To say Wayne Rooney’s performances have been called into question of late would be an understatement.
Watford's star player today was hands down Wayne Rooney. Continually broke up United's play & fed Watford players the ball all game#MUFC
— The United Stand (@UnitedStandMUFC) September 18, 2016
Rooney is just awful. Can't do anything. Can't pass. Can't shoot. Why is he still here?
— Harry (Watford_fan) (@IconicMartiaI) September 19, 2016
The England captain’s display against Watford on Sunday led the Daily Telegraph to call him “just no longer good enough”.
So where is it all going wrong for Rooney? Looking at the statistics, it all seems to have started with Louis Van Gaal…
The statistics suggest Van Gaal’s arrival in 2014 marked a significant decline in Rooney’s goal threat. Before the Dutch manager arrived, Rooney was almost providing a goal or an assist every 90 minutes, with 12 goals and 10 assists in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final season in charge and 17 goals and 10 assists under David Moyes in 2013/14.
Following the arrival of the Dutchman however, Rooney’s attacking threat almost halved, dropping from 0.93 to 0.50 goals or assists contributed per game, with only 20 goals and 11 assists over two seasons.
Under Jose Mourinho, Rooney has only slightly improved in this respect, with an average goal/assist contribution of 0.57 per game after his goal and two assists this season.
Perhaps the reason for Rooney’s lack of goals is his declining shot rate?
Under Ferguson, Rooney was managing 3.62 shots a game and 3.49 under Ferguson’s fellow Scot, Moyes. Under Van Gaal however, Rooney only managed 2.42 shots a game, and he has had only 2.09 so far under Mourinho.
This is perhaps the crux of the debate surrounding Rooney, then. Under both LVG and Jose, Rooney has played in a deeper role and predictably it is under both of them that he has had less sight of goal.
Rooney’s shot accuracy was also less than 40% under Van Gaal, although this has leapt to 54.5% this season.
Passing accuracy is one part of Rooney’s game which has actually improved in recent seasons – despite what some fans may think of Rooney’s latest performance.
After yesterday's performance I finally agree with @jasoncundy05 Rooney is finished! Some of the worst passing I have seen in a long time!
— Peter Phillips (@Peter__Phillips) September 19, 2016
The England striker’s passing accuracy has improved from 80.1% under David Moyes to around 84% since then. Is this really an improvement though? Once again the issue of where Rooney is playing is significant.
In his deeper position of recent seasons, Rooney has had easier passing options readily available to him. This meant a spike of 40.8 successful passes per game in Van Gaal’s first season – but this has dropped back to about 33 since then.
These simpler passes have limited Rooney’s creativity, something which was evident in the game against Watford.
Rooney's passing yesterday:
Passes played 40
Successful balls forward: 6 pic.twitter.com/tzkURZrmvL
— Coral (@Coral) September 19, 2016
Sadly for Rooney, poor discipline was something he became famous for early on in his career, despite the high quality of his football. Ten years on from the red card he received at the 2006 World Cup though, and Rooney now plays as a role model: captain of England.
This darker, petulant part of his game appears to be returning however, and can’t be blamed on Van Gaal. His yellow card at Vicarage Road was his third of the season – in contrast to the four he received all of last season under the Dutchman.
Similarly, this season Rooney’s foul rate has been 1.71 per 90 minutes – a figure which has increased from around one a game in previous seasons.
Whether or not this change in Rooney’s disciplinary record is due to his new manager’s tactics or his own personal frustrations is unclear – but there’s no doubt England’s captain has a lot to be frustrated about.