Tactical & Statistical Analysis: Have Wayne Rooney’s performances dipped?

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?

The stats:

Goals Assists Conversion Passes Pass % Key Passes
Rooney 2 5 7% 46.1 85.6 1.4
RvP 8 4 22% 29 82.5 2
Tevez 6 4 15% 38.7 85.6 2
Ba 8 0 16% 22.1 77.7 0.7
Suarez 10 2 14% 35.3 75.2 2.9

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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6 comments for “Tactical & Statistical Analysis: Have Wayne Rooney’s performances dipped?

  1. timbo
    November 20, 2012 at 17:01

    What complete and utter garbage! Rooney as a striker has always been woeful and incredibly over-hyped, though you did hit on one aspect to his play that is accurate – his shooting is abysmal.

    This article is yet another in a long line of pieces that mistake industry for class. And for what it’s worth, even that side of his play is given too much credit, not least because he’s almost as much of a liability in defense as he is a help. Also, given his appalling lack of application where his fitness levels and off-season work are concerned, the fact he uses the first third of the season more or less to get himself into proper football shape – with the indulgence of a manager who plays by two sets of rules where Rooney is concerned – is disgraceful in this day and age.

    Probably the most laughable part of the article is the point about his play-making abilities. As a player with an appalling skill set, lousy touch, complete lack of vision and situational awareness, disgraceful passing ability, chronic inability to hold on to the ball against even a single challenger, and a record for being arguably the greatest waster of possession in the side, he makes for a wonderful playmaker – NOT! I could count on one hand the amount of times IN A SEASON Rooney pulls off the kind of incisive pass a fine midfielder like Scholes – or even an average one like Carrick – can pull off. The rest of the time he simply takes the ball up, and as soon as he’s challenged by even a single defender, hurriedly passes the ball back or across. This is not playmaking, it is cowardice, an acknowledgement of the fact he simply cannot beat ANYONE one on one. On the few occasions he tries he ends up looking embarrassing as he has the ball taken away from him, after which he invariably and petulantly chops down the player concerned as payback for making him look like a prat.

    • November 20, 2012 at 17:04

      I have to say this is a huge exaggeration. Rooney has five assists this year, so clearly his play-making abilities are good. You’ve also not seen him lay, he does drop deep and assist in build up. His high number of passes are again good for a forward.

    • dannylyons
      November 20, 2012 at 18:05

      I also think that this is an extreme reaction.

      The article is fair and well balanced.

      Good writing, again, Amit.

    • Michael
      November 20, 2012 at 22:38

      I’m sorry but what you have just said is complete and utter rubbish. You’ve obviously never seen rooney play, or your just a jealous man city supporter. Rooney is a quality play maker and a quality goal scorer. His record speaks for itself. If you had based what you just said on fernando torres, then it would sound a lot more convincing. I urge you to take another look at rooney’s play. I think you will very suprised.

    • tombi
      November 21, 2012 at 08:44

      Dude was your toy stolen by rooney? or your Dog beaten or by him?? or you are just jelous????? cause you sound like your have personal Vandetta against Rooney. I myself am a city fan but i would be happy to have him on board any day. His work ethics are second to none. He doesn’t float around front half or be selfish. I have to say he is a quality player.
      The fact is your woeful pernonal issues and anger towards him wont change the fact that rooney is a class act and that he would fit in any team and i mean ANY team in the world.

    • Vikram
      November 21, 2012 at 21:22

      The obvious dislike you’re having against Wayne Rooney is well, too obvious. Rooney’s performance is well below par this season. I admit that, but saying he’s not a good player is totally outrageous.

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