Celebrating the International Centurion, Tomas Rosicky

Tomas Rosicky has given nine years of his career to Arsenal, but to Czech Republic, he has given a lot more.

He first burst into the international scene as a 15-year-old in 1995 and he played through the youth teams before making his full debut for the national side as a 19-year-old against Ireland in February 2000. He was selected in the Czech team for Euro 2000 but the team was ousted from the group stages that featured Netherlands, France and Denmark. With Patrik Berger suspended, Rosicky played in the middle with Pavel Nedved as the Czech team lost to Holland and France but he was benched in the final game against Denmark.

Qualification for the 2002 FIFA World Cup went well for the Czech Republic and Rosicky played his part with two goals in the campaign. Their reward for coming second was a playoff against Belgium but they lost to the two-legged tie to the Belgians. As expected, Rosicky and the Czech team qualified for Euro 2004 and he was heavily involved in their group stage adventure as they sealed nine points from a group that had Latvia, Holland and Germany. In the quarterfinals, the Czech eased past Denmark but they suffered heartbreak in the semis with an extra time loss to eventual winners, Greece.

In was in the 2006 World Cup that the Czech maestro announced himself with this magnificent strike for his nation against the United States

He scored again with another strike against U.S.A but it was a disastrous campaign for the Czech as they lost their remaining games to Ghana and Italy. That’s when Rosicky’s adventure with Arsenal began and it has been a worthwhile journey ever since.

Following the retirement of Pavel Nedved in August 2006, the captain’s armband was handed to Rosicky. In the buildup to Euro 2008, Rosicky was involved in some controversy when he and some of his Czech teammates, Martin Jiranek, Tomas Ujfalusi, Jan Polak and Marek Cech, managed to get some prostitutes into their hotel by telling team officials that the girls were ‘autograph hunters’. They also claimed they had been celebrating Ujfalusi’s birthday. This earned the players a fine of £25,000.

Rosicky’s hamstring injury cost him his place in the Czech squad for Euro 2008. Without Rosicky to help the team, the Czechs began the campaign well with a victory over Switzerland but subsequent losses to Portugal and Turkey ended their tournament with more disappointment. Rosicky’s last international tournament with the Czech team was Euro 2012, where he led them to victories against Greece and Poland in the group stages before their quarterfinal loss to Portugal.

Yesterday, Czech Republic hosted Latvia and the game ended in a 1-1 draw but there was a personal milestone in the game for the Czech captain, as he notched up his 100th cap for his nation, which is a remarkable feat. The record amount of international games for any player is currently held by Egypt’s Achmed Hassan, that amassed 184 games for Egypt between 1996 and 2012 playing in eight African Cup of Nations and winning four.

Rosicky is one player I admire and I know a day would come when his aging legs won’t allow him to keep playing for the Gunners, but I hope that day doesn’t come anytime soon. He’s an awesome technician on the ball and like fine wine, he gets better with age. That hamstring injury robbed him off his best years for the club as he was part of that quartet of awesome in Arsenal’s midfield that almost won the Premier League in the 2007/08 season. Emmanuel Adebayor might get the plaudits for scoring the goals but Aliaksandr Hleb, Mathieu Flamini, Cesc Fabregas and Rosicky.

This season has featured 22 times with three goals to his name. Many Arsenal fans will be proud of his achievements for the club, especially his contributions in the second half of the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons.

Here’s to Tomas Rosicky, the newest international centurion.

Here are his top strikes for the Czech Republic, for your viewing pleasure.

Sayonara.

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Quick Roundup of Gunners on International Duty

Danny Welbeck

So I’m hovering around my polling unit to get my accreditation before casting my vote for Nigeria’s next president. It’s a moment many Nigerians have been waiting for since February 14th but everyone is ready. I truly hope that things would be peaceful today because there have been counts of violence in the past on days like this. However, once I cast my vote, I’d get my ass back home. There’s no point hovering around to see how things pan out when you can watch it in ‘em news channels.

As expected, nothing much happened on the international sets of fixtures with teams battling it out at friendlies and qualifiers. Here’s a quick roundup of the proceedings in the interlull from an Arsenal perspective.

Germany 2 (Reus 17′, Podolski 81′) – Australia 2 (Troisi 40′, Jedinak 50′)

The world champions took on a resilient Australia side and had to count on a forgotten figure at Arsenal, Lukas Podolski, to spare their blushes late on. Mesut Ozil played all 90 minutes and captained the side when skipper on the night, Sami Khedira, was substituted.

England 4 (Rooney 7′, Welbeck 45′, Sterling 58′, Kane 73′) – Lithuania 0

Danny Welbeck was the star of the show in England’s thrashing of minnows, Lithuania. Rooney opened the scoring after some brilliant individual play from Welbeck before that guy made it two at the stroke of halftime. The Arsenal forward also did well to get an assist on the night as well but everyone continued to talk about Harry Kane, as it took him just 79 seconds to get in the scoring act to crown a great night for the Three Lions.

Walcott came in late on while Kieran Gibbs was an unused substitute.

France 1 (Varane 21′) – Brazil 3 (Oscar 40′, Neymar 57′, Luiz Gustavo 69′)

With Laurent Koscielny playing a lot of games this season, I was hoping that he wasn’t going to feature in this game and my prayers were answered when Mamadou Sakho and Raphael Varane played in the heart of the defense. There was no stopping the Brazilian attacking wave despite the fact that the French side scored first. Arsenal’s Man on Fire, Olivier Giroud, came on with six minutes to go, while Koscielny and Gabriel spent the entire 90 minutes in the dugout.

Varane put the home side ahead with a header, but it was cancelled out by a toe poke from Oscar that went through Steve Mandanda’s legs. Neymar blasted a fierce shot with his left foot to put the visitors ahead before Luiz Gustavo wrapped things up with a point-blank header.

Bahrain 0 – Colombia 6 (Bacca 15′, Falcao 32, 36′, Ramos 59′, Mojica 79′, Renteria 82′)

David Ospina continued to rake in another clean sheet as Colombia took Bahrain to the cleaners. Radamel Falcao might not be getting some joy at Old Trafford but he took his frustrations out on a poor Bahrain side.

Costa Rica 0 Paraguay 0

Joel Campbell played 82 minutes for his country but it was a scoreless encounter between both nations. One may wonder what the future holds for this lad because he hasn’t really made much of an impact in Villarreal and I see the Spanish side sending him back to London this summer.

Spain 1 (Morata 28′) – Ukraine 0

Santi Cazorla came on as a substitute in Spain’s narrow win over Ukraine. He didn’t make much of an impact in the game.

That’s a wrap folks.

Time to me to continue hanging around this polling unit before I cast my vote.

Sayonara.

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Khedira Announces Real Madrid Exit: Should Arsenal Sign Him Up?

Sami Khedira came into the spotlight when he shined like a bright star in the 2010 FIFA World Cup for Germany. Bearing in mind that he was filling in for the injured Michael Ballack, he excelled admirably. Coming through the youth ranks at VFB Stuttgart, Khedira was part of the Stuttgart side that won the Bundesliga in the 2006/07 (many thanks to Mario Gomez goalscoring exploits) and almost made it a double but they lost to Nuremberg in the final of the DFB Pokal that season. Real Madrid won the battle for his signature and he featured consistently for them notching up a whopping 126 appearances for the Spanish giants in his first three seasons.

He suffered an ACL injury in November 2013 and he did well to make it in time for Germany’s 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign, where he got in the scoring act when the Germans decimated the host nation in the semis. This season, the emergence of the new lynchpin in the middle, Toni Kroos, has seen Khedira get limited game time but he has still managed to notch up 17 appearances.

The German signed a five-year contract when he joined the club in 2010, which ultimately means that his current deal is set to expire this summer. In an interview with German magazine, Kicker, Khedira has revealed that he will leave Real Madrid on a Bosman when he deal runs out at the end of the season,

“It’s not a decision against Real Madrid. I want to start a new stage in my career and continue to grow.

There’s no agreement with anyone nor do I have a preference to go anywhere at the moment.

I’ve had a magnificent time in a magnificent team. I’ll do everything I can to keep helping the team in the coming weeks.”

Arsenal have been long-term admirers of the midfielder and getting him on a free transfer would seem like a fantastic piece of business. However, Arsenal isn’t the only club that are monitoring Khedira’s progress. Schalke 04 would want the German to come back home and according to Marca, Chelsea and some Serie A teams are also interested in getting his signature.

Here is a preview of the kind of qualities he would add:

There have been whispers of the Gunners agreeing a deal ‘in principle’ to sign Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlein but I’m sure the prospect of getting a talented footballer like Khedira for next to nothing would be an interesting prospect for any manager, yet alone Arsene Wenger. He’s a dynamic box-to-box midfielder that can also do a decent job in holding midfield and if he signs for the club, he’d give Francis Coquelin a run for his money and in a game where the Gunners want to be ultra-defensive, deploying the Coq and Khedira in front of the back four would ensure that things are water-tight in the middle.

So here’s the million dollar question – should Arsenal go for Sami Khedira?

Sayonara.

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Is Walcott’s Future in Doubt after Bust-Up with Wenger?

With international football taking center stage, I took out some time to see what some nations had to offer on the pitch. Nigeria hosted Uganda in the beautiful Akwa Ibom Stadium and the game was fondly remembered for Vincent Enyeama reaching his 100th cap. The goalie has served the country for 13 years and he has produced moments of sheer quality and consistency over the years. However the party was spoiled when some Ugandan bloke scored the onlygoal of the match to continue Nigeria’s winless streak in the stadium.

Moving on to things related with Arsenal, the forgotten fringe figure, Lukas Podolski, scored in Germany’s 2-2 draw with Australia. Mesut Ozil played the entire game and even wore the captain’s armband for 30 minutes when Sami Khedira was substituted. Elsewhere, the World’s Best striker, Lord Nicklas Bendtner scored a hat-trick in Denmark’s 3-2 win over the United States. Yes, I know that the Lord has left the club but some Arsenal fans (me included) follow his progress in VFL Wolfsburg and we were happy to see the Lord find the net in his last appearance for the German outfit.

England takes on Lithuania tomorrow in an important European qualifier and it would be interesting to see who Roy Hodgson would line up in his starting eleven but from an Arsenal perspective, we would be watching closely to see what Kieran Gibbs, Danny Welbeck and Theo Walcott would bring to the table.

Speaking of Walcott, he has been on the news recently when Football Talk published a piece that he had a training bust up with Arsene Wenger and that can see things turn sour in terms of his future with the club. At the time Walcott signed his last contract, he was indispensable to the club, scoring important goals and he was requesting for a run-out in the middle instead of the right wing berth he had made his own. Wenger actually heeded to his demands and he put up some hot and cold performances spearheading Arsenal’s attack with his last game as a center forward coming up in the North London derby in January.

Following a poor challenge from Danny Rose, Walcott suffered an ACL injury and things have turned for the worse since then. Off the pitch, he got married to his heartthrob and things seemed all peachy and creamy but since his return to full fitness, he has featured sporadically for the club. Walcott has managed score three goals in his handful of appearances this season but he has gone further down the pecking order with Alexis Sanchez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain favored ahead of him. When the Gunners played Tottenham at White Hart Lane, Wenger preferred to play Welbeck that just returned from injury ahead of Walcott.

It’s quite evident that Wenger has some faith in the English speedster. Another classic example came in the FA Cup quarterfinal victory over Manchester United. When the Ox suffered that hamstring injury, Walcott has stripped and was ready for action, only for the manager to change his mind and bring on Ramsey, much to the frustration of Walcott.

Then there’s the niggling issue of his contract situation. Walcott currently has 15 months left on his current deal (100,000 per week) that made him one of the highest earners at the club before the likes of Ozil and Alexis came along. That was a protracted saga that went on for quite some time before both parties mutually agreed on a forward path. Now we are faced with a similar situation, and it seems as if Arsenal is gearing themselves to make a decision on Walcott’s future this summer. The player himself might be disgruntled but he has three plausible options,

  • Sign a new deal and fight for his place in the team
  • Chicken out and decide to move elsewhere or,
  • Sit out his fat contract and leave on a Bosman.

Arsenal will certainly not want to be left with option three so the club would want to do what they can to retain his services or sell him to the highest bidder. Right now, Wenger needs every player he can get at his disposal as the team is charging for a strong finish in the Premier League as well as defending their FA Cup crown.

Walcott remains an important asset to the team and we would nice his services between now and May.

I don’t know what the future holds for him though.

Sayonara.

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Thoughts on the International Break from an Arsenal Perspective

 

At least that nose can heal fully

There’s a bittersweet feel about this set of international fixtures. Arsenal has been in smoking hot form and besides the blips against Tottenham (away) and Monaco (home), the Gunners have recorded wins in such a mean streak. The Gunners had played three away games in their last four outings and they all recorded victories and as expected, the momentum is with the players.

Then the international break arrives. While some nations are playing the qualifying fixtures for the next European Championships in 2016, others are engaging themselves in some rather ‘meaningless’ friendlies. Arsenal, like many European juggernauts out there, has its own contingent that have been called up to represent their nations and the official site published a list of players that would be travelling all around the globe to represent their motherlands.

Danny Welbeck, Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott have been called up by Roy Hodgson for the qualifier against Lithuania and a friendly against Italy. Walcott and Gibbs having gotten as much game time as they’d have liked in recent weeks and will be hoping to feature for their nation. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain would have been called up but he’s still suffering from a hamstring injury. Calum Chambers was not called up at all, so he could use this period to get some rest and recharge his batteries. For a player that had not played much football in his career (broke into the Southampton first team just last season), Chambers featured heavily in the early parts of the season and did well. However, his form dipped as the campaign progressed but we have to cut the lad some slack because he still has a lot to learn at Arsenal. People tend to forget that he’s just 19.

Wojciech Szczesny has been called up for Poland’s qualifier against Ireland. Since the turn of the year, Szczesny has lost his place in the first team to David Ospina and he has been restricted to just FA Cup matches against Middlesbrough and Manchester United. Since Ospina became the custodian between the sticks, Arsenal’s defense has considerably improved but this article by 7am Kick Off suggests that Coquelin has been the key to that success.

Speaking of the Coq, he wasn’t called up by France (his teammates Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny were called up) for the friendlies between Brazil and Denmark despite his remarkable run of form. He has played 21 games since December and fatigue was beginning to take its toll on the lad as we saw in the Newcastle game. Then of course, there’s the broken nose he has been playing with so this international break would give Coquelin some time to rest as he’d be vital in the team’s surge for a strong finish in the Premier League.

His teammate, Aaron Ramsey, recently stated that Coquelin keeps the midfield ticking over,

“He’s been really good. He’s very aggressive and doesn’t give the opposition much time on the ball, and that’s why he wins so many tackles. Then he wins the ball and makes us tick over.

“It’s been really good to see his development this year, he’s had a superb couple of months now so hopefully he can continue that.

“It is quite comforting knowing that one of the midfielders is behind you in position, thinking more defensively. It is something that he does really well.”

Elsewhere, the new kid on the block, Gabriel Paulista, has impressed Dunga enough to receive a call up for the games against France and Chile. The Brazilian did really well to recover from that hamstring string and he put up a virtuoso performance against Newcastle. The ageless Czech maestro, Tomas Rosicky, was called up for the games against Latvia and Slovakia, Ospina would hope to keep clean sheets against Bahrain and Kuwait, Ramsey would take on Israel, Santi Cazorla takes on Ukraine and Holland. Mesut Ozil plays Australia and Georgia and Alexis Sanchez would play Brazil.

I really hope our players come back unscathed.
Sayonara.

Gooner Daily has been nominated for the Best Sports blog category (section 22) in the 2014 Nigerian Blog Awards. Please vote!

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