x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Little Mozart's creativity will be music to Gunners' ears

Character can often define a team and Arsenal have players who have shown strength in that department.

Character can often define a team and Arsenal have players who have shown strength in that department. The manager Arsene Wenger has been resolute in his validation of this quality, particularly over the past three seasons during difficult times following the loss of influential figures such as Thierry Henry and a greater reliance on youth.

Take Eduardo, whose Champions League winner at Standard Liege on Wednesday followed his vilification for diving to win a penalty against Celtic in the previous round. But few underline this trait more than Tomas Rosicky. A forgotten man for the past 20 months, the feeling was he had no future in football, let alone at Emirates Stadium. Knee and hamstring injuries were troubling not only for his body, but his mind. It is difficult to maintain enthusiasm when every comeback is stalled. Rosicky admitted: "It is difficult when you are out for such a long time, but when you play, you just have to forget that."

When he last started a league game against Newcastle in January 2008, Arsenal were top. Now there is a fear they may end up outside the top four for the first time since 1996. But Rosicky has shown in the past week how he has flourished and is by no means finished - something that could easily be applied to Arsenal's fortunes this season despite successive defeats to Manchester United and City. As a substitute at City last weekend, he energised his side when they lacked inspiration and scored in the 4-2 loss.

The Czech, affectionately known as the "Little Mozart", then started against Liege and orchestrated Arsenal's comeback with his creativity as Nicklas Bendtner, Thomas Vermaelen and then Eduardo clinched a morale-boosting 3-2 win. Rosicky's influence and intelligent, industrious play is a vital asset for the side and he warned: "I am not anywhere near my best, and still have plenty of room to improve."

A third game in a week might leave Wenger reluctant to risk him against Wigan today, but these are the games he should play, to help him reach the fitness and form levels that made him a candidate for Fifa's World Player of the Year award in 2006. Another factor is that in his only two previous home games against the Latics, Rosicky has found the net, including his first Premier League goal in February 2007. Roberto Martinez, the Wigan manager, is an admirer of the opposition. Arsenal's style is something the Spaniard has looked to emulate, first with Swansea, before joining the Latics in the summer.

Martinez said: "To see a team as a purist, Arsenal are great for football, and it's a case of looking forward to playing such an exciting team, a team that has been playing that way for many seasons. "We all saw how Arsenal went 2-0 down [at Liege] and continued to play in the same style throughout. It's something you have to admire; there's not many teams who have that philosophy. But these types of games allow you to push and test yourself as a team."

Meanwhile, the Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas said Manchester City's Emmanuel Adebayor should have been sent off for a foul on him during their sides' fiery meeting. Adebayor has been banned for three games for violent conduct after a clash with former Gunners teammate Robin van Persie in City's 4-2 win on Saturday. And Fabregas, pointing at a gash on his leg, said: "I think this is a red card. I was lucky my foot was in the air."

The 25-year-old striker, who joined City from Arsenal in the summer, caught Van Persie's face with his boot during the second half of his team's victory. akhan@thenational.ae Showsports, 2, KO 6pm