After a difficult few years, Daniel Arzani's return to form continued this weekend with the Socceroos star seeing more game time with Lommel SK and being asked to play striker.
It was a quick rise for Daniel Arzani. He first made his A-League appearance in 2016 aged seventeen for Melbourne City, coming on as a substitute in their match against Perth Glory to feature alongside Tim Cahill. His series of performances in his first season were followed by consistent and impressive play with City in the 2017-18 A-League.
Arzani would then be the named to the 2018 World Cup squad for Australia. While in Russia, he became the youngest every male player to feature for Australia at a World Cup. He would make three appearances in the competition. The winger was then signed by Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.
Upon his arrival in England in 2018, he was quickly loaned out to Scottish Premiership champions Celtic FC. During his first game at the Glaswegian club, Arzani tore his ACL bringing his rapid rise to a crashing halt. A cruciate is no longer a career ending injury these days, but it is also a long and arduous road back for any footballer.
Arzani would make his return to Celtic 444 days later, playing five minutes in a Scottish FA Cup match against Partick Thistle in early 2020. However COVID would hamper his comeback efforts with him not seeing any matches until the following season.
This time his return to form started while on loan with Dutch Eredivisie side Ultrecht in August 2020, before going on loan to Danish Superliga side Aarhus AGF in January 2021 where he would play alongside fellow Aussie Zachary Duncan.
One can only imagine the road it has been. First coming back from injury, then navigating trying to find form again at multiple clubs in foreign countries with different languages while also facing the new COVID world. In total upon finishing his season with AGF, Arzani had made seventeen club appearances in the year and a half since his return from his ACL injury.
When discussing the young prospect, Socceroos coach Graham Arnold said back in May to Fox Football:
"I've said it since I've been in the job with the Socceroos, for me what is important is that players are getting game time and they are match fit.
"Daniel has had a bit of an injury with AGF, he obviously left FC Ultrecht in January during the transfer window and hadn't had much game time either.
The coach went on to add "I just think at that age it is just crucial that you play, from the ages of twenty to twenty-three, that is your apprenticeship, that is where you need minutes.
"He is on the extended list for the Olyroos. It is better that he goes away with the Olyroos and gets to play three to four games and Gary van Egmond can have a look at him."
His performances in Denmark were enough to get Arzani a call up with the Olyroos, where the winger played in all three matches for the Aussies at the Tokyo Olympics, starting two.
At the start of this 2021-22 season, Manchester City have loaned Arzani out to Belgium second division side Lommel SK. Speaking of his move to Flemish language Belgian paper hln.be Arzani said:
“Here at Lommel SK, I definitely want to flourish. I had a dip after the Tokyo Olympics. It was a unique experience in Japan, but also tiring. Fortunately, I have been playing strong the last few weeks and the coach can use me on the entire left flank. "
He has been able to make his place in the squad, starting and playing in five of the seven matches held since his arrival. While four of those appearances were out wide on the wing, he was selected as a number nine this past weekend.
The position of striker is not one Arzani has played before, preferring to stick to the flank and use his technical ability to create from there. Whether this position was just a temporary change or a permanent move with Lommel will be seen.
The important thing for the 22-year old going forward is to continue to get consistent game time. While he has started five matches in Belgium, he has not played a full 90 minutes for the team yet. In fact, he has seemingly only played a full match in five senior matches during his entire career, four of which were with Melbourne.
In the upcoming week though Arzani will not be with Lommel but with the Socceroos. The 22-year old made his return to the squad last month. While he was not see the field in either of the two September Third Round World Cup qualifying matches, being an unused substitute, he impressed Arnold enough to merit another call up for the upcoming Oman and Japan games.
Speaking of his Socceroo call up, Head Coach Graham Arnold said last month:
"He's such a great kid, such a beautiful kid that I'm just here to support him and support the rest of the players.
"Obviously I've had a lot of life experiences in football and just trying to help the kid get back on track.
"We have a lot of conversations, he knows I'm here to support him in his career and, again, what's important for me is that he fulfils his potential.
"He's still got time to do that. The kid's only 21-22.
"He's had a tough last couple of years but I'm 100 per cent sure the kid will bounce back and get that career back on track."
With the confidence of his national team coach and the chance to see consistent football in Belgium, Australian fans can hope this is continuation of Arzani's comeback, whether they end up seeing him flying up the wing or continue in his most recent role as striker.
The full Socceroos schedule for their upcoming matches can be found using the following link.