(This post originally appeared on Sabotage Times)
Tomas Rosicky – the man that Arsene Wenger often calls upon for Arsenal’s biggest games – has just signed a new two-year deal and it’s no less than the midfielder deserves.
The new agreement will keep him at the Emirates until June 2016, when he’ll be 35. With a few freak-of-nature exceptions, like Javier Zanetti and Ryan Giggs, most players are drifting towards retirement at that age. That shouldn’t be a problem for Rosicky, who’s missed huge chunks of his Arsenal career through injury, and has talked of his ‘football age’ being younger than his actual one, precisely because of how much time he’s missed. One of the great tragedies of recent years for Arsenal fans is that seeing him link up with the likes of Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas was an all too rare treat.
Having been brought in as another artist to add splashes of colour to Arsenal’s canvas, he’s developed into an incredibly rounded player in his senior years. Wenger loves him not just for his superb technical ability, but his brilliant work defensively as well. He chases the opposition like a man possessed, and the Tomas Rosicky Slide Tackle remains one of football’s greatest sights.
There are players at the club who’ll score more goals, or are better passers, or who have much better hair, but no one is as crucial in setting the tempo of a game. In a team full of players who like to elaborate and weave intricate passing patterns, Rosicky is more than capable of retaining possession, but crucially, he knows when to speed things up as well.
In both the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons, Arsenal have had to go on long unbeaten runs to secure Champions League football after poor starts. the Czech international was largely injured for the first half of both campaigns and it isn’t a coincidence that results dramatically improved upon his return.
Wenger’s best Arsenal sides combined precocious young talent and veterans who had seen and done it all. That balance has skewed too far towards youth over the last few seasons and players like Robert Pires and Gilberto Silva were allowed to leave too early. Arsenal are mounting their most sustained title challenge for years, and it’s no surprise it’s come when the squad has more worldliness. With Rosicky, Per Mertesacker, Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini in the current squad, there’s a nice blend of fearless youth and experienced know-how.
Per Mertesacker has also signed a well-deserved contract extension today and there are reports that Santi Cazorla is set to do the same in the near future. Now, let’s just hope that Bacary Sagna follows suit. With no sign of his powers diminishing, here’s hoping to many more years of Tomas Rosicky.