I know Bryan Ruiz frustrates people but to my untrained eye he’s a player we should keep on the field at all times, both because he has vision and creativity lacking elsewhere in the team (real final ball quality) and because he needs the minutes to adjust.
On that, there seems to be a common enough scenario whereby some foreign players need a season to adjust to English football. Ruiz’s debut against Blackburn was evidence enough that this would apply to him as much as anyone – he looked miles off the pace and simply had no idea of what was going on. But since then he’s improved and in most games shows 2-3 touches of genuine class. (Those two goals are immense value as ‘money in the bank’, too. His past as a superstar of the Dutch league also helps.)
Among the problems I and others see are:
He seems to disappear in games;
He seems to lose the ball a lot;
He doesn’t compete very well in the air;
He doesn’t help much defensively.
A few things looking at Bryan Ruiz on whoscored.com.
Yesterday he had 31 passes in 54 minutes and completed 84% of them. He had 48 touches and made 5 crosses and 2 key passes.
In the entire match AJ had 27 touches; Dempsey had 43; Aj played 19 passes to Dempsey’s 28.
Ruiz’s replacement, Damian Duff, got 36 minutes (plus stoppage time) and managed 19 touches, made 10 passes, 2 crosses and no key passes.
It isn’t an exact comparison, of course, but still. Ruiz was no more anonymous than his teammates.
Ruiz, this season, loses the ball on average 3 times a game (either dispossed or turned-over, I’m not sure of the difference). Dempsey is over 4 times a game, Dembele 3, AJ 3.
When he’s played he’s averaged 27 passes a game, which is about the same as Simon Davies and Duff (25 each). He averages 1.3 *key* passes per match. Dempsey and Dembele are both around 1.5.
Ruiz has 2 goals in 15 starts and 9 sub appearances; Duff has 1 goal in 14+5. In that time Ruiz has 3 assists to Duff’s 1. In full-time play Dempsey had 4 assists and Dembele has 2.
Now, accepting the old knock-back that you can prove anything with stats, I suggest that he’s about as involved as Duff and Davies are when they play the same position. He doesn’t track back as well as either, but is at least as productive when attacking (more so, perhaps, when you recall games like QPR away when he dished up a couple of gems from nowhere, which is exactly what you need in competitive matches.
So what’s afoot?
First, he does need to improve, for the reasons people say, it’s just that he’s a lot closer to being a good player than he’s given credit for already, and with the aforementioned adjustment, is likely to progress further.
Beyond that, it’s the usual thing: he doesn’t like to get ‘stuck in’. He doesn’t throw himself around. He does his best to earn that terrible ‘luxury player’ tag that has so blighted English football in recent years (other teams make the most of their gifted players; we mistrust them because they don’t get their kit dirty), rarely tackling (although he’s getting better) and not showing great enthusiasm for aerial football. He does seem to go missing. He can look dangerous to his own team when he comes deep to collect the ball.
The thing is, the positives so outweigh the negatives that I’m stunned that people are so quick to criticise. Tomorrow may never come but the stats (and this writer’s eyes) suggest that he’s doing well enough already. Even if he doesn’t get significantly better next year (and I think he will) he’s still a good player for Fulham.