The player dubbed 'Little Mozart' has conducted the Gunners' orchestra during a series of famous comebacks after being liberated in a playmaker role
By Wayne Veysey at Emirates Stadium
Harsh as it may be but no player better sums up Arsenal's barren years than Tomas Rosicky.
His end-of-season report cards would read like a mini-summary of the team. The Czech scores highly for guile and artistic impression but not so well for resilience and all-round efficiency. The note ‘Looks the part but must do better’ could be annually scribbled next to his name without too much argument.
Rosicky and Arsenal reached a new low with their abject displays in the 8-2 defeat at Manchester United. Worse, he was caught on replays heading for the halfway line and not even watching as the first of Wayne Rooney’s free-kicks that day sailed into the net.
There were mutterings that he did not care and, when the all-seeing eye of television showed that Rosicky appeared to be laughing when Seb Larsson scored a free-kick for Sunderland at Emirates Stadium the following month, Gooners seethed with anger.
In the past six weeks his performances during a series of lazarus-like comebacks culminating in a record-setting four consecutive Premier League wins from behind have been of such a high calibre that it has invited the question: what did they do with the old Tomas?
You know, the occasionally brilliant but usually brittle player who promised so much in his first season since being plucked from Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2006 but has gone on to achieve little.
Here he was against Newcastle United on Monday night launching Arsenal attacks with crisp passes, throwing himself into 50-50 tackles and covering every inch of the immaculate Emirates Stadium turf in his desire to seal a fifth consecutive victory for his team.
If Theo Walcott was the eye-catching front man against Alan Pardew’s well-drilled team, Rosicky was the equally influential conductor of the orchestra. The little maestro hit all the right notes before, exhausted, he was withdrawn 15 minutes from the end.
This was Arsene Wenger’s reminder to the grateful audience who gave Rosicky such a resounding ovation that he is 31 and needs to be preserved.
Wenger might also reflect that his patience and faith in a player who was regarded as a marquee signing when he arrived from the Bundesliga is finally being repaid.
It has taken some time. Rosicky’s career hit the buffers after he instantly hit it off both on and off the pitch with Cesc Fabregas, Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini in the 2006-07 season.
He was labelled ‘Rosick-note’ by those fed up with the churn of niggling and, at times, baffling injuries. The entire 2008-09 season was wiped out. He did not play a single minute of football.
The path to redemption has been a long, and challenging, one for Rosicky. He has decorated Arsenal matches without really influencing them. Indeed, at no point since his first season at the club could he have been regarded as an unchallenged first choice.
Rosicky has never started more than 20 matches in a season since 2006-07. Since his year out, he has scored just six goals. It has been a poor return for a player of such refined skills.
Most managers and elite clubs would have thrown in the towel. But Wenger, stubborn to the core, kept the faith and he has been rewarded with a series of magnificent displays by Rosicky in Arsenal’s past four uplifting home matches against Blackburn Rovers, Tottenham, Milan and Newcastle.
Many observers, including this one, might sceptically regard Rosicky’s re-birth as the age-old classic of a footballer playing for a new contract. Wenger duly sanctioned a new two-year deal – breaking his self-imposed rule for over-30s in the process – and a fresh agreement was announced by the club on Monday.
In his programme notes, Wenger was glowing in his assessment of the midfielder. “He is a real Arsenal player in the way he puts the team first, in his technical level and in the fact he completely shares our philosophy,” the Frenchman said. “I have huge respect for him. I think he can play for many years yet because he is serious, conscientious, has a healthy life and has the basic technique to survive at the top level. We look forward to seeing much more from him.
Rosicky’s improvement has coincided with the injury to Aaron Ramsey that has allowed the Czech a run of games in the playmaker role that the Welshman has inherited from Cesc Fabregas this season in Wenger’s 4-2-3-1 system.
Like Andrey Arshavin, Rosicky has never looked comfortable on the left flank, his usual station in his six seasons at Arsenal. As an authentic No10, he prefers to dictate the game from the middle.
He has taken his chance to shine and rolled back the years. Not only does he look liberated but dynamic, too. A battered reputation has been partly repaired.
With the ink not yet dry on the new contract, Arsenal supporters will hope that Rosicky can continue to re-write a script that had him labelled as an injury-prone disappointment. He turns 32 in the summer. There is little time to lose.
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