Arsenal: Intelligent Rosicky Deployment Is Crucial To Title Charge
One of the themes of Sir Alex Ferguson’s later years at Manchester United was a tendency to select Park Ji-Sung in the big games. The South Korean midfielder became a trusted lieutenant of the Scot, and proved a scourge of the likes of Arsenal several times, scoring twice against the Gunners for example, and his energy and tenacity were vital weapons against the heavy-weights of the Premier League.
While some will say that Arsène Wenger doesn’t make specific alterations for any opponent, Tomas Rosicky is, in a way, his Park Ji-Sung. A hard-working midfielder who keeps things ticking going forward and never stops running. They play slightly different roles, but Rosicky has come up with the goods in big games before – mainly when he scored the third Arsenal goal in the remarkable 5-2 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
With Jack Wilshere suspended for a stupid gesture, it’s a toss-up between Santi Cazorla and Rosicky on the left of midfield, assuming Theo Walcott starts on the right, and with his record against Chelsea, you’d have to guess that Wenger will opt for the Englishman. Cazorla has also contributed in a big game this season, scoring against Liverpool at the Emirates, but in truth has struggled to reproduce his superb form from last season.
Given that, and Wenger’s trust in Rosicky, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Czech maestro lining up on the left, presumably up against Branislav Ivanovic. Rosicky is a little like his former team-mate Alex Hleb – you don’t always see him on the score-sheet, or even providing an assist, but if you look closer, he’s always involved in Arsenal’s best moments.
He knits together Arsenal’s attacking moves nicely, always buzzing around to offer a passing option before returning it instantly, and that’s where his strength lies – Rosicky is superb at keeping the tempo high in attack. He’s always got a lot of energy and his sharp touch means he’s able to receive and deliver the ball instantly in small spaces.
That’s a huge asset to Arsenal, because the way that the play relies on a lot of intricate combinations between players – there was no better example than Jack Wilshere’s beautiful team goal against Norwich. They may have had trouble bypassing stubborn defences in the past, but when they play such fluid pass-and-move football, they can breach the most miserly of defences.
And that’s certainly going to be relevant against Chelsea – Jose Mourinho is infamous for playing defensively in the big games, mostly away from home, and did so to great effect when his side visited the Emirates in the Capital One Cup. Chelsea had only two chances of note, took them both, and frustrated Arsenal at the other end. A side made partly of fringe players didn’t help the Gunners, with the lack of familiarity meaning their quick combinations didn’t come off too often.
Again, that’s where Rosicky comes in. He can create momentum in Arsenal’s attacks by either playing one-twos with players (something that Olivier Giroud is also adept at) as mentioned above or by using his energy on the ball. One thing that he’s so good at is bursting into life in possession and turning a slow attack into a fast one, and this change of pace could be a crucial weapon for Arsenal if Mourinho turns up in bus-parking mode. The Gunners will have to hope that they don’t leave their handbrake on.