What if Rooney is f***ing great in midfield?

Date published: Wednesday 18th May 2016 2:26 - Sarah Winterburn

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Fast-forward to 2031
Can’t wait for 50-year-old John Terry to get a new one-year deal because of fans protesting outside the stadium. Just great.
Emmanuel Akena


Creating a Premier League mash-up
I thought it would be interesting to build an outfield player based on their specific attributes/performances in 2016. So here goes: –

Head – This has to be one of the two beasts at centre-back for Leicester. They would head a brick wall if it would stop a goal. End of season Caroll pushed them close. Will have to give it to Huth for scoring the odd goal too…oh and for pulling Sideshow Bob’s hair.

Vision (eyes) – Again a tough one. Got to be between Mahrez and Ozil. Ozil edges this one. He makes the game look so simple and sees things a few minutes before the rest of the world. Arsenal fans – imagine if you had Suarez tucking away those 30 chances Ozil creates every match. League would have been over by Easter.

Balance (ears) – Couldn’t decide whether I wanted someone with exceptional balance (Hazard) who could skip round rushing water, someone who has a tendency to fall down (Vardy – seven penalties) or someone with massive ears. Went with end-of-season Hazard because as a youngster everyone wants to slalom through challenges like Hazard does.

Lungs – Can only be one man (still think he is a twin or triplet). Kante. I have never seen a player cover so much ground in a game. Awesome just awesome.

Heart – Every team needs the fight and spirit to keep going when all seems lost. The captain, talisman, legend. It turns out there were not too many candidates this season. Want to give it to Kompany but his body lets him down too often to be a reliable talisman so I am going to go with the most unlikely captain to ever lift the title. Wes Morgan.

Arms – I realise this is an outfield player but you still need arms to play. Can’t be goalkeeper arms though because they are useless for an outfield player. This was a tough one because I couldn’t decide whether I want a player who doesn’t really know where to put his arms (Terry when he is trying to block a shot or Sterling when he runs with his flailing arms), those players who can sneakily get away with a handball (Henchoz was the finest proponent of this skill although Henry was pretty skilled too) or an expert in taking throw ins (a la Delap). It has to be the comical arms of Raheem.

Left foot – Everyone loves a cultured left-footer in the team. Actually I don’t think there is any other type. Ozil. Arsenal fans should commission a statue of his left foot.

Right foot – I am pretty sure his right foot is laser guided. Payet.
H (so excited about tonight)


Worst signings of the season XI
I thought I would go ahead and make up my dream XI of the worst signings made by clubs this summer. I have left out any mid season signings made in January and concentrated only on summer business. I’ve gone with a flat 4-4-2 bad enough to make Mike Basset weep. It was very tempting to lump pretty much the entire Aston Villa squad in here but i’ve done my best to mix it up.

GK Adam Bogdan
RB Carl Jenkinson
CB Joleon Lescott
CB Micah Richards
LB Baba Rahman
RW Scott Sinclair
CM Florian Thauvin
CM Bastian Schweinsteiger
LW Memphis Depay
ST Nikica Jelavic
ST Eder

Honourable mention to Raheem Sterling, Gestede, Sergio Romero, Gokhan Inler, Clinton Njie.
Ryan, Dundalk FC


Presictions revisted
So as F365 published their pre-season predictions I thought I would revisit mine that was in the mailbox with some comments on it.

Champions: Chelsea – Boring but I can’t see them being toppled over a whole campaign. Mourinho is just too irritatingly tenacious.

Rest of top 4: Arsenal, Man City, Man Utd – Arsenal need to finish at least second otherwise it’s as normal which is what they’re hoping will not happen. City have enough to make third but something seems very uninspired about them right now. United in fourth again and Van Gaal’s position is precarious.

Well I got Arsenal and Man City and Man Utd were just out of it, plus Van Gaal’s positions is precarious, so not a bad effort. Obviously Chelsea and Leicester have messed it up.

Europa League  – Obviously Spurs and Liverpool but I fancy Stoke to join them this season.

Yeah, bad this one. Spurs one higher and Stoke nowhere near in the end.

FA Cup – Man United – We haven’t won it for ages and this will save Van Gaal’s job.

Well a very good chance of this happening. I kind of hope it doesn’t save his job though.

League Cup – Liverpool – After Liverpool are 10th at Christmas, Rodgers is sacked and Klopp comes in. He gets them back up the league and wins the league cup.

This was almost the mother of all predictions. Rodgers indeed sacked with Liverpool 10th and Klopp indeed replaced him. Bloody City!

Relegation – Leicester, Norwich and Bournemouth – I think Leicester have the tools to do well but Ranieri seems such a bad fit and I think they will capitulate. Norwich are a nice little club but not good enough to do anything in the Prem and I think Bournemouth will be looking great until about November and then it all crashes down.

Thanks Norwich for it not being a complete mess this one. I did say Leicester have the tools to do well though so that counts right? Right?

Player of the Year – Alexis Sanchez – Just think he will be even better this season.

Got this wrong.

Young Player of the Year – Memphis Depay – Okay so a little United bias has come out here but this is more in hope than judgement.

Awful season in the end albeit finishing as Man Utd’s top scorer in European competition.
Team that everyone forgets about – West Brom – I think Pulis is good enough to have them always around 12th – 13th and as such they get forgotten all season.

They finished 14th but I was right about this. Totally forgettable team.

Goal of the season – Dimitri Payet – This really could be anyone and I thought of him.

His free-kick was up there but BBC gave it to Alli.

First manager to go – Dick Advocaat – After a run of poor results in the first 8 games he decides he can’t be arsed and resigns.

Another fantastic prediction. It was exactly after 8 games he left.

Top Scorer – Olivier Giroud – After hitting 31 league goals people will still say he’s not a top-notch striker.

Well people are still saying he’s not a top notch striker.

The 50-50 signing – Radamel Falcao – He could be a true fantasy league bargain but he could also be like last season. I love the guy and want him to do well. But he’s at Chelsea. Now I’m confused.

It was either excellent or awful. It was awful.

Finally the funniest moment of the season – Wayne Rooney is one goal from Sir Bobby’s scoring record and he strides up to take the penalty, stumbles, misses and then pulls a hammy that keeps him out for the rest of the season.

Sadly this didn’t happen but Van Gaal diving, calling Custis a fat-man and talking about sex masochism did. He’s a very strange man.
So that’s it, a real mixed bag. Anybody else can recover their pre-season predictions?
Bradley Kirrage

Why have Euro squads at all?
I am loving all the discussion around the squads for the Euros. This has mainly focused on the England squad but the surprises in the Spain squad (no Diego Costa) and German squad (Schweinsteiger really?) and the romance of seeing Eidur Gudjohnsen in the Iceland squad have been great to follow.

However, despite the fun to be had scaling down the England squad to 23, I am struggling to understand why we still have squads at all. I can understand back in the day (do people still say that? I am very old) when teams travelled on boats to get to a World Cup in another continent that it would have been unfair if only local sides could chop and change. But today, with aeroplanes and what not, why are countries limited?

We have had countless examples of teams in later stages of World Cups having to shoehorn people into positions they aren’t used to as they have lost a left-back through injury or a striker through suspension. Surely we want to see teams at their best rather than last man standing. The next Euros aren’t even taking place in one country, they are in thirteen (I think), which make the squad system even odder.

If a country wants to take 27 and pay for hotels, deal with boredom etc, why not? If they want to take 18 for a match, fly home and then back for the next match with another 18 (as clubs do in Europe) surely this is up to them? I get the advantages of fostering a team spirit, intensive training and so on. But if a country decides not to do it this way, why can’t they?
Micki Attridge


How can there be no place for Rooney?
I watched parts of last night’s Utd vs Bournemouth match and Rooney excelled again in his newly-adopted midfield berth, as he has done on several occasions since his comeback from injury. I know the pervasive narrative surrounding Rooney is that he’s only in the squad on reputation and should not start for England, but I’d like to play devil’s advocate and offer the case for the defence.

Firstly, he’s England’s all-time record goalscorer – his international record is comparable with those of Ronaldo and Messi, and England have no other available player with any proven goalscoring track-record at international level. Even if he plays in midfield he offers goal threat (eight goals in 28 league games ain’t too shabby for a player many would have us believe is overweight and past his best). By way of comparison, the wonderful Dele Alli, playing for the best team in the world TM, scored 10 in 32.

Another factor is experience. A midfield trio of Dier, Wilshere and Alli has a combined 38 England caps, and with a likely front three of Lallana, Kane and Vardy, this is clearly a team that will be light on experience. Some might argue this is a good thing given England’s less than stellar recent tournament record, but as Alan Hansen remarked so astutely all those years ago “you’ll win nothing with kids”.

Rooney is also a bona fide leader. He captains the biggest club in the world (no laughing please!) and has played with and against the world’s best for well over a decade. Alli is tempestuous to say the least, Wilshere suffers with small man syndrome, and Vardy teeters on the edge, seemingly a dive and a swear away from a red card. Rooney’s inclusion offers a reassuring presence, someone who has born the burden of the nation’s lofty expectations on his shoulders in the past, and has at times responded to the pressure excellently.

My final argument would be the following…Rooney has often been renowned for warming into games and has rarely found himself cast in the role of substitute. Who would you rather see coming on to change a game with 20 minutes to go: Rooney or any of Lallana, Vardy, Sterling, Alli, Barkley etc. He offers versatility and can play across the front three positions or in midfield and although less exciting, at his best can still exert significant influence on any game.

With Welbeck ruled out of the tournament, leaving aside club bias and the current narrative surrounding him, is there really no place in the starting 11 for one of England’s greatest ever players?
Clock End John


…So Sean Mckeown you’ve decided to have a dig at Wayne Rooney, welcome to the club we’ve got t-shirts. The problem though is that you’ve decided to critisise him for a few things that he should definitely carry on doing.

The ‘I would have scored’ thing you described is what strikers are trained to do. They have to assume the defender will miss the clearance and prepare to have their shot just as they would if there were no defender at all. 99 times out of 100 the ball is cleared and he looks silly swinging a leg at thin air but what does that matter if that 1 time the defender misses the clearance he scores.

Also, Olympic sprinters lower their head for the initial phase of their run because that body position maximises the power generated from their legs giving greater acceleration. Rooney is slow and getting slower, doing something which makes him faster is a good thing (plus I think he’s always run like that)

Bournemouth’s capitulation aside, Rooney actually played quite well last night. Those ‘Hollywood’ long balls over to the right wing were clearly part of the tactics (does planning them mean that they’re not ‘Hollywood’ passes? also that’s a stupid way to describe kicking a ball) and worked well for the most part. Wayne was comfortable in possession and it was nice to see a Untied midfielder step towards the goal and look to play a striker through, the pass for Youngs goal was particularly nice and something that’s been non existent at OT this season.

I know Rooney has been a load of toss this season but few seem to remember that his good form always comes in short bursts. The possibility does exist that Rooney finds his form just as we go into the Euros and that having him in midfield actually works really f**king well. I doubt it because you know, this is England, but Wayne might just surprise us all.
Dave, Manchester


Rashford will go to France…
I could be wrong but I think Rashford will be in the final squad. Having this 26-man squad gives people the chance to get used to the idea so it’s less of a shock when he makes the final cut (although of course I’m not saying that’s the reason he named a provisional squad). Rashford scored again last night and could well score in one of the friendlies so if he then drops him it could cause a backlash as the media don’t have much else to squabble about with this squad. History tells us that England managers like to take an unknown quantity (other countries don’t have Wikipedia, right?) to a tournament, and even Roy took the Ox in 2012 and played him in the opening game.

There will almost certainly be an injury within the next couple of weeks, and he doesn’t need two right-backs, so I’m saying two midfielders and a right-back to be cut.

As for the line-up, the positive of having three or four players coming out of nowhere to being almost undroppable in the space of a year (Kane, Vardy, Dier, Alli) means that Roy doesn’t really know how to play them all and how they fit together. Hopefully he can find a solution very quickly because despite the relative lack of quality in certain areas, if Roy can get the most out of Kane, Vardy, Sturridge et al that really is a formidable attack that could cause some damage.

Finally, I’d have Drinkwater over Henderson, Drinkwater is on a high after this season and who better to find Vardy with those long passes?
Kevin G


England will play 4-3-3. End of.
Are people like Naz Gooner really still wondering how England will play?

It’s been 4-3-3 all through qualifying, the squad is selected to play 4-3-3 and 4-3-3 is the way we’ve played best for two years.

Two wide forwards either side of a central striker, a holding midfielder, an attacking midfielder and a box to box midfielder.

The holding midfielder should be Dier or Drinkwater but will probably be Wilshere, the attacking midfielder should be Barkley but will probably be Rooney and the box-to-box midfielder WILL be Alli. Or I’ll stamp on Hodgson’s puppies.

Vardy and Not Welbeck (Sterling I hope) either side of Kane providing pace and width, and that’s possibly the most cohesive attacking six England have had in my lifetime.

Except that Rooney will f*** it up by not possessing the brain power to keep his position and let other people perform their roles.

If Roy has the puppies to play our best team rather than sacrifice another tournament to unjustified and out-of-form reputation, we could really enjoy this summer.

I’m not hoping we win, I’m just praying not to be made sick with frustration and boredom with how England play, for the third tournament in a row.
Tim Sutton (Not Spurs. Not United. FULHAM.)


Defending Roy’s Heaton pick
I think the main reason Heaton is in the squad is;

– regulations state you must take/name three GKs in your squad.

– you are one injury and brain fart away from subbing on your third-choice keeper.

Say if Hart gets injured in second or third group game, knock-outs we start Forster then he gets himself sent off rushing out of his area…we have the choice between a more experienced Heaton or some youngster who could be a worldy in 5-10 years but at the moment isn’t…

I know which one I would pick.
Jon (Could be worse, imagine having Rob Green or Scott Carson to pick from! Andrews, LFC


…Sorry, but I have to take issue with KC from this morning’s Mailbox panning the inclusion of Tom Heaton in the England squad. Being a Burnley fan I’m obviously biased but I’ve watched Heaton play almost every week since he signed and can tell you that he is in the squad 100% on merit.

He was far and away the best ‘keeper in the Championship last season and was absolutely vital in us getting promoted again. During our last season in the Prem he was one of the few players who didn’t look out of place and it was an absolute miracle that we managed to keep hold of him following relegation (he’s fairly local and I’ve heard his family are Burnley fans which probably helped?). I’m no talent scout but he is easily the best goalkeeper to play for Burnley in my lifetime and I honestly don’t think we’d be where we are without him in the team. I think if he was slightly taller he would probably have been snapped up by a bigger/richer club by now.

What he is absolutely not is a ‘middling Championship ‘keeper’, though it’s easy to assume so. He earned his call-up last year and I think it’s great that he’s going. Whether a younger player should have gone in his place is a whole other debate, personally I don’t agree that taking youngsters who ‘might’ be good enough at some point in the future to give them tournament experience is the right mentality to have when building a successful tournament squad but neither of us are the England manager so who cares what we think!
Ashley, Burnley


I just wanted to weigh in on the players moving between clubs, money, glory, heroism (is that a word?) debate.

The way I see it, players can be put into categories. I don’t feel this is exhaustive but it gives a pretty good overview (obviously talking about players at top level here rather than the players bouncing around the lower leagues)

Players that have the opportunity to move to another club but stay due to already being on good money and enjoying a level of success (Giggs, Maldini, Messi)
Players that have the opportunity to move to another club and potentially earn more/win more but choose to stay where they are (Gerrard, Le Tissier, Shearer, Totti)
Players that will move given opportunity to further their career, be this with exposure or success (Beckham, Zlatan, Bale)
Players that will move given the opportunity to increase their bank balance (Adebayor, Robinho, Players in China)
Players that will move given the opportunity that someone will continue to pay them to play professionally (Lescott, Richardson, Schwarzer)

How much of this is down to individual personality (wanting to test yourself at the highest possible level, wanting to be hero worshiped by one set of fans, wanting to have a house made of gold) and how much of it is down to having a Jorge Mendes whispering in your ear?

That is not a rhetorical question.
Jim (I would play for Manchester United for minimum wage), Manchester, formerly Bali


What’s the difference between Nasri and Lallana?
It’s really ironic (but not at all surprising) that Arsenal and Liverpool fans would claim it’s all right for Southampton players to jump ship from the club that developed them, and in a couple of cases even threaten to go on strike, for more money or the opportunity to play in Europe.

After all, those same fans were so understanding when Sterling or Nasri chose to leave clubs whose ambition was limited to top four and being knocked out in the round of 16, to join a club where they would get more money, win premier league titles, get the opportunity to play consistently in the CL with solid investment in the squad to ensure progress. Right?
SM, City fan


Next season? It’s pretty simple…
Nobody sensible could’ve predicted this season of nonsense.

Cast your mind back to around this time last year, Liverpool had pretty much signed ‘all they needed’ before anyone else had opened the safe to retrieve their cheque book or even plugged in the fax machine. Their fans were writing in their droves explaining how the new players would slot in, improve the team, and therefore win the league. Once business got under way, we were told Arsenal had a 15-point head start because they’d signed Cech – this in fact turned out to mean they’d finish four points worse off. United were fools for turning down the chance to sign Pedro, and even worse, for spending a billion on Martial. Man City probably didn’t need to sign anyone, but they did anyway, and they’d definitely be an unstoppable force. Chelsea had bought Falcao, which meant he’d now be brilliant. My basic point here is, none of us know anything.

Not even the suddenly great Ranieri. I’ve said it before, management is seriously overrated; all you really need are a couple of regular goalscorers to be in with a great chance. If you don’t believe me, have a look back at previous winners/runners up and who they had up front. Men who got goals – that’s who. To put it another way, that one time Liverpool had a good season, do you think it was the work of Rdogers, or was it Suarez that made the difference?

So the formula for predicting next season is easy:

Arsenal: if Wenger goes mad and signs two proper strikers, they’d be in with a great shout.
Man Utd: if Mourinho comes in and signs one proper striker, they’d be in with a great shout.
Man City: if Aguero and De Bruyne stay fit, they’ll be in with a great shout.
Chelsea: will need to sign one more big time goal scorer to figure.
Liverpool: just no.
Leicester: if Vardy and Mahrez can repeat the trick, they’ll be up there.
Spurs: That was probably their big chance just there, but bring in another goal getter and they’ll be in the mix again.

Simple. Stop over-thinking it.
Joe Donohoe


Profile of (nearly) icons
I loved the latest instalment of the fabulous Icons series with Eusebio. I heard a rumour that these will be compiled as a book at some point in the future. If so, I for one will be purchasing and then handing straight to my son so he can learn what proper football is all about. He’s six at the moment, so I may have to wait a couple of years before he can properly understand. Tragically he also thinks he supports Chelsea, so there’s a lot to work on.

Anyway, the reason I wanted to write in was to suggest another column along the same lines. And that is a series about ‘nearly’ icons. Mainly players that were truly awesome but never made it to quite the mega stage they could have done. Either by injury or other circumstance. Part of the interest of your icon series is the tragedy in the tales told. There is none more so available than for those players who were amazing but couldn’t quite get there. I suppose an example of this would be Dean Ashton (the next Alan Shearer). He was a really good player and would have been immense for England had he not had to retire early through injury.

The list of others is very long I’m sure but I reckon your readers would like to see some.
JazGooner (Is Abou Diaby too obvious?)

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