Wayne Rooney was once again played out of position in the match v Italy last night and once more looked totally uncomfortable doing so. Leighton Baines, who didn't have a great game himself, was horribly exposed for much of the game, with Rooney, especially in the first half, failing to fulfil his defensive duties. Whilst Rooney provided an excellent cross for Sturridge's goal, he missed England's biggest chance to equalise and struggled to influence the game. Many have said that anyone who suggests that Rooney should be dropped has 'no clue about football', but is this true? The bare facts are that Rooney is no super human, he is merely another player like anyone else in the squad. In a 90 minute World Cup match against quality opposition reputations count for little. A good reputation does not instantly grant you a goal before kick off, nor does it give you super powers that make you far superior to any other footballer. Rooney is arguably awarded undue protection from the bench, a factor that is potentially contributing to his poor form.
It isn't necessarily the case that Rooney should be dropped, although, the protection that surrounds him in both the media and fan base has seemingly led Rooney into a sense of security that his place is giarenteed, when, given his recent performances, it shouldn't be. The performance of Raheem Sterling emphasises that young players with something to prove are a very dangerous prospect. Sterling's game was full of hunger, desire, fearlessness and quality, whereas Rooney struggled to make an impact. If Rooney genuinely felt that his place was under threat perhaps this might force him into action.
Ultimately, Rooney being played on the left is doing nobody any favours (least of all Leighton Baines). There's been plenty of comment that Rooney should be played in his main position or not played at all. The issue however, remains that Sturridge looks far more threatening up front and is in no danger of losing his place to Rooney. Would it be better to play somebody more suited to the wide position such as Adam Lallana, rather than Rooney who provides little defensive cover and can't influence the game as he would wish? These are all questions that require answers, but one thing's for sure; Rooney's place should not be guaranteed, and those who question his performances are not crazy, but realistic.
Many will cry 'scapegoat', but when you're meant to be England's best player but aren't performing like him, what do you expect?