CM – Stat Attack: Delve deeper into the Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney debate


Wayne Rooney starred when Manchester United prevented Arsenal from going unbeaten in 50 Premier League games in October 2004.

Thierry Henry was named PFA Player of the Year at the end of the last two campaigns and was named the best player in the league at the time.

But on Rooney’s 19th birthday, Henry was dwarfed when Rooney performed one of the most memorable solo performances the Premier League has ever seen.

Arsenal’s back four (Lauren, Sol Campbell, Kolo Toure and Ashley Cole) and the foundation of their 2003-04 Invincibles team couldn’t live with Rooney all afternoon as he devastated them from start to finish.
The English child prodigy at the time won a penalty that Ruud Van Nistelrooy converted before scoring United’s second goal in added time in one of his best performances of his career.

Henry knew there was a new kid on the block who was serious about taking his throne and becoming a Premier League legend himself.

Both Henry and Rooney have achieved great things in their brilliant careers, but who was the better player?

Before today’s showdown between the two teams at Old Trafford, I’ll compare the two Premier League legends based on five different criteria using statistics (with thanks to Transfermarkt).
1. Goals and assists

Henry is Arsenal’s all-time top scorer with 228 goals, 175 of which were scored in 258 Premier League games. In addition, there are 74 assists from the French striker, which means that on average he has scored a goal or an assist in the Premier League every 86 minutes.

Meanwhile, Rooney, who played 491 more games in the Premier League than Henry, scored 208 goals and provided 103 assists. Rooney is the only player in Premier League history to have scored over 200 goals and made over 100 assists. His record for direct goal participation leads to a goal or an assist every 122 minutes on average – incredible numbers for a player who has also made such an enormous defensive contribution to his team.

Rooney scored the winning goal for Everton in 2002 at the age of 16 against the Gunners against an Arsenal team that had just won the league. Arsenal won the championship again two years later, but this time undefeated. The 2003-04 season was Henry’s best scorer season as he scored 39 goals in all competitions.

Rooney’s best record is 34 in 2009/10 – a season that was canceled after an ankle injury sustained in Munich at the end of March. He scored the same number in 2011/12 despite missing a month of the season due to injury.
2. Impact on the big game

Henry scored 38 goals in 83 games against the so-called « Big Six » of the Premier League, including nine against United.

Against the same group of opponents, Rooney scored 55 goals in 155 games in all competitions – the most that a player has ever scored against the top six combined. Of those 55 goals, 16 were against Arsenal – his favorite opponent in Premier League history.

French striker Henry scored 0.46 goals per game against the top six, Rooney 0.36.

Arsenal’s kryptonite Rooney scored the winning goal twice, including once in the Emirates in November 2014.

It was the big away games in the Premier League that brought out the best in Rooney, who scored twice at Anfield and also scored the winning goal at Stamford Bridge, Etihad Stadium and White Hart Lane.

The long-time England talisman has scored a total of 13 goals away at Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool, while Henry has scored a total of five goals at Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge and Anfield.

Henry and Rooney have both played in nine finals during their careers. While Henry never managed to score in a final, Rooney scored six goals, including two winning goals and one against Pep Guardiola’s 2011 Barcelona team.
3rd European record

Henry is the seventh-best goalscorer in the history of the Champions League with 50 goals in 112 games.

To break down Rooney’s goals, 10 of them came in the quarter-finals or beyond, three in the semi-finals and one in the final. This included the winner against the champions of 2007, AC Milan, in the semi-final first leg at Old Trafford against Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini.

Henry managed to score four goals in the same phase, with his only semi-final goal being scored for Monaco in 1998 against Juventus, which he joined in the summer. Henry scored iconic quarter-final goals in Highbury against Valencia and Juventus Turin and also scored one for Barcelona in a 4-0 hammer against Bayern Munich in 2009.

Both players won the Champions League. Rooney won the famous trophy with Cristiano Ronaldo at United in 2008 – a trophy Henry won with Lionel Messi at Barcelona a year later.

Rooney’s last act as a United player was winning the Europa League – a competition Henry lost to Galatasaray in a final penalty shoot-out for Arsenal in 2000.
4. Trophies

Rooney and Henry won 12 trophies over the course of their careers, including five championship titles and a Champions League each.

It must be said that Henry won two thirds of his trophies outside of the Premier League, including Ligue 1 under French football legend Jean Tigana in 1996/97 and La Liga twice under Catalan icon Pep Guardiola between 2008 and 2010.

While Henry’s titles spanned three different countries and spawned two international titles with France (World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000), all of Rooney’s 12 trophies were won in England with United.

Both had successful careers in MLS at the end of their season, but could not secure a silver disc in the USA.
5. Head to head

Of the five wins Henry scored, however, two came for Arsenal against Everton (both 2003) and one for France against England at Euro 2004.

The other Henry win came when Barcelona beat United 2-0 in the 2009 Champions League final thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Messi.

During the four matches between United and Arsenal in which both players played, Rooney won three and scored in two of them. Meanwhile, Henry won a game in January 2007 – a game in which Rooney opened the scoring and Henry scored one final winning goal.

Rooney was involved in most of the goals in the United-Arsenal clashes between 2004 and 2007. He scored three and made three.

In an era dominated by Messi and Ronaldo, Henry and Rooney are two of the best players in the category below.

In the Messi versus Ronaldo debate, people argue for Ronaldo because he has done it in different leagues. But while Ronaldo was in La Liga, Messi achieved more than him in the Spanish team honors.

The same goes for Rooney when he was with United and Henry at Arsenal at the same time (2004-07).

As Henry and Arsenal’s influence in the Premier League waned under Wenger, that of United and Rooney under Sir Alex Ferguson grew.

Fans can debate who is the best player in Premier League history all day. Everyone has a right to their opinion, and if anyone thinks Henry is the Premier League GOAT, that’s understandable as he was a great player.

But in these debates, please show the unique generational talent that Rooney is the respect he truly deserves.

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