Ruiz, Rodallega and luxury

Looking over the latest Whoscored.com data for the Man City game, I noted with interest that Bryan Ruiz was rated as our Man of the Match, largely based on the fact that he had more of the ball than anyone else, used it quite well, had a couple of shots, made a couple of interceptions, and generally acquitted himself decently in a tough match.

This means that he’s behind only Berbatov in the website’s ratings over the season.

It made me question something we hear a bit, that Ruiz is a ‘luxury’ player. I think this is not a new term. I first came across it being used about Glenn Hoddle, Matt Le Tissier, too.

What does it mean?

My reading is that football is a team game and that when teams attack individual contributions are quite obvious. But when teams defend it’s all about the collective. If a player contributes one way, but not the other, he’s doing the flashy stuff that attracts attention, but not the dirty work that really matters. Hence luxury.

Now this is a questionable definition and it’s a questionable subject matter. England’s teams in the 80s and 90s were generally pretty good. Sometimes very good. But probably not so good that we could afford to leave out players as gifted as Hoddle and Le Tissier (I remember Hoddle, when he was England manager, scheduled an England B game before selecting his squad. Le Tissier got a hat-trick, but wasn’t picked in the squad, which makes you wonder exactly what Hoddle was looking for, and why he picked Le Tiss in the B Squad in the first place). Le Tissier in particular could do things with a football that needed to be seen to be believed, and year upon year he kept Saints in the top division on the back of these extraordinary moments of genius. It wasn’t just the occasional moment, he simply kept pulling rabbits out of the hat. There was a video at the time: Matt Le Tissier, Ubelievable! And honestly, it was. Not in a Rodney Marsh show-pony type way either, Le Tissier was legitimately useful. Goals, goals, goals.

But he was a luxury player and we never did work out how to fit him into the England team.

Ruiz suffers a bit from the term but such criticisms miss the point entirely. A) he is making useful contributions to the team when we have the ball. B) he’s not a great defender but he does try, and often that’s enough. Just get in the way for a bit, cover, contribute to the team’s shape, then do your thing when we win it back.

I don’t know what more we expect. A goal would be nice but he’ll get there sooner or later. He’s already creating chances for others, too. And he does his bit defensively, given the position he’s playing. He isn’t a luxury player at all.

On the defending thing, City’s first goal was a good example of the type of thing we’re vulnerable to now with our new attacking approach. Under Hodgson we were always very controlled in our attacks, mindful of what might happen when we lost the ball even while we had it. This meant that when we lost the ball our team could transition to defence quickly, and helped to keep games tight. It also limited our attacking options, as getting men ahead of the ball creates space and openings (for both teams). All this partly explains how Clint Dempsey leapt up to 23 goals in a season last year.

Anyway, Hugo Rodallega got caught upfield and initially started to jog back. By the time he realised that there was trouble afoot it was too late, Tevez wandered unchallenged for too long, got off a shot that eventually got turned in by Aguero. It was a bit annoying because the move unfolded in a sort of slow motion in my eyes, danger growing, Rodallega jogging, goal scoring. It felt like someone might have been there to block Tevez, although we must accept that Silva/Aguero/Tevez were making the defence nervous about over committing, resulting in some of the backing off we saw. But mainly it was Tevez running straight through where Rodallega would’ve been had he been back. And I think he could’ve been back.

8 thoughts on “Ruiz, Rodallega and luxury

  1. The Matt Le Tissier hat trick was at Loftus Road against Russia and I was there that night. He was out of this world and should have got more than his 8 Caps. A case of small club syndrome, where good players dont get picked when they play for a team outside the top 5/6 clubs.

    Good blog Rich and knew you could not stay away.

  2. Have defiantly noticed an increase in Ruiz’s team contribution this season. Still think he has more to offer in attack. As you’ve said, he’ll get there. I just hope he gets there sooner rather than later. He’s had plenty of time now.

    Hugo’s tracking back was pretty dire v City. Whilst we don’t need him to track back against every opposition, it was so important against City especially playing on the left. He left Riise very exposed.

  3. Well said, Rich. It was Danny Blanchflower (I think), speaking of Glenn Hoddle (I think), who gave us the memorable quote: “Luxury? It’s the bad players who are the luxury.”

  4. Le Tiss is one of my favourite players of all time. I think he suffered as much for being “only” a Southampton player as any illusion he was a luxury. Slightly ironic that Hoddle, who himself never got the opportunities he thought he deserved with England, could not see the ability of Le Tissier either (though perhaps he was getting on a bit by the time Hoddle gave him the chance?).

    I agree with Alex that Ruiz has looked more involved this year. It’s still been a little stop/start with the injury but I’m hoping with a decent run he can really start making a difference.

  5. I hate this luxury player business and if the point is that Ruiz is one because he doesnt defend then as you point out that’s all wrong. However, looked at the data again and you’ll see something troubling. His pass completion rate are very low — more a winger than a central player. I like how Ruiz tries to conjure, but that is a risky game. I’d rather see him out wide with less of the ball and with someone in the middle who can do the boring linkup play better. Let Ruiz be Ruiz and play him where he cant hurt us.

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