Arsene Wenger can be ruthless when it comes to discarding older players. For years, he operated a policy of refusing to offer more than a one-year extension to any player over 30. However, Wenger cannot afford to play too much hardball when it comes to the case of Tomas Rosicky: the Czech midfielder is invaluable to Arsenal.
In his press conference before Arsenal’s FA Cup tie with Coventry, Arsene Wenger was asked about progress on new deals for Per Mertesacker, Bacary Sagna and Tomas Rosicky. His reply was somewhat cryptic. He told Arsenal.com that the Gunners hierarchy were close to agreements, "not for all of them but for most of them".
Arsenal fans will hope that any remaining obstacles can be ironed out. All three are as important to Arsenal’s future as their present.
Rosicky’s significance is of a slightly different nature to Mertesacker and Sagna. Unlike the other two, he does not start every single game. He is used far more sparingly. Squawka’s statistical breakdown shows that he has only completed 90 minutes in three of Arsenal’s Premier League fixtures thus far.
However, his impact when he does play is frequently extraordinary. Despite turning 33 this season, Rosicky’s energy levels are superb. Arsene Wenger once described Robert Pires as the oil in Arsenal’s engine. Rosicky, conversely, is Arsenal’s accelerator.
He adds tempo to the Gunners’ game—both offensively and defensively. On the attack side, his passing is purposeful and direct. He injects speed and slickness into Arsenal’s play.
This Squawka chart suggests Rosicky also plays his passes over a variety of distances. He never shirks responsibility on the ball. Rosicky is a player in the classic Arsenal mould, and is perfectly suited to bringing Wenger’s vision of football to life.
His ability is recognised by his team-mates, too. Speaking to The Independent, Arsenal’s record-signing Mesut Ozil said:
In my opinion Tomas belongs to the best midfielders in the Premier League.
When you see how much he gives for the team and how he enjoys being on the ball it makes us happy to have a player like that in our ranks.
He is occasionally accused of not scoring enough goals, but that’s partially due to the fact that he is a fundamentally selfless player. He seeks to serve the team rather than himself, recognising that he is merely a cog in a bigger machine.
That selflessness is also evident in Rosicky’s defensive work. According to Squawka, he has attempted 27 tackles in this season’s Premier League. Ozil has played many more minutes, yet has only attempted seven more challenges. Few creative midfielders can match Rosicky’s level of commitment.
Furthermore, his experience is vital to a young squad. In the past, Arsenal have suffered from letting seasoned professionals go too early.
Arsenal fans will be hoping Arsene Wenger doesn't make the same mistake again.