Tomas Rosicky is 33 years old. At that age, most players are contemplating retirement. Rosicky, however, is arguably playing the best football of his career.
In Wednesday night’s match with Borussia Dortmund, Rosicky put many younger players to shame with his tireless work on the flanks. Dortmund’s fans would not have noticed any signs of ageing in a player who last played at the Westfalenstadion in 2006.
Age is something of an irrelevance to Rosicky. Back in 2012, he told the Official Arsenal Magazine (h/t Arsenal.com):
There’s no difference between what I’m doing now and, let’s say, five years ago. You know, my normal age is 31 but in football years I’m 29 - I lost two years because of injury so let’s just talk about my football age.
It’s impossible to argue with him. Rosicky’s sprightly performances suggest he has plenty left in the tank. Aaron Ramsey’s outstanding form this season has been a heartwarming tale in the light of his broken leg, but Rosicky also had to endure serious physical problems before fully establishing himself at Arsenal. At one stage, fans feared he might never play again.
I’d contest the Czech midfielder’s point about his style remaining the same. He’s changed for the better. Whereas he was once a pure flair player who could be on the fringes of matches, he has become an all-action midfielder. When watching Rosicky now, one is as much in awe of his tackles as his technique.
That combination of technical excellence and tenacity has made Rosicky one of Arsene Wenger’s most valued lieutenants. It speaks volumes for the regard in which Rosicky is held that he was selected ahead of Jack Wilshere for the vital Champions League tie with Napoli—arguably Arsenal’s best performance of the season thus far. After impressing against Liverpool and Dortmund, Rosicky is also in line to start at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Wenger’s reliance on Rosicky is a little reminiscent of Sir Alex Ferguson’s dependence on Park Ji-Sung. Park was not always a regular, but when the big games arrived he invariably started. Rosicky is adopting a similar role in the current Arsenal squad.
His experience also makes him an inherently important squad member. The likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain can only benefit from playing alongside a man with 93 international caps. One can only wonder how many he would have picked up were it not for his terrible injury problems.
The greatest compliment to Rosicky is that he was singled out for praise by Mesut Ozil. Speaking ahead of the Dortmund game, Ozil told German newspaper Bild (h/t Here is the City):
Honestly, Arsenal makes everything fun. The coach, the players, living in London - I feel really comfortable there. And the direct passing of Rosicky is there also.
When Mesut Ozil is celebrating your passing, you know you must be doing something right. Arsenal fans will hope Rosicky remains evergreen.