Prompted by one of our Dear Readers, we decided to take a look at how Rooney is faring in one of his two seemingly preferred roles – behind the main striker.
Played in the classic way, the No 10 should be both goal creator and goal threat and line up nominally in the centre of the field. A look at Rooney’s basic stats will tell you that he’s doing all of these so far this season. But how does he compare to his peers in the Premier League?
The first thing to note is that there aren’t many of them. Mesut Özil, Oscar, Ross Barkley and Stephane Sessegnon have fulfilled a similar role but only the first 3 are matching Rooney’s minutes on the field.
Our chance creation model can tell us how many times these players have delivered the ball into the penalty area for a team mate to take a shot. It can also tell us where on the pitch they delivered these passes from:
It’s quite striking how Rooney and Özil boost their numbers purely through taking lots of set pieces. And while any self-respecting No.10 looks fabulously crafty before striking a dead ball, it’s perhaps more interesting to take a look at the open play numbers:
We get a clearer sense here of the areas of the pitch each player operates in. Barkley is so in the hole he can’t even make a triangle. If he is venturing into the box or into wide areas, he’s not supplying passes that directly lead to shots.
Our man Wazza is supplying shooting opportunities from both the middle of the park and from wide. Not so much from the box however – just 2 all season. Oscar looks the most balanced of the 10s but volumes aren’t huge. Özil is as central as Barkley but is also getting into the area itself to set up team mates.
All these players’ teams enjoy similar amounts of possession and territory during games and all control the game in the oppositions half (all these stat based statements can be checked out at whoscored.com).
The chance creation model also allows us to calculate the average number of assists each player could expect to make based on the passes he’s provided to the shooter. With 1000s of similar passes in the bank from seasons gone by, the model is able to put an average value on each chance created. The following graphic includes all the passes each player has made that led to a shot – not just the ones into the penalty area:
It makes next to no difference on any of the players’ ‘expected’ values but does have the effect of evening out Özil and Rooney’s actual assist numbers. While outputs are similar for the pair, it’s still pretty clear that Özil is the more creative of the two players and indeed overall.
If we map both player and team onto a radar (Özil and Arsenal in yellow, Rooney and Man Utd in red) this is what it looks like:
Rooney is slightly more representative of Man United as a whole than Özil is of Arsenal. Özil’s narrowness of position (at least creatively) is evident here. Rooney’s lack of passing threat inside the box echoes his side’s offensive struggle this term.
Both Rooney’s underlying numbers and actual output stack up against his ‘true’ peers in terms of chance creation. Next up we’ll compare the shots each of these player’s fire in to look at the goal threat they possess from that angle. Going further forward we’ll compare Rooney to play-makers in wide positions – the position he was often used in last season.
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