For Arsenal fans, the final fixture of the Premier League season has become indelibly associated with painful goodbyes. In the immediate years after moving to the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal have lost a host of treasured stars. With the end of each passing campaign, the much-maligned “lap of appreciation” became a catwalk of clues as supporters attempted to read the body language of players linked with moves away. Every wave and lingering look was analysed to the point of obsession.
Come this weekend, it will be interesting to see how Tomas Rosicky behaves at the final whistle. The Czech midfielder has been associated with Arsenal for almost a decade now, but it’s possible that the fixture with West Brom could be his last as a Gunner.
He made a brief cameo against Sunderland, and the reception he got suggests the supporters are well aware he could soon be on his way. Arsenal have an option to extend his deal for another season, but with Rosicky an increasingly peripheral figure it’s possible that option will not be exercised. At 34, playing time is precious — especially to a player who missed so much of his peak with horrendous injury problems.
Rosicky has made just five Premier League starts this season, the last of which came against QPR back in March. After a brief spell in the team in January, Rosicky has largely been an unused substitute in the second half of the campaign. The return to fitness and form of Mesut Ozil has pushed him further down an already crowded pecking order, and the player himself is currently unwilling to publicly commit his future to the Gunners:
“I can’t tell you anything at the moment. When the season finishes, we’ll see if I will continue for another season. I would rather not talk about it at the moment. Being on the bench is difficult — every player wants to be involved. When you’re not getting the games you want or if you are not even part of it, it’s difficult for every player.”
In some ways Rosicky has come to be a symbol of the Emirates era. He joined in the same summer that Arsenal left Highbury for their new home, and for several years his personal struggles ran parallel with those of his club. As Arsene Wenger’s men battled to recapture their status as title-challengers, Rosicky fought to escape the purgatory of the treatment room.
However, in the end faith was rewarded. Just as Arsenal began to free themselves from the financial shackles that limited their potential for so long, so Rosicky emerged from the cocoon of his injury nightmare to become an integral member of the squad. His high-energy style made him a hit among the Arsenal fans, and his time away from the pitch did nothing to diminish his inherent leadership qualities.
For a while, it seemed that long spell on the sidelines had left him immune to the ravages of time. Rosicky was a curiously evergreen player; the Peter Pan of the Arsenal midfield. However, whether time has simply caught up or competition for places has got the better for him, he has tumbled a fair way down Wenger’s selection hierarchy.
If Rosicky does choose to leave Arsenal, he will have plenty of options. The likelihood is that he would choose a league like the MLS, where he could attain the length of contract he craves.
After the match against West Brom, Arsenal fans will be sure to give Rosicky a good send-off. If that is to be his last public appearance as an Arsenal player, the Gunners fans will be eager to make their appreciation clear. The new era of potential prosperity will have its casualties, and sadly it seems Rosicky is set to be one.