25 January 2015

Tomáš Rosický, Arsenal legend? Yes. A thousand times, yes.

Perhaps no sequence better sums up Tomáš Rosický than that which led to his sumptuous goal. After an innocuous pass that launches an attack deep in Brighton's defensive third, Rosický watches as Giroud's too-cute flick is scooped up, and he pounces on the Brighton defenders too-tame side pass, side-steps a clumsy tackle, and delivers a deft look-away pass to Giroud just inside the area. As three defenders converge (more or less) on Giroud, Rosický floats to the top of the area and awaits Giroud's well-weighted chip, which he coolly volleys home, slicing and swerving around a defender and under the keeper. It's the kind of sequence that Rosický has delivered time and time again—but has he done so often enough to earn a spot among Arsenal's legendary players? Could he enter the hallowed antiquity currently inhabited by the likes of Henry, Bergkamp, and Adams? Why not?

The aforementioned, of course, delivered unto us some of the most sublime football we would ever see, once-in-a-lifetime achievements, whether it be the Invincibles season, the titles, or the overarching style of play. That trinity—along with other luminaries such as Vieira, Pirès, and Seaman—presided over a period of dominance at Arsenal perhaps unmatched by any other group of players in Arsenal history. Rosický joined Arsenal in May 2006, at a time when Henry, Bergkamp, and Pirès were about on the verge of leaving the club for various reasons (Bergkamp retired and Pirès left under acrimonious circumstances, and Henry would decamp to Barcelona a year later). As such, Rosický offers one of the strongest links to Arsenal's most-recent period of glory, the one that casts a long shadow over every achievement to this day.

The contrast between the club's fortunes then and now—much as it is with Rosický—is stark. Signed in 2006, the 25-year old Rosický could have been the next Bergkamp or Brady, creating chance after chance after chance for those ahead of him, whether it would be Walcott or Adebayor, Giroud or Bendtner, van Persie or Reyes. Instead, injury after injury undermined Rosický, denying him a chance to appear in 113 games over the last nine years, with the first of them the most serious, a knee injury that knocked him out for more than year, during which he missed 69 games. How good might he have been had he not been laid low by that injury? 

We could look back over his career and wonder "what if?'. However, we can find ample wonder and the glory in Rosický. He's been a brilliant player and consummate team player during his entire time here, and the fact that he's delivered some magnificent moments is like icing on the cake. At this point, my own emotions override my more-rational side, and I have to gush. Effusively.

You want a hinky-jinky dribble, or do you want a lofted pass that travels half the length of the pitch? Perhaps you want to see a slide-tackle, coming in from behind, with a heel-hook to nick the ball? Do you want a cracking shot, or a deft little flick? Rosický does it all. If there's a black mark against him, it's in the fact that, during his time with the club, we struggled so mightily to win silverware. Let this be his will and testament—though far from his last.

Like the club and squad itself over the last decade or so, Rosický—Rozza, the little Mozart—has told a tale long on potential and just a bit short on promise. Passionate, deft, and determined, Rosický has delivered tantalizing moments of mastery in which he has transcended his opponents and the game itself. He's flirted with and occasionally consummated moments of pure footballing inspiration, daring those around him to rise to the challenge he's established. If you haven't already done so, go back and watch the clip.

To me, he embodies Arsenal, at least over the last nine or ten years. A player and a club, full of vast but unfulfilled, injury-marred potential. One way of looking at that is to rue the missed opportunities. Even as I typed that, I'll admit, I got a bit teary-eyed. Another way of looking at that—one that is more optimistic without being myopic—is to revel in the delirous achievements. With each goal that he's scored for Arsenal, he's celebrated with a passion and a pride that few others who have represented the club could match. 

It's all there—the passion, the technique, the understanding of the game—Rosický has it. The only element missing might be the trophies. To date, Rosický has only earned two, the 2013 Community Shield and the 2014 FA Cup. And that's precisely what makes him legend. Perhaps alone among those who have come and gone, Rosický has embodied Arsenal over the last decade, replete with all of the glories and frustrations that we—and he—have experienced. To see him dominate a game as he did against Brighton offers us a chance to enjoy an exquisite agony and ecstasy. It may not be enough to earn the Little Mozart a place in the pantheon, but it's far and away enough for me.


  1. another performance like this one against Brighton and yes, he'll go down in the annals. sadly, I don't think he's done enough alone or for the club to become a legend. MAYBE if we win the Prem or Champions League, thanks to some other heroics of his, he'll qualify.

  2. I love TR7 and hope he can finish his career at Arsenal. He looked more energetic than players almost half his age!

  3. Yes Yes and Yes!!! Absolute role model off the field to boot

  4. What a superb article. Beautiful writing about a wonderful player. Thanks so much.

  5. Wonderful piece about my favourite Arsenal player. Thank you.

  6. Great player hampered by injury.

    Not a legend but more of a cult hero.

  7. Rosicky is in the same category as the Henry, Bergkamp, Pires, Vieira. Unfortunately, the change in Arsenal's philosophy deprived him the success that was supposed to follow suit after the post invincible era. His contribution to the club was curtailed by a strange injury one season after he joined the club.

    Despite the fact that Thomas Rosicky is very much towards the end of his professional footballing career, he still possess the zest and quality.

  8. I hope Arsenal can sign a 24 or 25 years old player with identical trait to Rosicky. The guy is a complete footballer. Wenger needs to effectively get the best out of Tomas for this second half of the season. With Tomas form we might go on a good run of games.

  9. q

    I know that there are many people who say that we’ve wasted money on Diaby, trying get him fit through all these years, and in a universe in which one can see the future, that is true – at least in terms of running a commercial enterprise. But of course we can’t see the future – not of Diaby nor of Rosický. We could have said, after 2008/9 in which he didn’t play, that’s it, enough, go. But I’m glad we didn’t.

    And the fact that we didn’t makes other players more likely to look positively at Arsenal. Where clubs get a reputation for treating their players well and honestly, players are more likely to come. Of course it is mostly about money, but who your employer is still counts.

    So now we have our new team, playing in a match in which, as the Telegraph says, “In one first-half counter-attack, six Arsenal players galloped from their own half as if in a private sprint trial. They poured all over Brighton’s retreating defence.”

    This isn’t the 1-0 to the Arsenal, shut up shop style of play of the Graham era, this is re-building the era from the second double through to the invincibles. (And before anyone says, ‘this team is nothing like the invincibles’ of course they aren’t. I am saying, this is a process, a process that has comparisons – as I have said before – akin to the second double season.)

    So, while Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Southampton, Tottenham and Manchester Utd drop a player or three and fail to win, even when at home, we leave out Alexis Sanchez, Santi Cazorla, Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, Jack Wilshere, Danny Welbeck, Mikel Arteta and Francis Coquelin (some through injury some through choice), and have a jolly time in the Sussex Downs.

    We don’t have Thierry Henry and Robert Pires, that is true, but in 1997/8 as the first Wenger Period began we didn’t. We had the new comers like Vieira, Anelka and Overmars, the burning brightness of Bergkamp and the fading lights like Wright, Keown and Platt. A team evolving.

    These are not perfect parallels, and I am (I must repeat) not predicting that we will do a Double, but rather I think there are parallels in the build up. We did not buy the invincibles in one swoop, and some players who we hoped to stay (like Anelka) decided they wanted to leave. It is a bit like now. But that team evolved – as this one is.

    As Chris Hughton of Brighton said: “A difference with Arsenal now to a couple of years ago was that when they made changes they might bring in youngsters, but now they’re bringing experienced players in and they have greater depth to their squad.”

    Which made me look at the “25” list of players. Last night I posted a comment without checking (always a stupid thing to do) suggesting we had used up our 25, but we haven’t because I failed to remember exactly who is and who is not 21 years old. Here is the list of the old boys, with * meaning home grown.

    Arteta Amatriain, Mikel

    Cazorla, Santiago

    *Coquelin, Francis

    Debuchy, Mathieu

    Diaby, Vassiriki Abou

    Flamini, Mathieu

    *Gibbs, Kieran James Ricardo

    Giroud, Olivier

    Koscielny, Laurent

    *Martinez, Damian Emiliano

    Mertesacker, Per

    Monreal, Ignacio

    Ospina, David

    Ozil, Mesut

    *Ramsey, Aaron James

    Rosicky, Tomas

    Sanchez, Alexis

    *Szczesny, Wojciech Tomasz

    *Walcott, Theo James

    *Welbeck, Daniel

    *Wilshere, Jack Andrew

    The relevant under-21 players are

    Afobe, Benik

    Bellerin, Hector

    Chambers, Calum

    Crowley, Daniel

    Gnabry, Serge David

    Hayden, Isaac Scot

    Maitland-Niles, Ainsley

    Oxlade-Chamberlain, Alexander Mark David

    Toral, Jon-Miquel

    Vickers, Josh

    Zelalem, Gedion

    Plus our other newcomer Krystian Bielik.

    So tons of space still in the squad – well three more places if we want to go further.

  10. I guess you meant to say the 2014 Community shield, as trophies little Mozart has won with us. He is usually in full flow when players of like mind are next to him; he enjoyed playing with Hleb, Cesc and now, Cazorla and Ozil. I love this player and was glad he took the No.7 shirt after Pires, as that is the number I have had on my replica shirts, each year. His passion in the local derbies is another reason to eulogize the man; he just loves scoring against the Spuds, for instance and would burst a vein, to try to get us the win against the west London chavs. A great player, hampered by too many injuries.

  11. Seeing his apetite for the game as well as his stamina, I would say that he has got another 3-4 years ahead of him.


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