It’s a rare day that Tomas Rosicky is healthy enough to remind us: He was once one of the more exciting soccer players on the planet. Saturday was once of those days.
Scoring twice in 82 minutes before being subbed off, Rosicky led Arsenal to a 2-1 win at West Bromwich Albion, a result that temporarily vaults the Gunners into over Chelsea and into fourth place in the English Premier League.
Arsenal’s also within one point of third place Tottenham, though it won’t last long. Chelsea hosts a wayward Sunderland on Sunday while Spurs welcome Everton to White Hart Lane. In all likelihood, Arsenal will be back in fifth by Monday morning.
That doesn’t mean today’s points won’t prove valuable. Regardless, they were certainly well-earned. Only Manchesters United and City have more home wins than West Brom’s nine, with the Baggies having conceded only 14 times in as many matches at The Hawthorns.
Rosicky began bucking that rate in the 20th minute when his run onto a Gervinho ball allowed him to head past Ben Foster for the opener. Just after halftime, Rosicky completed his brace, following up his own blistering shot to double Arsenal’s lead.
The Gunners upped the level of difficulty late in the match when Per Mertesacker saw straight red after bringing down Shane Long. But Steve Clarke’s side was unable to build on James Morrison’s conversion and were kept off the scoresheet over the final 19 minutes.
While Arsenal’s three points were the day’s most important development, Rosicky’s performance was the most interesting. In addition to his two goals, Rosicky was among the team best passers statistically, at or near the top of the team’s rankings in rate of passes, accuracy, and chances created. He also cleared a Claudio Yacob header off the line early, saving West Brom’s opener.
It was a glimpse of the player who teamed with Pavel Nedvěd, Tomáš Galásek, and Karel Poborský in one of Europe’s best midfields during the mid-2000s. Quick, creative, with the ability to add goals, Rosicky had everything you’d want in an attacking midfielder, except health.
We’re long past the days of hoping Rosicky can stay fit. He’s 32 years old, and when the Czech Republic needed him so much at last summer’s European Championships, he couldn’t last the tournament.
But when he is healthy, Rosicky’s still capable of making an impact. And against a team like West Brom, he could be the difference, just like he was on Saturday.