Influence within Arsenal squad cannot be ignored

Those days of uncertainty on the fitness front are well and truly behind him. So too are the forgettable but not exactly terrible performances. It’s a shame that it’s happening now, at 33, but Tomas Rosicky finally has a clearly-defined role to play at Arsenal.

Arsene Wenger’s assessment that Rosicky is a “marvellous” player and that he intended to keep the Czech midfielder beyond this summer looks to be another small mountain conquered for Arsenal this season. From the outside, it may seem throwaway. How much more can a Premier League title challenger extract from a midfielder whose prime sources of interest came from the MLS?

There have been a host of players at the club who have greatly improved this season, but to say Rosicky is one of them isn’t quite accurate. The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder put in a number of impressive performances last season, even when Arsenal were at an all-time low at the midway point, going out of both domestic cup competitions to lower league opposition. Against Bradford in the League Cup, it was evident how much Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere appreciated Rosicky slotting into the midfield alongside them.

Rosicky is a leader, despite not being particularly vocal. He leads with his performances, as he did against Tottenham in the FA Cup third round. That wasn’t a one-off from the midfielder. In a season where the fight is on for a place in Arsenal’s starting XI, Rosicky has a part to play, like a lieutenant to Wenger, whose trust and faith has proven to be paramount.

And that’s another change we’ve seen in the Arsenal manager of late. In the past, Rosicky would have been discarded. In fact, at 33 he would have long been out the door of the Emirates. Now, there’s value that remains; importance both on and off the pitch. He’s a much-needed veteran who can come into the team and very much look like he belongs among Arsenal’s vibrant, young core. There’s no compromise in ability, effectiveness and most importantly passion when Rosicky takes up a place in the team.

There’s no longer neglect for the experienced heads in the team. Further positive news is that Per Mertesacker and Bacary Sagna will have their deals extended in the coming weeks. With Project Youth, for what is was, going out the window, there is a renewed and much-needed willingness from the manager to invest in those who are at the other end of their careers.

It’s a help to the younger players. As much as Mesut Ozil lifted the club as a whole when he arrived last summer, the retaining of popular figures like Rosicky offers players like Jack Wilshere, Serge Gnabry and Kieran Gibbs natural leadership, players to lean on and learn from. It’s not just Wenger who plays a role in their development. It would be hard to miss the quiet words the older figures in the team have with the younger players either pre-game or during. In the past, those youngsters would have felt isolated on the pitch without a strong veteran presence.

With only one goal and one assist this season, Rosicky’s days of high productivity look to be over. Across the continent, however, players in or around Rosicky’s age are far from overlooked. Xabi Alonso, 32, Xavi, 33, and Andrea Pirlo, 34, spring to mind. Francesco Totti had a fantastic start to the season. The Roma captain is 37. While Manchester United have continued to see wonderful performances from 40-year-old Ryan Giggs, even in the Champions League.

But Arsenal are not looking to Rosicky for goals. The squad needs depth to handle the pressures of multiple competitions throughout the season. The Czech midfielder is unlikely to play back-to-back games, but there’s no doubt that when he does appear he brings continuity and a level of class that has far from waned.

After so many problems in the past with injury, Rosicky is proving to be an influential figure in this title charge. More than anything, he’s earned his place in this team and a discussion about a prolonged stay at the Emirates.

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