Should Wayne Rooney play in Euro 2016?
Editor’s note: This article was written before the announcement of the final England squad.
It is certainly not clear what starting role Rooney will play when England open against Russia on June 11. Some pundits, such as former England captain Alan Shearer, have questioned Rooney as a striker saying “the days of Wayne being the number one striker are gone”. But Shearer stopped short of dismissing him altogether by suggesting he could play midfield.
Here, we take a closer look at the statistics and compare Rooney to one of the main rivals for his position in the team: Tottenham Hotspur’s Dele Alli – the 20-year-old player whose first season playing in the Premier League has been an undoubted success.
Of course, England fans will want to maximise the probability of their team finally winning the Euros – so England manager Roy Hodgson needs to pick the best player in each position. Will there be a place for Rooney? Or is it time for him to step aside for one of England’s top prospects?
We start our investigation by considering some simple passing and shooting statistics for the two players for this season. The table below shows some statistics for both players based on performances in the Premier League this season.
First, look at the goal differences for each player’s team while they are on the pitch and while they are off the pitch. Both have a positive influence on the team – the goal difference increases in both cases but Alli makes a particularly big difference, increasing Tottenham’s goal difference from +0.21 to more than +1 goal per match.
When it comes to shooting, both players generate about the same number of shots, though Alli has a higher on-target percentage and has scored three more goals.
And then there are heat maps. The figures below show heat maps of the pass origins for Rooney and Alli.
Expected and observed performance
At the University of Salford we have developed a suite of algorithms for rating players and using these ratings for predicting the results of matches. We house these tools in SAM, our Sports Analytics Machine. A major reason our predictions are working so well is our player ratings. We have two different player ratings: a performance rating (in any one match this measures how an individual player performed); and an overall rating (given a player’s individual attributes and looking at his performances over the long term, this rating gives an idea of what we should expect from the player in future matches).
Below is a plot of Rooney’s expected and observed match performances since the start of the 2014-15 season. Notice a pattern? Rooney has, in the majority of matches since February 2015 (coincidentally, around the time he signed a five-year contract for a reported £300,000 a week), under-performed. You can see how our overall rating is slowly being downgraded as the ratings model “learns” that Rooney isn’t the player he once was – he has been under-performing for more than 18 months now and is currently averaging a performance rating of around 65. This is actually below average for a striker in the Premier League, and certainly below what would be expected of a striker in a team chasing a top-four finish.
As a comparison to a player that is under-performing (Rooney) and performing as expected (Alli), consider the expected and observed performance ratings for Jamie Vardy. He has outperformed expectations for almost the whole of the 2015-16 season. Indeed, when we look at the player ratings for all players, Vardy should certainly be playing in Hodgson’s Euro 2016 team.
- Ian McHale is professor of sports analytics at University of Salford
- This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.