Wayne Rooney: Why He Could Be the New Thierry Henry at Arsenal
In 2002, David Moyes found that he had a precocious young talent on his hands. He could not help but give the kid chances to play and excel after the 2002-03 season began.
Of course, the boy was a meager 16 years old at the time and was Everton's second-youngest debutante when inevitably given his opportunity. No matter. Five days before his 17th birthday, Moyes chucked him onto the pitch against Arsenal, then a juggernaut that had not been defeated in 30 Premier League games.
Wayne Rooney truly announced himself to the footballing world on that November day at Goodison Park. A legendary strike gave David Seaman no chance, as it ferociously curled onto the underside of the crossbar at an extraordinary velocity.
Few footballers will ever experience such success at such a young age.
Ironically, Rooney might now be afforded the opportunity to smash in goals for Arsenal, allowing Arsene Wenger a respite from the Scouser's semiannual terror.
At least, that is what a plethora of reports during this young summer have suggested. A recent report in the Daily Mail claims that Manchester United manager David Moyes (sounds a bit unnatural, does it not?) wants Rooney to stay at Old Trafford—the latter, however, "is determined to leave the club."
As United blogger Musa Okwonga articulated for ESPN FC, Rooney would command a massive transfer fee—for he is at the prime age of 27—and would surely not accept a reduced salary. The Daily Mail story cited above lists his wage at £225,000 per week.
Arsenal, then, are not an obvious front-runner in the race for Rooney's services. There have also been rampant rumors about the Gunners acquiring Gonzalo Higuain, as reported by Sid Lowe of the Guardian, which would render any possibility of acquiring Rooney absolutely null.
Let's assume, however, that Arsene Wenger somehow pulls this move off, and Rooney trots out onto the Emirates Stadium pitch in August to the adulation of the Arsenal faithful.
What would happen?
In short, Arsenal would have their first long-term attacking focal point since Thierry Henry left the club.
Rooney's arrival would compensate for the departure of Robin van Persie last summer, and the Gunners would be able to lean on a single superstar striker for several years. Van Persie could certainly have been this goalscoring Rock of Gibraltar, but he chose to pursue other interests.
Rooney is quite clearly not the sort of striker that Henry was in his swashbuckling prime. He's five inches shorter than the Arsenal legend and possesses but a fraction of the searing pace that made the Frenchman so devastatingly effective. Theo Walcott would be a more direct replacement.
But, like Henry, Rooney is capable of finishing with a striking combination of precision and sheer power. Both are the sort of player who commands the ball, and both are eminently capable of creating chances for themselves.
Rooney can also distribute the ball and create for others.
While he did not relish the "second-striker" role at Manchester United last season, he certainly performed at a premier level. Most of Rooney's dissatisfaction likely stems from being forced to operate in the shadow of Robin van Persie, who instantly became the Red Devils' best player.
At Arsenal, he would not need to fear such intrusion. Even if Arsene Wenger inserted him into the lineup with Olivier Giroud, there would be no question about the identity of the alpha striker.
Like Henry, Rooney would be the individual around whom Arsenal's attack would revolve. Whether such reliance, if not dependence, is beneficial to the entire team is debatable. But as Jack Wilshere pointed out recently, per Geoff Sweet of the Sun, “Just to see his name in the team brings fear to the opposition. We could do with more of that.”
Because Rooney is 27 years old, Arsenal would be able to capitalize on almost all of his prime years. Arsenal would therefore not have to worry about the potency of their attack for several years.
He would not come close to breaking Henry's goalscoring record, but Rooney would have the chance to assume the role left vacant by Henry and van Persie for the long term.
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