There has been a ferociously tectonic shift in the erstwhile dormant plates of English football over the best part of last decade. Nouveau riche owners have blithely sprinkled manna and gold dust on their toy-clubs, irreversibly distorting the financials of the football market in the process. One continuing consequence of this crazy doping is the shortening of patience-spans in football players. While a relatively level playing ground before meant that players could, in theory, stay at clubs for ‘right’ reasons such as stability, loyalty, and stature, the current landscape is becoming disconcertingly about chase-the-dollar.
This financial distortion hit Arsenal very hard in a period of already forced austerity as we waved Highbury a tearful goodbye and lugged all wares to the Groves of Ashburton. His wallet crippled, Wenger opted to rely on the fluctuating but exciting potential of youth. Arsene’s band of silky-toed ragamuffins started well, dancing to the ebb and flow of passing patterns, staying married to their footballing philosophy, growing up together to hopefully win together. But patience, as previously mentioned, soon grew thin (far too soon). Players who might have, under different circumstances, opted to stick with the club where they grew up in order to help the club grow in return, now migrated in droves as they got swayed by roubles and riches, swagger and silver. Arsenal were slowly starved by the twin disparities of money and quality, one often resulting in another. I don’t mean to disparage the players’ motives, which were far-ranging: some were bewitched by the sights and sounds of their hometown, some preferred a bit-part role in a title-winning squad, and some genuinely left for clubs higher up on the global popularity scale. But the regrettable undercurrent in this collective abandoning of ship is a lack of patience and desire to give back, as blinkered and idealistic as that sounds. And this is where I feel Tomas Rosicky bucks the trend.
First off, let’s get the elephant out of the room before it decides to ask for copies of the house key and order customized settees. Rosicy’s clusterfuck of injuries and the greying around his temples meant that he was never going to sell fresh and hot at the transfer bakery, but he has steadfastly denied whatever offers have come his way, choosing to remain with the club that saw him through 18 months on the treatment table. When he signed a long-term contract in 2010 (before the latest one in 2012), this is what he had to say:
“I am so pleased to have signed a new contract with Arsenal. The last two seasons haven’t been easy for me because of injuries but I feel it speaks volumes about the Club’s belief in me for this to be signed, and I truly believe I have a lot left to offer the Club, my team-mates and all the supporters.”
I know there’ll be a snort or two from readers who have learned to grow wary of all bromides that escape players’ lips nowadays, but these particular words have been backed by explosive action as Rosicky continues to enjoy his Indian Summer at Arsenal. He has proved a vital cog in Arsenal’s race to the finish two seasons running now; the dampening fact that he spent the initial parts of both seasons in the infirmary is overshadowed by his hectoring runs from midfield, turns-on-a-dime, and general willingness to run himself to the ground for the team. Romantic as the notion may seem in today’s corporately cocooned world of football, it’s almost like the unfailing trust shown by Arsenal has manifested itself in Rosicky as a springier step, a faster burst, a desire to give back.
The 5-2 victory against Tottenham (the first one) was perhaps his watershed moment; as the first Spurs goal went in, Rosicky seemed to shed his earlier aging self and emerge as Rosicky 2.0, with laser-precision matte finish instead of chipping dried paint. For two successive seasons, he has been the face of bloody-minded Arsenal comebacks: first against AC Milan and then against Bayern Munich, he marshalled the midfield in a kamikaze kitchen-sink dash that saw them almost overcome impossible deficits. An exhausted and distraught Rosicky sitting on his haunches and staring vacantly into space became the image of defiant Arsenal defeat.
As we trundle through the summer of 2013, and other Arsenal players temporarily drop the veneer of patience to sound clarion calls for potential suitors, Rosicky has quietly pledged his immediate future to Arsenal in spite of knowing that he may not be first choice. I know Arsenal fans now consciously try to not be emotionally attached to any one particular player (and rightly so, after the ceaseless finger burning of the past few years), but I can’t help having a soft spot for our floppy-haired guitarist. Whether he eventually re-joins Sparta Prague or rides off into the sunset an Arsenal man, Tomas Rosicky will have stood true on some oft-forgotten but important principles. He’s not one of the names that will grace daily headlines, but I’m going to take pleasure in acknowledging this small flower of constancy and gratitude in the ferociously shifting tectonic plates of football.