Bryan Ruiz has been in the news this week. Hot off the heels of an interview with a Dutch football magazine in which the Costa Rican midfielder suggested that he was keener on joining Tottenham than Fulham in August came a Fulham statement in which Ruiz insisted he was delighted to be a target of Martin Jol’s and was looking forward to continuing his progress at Craven Cottage.
Ruiz has now started the last two Fulham league games and completed his first 90 minutes for the club against Liverpool on Monday night. The difference between the stuttering, ponderous debut against Blackburn and the intelligent movement and range of passing that Ruiz displayed against Kenny Dalglish’s side was marked. It’s not as though anyone truly believed Jol had bought a dud, but there was concern about just how long it would take a very continental player to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League.
Ruiz certainly looks a lot stronger and quicker than in his early days at Fulham, but for me the key to unlocking his unquestionable talent is by utilising him in the right areas. He threaded a splendid through pass through for Moussa Dembele early on against Liverpool and it is noticeable from the chalkboard comparison with that Blackburn game that he was much more advanced on Monday night:
I’ve seen some suggestions that Ruiz was a little careless with the ball but he misplaced only 11 of his 55 passes and most of those – as you can see from the red lines above – were adventurous forward balls. Ruiz was just as good at retaining possession at Arsenal, albeit from a deeper position, which was understandable as Fulham had to get through a lot of defensive work at the Emirates and were protecting a 1-0 lead for much of the second half. Against the Gunners, Ruiz only had five unsuccessful passes. You get the odd touch of real class from Ruiz, too, such as the lovely flicked ball out to Danny Murphy at the start of the second half.
He should start Saturday’s game against Swansea – another good footballing side who would be unlikely to bundle him off the ball – and could get the space to influence proceedings. Given that he likes to drift in from the right flank, the fluidity of those floating midfielders behind Bobby Zamora will be crucial. After a slow start, the signs are certainly promising for the man with the flowing locks.