It is the 31st March and to all Gunners of a certain age and many more who soak up our history and heritage it is a day we remember one of our own. For me David Rocastle will always be special and he followed Brady, Rix and Nicholas as my favourite player, because in those days and at a young age you had one. It was different of course because in the 1970s and 80s barring disasters and with only one substitute allowed, the same team played most weeks. So with only 12 or so players to choose from one tended to go for the special players that inspired the team and the fans alike. The player who when they received the ball it sent buzz of anticipation and expectation around the ground. In the early 70s as I watched on television it was Geordie Armstrong and then Liam Brady and when I was old enough to be at Highbury it was Prince Charlie and then Rocky.
However even though I have traditionally written something Rockyesque to mark the anniversary, this year is different. As I suggested in the modern era of larger squads and rotation perhaps we no longer have one particular favourite player. Younger fans may disagree as it may well be different for them but the larger the squads, the more monstrous the salaries and with fewer players are home grown the less likely it is to have a firm favourite. Particularly when for much of the Wenger tenure there have been numerous players in each team that could be candidates. There were many players who caused you to lean forward in your seat when they received the ball and looked up to begin a dribble or place a majestic pass.
This year at the Rocky Remembered match on Saturday against City there were many good performances but there was only one that I would describe as Rockyesque.
– There was one player who chased every ball and every lost cause like his life depended out as Rocky would have done
– There was one man who made ever fifty/fifty his own and a few 60/40s as well.
– There was one player who made reckless challenges that he probably should not have made, but his passion and desire to win for Arsenal made it impossible for him not to do so.
– There was one player who on Saturday did send a buzz of anticipation around the ground when he got the ball and looked up to make something happen.
– There was one player who rarely passed sideways even under pressure.
– There was one midfielder who never slowed the tempo of our game.
– There was only one player in the Rocky’s No.7
Everybody loves Tomas Rosicky and even those who question his final pass or his goal contribution would not question his effort, enthusiasm and commitment. When things are not going well for the team all Arsenal fans want to see a player at his maximum and leaving nothing on the pitch when he leaves it. Very few would deny that we get that from Tomas Rosicky but equally not many would have him in their first choice 11.
In many ways the last player that played like Rocky who the fans took to their hearts was Ray Parlour. Ray left Arsenal with multiple honours and a legend. Rosicky is one who I would hate to see leave with none!
Strange that we all agree he contributes so much to our cause but most of us see him as a squad player. Fair enough I guess as he is not getting any younger and we have the likes of Ozil and Cazorla who like to play where TR7 would also wish to orchestrate the team. And yet the fans in the pub after the match and on the Arsenal website voted him man of the match against the team expected to dominate us in midfield.
So I ask the question and I have already determined my own answer. After a Rocastle type all action performance befitting the occasion to remember Rocky, from a player similarly gracing the No.7, has he earned the right to start against Everton and Wigan? Right now when nerves are jangling with the younger players and the season rests on the next 2 Saturdays I want Mozart’s drive and experience in the thick of it. With all fit he may well be a fabulous squad player but all are not fit and some that are fit are not consistently performing.
I would love to see the most experienced and loyal servant play a key role in the next 2 huge matches for the Arsenal and my money thinks he will.
In the 2nd month of this blog 2 years ago I wrote a piece predicting he still had a crucial role to play at our club and I finished it with this:
A few more symphonies to be composed by our Little Mozart yet!
But today I will allow Wenger to conclude
“I believe he is an exceptional player, a natural footballer who is technically top class. He plays the style of football we champion here and shares completely our philosophy. He is always ready to work for the sake of the club, always willing to put the team first. I have huge respect for him. ” Arsene Wenger on Rosicky, 2012.
Until next time
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