The “Real” Tomas Rosicky

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Un5nLLul-s4]

Yes, the main story of Saturday’s 6-nil win over Blackpool was Theo’s hat-trick. But, what seems to be lost in the hoopla, is the absolutely sterling performance of Tomas Rosicky. I had been hoping for one of those “<player> vs. <opposition>” videos to pop up on You Tube and now it finally has done.

Rosicky was either at the start or at the heart of nearly everything Arsenal did well on Saturday. Right from the kick-off, he propelled the team forward whether it was dropping ball after ball into space or picking it up in his own half and, basically, doing one of the best Fabregas impersonations I’ve seen in a long while.

He made the perfectly-placed pass to Arshavin, who set up the opening goal. He set Walcott free nearly half-a-dozen times including the move that led to a great save on Arshavin’s half-volley. He also threaded the ball perfectly between two defenders for Chamakh, who subsequently drew the penalty that saw Arsenal go up 2-nil and Blackpool down to ten men. He played the ball to Sagna down the right that led to Diaby’s goal. He played the ball into space for Arshavin, who delivered a sitter missed by Chamakh. He also made a fantastic pass after turning to Vela making a run into the box.

Every one of these balls were just glorious to watch. Rosicky put on the central midfield “masterclass” that David Pleat, and only David Pleat, thought Nasri had done at Anfield. Now, I am of course mindful that he was playing much of the match against a 10-man relegation favorite and therefore had more space than usual. But, nevertheless… Rosicky’s vision, creativity, and deftness of touch appears to have fully returned following his losing 18 months due to injury in what should be his prime.

His injury problems have been so consistent that even though he’s beginning his fifth year at the club, we’ve never seen him really hit top gear for any period of time. It remains to be seen whether or not he is really over the recurring muscle injuries, but he has said he feels better than ever after having his first full preseason in years. A good sign is that Rosicky not only stood around dropping ball after ball for his teammates to run onto, but he also went in hard, and won, a number of 50-50s in the center of midfield. Furthermore, his distribution from central midfield was fantastic as he worked every inch of the middle and attacking thirds on Saturday.

Of course, Rosicky is likely to play the majority of his time on the pitch this season out wide, but Saturday was a reminder of just how devastating a player he can be in the middle when fully healthy and match-fit. The confidence the Boss has in him was fully evident when he was offered a contract extension this past January despite having been injured for most of the previous 24 months.

I remember being really excited about the club signing Rosicky. But we have only seen glimpses of the “real” Rosicky-the one who scored that unbelievable Champions League goal, the one who scored the goal at Anfield, etc…. So, while we look forward to the emergence of Theo, Jack, and some of the other young players, I am also looking forward this season to the emergence of the “real” Tomas Rosicky.

War-saw, What Was It Good For?

An all-too familiar sight.

Yesterday’s match in Poland against Legia Warsaw still has me scratching my head wondering, “What the hell was that?” Some have suggested that yesterday’s 6-5 victory over a team that finished 4th in the Poland encapsulated both the positives and negatives of the current side. We can score a ton of goals, but we also concede a ton. (Highlights on the right).

Of course, it’s impossible to judge a team based on pre-season results against lesser sides, as Arsene has said. However, there is no denying that what we all witnessed yesterday was nothing less than disturbing. And to still be without a 4th center-back, with Anfield a week away, is even more disturbing. A Liverpool side, revitalized by the arrival of Hodgson, could’ve scored 12 goals against our defense yesterday.

All this is further exacerbated by the keeper problems. Perhaps 1-in-10 Arsenal fans have any confidence in Almunia. Even less in Fabianski. We can all agree that Szczesny is a right prospect but not ready for a title challenge. Arsene must’ve been hoping that Fabianski would put the past behind him and put in solid enough performances over the pre-season to quiet criticism of the keeping situation especially as Fulham continued to rebuff his interest in Mark Schwarzer. Instead Fabianski goes out tripping over his own defender’s leg in front of his hometown crowd. He just doesn’t seem to have ever been able to put Porto behind him.

Nasri continues to shine to the point where it almost seems wrong to push him out of that central role when Cesc returns. Gibbs also appears to be getting back to his best. While many seem happy that Gibbs and Wilshere have been called up to the England squad for the most meaningless and inopportune of friendlies, I can honestly say that I’d rather they hadn’t been.

I can’t conclude this post without mentioning the criticism of the official website over the Spahic article. It is without a doubt hypocritical on the club’s part and embarrassing. This is most embarrassing because the article has an Arsenal player, Bacary Sagna, talking about another club’s player. But this isn’t something happening for the first time. It’s been going on all summer long with these ridiculous “Transfer Linked” articles. Since the summer started, I have been unable to understand just exactly what an official website is doing posting things like that. How can we complain about Barca’s players talking about Cesc when we have linked ourselves with 20 players on our own website since May? It’s obviously such bullshit anyway because anyone who knows Wenger knows that he would never let the club put a news article about a player he’s interested in on the website. That would only drive up the price further or, worse, alienate the other club into not dealing with us. So, please Arsenal.com, do us all a favor and remove the entire section and all the articles from the official website.

The Dream is Still Alive!

…and the march goes on. A last-gasp winner from Nicklas Bendtner removed millions of Arsenal supporters all over the world from the precipice of despair and ruin. I, personally, had spent the last 5-10 minutes of the match mentally preparing myself to accept the end of our title challenge. And then… Denilson was able to get a shot from over 35 yards on goal and with enough movement to trouble a mediocre keeper who then ridiculously made the simplest of keeping mistakes… don’t parry the ball back in front of goal. But there were a ton of talking points and controversial moments on a day when Arsenal refused to let our title dreams die.

Arsenal started very brightly with the first goal coming inside the first 15 minutes, a rare occurrence this season. A very fluid string of passes eventually led to Arshavin being able to take on two defenders into the box and produce a great finish with his laces. Hull had no handle on the match whatsoever, until the referee handed it to them.

The Offiside Penalty Dive

Let’s be honest… have you ever seen a player looking more for a penalty than Vennegoor of Hesselink? He made no attempt to play the ball, only to get directly in front of Sol and, when there was not the immediate contact he anticipated, plopped face down. He only lucked out that after he was already going down Sol gave him the slightest of contact with his raised knee from behind. On the replay, you can see that he was so much more concerned with getting in a position where he could go down than with playing the ball because his movement in front of Sol found the ball on the BACK of his neck. As Alan Shearer said on Match of the Day, a man with the ball on the back of his neck and falling down is hardly enjoying a “clear, goalscoring chance.”

So I don’t see how Phil Brown can claim Campbell should have been sent off. Especially considering that Vennegoor of Hesselink was offside to begin with. Brown is complaining about a missed call on a run of play that only materialized because of a missed call. Ironic, idiotic, or just unattractively desperate? You decide.

The Sending-Off

I also don’t see how there could be any complaints over either of Boateng’s bookings. The first came after he put his hand in Bendtner’s face twice. The second after that ridiculous tackle on Sagna. The challenge was so high and mistimed that, if it wasn’t malicious, you really have to question the player’s overall ability. The commentator said it was a “silly” challenge, but that kind of language trivializes the tackle. It was dangerous, pure and simple. Had Sagna’s leg been planted, he could have sustained serious damage to his knee. Andre Marriner let some tackles go early on and these kinds of challenges are the direct result of both the culture of the English game and that type of officiating. I am not saying it was malicious, but it was reckless.

Sol’s Tackle

Apparently, Jon Champion was claiming that Sol should have been sent off for his challenge on Zayatte. The same people whose main occupation last week was “Defender of Ryan Shawcross” and the English game are the ones complaining about Campbell’s challenge. Sol’s tackle was strong, well-timed enough to get the ball first, and perfectly fair. His feet were on the ground, his studs were down, and he was completely playing the ball. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t that what everyone was saying they loved so much about the English game only a week and a half ago? The media’s double-standard against Arsenal is sometimes subtle, but, at other times, is just blatantly obvious-as this blog often points out.

Sol was caught for pace a few times, as he has been in every match so far and will be in every match to come, but he has made up for it with a combination of intelligence and experience. Yesterday, he was forced to deal with Hull’s loan-striker, Jozy Altidore. I have watched Altidore since he was 17 and the kid is fast and strong. Yet, Sol did his best and kept Altidore to only one real half-chance, which he dragged wide of goal early on. The signing of Campbell can now be seen as, if not a masterstroke, then certainly a very prescient decision by the Boss. Campbell is what we didn’t have last year when Gallas went out injured at almost the exact same time of the season. Then we were forced to play Silvestre, whose inability due to to age to be able to deal with Drogba cost us our FA Cup run last season. And while we would all rather have a fit Gallas back there with Vermaelen, the situation is not nearly as desperate as it was last season.

The Dream Continues

Somehow, we have done it again. No team has scored more goals than Arsenal in the last fifteen minutes of the match. We had a similar dynamic in 2007/08 when we snatched results in the dying moments on an almost regular basis beginning right with the very first match of the season home to Fulham. It shows a level of fitness, determination, and spirit when a team regularly snatches results from the jaw of fate. There are 8 matches remaining and we are now level on points with Chelsea, though they have a game-in-hand. United play later today and the pressure will be on them to match the results of us and Chelsea. We now face West Ham at home, who Chelsea just beat 4-1, and then Birmingham City away before the Champions League Quarterfinals. Sandwiched in between those two legs will be a visit by Wolves. Make no doubt about it, the Birmingham City match will be anything but straightforward as they have punched above their weight all season and despite a recent run of indifferent results, will be buoyed by their result against Everton yesterday.

The paths to the title and the European Cup are laid out right in front of us. We can just about see the trophies peeking out over the horizon. 13 mountains, though, stand in our way and we must climb them one at a time. We have the confidence, we have the momentum, and, most crucial of all, we have the belief.

NOTE: Since my primary guest contributor, Ted Harwood, has accepted an offer to write an Arsenal blog for SBNation, I am looking for a new guest contributor, preferably an American Gooner, but I will consider anyone that can write well. Also, I have fixed the videos by replacing those that had been deleted from their respective host sites.