The Arsenal midfielder on title challenges, nearly joining Liverpool and his Czech Chelsea chum...
After nine years in North London, Tomas Rosicky is now Arsenal's elder statesman – and even if last season wasn't as busy as he may have liked, he was very glad to get another FA Cup win under the belt...
What are the best moments of your Arsenal career?
That’s a good question. The first one I am thinking of is the FA Cup win last year. It was a trophy I have been waiting for a very long time. The second would be the goal I scored against Tottenham in the league last year. It was one of the best in my career. Coming back from injury during the pre-season tour in a game against Barnet was also pretty special.
Before moving to Arsenal you had won the league with Sparta Prague and Borussia Dortmund. Is the Premier League title the next goal?
It must be. The first half of this season wasn’t brilliant, but from January we started to play good football. We have to prove we can play good football for the whole season, and then perhaps we can win it.
You mentioned the second half of the season being a stark contrast to the first. Have you been talking to the rest of the team about hitting the ground running at the start of next season?
I think every player realises without talking about it. We would love to be able to win the league, and when you’re third with an FA Cup under your belt, it’s important to tell yourself to play harder than ever to get to that Premier League title. We need to keep the consistency from the end of last season, so it is important to prepare and be ready.
With Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil on board, how do you rate the current squad compared to those players who have left since you joined?
It is definitely the strongest side in terms of everyone having quality in their specific areas on the pitch, as the team is very big at the moment. However, it’s difficult to say it is the best side, as the squad of the 2007/2008 season very nearly won the league.
Have you noticed a change in the squad’s mentality since you won the FA Cup in 2014?
For a lot of players the FA Cup came as a great relief, as the trophy drought was finally behind us. However, as I mentioned before, you didn’t see a change of anything in the first half of the season, and it took us a few months to get up to scratch. I think that we have the mentality now to win the title, as another FA Cup and a thirst for more trophies will help us to move forward.
I think that we have the mentality now to win the title
Did you feel the drought more than most because you had been here longer than a lot of the other players?
I really wanted that trophy, as did the rest of the team, and we worked our hardest on and off the pitch in order to achieve it. Personally, I tried to give everything I had in order to win.
You played with Petr Cech at international level; what would you say he would bring to Arsenal?
He has more experience than most in his position, and that is valuable for a goalkeeper at this level. He still has a few years left at the top of the game and he wants to play. He has been playing for many years and that is what he would bring with him, if he wants to move.
When you go to Man City and win, it tells you that you’re playing well
It was a frustrating season for you last year. You have a contract for one more year, but do you see your future here?
Obviously my focus is here: as you say, I have a contract for one more season. It was a difficult time for me, not playing much football on the pitch. I do have that frustration, but I think I still have it in me to help the team improve. I don’t think I have to prove how loyal I was to this club, but I hope I can help the team next season.
Arsenal had two big wins in Manchester: at City in January, and at United in the FA Cup in March. Were those wins the turning points for the side?
I don’t think there was any real turning point, as really it was just a constant turn from January. The type of football changed, and it was more of the type of football you want to see from Arsenal. I think if there was anything that told us we were playing well, it was the away win at City. When you can go to City and win it gives you confidence and tells you that you’re playing well.
The record against Chelsea isn’t quite so good. Could the Community Shield be another opportunity for a confidence booster and let the team know you can beat the current Premier League champions?
It could be, but it could also give us a false sense of security – when we beat City in the Shield last season, we started the league badly and that streak lasted until February. I think this game comes too early in the season to be used as a boost, as we will only have been training for three weeks for it. We really want to win it, but we wouldn’t judge our performance from it.
You’ve lived in London for many years now. Aside from the football, what’s your favourite thing about the city?
[Laughs] I cannot say that I’m a real city boy, as really I am from outside London! When I’m here, my main focus is my football and not much else!
Did you have a favourite English team or player before you came to Arsenal?
Before I came to Arsenal? That’s a long time ago! [Laughs] In the Czech Republic when I was small there was a regime, so I couldn’t really watch foreign games. My first memories of English football would have been Euro 96. I would say my first real heroes would have been the Czech footballers in that year. Patrick Berger was my favourite! He soon came to Liverpool, and that’s how I started watching the Premier League. I also really liked Vladimir Smicer.
Did you speak to them before you came to England about the Premier League, to see if it was the right place for you?
A little bit. Just after 2000, when I was at Dortmund, it was a real possibility that I was going to Liverpool! So I did talk to them quite a bit.
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Congratulations on your 100th appearance for the Czech Republic. Was that a proud moment for you?
It was a brilliant moment for me and the team. It has only happened three times in the history of the country, with Petr Cech and Karol Poborsky, so it was a really special moment.
The Czech Republic are doing well in Group A. Is next summer a possible swan-song for you, or will you be aiming at another major tournament?
Another tournament would be great, but it wasn’t great to lose the last game against Iceland. It is very tight in the group at the moment, but if we do qualify I won’t hesitate to play.
Rosicky was speaking at the launch of the new Puma Arsenal kit.