Part 3

illusion31

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:

ffc

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.

10 thoughts on “Part 3

  1. This is a fantastic entry. I’m one of those who has been very frustrated with Ruiz and can see your point re: perception vs reality. Part of the issue is that I’m was a big fan of the defense that Roy put together and Hangeland is the bedrock. He’s been sub-par this season because of his injury and Senderos is…well….Senderos. I think you’re right; we need to rebuild and retrain our defense. First: a new centre-back to replace Senderos. Maybe two because it’s not clear that Brede is going to recover, both physically and mentally, from his injury. It’s not a bad thing having a marauding fullback (a la Reither) if you’ve got a rock-solid centre pairing and the opposite side fullback is strong on the defensive game. We clearly do not have that. So while the game *appears* to be breaking down in midfield, it may, as you point out, really be the defense that is the problem. And hey, it can’t be a mistake to just start replacing place…we’re in the f*cking drop zone!

    1. this is part of the problem though, I don’t blame the defence at all. the *team* defence is the issue which is as much the midfield as the defence. Either way, Ruiz, while not being beyond reproach, is in many ways the least of our concerns.

  2. Excellent points. Sure you’ve seen it Russ, but James Grayson made an amusing graph comparing pre-season predictions of the “experts” (who just watch with their eyes) and the “statisticians”, who clearly put a bit more thinking into what they suggest. You’ll be unsurprised to hear the statisticians are more accurate, by a long shot. Our eyes aren’t perfect.

    The problem Ruiz faces is that often, he’s having to try technically difficult passes, because he is relied on for that creative influence. With people like Berbatov not dropping, he’s then relied on in that front three to make the passes that matter. Of course, when played like this, he will misplace passes, because he will try harder and more progressive passes than anyone else.

    He gets a very hard time from Fulham fans. Hangeland has hardly been in his best form, but he is never groaned at or questioned. Ruiz might come along, set up a few chances, and still get groaned at. Why do fans do that? Who knows. Perhaps its the hair, the “perception” of weakness in a game that most fans still like a good kicking in and the price tag. Excellent article regardless though; people may not appreciate him, but Ruiz is the key to the attack.

  3. Rich, as usual I love your blogs. I am one of the few that really likes Ruiz and what be brings to a side, but clearly I’m also in the minority. Your blog made me go back to a comment I posted earlier in May in another web site. I think your analysis coincides with mine earlier this year: Here it is below:
    ————————————————————————————————————–

    I like to read this blog, but honestly the whole Bryan Ruiz criticism is really overblown. In this same blog a web site called WhoScored.com was recommended by another writer as a great source of league, clubs and players information. This web site rates Bryan Ruiz as the BEST Fulham player this year (#27 EPL overall), with Berbatov following at #28. Bryan was even selected for the team of the week, not only for this web site but in many other publications.

    http://www.whoscored.com/Regions/252/Tournaments/2

    Also, week in and week out, Bryan is highlighted as one of the most productive players in the team by the Opta evaluation folks, with many crosses, passes, ball events, won duels, etc.

    http://www.fulhamfc.com/news/2013/may/07/opta-eval

    In a game that we lost 2-4, nobody is talking about how pathetic the defense was, and many people on this board are blaming it on Bryan – who played very well and really had a great effort and has had a great attitude overall the whole year. This criticism is coming from our own Fulham supporters, but neutral viewers and professional observers do see the quality of his performances.

    It’s true that in an attempt to play killer decisive balls he does give the ball away a few times per match – but have you seen similar style (and very expensive) players in other teams do the same thing? I constantly watch Mata, Oscar, Cazorla, Hazard, Silva, etc. give away a similar amount of balls per game, but their fans don’t crucify them for it.

    Ruiz is a very good player. He has not performed to expectations and he can produce much more, surrounded by the right team, like what he had at Twente. The criticism/hate expressed here I believe is ALL related to Ruiz transfer fee, which should be old news by now, but somehow isn’t.

    Jol is trying to institute a passing game with measured tempo and buildup that I don’t think FFC fans like or appreciate. FFC fans are used to the more direct, fast, strong typical EPL play and are rejecting Jol’s strategy, as he does not have the pieces he needs to make this work. The result has been a Frankestein hybrid that we are witnessing at the moment, but it does not mean that Jol is useless or he can’t succeed at the club.

    My intent here is not to start a fight or argument because I am not necessarily defending Ruiz and/or Jol, but to provide a different perspective and bring other sources of opinion (including neutrals and third parties) to the table.

    But football is all about emotions, isn’t it?less

  4. And this is another entry I made back in May somewhere else, highlighting some of the points Rich makes in his blog today, especially related to Ruiz transfer fee which FFC fans will never forgive and forget.
    —————————————————————————————-

    David Silva versus Bryan Ruiz

    Over the long weekend her in US I was reading this blog entry with a buddy who is a Man City fan (I know, don’t ask me…) He commented that in his opinion Bryan Ruiz as a “poor man’s” David Silva, and he could not understand all the flack we FFC fans give him. We looked at whoscored.com stats for the EPL year and the comparison between the two players was very telling. They were both ranked as their best team performers on average, they are both VERY left footed, they both speak Spanish, have very bad hairdos. both are considered the team’s playmakers and both play for their national teams. While Silva over-performs Ruiz on several passing and offensive traits, Ruiz contributes by far more while the team defends and more than covers the number of balls lost per game. Their turnover/dispossessed balls stats are very similar, yet Silva is adored by his fans and considered one of their top players, while Ruiz is labeled as “Mr. Giveaway” and the team’s enigma…

    Silva—–Ruiz
    EPL ranking 17—–22
    Goals 4—–5
    Assists 8—–7
    Pass accuracy % 85%—–85%
    Key Blocked shots 0—–6
    Shots pg 1.7—–1.8
    Headers won pg 0.3—–1.5
    Passes pg 57—–46
    Key passes pg 3.3—–1.7
    Dispossesed pg 1.9—–2.7
    Turnovers pg 1.1—–1.5
    Tackles pg 1—–1.7
    Clears pg 0.5—–1
    Intercepts pg 0.8—–1.8
    Transfer fee 30M—–10.6M

  5. Remember the stick Danny Murphy got in the Sanchez era? Ruiz is another fairly slow, lightweight player who can’t win headers, and hangs onto the ball a little longer than he should in an attempt to do something brilliant – which usually doesn’t come off.

    In a poorly organised team with no movement up front and no cover at the back a player like that is going to look dreadful. But we’re really just a Bobby Zamora and a Dixon Etuhu away from Ruiz being the fulcrum of our team.

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