Tomas Rosicky’s return will allow Arsenal to play a more fluid and expansive game again after the relative failures of last season.
It was October 2002 when many Arsenal fans would have first seen Tomas Rosicky in action. A fresh faced Czech midfielder ran Arsenal ragged in a Champions League match, orchestrating Dortmund’s play from within the hole as the German side condemned the Gunners to their fourth successive defeat. Rosicky then scored two, a free kick and a penalty and if Arsenal scouts weren’t decided on his talents they were then.
In fact, his eventual transfer to Arsenal seems somewhat inevitable. As a teenager, Rosicky fell in love with the club upon reading Nick Hornby’s fantastic novel about the club, Fever Pitch. His first professional club, Sparta Prague were also inspired by the Gunners, as then club president Dr. Petrik decided to base the side’s colours on Arsenal’s red current strip and has been the same ever since.
Rosicky learnt his football on the sand and asphalt pitches in Prague during the communist-era and his mastery of the Czech possession style made him the country’s most exciting prospect. “It [Sparta] was the most important step in my career. When I was 17 they gave me the first opportunity to play in the league, when I was 18 I played in the Champions League and when I was 19 I was in the national team.” Fans may have been more forgiving had he moved to Arsenal due to the historical reference but as it was Dortmund decided to shell out €29 million (£18million) for his services, making him Bundesliga’s most expensive player. At Borussia, he was given the affectionate nickname of ‘Little Mozart’, pulling the strings in the playmaker role and has a similar affect for his national team.
Midfielder Lubo Lapsansky, now playing in Austrailia describes Czech football as “always about playing short balls, a lot of movement off the ball, trying to create the space for the players for the ball to be played into. It’s a fairly tactical game. Players are required in any position, and need to be technically smart in advance. You drag the players out, and open up the space behind and you start attacking. You learn your patterns, you don’t panic, you keep the ball till things open up. That’s pretty much what Czech football is all about.”
Arsene Wenger shares the same philosophy and while Rosicky plays out wide, his importance to Arsenal could not be greater. “We are a team who wants to play in a mobile game so you have to give them freedom to go where they feel they will be dangerous,” Wenger says. “We have no forbidden ways for our creative players as long as they respect when we lose the ball that they share the job well.”
The deployment of creative midfielders out wide owes much to Arsenal’s pass and move style. They missed Rosicky last year as well as the departing Hleb and as a result the free flowing football was only seen sporadically. Indeed because of the five early league defeats, Arsene Wenger against his desires, reigned in some of that creative freedom that makes Arsenal. He promises that is not to be the case this year; Arshavin, Nasri, Eboue, Walcott and Traore complete what is a varied selection of wide players. Tomas Rosicky will not be rushed but the return to the symphony of another one of Arsenal’s multiple conductors could not be greater music to Wenger’s ears.