Defending Bryan Ruiz

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.

21 thoughts on “Defending Bryan Ruiz

  1. At first I read that as if it was a quandry other teams find themselves in: Just how do we defend this Bryan?

    In any case, I agree.

  2. Well said and well reasoned. One thing I like about Ruiz is his almost telepathic connection with Dempsey. They seem to “feel” each other out there. Only Murphy sets up Dempsey in positions where he can excel more often than Ruiz.

    As to the fan reactions, I think there’s a natural tendency to low-rate players who earned their success in the Dutch league — unless they’re VanNistelrooy or Suarez — and a natural suspicion of 8 figure purchases. I have seen several comparisons with Steve Marlet — whose purchase is the ONLY thing I’ve ever seen Tigana criticized for.

    I’ve been saying for a while that Ruiz is the type of player who can hit a 4 or 5 game purple patch and carry the team along just on his own talent. We actually have TWO players like that — the other being Dembele — and should be happy with this. Ruiz will be fine if we don’t run him out of town on a rail.

    1. Also, being from Central America doesn’t shield him from criticism by stateside fans. Unless you yourself a from there, we have a subliminal disposition/mistrust of any player south of the border.

      I guess like how the English view Italians…

  3. I think stats don’t necessarily show the extra cover that Duff gives to the full-back. He may not be actually tackling or intercepting necessarily, but he appears to chase and harry and generally make a nuisance of himself, and be more ‘in the face’ of the opposition. Ruiz doesn’t. Duff had an immediate impact when he came on, with some typical runs, and, unfortunately, inaccurate shots. But then he faded.

    I’ve also read that the fee we paid for Ruiz was much less than the 11 mill oft quoted. But its the 11 mill that of course raises peoples’ expectations.

  4. I also don’t agree that stats show everything, in fact just looking at Ruiz on whoscored.com. he is listed as being “strong” defensively and I think we all know that is nonsense.

  5. I lost it at the game when people let out an audible groan as a near perfect Ruiz through ball was blocked at the last minute by a swansea defender. Here he was, trying to force the issue and get us in goalscoring positions but the crowd were having none of it.

    He is a very good player but not a rough and tumble player (like AJ and Duff) so gets more stick. He has the berbatov problem of never looking like he is trying 100% so fans take more of a dislike, even though he is a key creative player.

    As the stats indicate, he actually played no worse than others on saturday. He was let down by his manager who fielded the wrong formation then sacrificed him when he was actually playing fine, for a player who the crowd got behind because he ran about more but offered the team less.

    We need to go back to 4-3-3 with a holding midfielder, otherwise we will never get the best from Ruiz because he is forced to track back too much.

    1. Ha!

      Pet peeve of mine that – when a crowd groans at a lovely through ball when it’s obvious that with a slightly different run by the forward (or whatever) it would have been a killer ball putting us in an attacking position.

  6. I found it quite disgraceful that there was a cheer when his number came up on the digital board, fortunately for us and him Jol is a very stubborn man who will not let those kind of things deter him from playing Ruiz. He is getting better and is already looks stronger physically. In a way I am glad he came off as he was starting to be blamed for the whole team performance, alas that was proved wrong as Fulham only got worst as the game went on.

    1. When Ruiz came off, Fulham had the worst period of the match. We had no creative outlet so just surrendered the possession for Swansea to attack.

      At least when Ruiz was on we could actually hold onto the ball up top.

      1. Still don’t understand that sub. The game needed some meddle in the middle to keep our shape from being ripped apart time and again, not an addition of a one-dimensional player.

        1. It should have been Murphy for AJ, or Etuhu for AJ. Basically, AJ needed to come off as he was achieving nothing. Why the Fulham management team could not see this baffles me. WTF do they get paid for?

  7. It took Bobby Zamora a long time to settle in and find his role. Everyone complained and wrote him off. I think Ruiz will be fine in the long run. Next season will be his season.

  8. For me he’s a player who I don’t think stats tell the story with. losing the ball for example – he loses the ball in really promising areas or when he goes off on a dribble which normally sets up a counter attack which makes us look vulverable.

    I think he has definitely got that added class and some of his balls are incredible but he hasn’t adjusted properly and only until recently looked lightweight.

    I’d prefer he try passing the ball more often and run more directly when on the ball. At the moment I still see him as a luxury player. That said though he’ll only improve with games and that’s where we have to put up with him being a luxury.

    1. I just cannot understand what all this “luxury player” business is about. A luxury, by definition is something that is not necessary but enhances. The implication, then, is that Ruiz is not a necessary player, but others would be. This is such a bizarre proposition when you’re talking about attacking footballers.

      What are the “necessary” positions in football: A goal keeper? Yes. Two central defenders? Almost certainly. Full backs? Maybe, though not traditional ones if you’re playing three at the back. At least one deep lying midfielder? Probably. What else? Teams have won with two wingers, or none, with central attacking midfielders, or none, with two strikers, or none, with deep lying playmakers, sweepers, withdrawn forwards, etc.

      What makes Ruiz a luxury and not, say, Duff or AJ? The latters’ hard graft? But what if that hard graft comes at the expense of attacking threat? What is necessary for an attacker? What is necessary for the team? If Ruiz is our best attacking option, I’d say he’s much less of a luxury than someone who can put in a shift. That’s just a defensive luxury.

  9. Arsene Wenger always says that a foreign player takes six months to adjust to the English game. Ruiz has had that now, so either he’s close to a tipping point, or he’s never going to make it. I’d certainly give him a second season. Seem to recall that Dembele didn’t really start convincing until the final month or two of last season (his first).

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