Rosicky has been a peripheral figure for the North Londoners for the past few seasons, his 7-year career at the Emirates, due to succession of injuries, setbacks and niggles.
He was nicknamed ‘Mozart’ for his highly creative play and exceptional technical ability but suffered a hamstring injury and did not feature for Arsenal at all in their 2008/09 season.
Upon his return in 2009, he picked up another niggling setback to the same hamstring, which sidelined him for 6 weeks before making his comeback to make a goal and assist in Arsenal’s 4-2 defeat to Manchester City in 2009/10.
His 2010/11 season was better but he remained on the fringes due to the importance of Cesc Fabregas who had moved above the Czech in the pecking order by some distance whilst he’d been out injured and the emergence of Samir Nasri who had his best season that year, effectively playing in Rosicky’s position in attacking midfield either centrally or on the left flank.
However, last season 2011/12 Rosicky remained fit for the most part and proved himself still a valuable asset to Wenger, as both a playmaker and a now experienced first team regular. He made 38 appearances, scored 2 goals and made 6 assists and went some way to fill the huge void left by Fabregas and Nasri.
His composure on the ball and his diligent displays, working hard to press high up the pitch were applauded by the fans and the manager.
His form and consistency along with Mikel Arteta’s played an important role in both Robin van Persie’s incredible 37 goals for Arsenal that season and their eventual qualification ahead of Tottenham for the Champions League, finishing in third place in the Premier League by just one point over their North London rivals.
However, he suffered a serious Achilles injury whilst on international duty with the Czech Republic last summer in the European Championships which ruled him out for the first half of this season with Arsenal - he didn’t play a game for the Gunners until December.
Meanwhile, Wenger had brought in Santi Cazorla, along with Lukas Podolski and the emergence of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain meant Rosicky would likely return to find his position in the team filled once again.
Wilshere returned around the same time as the now 32-year-old Rosicky and Cazorla’s exceptional talent made him impossible to leave out of the team. Podolski has spent the majority of this season on the left wing, where Rosicky has been previously deployed, and Gervinho often provided the German with cover as an alternative, along with young Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The perpetually injured Abou Diaby also returned around the same time and between Arteta, Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey, and Diaby it was difficult to see where and how Rosicky would fit back into the team.
He’s made 11 appearances for Arsenal this season across all competitions, 5 of those as a substitute and in 4 of those he was subbed off by Wenger, meaning he’s played a full 90 minutes for the club just twice this term.
Saturday was one of those games and he was simply superb – Man of the Match and undoubtedly the best player on the pitch. He injected quality, direction, determination, and impressive resilience to the team, which has lacked exactly those qualities for much of this season.
His passing and movement, his pressing and hassling of the opposition set the example and the rest of the team followed suit. He even made a tackle (not a good one but, nonetheless) and kept the focus when Arsenal went down to 10 men in the second half.
In my humble opinion Tomas Rosicky is as important to Arsenal as Santi Cazorla. The Spaniard has had a fine season and been the creative nucleus Arsenal have relied on. It’s interesting that Cazorla has played in almost every game for Arsenal – 41 appearances in all competitions and most of those for 90 minutes.
I suspect, however, had Rosicky been fit sooner, Wenger would have rotated more often between the two playmakers and Cazorla might have enjoyed a necessary rest every now and then.
Rosicky enters the final year of his contract this summer and Arsenal would be wise to get an extension wrapped up as soon as possible – I suspect he’ll be keen to stay – as he showed on Saturday, when he’s fit, Tomas Rosicky is every bit as important as Cazorla is to them now and, for his experience and determination, possibly more so. Now more than ever.
image: © wonker