By 90Min
November 30, 2017

Fans of a certain disposition will have assumed that Wayne Rooney's hat-trick heroics for Everton on Wednesday would have come as a striker.

A shock to those, then, who will have found out that the boyhood Blue had netted three goals against sorry West Ham from a deep-lying midfield role.

Caretaker boss David Unsworth revealed that he felt playing the forward "could have a major influence from a deeper role" and it was a gamble that paid off in spades as Rooney ran the show to inflict heartache on former boss David Moyes.

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As sensational as the 32-year-old's display was - who else has been watching his third goal on repeat since last night? - the decision to move him back into midfield from his customary attacking role has reopened the debate over Rooney's best position on the pitch.

With the ex-England captain unable to lead the line like he used to, is it high time that the Toffees began playing him further back and reaping the rewards of doing so?


Going Deep

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A look at the stats from last night proves just how influential Rooney was against the Irons.

No other Everton star had more touches (78), played more passes (60) or through balls (1), or more shots (4) than Rooney did as he exerted his dominance in midfield and attack for the hosts.

His late movement into the box to get on the end of Tom Davies' low centre saw him sweep home his side's second goal, his stamina levels allowed him to get up and down the field and his desire to work hard for the team defensively saw Rooney make two tackles, four clearances and an interception.

Couple those who his quick reflexes to bury his saved penalty past the hapless Joe Hart and his vision, technique and sheer ingenuity to bag that sumptuous third goal from halfway, and it's difficult not to scream at incoming manager Sam Allardyce to play him in centre midfield from now on.

Rooney's tendency to drop deep for the ball from an attacking position leaves Everton without a natural striker if he drifts away from the area too, so why not make the most of his wish to do so, play him further back and allow someone like Oumar Niasse or Dominic Calvert-Lewin lead the line ahead of him?


Case for the Front

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It's all well and good stating how immense Rooney was on Wednesday but, will all due respect, he ran the show against a horrendous West Ham team.

A side who only mustered three shots in the entire game - one a saved penalty too - and shorn of confidence always meant the Manchester United legend would have time to dictate the tempo.

Would Rooney be able to do likewise against an Arsenal or a Tottenham? Most likely not, and it would be a gamble to play him in midfield if he ever got frustrated and began walking the disciplinary line by way of a booking.

With Everton also well stacked in the centre midfielder department, is it worth deploying Rooney there as yet another option when he could be used elsewhere?


The Verdict


Rooney's quality can never be called into question, and he will always retain the ability to pull the strings wherever he plays on the pitch.

Playing further back would arguably make the most of his talents in the twilight of his career, but it would be a risk to start him there against the bigger, more possession-oriented teams in the Premier League and in Europe.

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It's an option that Allardyce can mull over, however, and gives him more options to consider as he begins to get to grips with both Rooney and Everton.

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