Wayne Rooney was not just another talent in the tradition of English football, neither because of his limits, which made him the leader of Manchester United after Cristiano’s departure, nor because of the way he played, when at 18 years of age what he liked most was to build the game and link up with the midfielders, something that he is perhaps transferring to the pitch now as a coach.
Beyond his results at Derby County and DC United, which have not been particularly brilliant, also considering the difficult circumstances at the English club, one of the secondary aspects that can give us a lot of insight into his style of play is how he uses his goalkeeper. A few weeks ago we gave examples of how event maps and heat maps give us valuable information about the goalkeepers’ talent with de ball, now that the goalkeeper is an important part of the game and can no longer excuse himself that his mission in matches is only to stop and prevent goals.
The English manager has repeated patterns of play with his goalkeeper with two different goalkeepers in his two coaching stints. Most recently, at DC United in MLS, the former England striker has transformed the confidence of his goalkeeper, Tyler Miller, to come out of the box and play up to 49% of his passes out of the box, compared to 22% of his passes out of the box at Minnesota United. While we can look at team metrics to see how a coach is influencing his team, but many times the team has little statistical relevance in many metrics and event maps make it easier and deeper to see details that may not be seen on first impact.
To find out if this is a one-off or a trait of the coach, Rooney went further with Ryan Allsop at Derby County last season, having a lot of faith in his method despite having a lot of difficulties in terms of results. The gamble was much more personal because Allsop took up to 50% of his passes outside the box, attempting 1572 passes all season, demonstrating that his way of playing conceives the goalkeeper away from the goal and close to the ball.
This does not necessarily have to do with a more elaborate way of playing, but with a midfield position that also helps to restart the game further forward or tries to draw pressure from the opposition and then be vertical. Both Derby County and Rooney’s DC United average between 49% and 51% possession but the goalkeeper is an active part of the game, both to support the centre-backs and to abort long runs, where the defence does play with a much higher defensive distance than the league average.
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