Monday, 30 December 2013

Rosicky's experience and grit can help end Arsenal's trophy drought

By Joss Bennett - @JossBennett

The £6.8 million capture of Tomás Rosický in the summer of 2006 remains one of very few examples of Arséne Wenger - a man of well-known principles - signing a player already well-established on the international scene.

Perhaps that is why the French manager has stuck by his man, as the midfielder has suffered several injury crises, failing to make 20 starts in a season since 2006/07 and missing the entirety of his third season at the club.

The Czech Republic captain has mustered just 15 league goals in six years with the Gunners and has often flattered to deceive, frustrating fans with poor decision making and an apparent obsession to cross or shoot with the outside of his right boot.

And yet Rosický is still held in high regard amongst many in the stands, and has apparently been promised a new contract offer by Wenger if he makes 25 appearances this season.

Now would be an apt time for the 33-year-old to put his injury troubled past behind him and help lead the club to a first trophy in eight years. The man Rosický was brought in to replace in 2006, Robert Pirès, was 31 and in his penultimate season with the club when he was part of the last trophy-winning Arsenal side.

The Frenchman is an undisputed club legend, and now Rosický has the chance to put his name in Arsenal history books, with the Gunners top of the Premier League and serious title contenders for the first time in recent memory.

And despite his injury problems, a Premier League medal would be no less than ‘The Little Mozart’ deserves. The midfielder is one of a number of players in the current Arsenal side that wears his heart on his sleeve and not only has the capacity to excite the crowd with a run, pass or shot but also to raise the decibels in the stadium with what has become a trademark sliding tackle in the opposition half.

Perhaps the best example of Rosický’s work-rate this season was the 1-0 victory over Borussia Dortmund on the German’s own turf. With the Gunners on the backfoot for most of the game, and their Champions League future looking bleak after defeat to Dortmund in London a fortnight earlier, Rosický pulled a performance of exceptional quality out of the bag.

The midfielder made three tackles and two interceptions in the middle of the park, and made a further five ball recoveries to stop opposition attacks and prompt an attack for his own team.

One of the attacking midfielder’s most useful attributes for this Arsenal team is that he is constantly playing on the front foot. Rosický’s first and last thought is to get the ball forward, and he can change the tempo of a game in an instant when others around him are looking to keep possession and probe for a clearer opening.

This attribute was summed up twice in the build-up to Aaron Ramsey’s winning goal at Signal Iduna Park. The Czech first won the ball back with a tackle near the centre circle, then – after momentarily giving it away – played a perfectly weighted first time pass to Mesut Ozil, whose cross was in turn bundled in by the aforementioned Welshman.

It was a key but undervalued pass for a key goal in which Olivier Giroud and Ramsey stole the credit.

Perhaps two seasons ago, with Rosický 30 yards from goal, we might have seen a chance go missing with a long shot or an attempted pass over the top with the outside of his boot. But Rosický has grown as a player, he is still – perhaps more – desperate for success but he now seems to know that he doesn’t need fancy tricks or even goals to stay in Wenger’s plans.

The Arsenal manager has been very rewarding to players who work hard and Rosický is no exception.

In fact, this attitude now seems to be part of the ethic of the current squad. There is certainly a feeling amongst fans that the players are part of a team, and not individuals seeking individual glory.

There is now a mix of old and young, with Mikel Arteta another more senior player, and the balance seems right at last. As the fourth-longest serving player at the club, Rosický has seen stars leave but he now owes something to the club for the faith shown in him, and the club owes something to him for his loyalty and hard work.

Hopefully there will be smiles all-round come May.

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