Yes, yes, I know there’s a new coach but anyway. All in good time.
The third part of my threesome is how Bryan Ruiz looks statistically. We gave a high level qualitative view, then we looked at how Spurs’ Christian Ericksen played what analysts thought was a blinder against Newcastle, a game in which Spurs fans were supposedly quite cross about his contribution. So sometimes our eyes play tricks on us. We make judgements to save time and make deductions but this does lead to errors all the time. I could go on about this all day and have read around the subject extensively, but will leave that out for now (it’s quite well covered in Michael Calvin’s Nowhere Men and all kinds of books exist on the subject).
Ruiz was, according to Whoscored, our joint best player last year (with Berbatov, which seems entirely fair to me) and is doing okay this. People don’t agree with this. Whoscored give him a 6.9 average this time around (last year he was 7.2 or something) and acknowledge that he was pretty ordinary in our last two matches.
The thing with numbers is this: a player can get caught in possession three times a game (as Ruiz does) and that will hurt his rating, but it won’t hurt his rating as much as it hurts perceptions in the stands. If Ruiz loses the ball three times a game the groans get progressively louder. If a defender hoofs the ball to the opposition five times a game you get unrest but no great misery. But they – generally – amount to the same thing (I know they’re not exactly the same and being caught out is a problem).
Put simply, Ruiz’s limitations and his style make him look bad. They make him look worse than he is. People have made up their minds about Ruiz and every time he does something that conforms to stereotypes, as he will a few times a game, they groan again.
But the thing is, Ruiz is very useful to Fulham. In six games (with two sub appearances) he has created two goals and scored another. This in a struggling team. That’s good. He’s making 1.4 key passes a game, much lower than he was last year but still about 40th in the league, which is something considering how bad we are at creating chances. The next highest in the team is 0.9, from Berbatov and Riether (a key pass is a pass that leads to a chance on goal). Ruiz is the one who creates in a non-creative team. We need him, as Martin Jol rightly pointed out.
Whoscored have the team’s strengths and weaknesses as:
This is something I brought up on TiFF when the “It’s all Berbatov’s fault” shouts were loudest. I think the last couple of games have made some inroads into validating my perspective that our team defensive performance has been nothing short of scandalous, and while Ruiz doesn’t help this, he is well down the list in terms of who might have done more to help here.
What we are left with is a team that is dire defensively, and yet fans hold most negativity for two attacking players (true we aren’t good attacking at the moment, but it’s the other end where we’re historically bad). We have seen how Ruiz contributes a lot attacking, relative to others, and how he contributed more last season when things were a little better overall.
Put it another way: in a dire team with no attacking movement and a serious inability to defend, just how good is a cultured left foot type who doesn’t defend very well going to look? Is he in a position to thrive? Or is he doing pretty well considering?
It seems to me that Ruiz is a good player in a bad situation. He can frustrate but in terms of what he does to help a team win there aren’t many in our squad more useful. I am almost convinced of this and welcome any challenges in the comments below. The gap between his value and fans’ perceptions of his value is massive, but I think fans are very wrong.