewhere likely to dictate whether he will still be at the club in two seasons’ time.
A hard-working player with good movement, concerns have arisen regarding Eisfeld’s tendency to drift out of games, offering the impression that if he fails to score then he contributes little else, which, for a midfielder, is not exactly ideal. His performance level certainly seems to have picked up somewhat in recent weeks, though, as he impressed for the U21s away to Reading at the Madejski Stadium, a ground where he made his first-team debut last season.
Two years on from joining Arsenal, Eisfeld has just two competitive appearances for the first-team to his name, and the fact that he has not been called regularly to train with the senior side this season indicates that he still has some way to go in order to make a breakthrough.
His call up to represent Germany, however, for whom he hadn’t featured since U17 level, just goes to show that sometimes, if you are patient and put in enough hard work, you will eventually get your reward, even if you didn’t anticipate it.