When Everton’s official website confirmed the signing of Wayne Rooney on a free transfer, one of football’s worst-kept secrets was finally concluded.
The talismanic forward, who was clearly on borrowed time after a frustrating season at Old Trafford, never seemed particularly motivated by the financial rewards that lay farther afield in China or the United States. Instead, he bore the demeanour of a man who wanted to return home, and his arrival on Merseyside has certainly coincided with one of the most exciting periods in Everton’s recent history.
The signing of Rooney certainly provides Everton with some tactical flexibility, with the player having being deployed in a number of positions during his illustrious career. Here, we take a look at some of the ways in which Everton may line up with the former Manchester United forward in the fold…
Three at the Back and Two Up Front
Ronald Koeman experimented briefly with playing a three-man central defence last season, as this system became popular once again in the Premier League.
The Dutchman also reverted to this system during the narrow, 1-0 win against MFK Ruzomberok in the second leg of Everton’s Europa League qualifying round, with Rooney operating as one of two strikers alongside Sandro Ramirez.
While this is a relatively unfamiliar position for Rooney, it provides him with some freedom as he can work in tandem with a quicker, more orthodox number nine. This system also creates an option for the forward to operate in a deeper role behind the two strikers, a position from which he could fully utilise his vision and varied passing range.
Rooney Leading the Line
Another option would be for Koeman to leverage Rooney’s experience by deploying hims as a sole striker. This would allow Everton to play with three in midfield, with Davy Klaassen roving from deep and the young Dominic Calvert-Lewin offering pace and width in the wider areas.
Rooney certainly has the knowledge and strength to lead the line, while his intelligent movement and enduring eye for goal could make him a potent weapon at the front line of Everton’s attack.
The only concern would be an obvious lack of pace, however, with Rooney lacking the thrust and acceleration of his youth. This would be particularly problematic away from home, when Everton may be required to play on the break and release pressure by playing balls in behind the opposition’s defence.
Rooney as the Number 10
This may be the more natural fit for Rooney, whose blend of vision and finishing seem ideally suited to the number 10 role.
With Everton adopting a solid 4-2-3-1 system, Rooney would serve as the intrinsic link between midfield and attack, with the quick and energetic Ramirez operating in front of him. Ramirez’ pace could definitely create room for Rooney to operate in, particularly with pacey and creative players like Kevin Mirallas on the flanks.
While Rooney certainly faces competition in this role in the form of Klaassen, this would arguably represent the safest bet for Koeman as he looks to build a balanced and winning side.