On paper, a winning goal for Wayne Rooney on his second debut as an Everton player in Premier League football, is as good as any script line could get.
And while the boyhood blue’s fabulous first-half header proved to be the vital difference for Ronald Koeman’s men as they beat Stoke City 1-0 on Saturday afternoon, Rooney’s performance was certainly mixed.
Here, we analyse the former Manchester United star’s second-coming for the Toffees.
What did you make of Rooney’s performance?
PLAYING TOO DEEP
For the most part, he was too deep, stepping on the toes of Everton’s two defensive midfielders Morgan Schneiderlin and Idrissa Gueye. While he has never been an out-and-out striker, his decline in pace and movement has obviously contributed to this.
In fact, he was dispossessed four times in key midfield areas and was often slow in possession.
His goal obviously arrived courtesy of a run from deep but Everton need to play with more of a genuine threat in the final third, given Sandro Ramirez is the only other attacking option.
Rooney still seems to be getting back to his top fitness level and with tough tests to come against Manchester City, Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester United, as well as a two-legged Europa League first-round play-off tie against Hajduk Split, he is sure to be tested to the max.
ROONEY PULLS RANK OVER SET-PIECES
While Leighton Baines’ delivery from a deal-ball situation wasn’t as consistent last season as it has been in previous years, it’s been a surprise to see the left-back now only take a handful of set-pieces.
Rooney now seems to be Everton’s main free-kick and corner taker, from either side, but struggled to find any rhythm at Goodison.
A free-kick from 35 yards out in the 33rd minute, which he ballooned way over the bar when looking to steer the ball towards the back post, was proof of that.
Other than Baines, expect Rooney to take most dead ball plays when he’s on the pitch, with Kevin Mirallas being the only other player in the mix. That could all change though if Gylfi Sigurdsson pens his long-awaited transfer to the Blues.
FOOTBALLING BRAIN IS STILL ONE STEP AHEAD
England’s record goalscorer has been written-off by many, especially from a physical perspective, but the 31-year-old is still better than most when it comes to reading the game and adjusting his movement accordingly.
Having endured a largely anonymous 45 minutes, where sloppy possession and footwork characterized his afternoon in the Merseyside sun – suddenly, Rooney came to life.
Idrissa Gueye and Everton’s No.10 exchanged passes 30 yards out, and then eventually found the otherwise quiet Sandro who slid the ball to striker-turned-right-wing full-back Dominic Calvert-Lewin.
The England under-20 star hit a first time cross from the right which Rooney met with a bullet header, that was slightly behind him, to nod home his 199th Premier League goal and cue an emotional celebration.
The key was the way Rooney continued his run into the box, showing his desire to make an impact and get on the end of the cross. It has to be said, Mark Hughes won’t be pleased with his side’s defending.
If Rooney produces 10-15 moments of this magnitude this season then you would have to say it’s been good business to bring him back to the club by Koeman.
GROWS IN CONFIDENCE IN SECOND-HALF
As Stoke tired and Everton controlled the lion’s share of the possession, Rooney began to thread forward-thinking ideas together and certainly looked more at ease with himself – the goal massively helping his confidence levels.
Indeed, he linked-up well with Calvert-Lewin and started to get the crowd behind him.
However, in truth, it was a dire contest – not one to fully judge Rooney on. It also served to heighten predictions made by many that Stoke could be relegated this season.
HIGH WORK-RATE AND ENJOYING PLAYING AGAIN
It’s one match, yes – but Rooney is of course a more effective player when playing a) regularly and b) knowing he is the main man in the starting line-up.
Defensively, Rooney manned the front post from opposition set-pieces to good effect – making a string of crucial interceptions.
He was again there in injury-time, winning tackles and helping Everton get up the other end of the pitch.
7 – A winning goal on his return to Goodison Park – his only effort on goal in the match – and three points to the Blues made it an afternoon to remember for Rooney.
He’s not the player of old by any stretch of the imagination and Everton need to find other alternatives, instead of relying on the boyhood blue to deliver on a frequent basis this season.