24 March 2015

Arsenal set to lose mid-field Maestro?

The 34-year old Tomáš Rosický has made just eight starts in all competitions, coming on as a sub some 13 other times, usually in mop-up duty, and so the uncomfortable question nags: what kind of future, if any, does he have with the club? With his contract expiring in 2016, and with a roster chock-full of younger if not hungrier midfielders such as Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Özil, Alexis, among others, it seems more and more evident that the Little Maestro is seeing the sunset of his career. While he may not have quite reached "legend" status during his time with the club, he's done more than enough to achieve a certain "cult-favorite" status. In either case, however, we might see Rosický "retire" to the United States' MLS—hopefully, in your correspondent's opinion—to the Chicago Fire.

Chicago is, after all, home to the largest concentration of Czechs outside of the Czech Republic itself, and our humble Chicago Fire can boast of one other Czech footballer, Luboš Kubík, who played for the club in the late 1990s. In the case of Rosický, it's probably too much to ask of the man to continue to ride the bench only to come on in the last 15-20 minutes of a match, not to make the most of his own skills and assets necessarily, but to give some other player a rest in match whose outcome appears all but settled.

It's a fine comeuppance indeed for a player variously dubbed Rozza and The Little Maestro to have to settle for such scraps. Not only is he the squad's longest-serving member; he represents the last remaining link to the most-recent era of pure glory in the club's history. Having joined the club in July 2006, he did play alongside none other than Thierry Henry before that legend left for Barcelona. However, Rosický represents far more than that kind of asterisk in Arsenal history. Yes, his is a story of "what might have been" rather than "what was", but injuries have a way of undermining the best-laid plans of mice and men. Had Rosický been fully fit during his time with the club, he might very well have established his bona fides thoroughly enough to claim a place in the pantheon. As it currently stands, however, he might have to settle for that "cult-hero" status.

More's the pity for a player who's delivered more than his share of truly-memorable moments, whether it was a stunning, game-changing goal in a North London Derby, a winner at Anfield in the FA Cup, or any number of other, dramatic, jaw-dropping goals. At the risk of getting a bit overwrought, is there any player in the last decade who has played for Arsenal with the passion or pure joy that Rosický has brought to the pitch? Sure, we've seen a fair-few players kiss the badge or proclaim their fealty, but it would be hard to suggest that any of them meant it at a deeper level than Rosický has.

At his worst, he represents Arsenal at its best: laden with talent, hobbled by injury, but still capable of conjuring moments of breath-taking beauty. Like him, had the club risen to its potential for any sustained period, we would we talking of the man and the club in much-breathier tones.

In a recent interview with the Czech outlet iSport, Rosický flirted with the idea of leaving Arsenal in the January transfer-window and admitted to being open to the possibility of leaving this coming summer—although he sounded more pragmatist than privateer, saying the following:
We talked about [leaving in January] in past meetings in September, October. Then the transfer market closed, I could not do anything. When I did not play a single game in December and the market then opens, it’s obviously a very live issue. Then you start to think about whether it is time to leave. It was no exception for me, it was very vivid.But Arsenal said that I stay and that was it. The rest of the season will go very fast, then we will solve it. Arsenal and me is still an option for next season, they have everything in their hands. When I get back from the national team, we begin to deal with it.
In other words, Rosický has done more than flirt with the idea of leaving; he's actively deliberated and discussed it with Arsène, perhaps coming as close as a Boxing Day goal against QPR from leaving. Had he not appeared, had he not scored, would he have left us in January? There were rumours a-plenty of him joing FC Wolfsburg throughout that window.

We've seen quite a few players play for Arsenal over the last decade or so; it's no hyperbole to suggest that Rosický alone has bled for the badge far more than any other. Should he decide that it's time to retire to MLS, so to speak, yours truly hopes he'll have more than a chance or two at hoisting a pint of Pilsner Urquell.

It's too early to talk of memories, per se, but what's been your favorite Rosický-an moment?

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