Amid the backdrop of silly season rumours, TalkSport Drivetime conducted a poll asking the public a simple question: If you were Carlo Ancelotti who would you rather buy this summer, Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney or Liverpool’s Luis Suarez? As you can see Suarez came out a clear winner, with 78% of the vote compared to Rooney 22%, yet it would appear that it is not just Ancelotti that has a decision to make with both Suarez and Rooney being linked with transfers to PSG and Arsenal. This has caused a number of journalists to jump in with their opinions, with Adrian Durham shouting the loudest in Rooney’s defence in his piece for the Daily Mail. However, a lot of the media articles surrounding the stories focus upon these two divisive figures are full of opinions and bias, for example in the pictures used in Adrian Durham’s piece which show Suarez ‘diving’ and Rooney having a enjoyable time with his wife. Yet no one has attempted to quantify whether or not Suarez is simply a good player in an average team or is he deserving of being considered Rooney’s superior?
Durham’s arguments supporting Rooney’s supremacy are based on the fact that Rooney’s performances have ‘stood the test of time’ at a massive club with huge expectations, whilst contributing to a title winning side. Suarez on the other hand has had a ‘singular stand out season’ in an 7th placed Liverpool team, whilst underperforming in the recent Confederations Cup and making his name in the less glamorous Dutch Eredivisie. However, the issue with this argument is that Rooney has had the opportunity to prove himself at the highest level with Manchester United, whereas Suarez has worked his way from the backstreets of Salto, Uruguay to the banks of the Mersey and Liverpool FC. It seems unfair to criticise Suarez for not performing for a ‘superstar’ club, as he has never been given the opportunity to play for a team challenging for domestic and European Glory. I am in no way criticising Rooney or belittling his achievements, I believe he is a great player, yet to compare him to Suarez on the basis of the clubs they play for and not their performances is unreasonable.
First a Little Backstory
Wayne Rooney, 27, moved to Manchester United, for a reported £25.6 million, from Everton in the Summer of 2004. He has subsequently made 278 appearances for the club scoring an impressive 141 goals at a ratio of a goal every 1.97 games. This increased his total career appearances to 298 and goals scored to 143, scored at a ratio of 2.08 games per goal. Internationally, Rooney has achieved 83 England caps scoring 36 goals in the process. His highest goal return in a singular season was 27 in the 2011/12 campaign.
On the other hand, Suarez, 27, has managed 245 career club appearances, playing for four different clubs in the process, scoring 146 goals. His career goals to game ratio far out shines Rooney at a goal every 1.68 games, yet 91 out of 129 (71%) of his goals were scored in the less competitive South American and Dutch Leagues. His goal to game ratio has subsequently decreased with his move to England, with Suarez scoring at a ratio of 2.03 games per goal over the course of 77 appearances, scoring 38 goals. However, this is superior to Rooney’s first two seasons at Old Trafford where he managed just 23 goals in 65 appearances at 2.6 games per goal.
Internationally, Suarez trumps Rooney again having scored 35 goals in just 69 games for Uruguay, becoming their all time leading goal scorer in the process. Suarez has a career high goal return of 49 whilst at Ajax, with 35 coming in the league, with a Premier league best of 23 goals. Realistically, it is hard to summarize if there is a statistical ‘winner’ in these instances as it is hard to compare performance records across different European leagues. It would appear that Suarez has the beating of Rooney both domestically and Internationally, in terms of scoring records. The comparison of Rooney’s first two seasons at Manchester United to Suarez’s at Liverpool has some merits as both players would have been transitioning to a new way of life and a new club, yet Suarez was a much more complete article when he joined Liverpool at the age of 24 compared to a young 19 year old Rooney. Due to the differences in career’s it seems appropriate to compare these two individuals over the course of the 11/12 and 12/13 Premier League Seasons.
Goal Scoring Records: Rooney on Top
In 2011/12 Rooney made 34 appearances for Manchester United, playing a total of 2839 minutes. In 12/13 he found his playing time limited to just 22 starts and 5 substitute appearances culminating in 2019 minutes on the pitch, mainly due to a series of niggling injuries and the form of Robin Van Persie and Sir Alex’s preference of Danny Welbeck in some of the bigger games. Suarez on the other hand made 33 first team appearances in 12/13, all from the start, playing a total 2955 minutes. This was an increase from the 31 appearances, 2 from the subs bench, in 12/13 equating to 2557 minutes of playing time. Unsurprisingly, Suarez’s main reason for missing games for Liverpool were suspensions received for both the Racism case in 2012 and the Biting incident of late 2013.
In terms of goals scored, it can be seen that Rooney has been the more successful marksman over the course of the two year period scoring a total of 39 goals compared to Suarez’s 34. What is surprising is the trends in each individual’s goal return from 11/12 to 12/13, with Rooney on a downward surge with a massive 56% (15 goals) decrease. In comparison, Suarez has more than doubled (52% increase) his goal tally over the same period. This could be simply down to the fickle nature of football and form, yet there may be indications that 12/13 has not been the happiest of times for Rooney with rumors circulating that he has thrown his toys out of the pram, resulting in a transfer request, after been usurped as leading striker by Robin Van Persie and pushed back into a more secondary striker.
This must be worrying for an individual who is suppose to be entering his ‘peak’ years as a striker (assumed to be between 27-31) yet has suffered such a distinct decline in goal performance. Suarez on the other hand appears to be a different trajectory, with he himself just entering his ‘peak’ years as a striker and performing amongst the backdrop of media ‘persecution’ mainly due to his own actions.
When comparing the two individuals stand out seasons, it is interesting to see that despite scoring four more goals than Suarez, Rooney only scored in one more match in 11/12 than Suarez did in 12/13. Also, despite Rooney earning four more points for Manchester United that season, both he and Suarez contributed a similar percentage of the total points gained for their respective teams, 18.52% and 18.03% with Suarez earning points for Liverpool in more games (9) than Rooney did for Manchester United (7).
This suggests that Suarez was pulling Liverpool back into games to secure draws out of loses, whereas Rooney was possibly securing more outright wins for his team. This could be down to the qualities of the individual or the effectiveness of the teams he is playing for. What is also surprising is that if you take away each individual’s respective performance, it has no effect on that team’s league position in that season, despite each individual being the highest points contributor for that team. Rooney, however, has shown that he is a game-changing player as, despite scoring 15 fewer goals in 12/13 than 11/12, he still contributed 15 points to Manchester United’s title winning seasons, and without those goals United would have finished below local rivals City and moneybags Chelsea. This far outshines Suarez’s contribution in his less production season of 11/12 where he only contributed eight points (15.38%) to Liverpool’s overall points total.
Individual Comparisons: Suarez Bites Back
As is often the case, it may not be right to judge two individuals solely on their goal return as they play in teams that created a wide variety of different chances with a different quality of chance. This is when it is important to investigate an individual’s goal scoring efficiency, that being the quantity of chances each striker needs to score a goal.
In terms of chance conversion, Rooney far outshines Suarez over the course of the two seasons with Rooney converting an average of 21% of his chances and 53% of his CCC, compared to Suarez’s average 13% chance conversion and 45% CCC conversion rate. Rooney’s superior chance conversion rate can be attributed to his better shooting accuracy, with Rooney finding the target with 105 of his 181 shots (58% accuracy). Suarez on the other hand found the target with a greater number of shots (120) but with a poorer accuracy (48%). This suggests that Rooney is more measured in the shots he takes, only taking better opportunities with a higher chance to score, whereas Suarez may be either snatching at chances, or as often seen, trying to be a one man team and take every opportunity himself rather than pass to a better placed team mate. Rooney was also better at taking his clear-cut chances, converting 26 out of his 49 (53%) chances compared to 23 out of 51 for Suarez (45%). Yet, these results showcase, and maybe account for, the decline in Rooney’s goal return from 11/12 to 12/13. Rooney averaged 3.5 shots per game in 11/12 but fell to 2.23 shots in 12/13. One reason for this decline could be the fact that Rooney was performing in a deeper role, playing behind Van Persie as a second striker rather than leading the line in 11/12. When Rooney’s creativity statistics are investigated, it can be seen that Rooney had an increased output in terms of minutes per chance (one every 55.7 minutes in 11/12 and one every 41.2 minutes every 12/13) and minutes per clear cut chances created (one every 258.1 minutes in 11/12 and one every 224.3 minutes in 12/13) from 11/12 to 12/13.
However, Rooney was far less productive in creating chances whilst playing both the leading striker and secondary striker when compared to Suarez in 12/13. Suarez created a chance for his teammates every 32.8 minutes of football, 90 in total, and a clear-cut chance every 197 minutes, the fourth highest in the premier league. This highlights the main difference between the two players, that despite playing a more advanced role than Rooney in 12/13 Suarez is a far more consistently creative player rather than the goal finisher/poacher that Rooney has become. This is highlighted when you investigate the individual’s passing statistics, with Suarez making fewer open play passes (OPP) overall, Rooney complete 2408 compared to Suarez’s 1721. Yet, Suarez complete a far high number of final third passes over the course of the two years (1297 compared to 1105). This means that Suarez may have been taking up more threatening attacking positions, playing in his team mates nearer the oppositions goal more frequently and subsequently being more of an attacking threat.
The difficulty of answering a question such as who should someone like Real Madrid or PSG buy out of Suarez and Rooney, is that it really does depend on the type of centre forward they are looking for. So far Rooney has proven himself to be a more efficient chance taker than Suarez with a proven ability to contribute to the team’s overall points total, even in seasons that he was not performing to his best. Yet Rooney’s performances seem to have taken a dramatic decline over the past 12 months, with a decrease in goal return and his chance and CCC conversion rates.
This could be attributed to a shift into a secondary striker role, with the arrival of RVP where an individual would be required to perform a more creative role in the team while chipping in with his fair share of goals.
Yet, Rooney is then outshone by Suarez in terms of creativity with Suarez creating more chances and CCC on a more regular basis than Rooney, who was only 25th in the Premier League in terms of clear-cut chances created. It must also be considered that one of the biggest criticisms of Suarez is his greediness in goal scoring situations, nevertheless he still clearly outshines Rooney in the ability to create chances. As for who Ancelotti should pick only time, and a heck of a lot of money, will tell…
[box_light]All of the stats from this article have been taken from the Opta Stats Centre at EPLIndex.com – Subscribe Now (Includes author privileges!) Check out our new Top Stats feature on the Stats Centre which allows you to compare all players in the league & read about new additions to the stats centre.[/box_light]