Tag Archives: Wayne Rooney

England’s Turning Point? (an ode to Rooney’s goal in Brazil)

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I actually wrote the below post a week or 2 after England’s miserable exit from the World Cup but didn’t publish it because I sensed the derision you [the reader] would have towards my ‘silver lining’ attitude to England’s poor results in Brazil.

I am now releasing it because a) England are playing this week, b) England impressed in last month’s win over Switzerland, and c) I was reminded of it (just a little bit) by this goal scored by the Ipswich U14 team. England clearly weren’t good enough in Brazil, but my memory remains that they gave the impression of a decent team whilst in possession of the ball. Results notwithstanding, this represented an sizeable improvement on the style of play seen in the previous 10 years (or so).

Rooney’s inconsequential goal against Uruguay was one of the best I’ve seen from the Three Lions in a game of importance.

England fans have been treated to a few goals of individual brilliance over the past 20 years: Gazza at Euro 96, Owen at France 98, Joe Cole at Germany 06 and Beckham’s last minute free-kick against Greece to qualify for the 2002 World Cup. But Rooney’s first world cup goal was for once an excellent team goal that sets it apart from the rest – and perhaps that is why I enjoyed it so much.

The goal against Uruguay isn’t quite forgotten, in so much as it was only a couple of weeks ago, and English readers will likely remember Rooney sliding the ball into the net from Johnson’s cross.

But no match reports, highlight reels or analysis I can find seem to appreciate quite how the attack swept from one corner of the pitch to the other. 26 seconds from start to finish involving 7 different players.

The deluge of doom and gloom that Suárez’s freak winner brought on totally overshadowed what was overall a reasonable performance, and an excellent goal. The (UK) pre-game betting market had the odds pretty close between the teams which in itself suggests that Uruguay were favourites but on balance I still think England can count themselves ‘unlucky’ to have lost the match.

All the highlights of the goal appear to begin when Sturridge collects the ball. Admittedly, his improvisation under pressure from 2 players is the most elegant part of the move but we need to rewind 15 seconds to see where the play began.


You can watch it again in full here, select the analysis section and navigate to 6:52. And mute the miserable commentary from Dixon. It’s documented as Rooney’s first goal at a world cup, but little else. I wonder how the goal would have been received if Argentina, Brazil or Germany had scored it? I admit that other teams DO score goals like this, but England? Really?

Embellished text commentary:

  1. Suárez takes the ball on the turn from Cáceres’ throw-in, only for Jagielka to steal in near the England corner flag and advance with the ball, laying it on to Lallana who had doubled up on Suárez. Meanwhile, Suárez hopelessly slumps onto his back in hope of a free-kick from the referee’s assistant (time 0-3s)
  2. Lallana takes a touch and lays the ball short to Rooney deep on the left flank, who, under pressure from the retreating Cáceres, nudges the ball back towards his own goal and then stretches to thread a pass to Gerrard through the legs of the onrushing González. Rooney, having fallen upon passing to Gerrard, picks himself up and begins his run towards goal (time 3-6s)
  3. Gerrard collects the ball mid-way between the penalty area and the halfway line, switching the ball to Johnson on the right (time 6-10s)
  4. Johnson stops the ball and then pushes it further forward and wide to Henderson and then runs inside him. Henderson, receiving the ball just inside the Uruguayan half under pressure from Cavani, takes the ball further wide and then passes forward to Sturridge (time 10-16s)
  5. Sturridge, with his back to goal, drags the ball inside taking it out of Cavani’s reach, then turns outside from the challenge of Pereira, leaving Pereira on the ground. With Johnson now ahead of him on the right, Sturridge plays a nicely weighted pass encouraging Johnson to change direction and move towards the goal (time 16-21s)
  6. Sturridge’s pass also tempts Godín wide and too close to the advancing Johnson and he is also left on the ground as Johnson controls and pushes the ball in one movement directly into the penalty area (time 21-24s)
  7. Now at the final line of defence, Johnson is weakly challenged by Lodeiro as he crosses the ball along the ground into the 6-yard box (time 24-25s)
  8. Rooney ghosts in behind Cáceres to pass the ball into the net (time 25-26s)
  9. Henderson and Johnson celebrate with a front-on-knee-slide-hug in the penalty area that isn’t weird at all

Sturridge took 6 touches, everyone else only had a maximum of 2 touches on the ball, controlling the ball and moving it on.

This insignificant goal remains at the very least a small endorsement of the potential that Hodgson’s England team had at the tournament, and above all how England’s style of play (at least in possession of the ball) has improved since 2012.


Premier League 2011-12: Position Analysis ST

Last, but by no means least, is my position review for strikers in last season’s premier league. Robin van Persie, rightfully acclaimed for his performances last season (in which he appeared in all 38 of Arsenal’s games, starting 37 of them – and even scored 2 from his solitary subsitute appearance against Stoke) bagged 30 goals in total. But he still didn’t quite manage to top this rating.

Before I discuss the results, I ought to discuss some formalities about the rating I have used.  As with most of my previous posts, I reviewed the statistics from players who started in the position of striker: that is, the central player in a 3-man forward line, both players in a ‘flat’ forward 2 or the lone player up front. By looking at player starting statistics only, I am perhaps unfairly judging players who made a habit of having an impact from the bench – in addition, as you will also see later, my goals scored below for RVP is ‘only’ 28 because of this filter.

I then shortlisted the strikers who played greater than 1000mins from the start (34 in total), and added Agüero to make a 35th because according to Opta he mostly played behind the central striker last season and so would not have otherwise qualified. Notable absentees from the list include Defoe, Balotelli and Jelavic – all of whom played over 800mins in games they started but still not enough to make the cut.

I looked at Opta key statistics and reviewed the correlations between these fields and Wins, Draws, Losses – purely for strikers. For the strongest correlating fields I calculated ratios to try and remove some bias towards playing time and team biases eg. the players who played for better teams generally had more shots on target so to dilute this bias I created a shooting accuracy ratio to judge shots on target vs shots off target.

The table of statistics above is ordered by playing time from Papiss Cissé (1037mins) to RVP (3311mins). It is dominated by shooting and goalscoring statistics, with additional credit for chance creation, passing accuracy, dribble success and recoveries. I toyed with the idea of including offside frequency, because it IS quite significant in its relation to wins but I still couldn’t bring myself to add it into my rating. It does however show which players are so keen to break through the last line of defence they fall foul of being offside very often: the top 3 ‘offenders’ were Hernandez, Best and Bent. The players least likely to stray offside were Rooney, Doyle and Torres.

Papiss Demba Cissé was the standout candidate for killer instinct, leading the way in goals per shots on target (0.63), 2nd behind Bent in general shooting accuracy and 4th for shooting accuracy inside the box.

Steve Morison, Yakubu and Rooney scored well in headed goals and accuracy, whilst the best creators of chances were van Persie, Suarez and Zamora.

The best dribble success ratios were held by Klasnic, Carroll and van Persie – whilst Helguson kept it simple all season with 0 dribbles attempted! (I gave him the average success ratio so as not to unfairly disadvantage him).

Terrier-like high recovery rates were found with Welbeck, Rooney and Ngog.

I weighted all of these factors based broadly on contribution to WDL in order to calculate the following final ranking:

*Offsides, on the far right, have not been counted in the total score.

Rooney just about steals the top spot ahead of Agüero, a good 7pts ahead of RVP in a re-jigging of the top goal-scoring charts for the year. Rooney’s statistics are basically a lesson in how to be an excellent all-rounder, and he would be almost 20pts ahead of the competition if it weren’t for the inclusion of the rather dubious ‘touches inside the box’ statistic which disadvantages deeper-lying forwards.

Surprises in the top 10 include Zamora, Holt, Klasnic and Best. Best in particular was probably 3rd or 4th choice striker at Newcastle last season but was never given the faith that his statistics seem to justify.

Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres, part of an £85m transfer merry-go-round in January 2010, are 23rd and 24th respectively and underperformed their collegues Suarez and Drogba.

The only positive in Louis Saha’s stats (35th, last in the list) was his decent passing accuracy. Niklas Bendtner, now at Juventus, who would surely be higher in my rating if I included an ego statistic, only finished 29th.