If the rumours are to be believed, Arsene Wenger could be adding Wayne Rooney to his stable of attackers this summer.
If Arsenal do acquire Rooney, there will inevitably be question marks over where he will fit in the side.
The truth is that Wayne Rooney could play anywhere. He’s a naturally gifted footballer with an instinctive ability to adapt to any position on the pitch.
Back in 2011, Rooney told the Manchester United website:
I’ve said it before, I’m a good enough footballer to play anywhere on the pitch. That’s not being big headed. I feel I’m capable of doing that.
The ability to play in multiple positions, sometimes within a single match, is a fantastic asset to possess. It’s a manager’s dream. Arsene Wenger has long revered versatile players such as Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Arsenal’s formation has four primary attacking berths: left wing, right wing, centre-forward and No. 10. If Rooney were to join Arsenal, he’d be able to fill any of those positions comfortably.
Wenger may be reluctant to relegate Olivier Giroud to the substitute’s bench after a promising first season in English football. A set-up like this could allow Wenger to accommodate all of his existing attacking talent plus Rooney without displacing the French target man:
However, I can’t see Rooney being content with being a utility player at Arsenal.
In 2012-13, Rooney became a victim of his own versatility. In Manchester United’s Premier League and Champions League campaigns, he played in as many as as seven different positions.
Newspapers including The Telegraph have cited Wayne Rooney being dropped for the crucial second leg against Real Madrid as the catalyst to Rooney’s subsequent transfer request. This, it has been suggested, was the moment Rooney knew he did not have a future at Old Trafford.
Arguably, the first leg in Spain was just as big an influence. Rooney was picked to start, but instead of his customary central role was deployed on the wing. One of the greatest talents of English football was asked to perform a primarily defensive role, pinning back a full-back.
Rooney knew then he’d been displaced as Sir Alex Ferguson’s first-choice striker.
There is a certain irony about the fact that United’s capture of Robin van Persie from Arsenal is what could prompt Rooney to move in the opposite direction.
For all his adaptability, Rooney wants to play as a central striker. He told FourFourTwo magazine:
In the years to come, that might be somewhere I could play, but, right now, I'm definitely a centre-forward. I'm after more goals.
I've played up front on my own a few times for Manchester United and it's a role I'm very comfortable with and have no problems playing.
When you play as a target man, you have to stay up front and help the team out by holding the ball up and waiting for support. That all comes with experience.
It's a good role for me to play, and hopefully I can continue doing well there.
If the England international were to join Arsenal, he’d doubtless want some guarantees about where he’d be playing. If the Gunners were to secure Rooney, it’d be on the basis that he would become Arsenal’s main man and centre-forward.
An in-form Rooney would be perfect for the role.
Like Giroud, he has the strength to resist challenges with his back to goal. However, he also has the football intelligence and weight of pass to drop off and play in the likes of Theo Walcott. In England’s recent friendlies against Ireland and Brazil, Rooney played as a central striker and combined brilliantly with both Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whetting the appetite of all watching Arsenal fans.
Perhaps Gunners supporters will see more of that exciting combination next season.