Why Tomas Rosicky Is So Important to Arsenal's Season

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistFebruary 24, 2014

Arsenal Tomas Rosicky takes the ball forward during their English Premier League soccer match between Arsenal and Manchester United at the Emirates stadium in London, Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Alastair Grant/Associated Press

It is no coincidence that Tomas Rosicky's return to the team prompted arguably Arsenal's most fluid attacking display of the season.

The Gunners were devastating in their recent 4-1 trouncing of a hapless Sunderland team. The quality, or lack thereof, of the opposition played some small part. But it was the Rosicky effect that was most telling, and not just because of his thrilling goal.

It's no surprise that he is set to sign another one-year extension to his stay with the Gunners, according to Ann Gripper and Liam Prenderville of The Daily Mirror.

The pair report manager Arsene Wenger is "absolutely adamant" about keeping Rosicky. So he should be, considering the impact Rosicky can have on the rest of this season.

The veteran schemer has become indispensable thanks to his ability to deliver stellar performances in the crunch period of a campaign.

Starting in the 2011/12 season, Rosicky has developed a niche as a player Arsenal can count on in the tough times. He was the catalyst for a 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur in a remarkable North London derby, a result that salvaged a sputtering season.

In recent season, Rosicky has been Arsenal's man in the clutch.
In recent season, Rosicky has been Arsenal's man in the clutch.Clive Mason/Getty Images

Rosicky also produced an awesome display in an heroic effort to overturn a 4-0 deficit against AC Milan in the UEFA Champions League. That effort fell only one goal short.

I would also be remiss not to mention the pass of the season played by Rosicky to allow Robin van Persie to score away at Stoke City. That goal earned Arsenal a vital point at one of their least favorite grounds.

Last season, Wenger again called on Rosicky to steady a season that was drifting toward oblivion. His two goals away against West Bromwich Albion helped sustain a magnificent run of eight wins and two draws that sealed fourth place and another season in Europe's premier club competition.

Rosicky has become the ultimate clutch player for Wenger, or as David Hytner of The Guardian puts it: "Rosicky's worth to Arsenal is lost on nobody who watches him regularly, least of all Wenger, who has come to reach for him in the very biggest matches like some sort of charm."

But Rosicky is more than the English Premier League's equivalent of a rabbit's foot. He is key to the essential aspect of Arsenal's play, namely the pace of their passing.

In a recent article, I discussed how a lack of general team pace threatens Arsenal's title bid. One suggestion was to involve Rosicky more: "Perhaps finding room for Rosicky in the middle could at least help the Gunners move the ball quicker once they have seized possession."

That is an aspect of the Czech playmaker's game Wenger clearly values highly. Hytner quotes the Gunners boss, stressing how important Rosicky is to quickening the pace:

He is one of the players who plays the game of give-and-move and he is a great accelerator of the game. He always makes things happen, not with individual dribbling but with individual acceleration of his passing and his runs. His goal was one of the top goals we have scored.

Anyone who has seen highlights of the way Arsenal dissected Sunderland couldn't fail to notice how the speed of their passing and movement made the difference.

Rosicky quickens the game for Arsenal.
Rosicky quickens the game for Arsenal.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

It is a difference Rosicky usually prompts. His greatest asset is his willingness to always move the ball forward. That is a simple, yet priceless quality in a team that can sometimes mistake caution for control, via conservative, sideways passing.

Rosicky is quick-witted and daring enough to dictate those nifty one-touch combinations that are the trademark of Wenger's Arsenal teams at their best.

That's why Wenger knows he can't part ways with his 33-year-old midfield cog. That word "cog" sums up how Wenger sees Rosicky best fitting into this Arsenal team, one littered with attacking midfielders.

According to Isaac Moore of Arsenal.com, Wenger identifies an evolution in Rosicky's style:

I think when he arrived here he was less of a tactical player and more the 'Mozart' from Prague - he was purely a creative, offensive player.

Today he is a real organiser on the pitch, I like to have him in the team because he gives a real structure to our team.

That description could hint at a deeper role for Rosicky. He played there in Arsenal's second league game of the season, a 3-1 win at Fulham.

It is one of Arsenal's most enjoyable performances of this campaign. It was in the pre-Mesut Ozil days, and Wenger fielded Rosicky, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla in a fluid, three-man midfield.

The trio rotated intelligently, with Rosicky naturally doing his share of the dirty work, as well as playing quick passes to launch lightning-fast counter strikes.

Rosicky can help bring out the best in Mesut Ozil.
Rosicky can help bring out the best in Mesut Ozil.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

It's easy to assume Rosicky playing behind Ozil would make things easier for the club's record signing once he resumes a starting spot in the team.

That is a combination Wenger could be tempted to use in some of the marquee games awaiting the Gunners.

Richard Clarke of Arsenal.com recently dubbed Rosicky one of Wenger's "big-game players." It is an apt description and also a relevant one, given the number of big games Arsenal have left.

Wenger will need his "great accelerator" to help the Gunners overcome away trips to Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Everton, along with entertaining Manchester City.

Arsenal can't hide in those games. They must be cautious but never conservative. They'll need the organisation and structure Wenger says Rosicky imbues in the ranks. But Arsenal will also need the ageing maestro's boldness in possession.

Results in those games will likely decide the fate of Arsenal's season. As an important player Wenger refuses to let go, Rosicky has to be involved.


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