Despite the SKY Man of the Match award being given to Theo Walcott following Arsenal’s injury time victory over Newcastle last night, it was the performance of Tomáš Rosický that really caught they eye from a neutral’s point of view. In many ways (apart from one which we’ll get to later) this was the Rosický I remembered from his time at Dortmund and his first season at Arsenal.
His movement was joy to watch and should be shown to all young attacking midfielders. Buzzing around the attacking third like a wasp who has just escaped from a pint glass, the positions he takes up are similar to that of Fabregas in that they create space and time not only for himself but for his teammates. His peripheral vision is good and is abetted by a perfect body position which allows him to know exactly where he is going before he receives the ball. This might sound simple, but watch many English players when they receive it and they are closed off and have to take one or two extra touches to take the ball where they want it. The graphic below shows the positions in which he received the ball last night.
He received the ball 45 times mostly in the attacking central and right hand thirds of the pitch and when he doesn’t he can be relied onto pull an opposition player out of position, which several times saw Walcott get the ball in space. His presence has clearly helped Walcott, not only for the quality of his passing but the security he offers behind him and infield.
The one area of his game that we haven’t seen since his renaissance is the hammer shot for which he was famous
His passing was always impressive. I’m a sucker for a player who guides the ball with the outside of the foot, probing the gaps and bending the ball into the path of his teammates and there was plenty of this to admire. Although his passing stats of 34 completed out of a total of 40 prove he isn’t the team’s conductor, the fact that he completed 20/25 in the attacking third (18 of which were forward) shows that he is increasingly the team’s central probe.
Another area he should be commended for is his tackling, he made four successful tackles last night out of five attempts but could constantly be seen running back, helping to double up on Newcastle’s wide players and combining with Song and Arteta to close down Tiote and Cabaye.
The one area of his game that we haven’t seen since his renaissance is the hammer shot for which he was famous. Time will tell if this is due to age and a loss of power, or because he is now more of a ball manipulator than the player who used to play a lot of quick one-twos from deep with the striker and hit the ball early.
Arsenal might not be better individually than at this stage last season when the wheels begun to fall off following the Carling Cup defeat, but it is without doubt that they are a better team. Resillience has replaced reticence and the collective is more important than the individual. Of course, having RVP helps, but the way the midfield have shared the workload to put in 7 and 8 out of 10 performances over the last four games proves that maybe losing Cesc and Nasri was no bad thing. Tottenham will be quaking.
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