Sunday, 18 August 2013

Tomas Rosicky’s determined performance the only positive on opening day

By @jossbennett

On an opening day where Arsenal were humiliated by Aston Villa and fans berated the manager and the team for letting them down again and again, there was only one player – Tomas Rosicky – who fought to the final whistle and gave 110% and more to try to win the game.

The 32 year-old Czech midfielder recently gave a telling interview with John Cross in the Daily Mirror in which he said he was “trying to play every game like it’s going to be my last”. Rosicky’s determination and work-rate was clear for everyone to see even as things went from bad to worse for the Gunners against Aston Villa.

Even Laurent Koscielny and Jack Wilshere – both labelled with a similar ‘winning spirit’ – were outshone by Rosicky, with the former controversially sent off and the latter too frustrated to contribute anything significant to the game.

Unlike most of Arsene Wenger’s protégés, Rosicky’s injury-plagued career with the club meant he didn’t really have a chance to force his way into the hearts and minds of the Arsenal faithful and management until the 2011/12 season, when he made more than 15 league starts for the first time since his début season. However such is his nature, he quickly became an integral part of the team, particularly during the run-in and chase for the last Champions League spot. It was apt then, that his only league goal of the season was the ‘winner’ against Tottenham at the Emirates that kickstarted Arsenal’s season.

Unfortunately for Rosicky – and for Arsenal – further injuries kept him out for half of the 2012/13 season as he made only 10 appearances (seven starts) in the league and the club once again struggled to reach the Champions League.  Despite his problems, he has never given up, nor have his performances deteriorated dramatically as a result of his patched up and aging body. Something he once again looked to prove against Aston Villa, where he was easily Arsenal’s man of the match in my opinion.

With Santi Cazorla unavailable, Rosicky stepped into the central role behind the striker in Arsene Wenger’s usual 4-2-3-1 formation, with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (the other candidate for the role) starting on the left and Theo Walcott on the right of the attacking quartet. The former two were allowed to follow their instincts and swap positions throughout the first half, while Walcott largely stayed wide and struggled to get involved.

And with no Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey formed an unbalanced central midfield partnership behind Rosicky. However, neither of the two deeper midfielders looked comfortable pushing on and leaving the other with all of the defensive duties, so Rosicky ended up isolated in the hole with little backing and few other options but to drive at the defence himself, which he did to varied success.

Wilshere and Ramsey stayed back and left Rosicky isolated (

The statistics prove that Rosicky was the dangerman, too, as he took 79 touches (less only than Wilshere and Ramsey) and was directly involved in 6 goalscoring chances, with three shots (one on target) to his name and a further three key passes. In addition to this, he successfully completed four dribbles and was the only Arsenal player to find his target with more than one of his crosses (2/3), while it was also his pass that freed Chamberlain to assist Arsenal’s early goal.

Defensively, Rosicky made two tackles (less than only Aaron Ramsey, who operated as a centre-back for the last 20 minutes of the game) but failed to make a successful interception. According to Anthony Taylor, he also made three fouls, so we can probably say he made a further three world-class tackles.

If Rosicky’s performance alone wasn’t enough to merit a positive, then the fact that he seems to have been the only player not to get injured is surely a positive. Arsenal undoubtedly still need to make significant investments in the transfer market, but Rosicky’s growing importance to the club and increasingly determined performances are a sign that at least we have a player ready to fight for the team whatever happens and must be an example to any prospective player joining that fight.

*Statistics courtesy of ESPN and

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