Tuesday 25 April 2017

Rosicky pleads 'laughing' innocence

Sam Wallace

Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky has claimed that even though he does not bother to look back over his shoulder at the flight of the ball when defending free-kicks, that does not mean he doesn't care when his team concede goals.

Against Manchester United for one of the goals in Arsenal's 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, and when Seb Larsson scored for Sunderland at the Emirates on Sunday, Rosicky has been caught on replays walking away from the defensive wall without even a backwards glance to see whether the ball went in.

He was first spotted doing it last month against United when Rooney scored his first of two free-kicks in the game. When Larsson scored Sunderland's goal in their 2-1 defeat, Rosicky again did not turn and even appeared to be laughing.

His unusual behaviour compared to his team-mates in the wall -- all of whom turned to see where the free-kick went -- has become a talking point among the club's fans.

Asked whether he was laughing in the aftermath of the Larsson free-kick at the Emirates on Sunday, Rosicky said: "I was laughing? That's not laughter because when he took the ball immediately I was thinking about the situation when Rooney scored at Old Trafford. That wasn't a laugh -- it was a desperate laugh that such a screamer would be scored again."

Asked whether he knew the ball was going in from the moment it was struck, Rosicky said, "Yeah, exactly. I don't have to turn around. When I see his face and he is celebrating, why should I? Anyone who thinks I would laugh at it... is very disappointing. For people to take it that way is unbelievable."

Larsson's free-kick drew high praise from the man who sold him to Birmingham four and a half years ago -- Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger.

"Larsson is maybe the best player in the league at taking free-kicks," the Frenchman said.

The win lifted the Gunners into the top half of the table and alleviated some of the pressure on Wenger after the club's woeful start to the season.

Four defeats in eight games -- one of which was the 8-2 hammering at United -- has left many speculating the club will struggle to qualify for the group stages of the Champions League for the first time since the 1997-98 season.

But despite the team's poor start, and the fact that they lost Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri this summer, Rosicky is convinced that the club can finish in the top four.

"It was a very difficult start for us but the season is very long and I don't feel it is impossible for us (to finish in the top four)," he said.

"Every game is very difficult and you have to fight hard. The season is long and there are so many points to play for. Arsenal is a great club that always has to play for the top four. Even if we started badly, it must still be our aim." (© Independent News Service)

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