Tomas Rosicky will be 33 next season.
It seems absurd to talk about him needing to prove himself. However, Tomas Rosicky is no ordinary 33-year-old.
His time at Arsenal has been dogged by injuries, and at one stage he missed almost two years of competitive action.
In the past two seasons he has emerged as an important figure in the squad, particularly in the latter stages of Premier League campaigns.
Last season he returned from injury to help drag Arsenal to third place and Champions League qualification. More recently, after missing the first half of this season with an injury picked up at UEFA Euro 2012, he is now threatening to repeat the feat and help bring Arsenal back to European football’s top table.
His influence on both campaigns can not be understated.
However, his injuries remain a persistent and niggling problem. It is somewhat symbolic that this month Rosicky followed up his best performance of the season, a two-goal display at West Brom, with an enforced absence for the match with Norwich.
Rosicky has one remaining year on his contract. His aim for 2013-14 will surely be to be an instrumental figure across the entire season, rather than just for the final few months.
There is no doubting what he offers the team when he is available. Rosicky arrived at Arsenal with a reputation as a creative player. The reality is that he has added far more to his game: he is now a complete midfielder.
His passing remains crisp and accurate, but his sheer work rate is perhaps now the defining aspect of his game. Every time he plays, Rosicky looks determined to make up for lost time: he charges around the pitch with all the enthusiasm of a man 10 years his junior.
In that regard, he is probably the closest thing Arsenal have to an alternative for Jack Wilshere. Both players also share a remarkable vertical drive: they have the ability to turn defence into attack by sprinting past the opposition. As Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain puts it:
When you look at central midfielders and you have someone who can run with the ball it changes the dynamic of the game massively. Jack can do that, when he picks the ball up and drives at defences it changes the game.
It comes out wide with wingers more naturally, but when it happens in [central] midfield it is more unusual and teams aren't expecting it. It cuts teams open and makes things happen - Tomas does that amazingly well.
In recent months Arsene Wenger has restructured his team, dropping Lukas Podolski to the bench and adding an extra midfielder—usually Rosicky—to the mix. That tactical shift has prompted Arsenal’s best run of the season, and one would expect Arsenal to line up in a similar fashion next season.
Rosicky will hope to retain his place. Even if he is not capable of playing every game, he is guaranteed to be selected for certain big occasions, just as Alex Ferguson would repeatedly call upon Park Ji-Sung, a player who shares Rosicky’s work rate and selflessness.
Rosicky’s main aim will be to have as big an impact in August as he does in May. 2013-14 could be his last chance to leave his stamp on an entire Premier League season, and he will be determined to take it.
If fortune favours him, he could make himself an Arsenal hero for the ages.