Wayne Rooney has not been in the goals in the Premier League of late, with the goal scoring burden having been shifted to Robin van Persie. Rooney appears to have taken more of a back seat, dropping into midfield and being more involved than ever in support play. United’s talismanic forward was one of the key factors that United pushed City so close for the title last season, with him scoring an impressive 27 league goals. This season however Rooney has only scored twice in 8 appearances, so is his form dipping or are we seeing a different Wayne Rooney?
|Goals||Assists||Conversion||Passes||Pass %||Key Passes|
The interesting thing to note here is that Rooney is still having attempts on goal, 27 to be precise, just his accuracy is very, very poor. With this in mind it is definitely a fair criticism to assert that he should be scoring more goals. His total 7 goal contribution is still good, but the weakest of the players listed here. One could argue that Rooney is more of a play-maker now, hence the high number of passes per game. However, this doesn’t hold much weight either, Mata has contributed ten goals, Hazard eight. Both players also complete more passes per game with Mata having a superior pass accuracy, the same can be said of Cazorla.
This is not to detract from Rooney’s obvious quality. In truth he is now a hybrid player, not a striker, not a play-maker. He is somewhere in between. As noted he enjoys more of the ball than the other strikers here and certainly drops into far deeper positions than any of the players listed. RvP has a relatively small contribution on affairs with just 29 passes per game, as Rooney does the ground work in behind him.
This is Rooney’s heat-map from his sides 3-2 victory over Villa:
Rooney moved across the whole width of the pitch as well as clearly linking the play in the middle third of the pitch. Almost inbetween that play-maker and striker role. Against Chelsea this was even more obvious:
The majority of his work was done in his own half, with him working incredibly hard to link the play as well as put in a defensive shift. None of the other forwards I have mentioned would perform such a role. In this game, a tough away fixture, Ferguson clearly deemed it more appropriate to utilize Rooney in a slightly deeper position than he was in against Braga or Villa. It is unlikely that the other strikers could perform such a role, except for potentially Luis Suarez. Van Persie and Hernandez are both obviously more advanced if one observes their heat maps for the same fixture.
Rooney’s role has changed somewhat since last season, which to a degree explains his dip in form. He did also enjoy plus 40 passes per game last year and a similar pass accuracy though, which arguably means that his shift has been a bit exaggerated by some. It is probably too early to say that Rooney is off-form, he is clearly not as clinical as he should be with quite a dismal conversion rate, but he has had his season halted by an early injury. Rooney does also score in patches, which likely means he will go on a goal scoring run relatively soon, if he does not, then perhaps it is the right time to point the finger. Right now though, Rooney is still playing very well in his new position and will probably continue to improve through-out the season.
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