The Death Of The Box-To-Box Midfielder.

In English football, some of the most celebrated players in recent history have been the dynamic box-to-box midfielders. Typified by Lampard and Gerrard in...
Ritesh Gogineni
Editor/Founder of The False 9.

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Why Wayne Rooney is a bad Number 10

At the last world cup in South Africa we saw a resurgence in the number 10 position. Wesley Sneijder,Mesut Ozil,Xavi Hernandez all played starring roles for their teams in the World Cup. After the World Cup in 2010,the number 10 position like everything else in football evolved. Wesley Sneijder declined quickly partly due to his form and partly due to teams unable to fit him in. Ozil who is a bit different to Sneijder and is more proactive enjoyed success for sometime but later was shipped out to Arsenal from Real Madrid primarily because of his lack of impact in the big matches.

Jonathan Wilson in 2013 had pointed out that Sneijder was the past,Ozil the present and Toni Kroos the future of the number 10 position. Kroos a hardworking and an efficient player is more tactically aware and defensively responsible than the others. This tendency to lean towards a more hard working and a reliable player as the number 10 can be attributed to the rise of the deep lying playmaker. In Euro 2012,Germany against Holland played a basic 4-2-3-1 and used overloads on the right to score goals. This was possible for the reason that both Nigel de Jong and Van Bommel weren’t accomplished passers and Sneijder was given a free role. You can read how Germany scored the goals exactly here. But up against Italy with Pirlo in scintillating form,Loew changed his formation and played Kroos as his number 10 and shifted Ozil to the right. Of course Germany didn’t win that day,but Loew’s tactics and his team selection that day clearly indicates how the role of a number 10 has changed.

Coming to England and Manchester United’s number 10,Wayne Rooney has a long history of not tracking the opposition’s deep playmaker. From Sergio Busquets in the 2011 Champions League final to Pirlo in the Euro 2012,Sir Alex finally realised this fact and dropped him for the second leg against Real Madrid in Champions League quarter finals 2013. With Xabi Alonso controlling the tempo for Real,it was vital that United had someone to disrupt him and Danny Welbeck did this job perfectly until he was shifted out wide after Nani was sent off.

For all his qualities,Rooney lacks the discipline to play the role to perfection. He often gets impatient without the ball and starts dropping deeper and deeper. This might seem like “He is helping his team out” or “He is a team player” but adhering to tactical instructions is key and Rooney doesn’t have the required discipline to do that. His close control and his first touch aren’t good enough and the inherent ability to drop between lines which is a must for any Number 10 doesn’t come natural for Rooney as he always looks to move towards the ball rather than wait for it.

He doesn’t have the nimble feet nor the ability to turn in tight places,he can still bulldoze through defences and of course has a very good finish in him. Wayne Rooney had his best season during 2009-10 when he playing as a lone striker up front,he scored a career best 34 goals that season. His vision and his long diagonal balls are still exceptional and maybe a couple of years down the line with more experience he can prolong his career by playing deeper. The main problem for Rooney is that he is the jack of all trades rather than the master of one,he can pass,he can shoot,he can tackle,he can run and has boundless energy. Which means he can put a decent shift wherever he plays on the park. This coupled with his energy and his selflessness on the pitch means he is rarely present in the area from where he can inflict the most damage. Louis van Gaal has to find a solution for this problem as Manchester United have two very good number 10s in Kagawa and Mata and a lethal striker in Robin Van Persie. Whether Rooney is ok with reverting back to playing on the left which he did during the days of Ronaldo and Tevez is doubtful. And for Roy Hodgson,the question is whether he ll opt to play both Sturridge and Rooney or only Rooney upfront.

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