The recent behemoth of a post that ChelseaRDM and I collaborated on led to some discussion over disparate opinions on the value of one player in particular: Ramires. While CRDM and I agreed that the Brazilian was a great runner, and had a tendency to score dramatic goals at the end of massive runs, we also saw him for what he was, a square peg in a round-hole system. To be fair to ChelseaRDM, he saw the merit in the 26 year-old and classified him as a "key player." I chose to label him "possibly valuable."
The reasons for this are numerous, so I felt I should abandon my post (ha, literally) as resident historian to defend this opinion. I don't want to embark on a personal vendetta, just provide a few reasoned thoughts on why he might not be kept around by Mystery Mounager of the Future (Freudian slip?), and why we should be understanding if he is sold. But I'd be boring you and really wouldn't provide meaningful observations if I didn't have some evidence to back up my assertions. Enter the supremely talented ChelseaRDM once more, with an incredible video I'll link in just a moment. First, I'd like to underscore a few things, but you're welcome to watch the unadulterated film first and then come back to these points:
1) Most of the WAGNH community rated Ramires among the highest of our performers in the game. This may have been weighted somewhat by his goal, but I don't think we can write it all off on that.
2) CRDM does a great job of showing every Ramires touch in its context. For example, when Rami loses possession around the 18 min. mark (about a minute into the video), you can see that it was due to Hazard leaving the ball for him, when Eden should have taken the pass for himself. Ramires couldn't have expected that, and shouldn't be blaming for the turnover.
3) This video only contains one match, and only focuses on one player. It doesn't point out all the times that someone else gives up the ball, plays a loose pass, or makes a foolish foul. I acknowledge that. It also obviously isn't going to be perfectly representative of Rambo's performance in every match. However, I felt it was a fairly typical display from him, and it still serves to point out the weaknesses he has. I'll enumerate them now (A-K), giving key examples, and hoping that you'll keep your eyes peeled for the other instances as well.
A) Overly-ambitious passing without the skill to match it - (:17 mark) Rami gives up the ball by sending an outside of the foot lob pass out to Hazard when Mata has room to work in the middle. (1:15 and 2:20) are other examples of the sort of thing that makes you wonder what he was thinking. If that was a tactical suggestion from Rafa, then shame on him, because long passes are something Rami can't do well; Nevertheless, the Brazilian should have recognized that, and learned from his mistakes (something I see very rarely from him, which in itself is infuriating).
B) Overrunning - (:26) We all love the way he can nick the the ball of a defender and take off with it, but sometimes his pace is too much for himself, as we see in this match on a plethora of occasions (especially damning is the failed attack which looked so promising at 6:30).
C) High tempo play - By thirty seconds, you'll have noticed that Ramires plays relatively well when given time on the ball and space to execute passes, as long as he sticks to simple passes. Then again, just about any player can accomplish that. When the midfielder comes under pressure, that's when he commits his errors. "That's natural," you say. Sure it is, but he has to be able to pass under pressure or we won't retain possession against teams that choose to park the bus and minimize space. (6:40 is a late example)
D) Breaking up the counter - This is supposed to be the Brazilian's defensive strength; he presses high and wins the ball back early, or he races back to provide support when the opposition is breaking away from the rest of the midfield. Usually, I'm reasonably satisfied with Rami's work in this department. He has great speed, so he tends to get back well. More often than I'd like, he commits a bad challenge in this situation (about 1-2 times a game), but I'd take the foul over giving up a goal any day of the week. In this particular game, however, Ramires fails to make the tackle, finds himself on the ground, and doesn't hustle enough to get back and make a play on the lost ball, which results in Tottenham's first goal (1:30). To be fair, no one else gets back either, and Cahill should put pressure on Adebayor sooner than he does. Nevertheless, that's Ramires' primary job, and the number one defensive benefit he's supposed to offer the squad; in this case, he failed.
E) Untidy footwork - similar to overrunning the ball, but without the running (See 1:45 for an example). He's lucky the Spurs player fouled him.
F) Poor aerial ability - you may think I'm being a bit overzealous in my critique at this point, but I wish to be thorough in demonstrating areas that the team would improve by replacing Ramires with a superior CM (See 1:55 and 2:15). Sure, it's not really to be counted on from Rambo, but imagine what we could gain if we had a player like Schweinsteiger winning those long balls.
G) Shooting from more than 10 yards out - I think we all know what I'm talking about. Is he trying to give fans a chance to touch a real football? (See 2:30).
H) Attacking movement - this is a weird one for a hundred reasons, but stay with me. Around (2:50), Ramires plays a nice pass under pressure. It was his first of the game, and about all he could do with the ball at the time, but let's give him credit, he did it. He then bumbled toward goal, making little use of his pace, and offering no immediate passing option to Torres who does well to keep the ball. Oscar, however, with his football smarts, is making a good run. Ramires still doesn't find another route or pull a defender away from the area so that when Oscar gets Torres' pass, he'll have more room for a shot, or an option to pass. Fortunately for us all, Torres flubbed the pass terribly, and the unintended Brazilian is able to get there first. No thinking, just a poked reaction, and Rami had scored a sublime goal not altogether dissimilar from that peach at Barca last season. He's not a striker, so he'll rarely be in those types of finishing situations, but if he's going to be making attacking runs from the midfield, he really ought to improve his off-the-ball movement.
I) Emotional hang-up - I'm not a lizard, and I believe emotions have a place in football. However, when you stop channeling your emotion and let it control you, you've become a weaker and more dangerous player. This happens way too often with Ramires. Shortly after the emotional high of scoring the goal, Rambo gives the ball away carelessly in a fairly dangerous position (See 4:00). This happens more frequently with his anger taking hold, but we've seen him be complacent and lose focus on the pitch as well. Still, that seems to snap him back into it, and I'd say the rest of his play in the short remainder of the half was exactly what we'd want to see from him.
J) Lean frame - Ramires must not have eaten his Wheaties when he was a kid, because he is a twig. He has decent strength for his size, but that's not saying much. He doesn't balance all that well either, especially when veritably throwing his body into pressure and tackles. (4:25) sees him easily pushed off the ball by Gareth Bale. His balance fails him again when he falls over at (5:00), wasting a good opportunity. Rami spends a while on the ground after that, reminding us that he isn't as durable as some thicker CMs out there.*
*You're welcome for not making this two separate points. ;)
K) Hastiness - You're likely sick of reading this by now, so I'll keep it brief. He doesn't sit well on the ball when he can, and it tends to lose us possession. After he takes the head knock, he starts looking good again (6:00-6:20); that is, except that he has a couple of opportunities to turn defense into attack after winning the ball, but he just gives back possession with clearances when he could pick a pass out to the wing or shield the ball and look for an outlet/draw a foul. Other than running the ball up or running alongside a counter, Rami sometimes struggles with linking defense and offense.
I've already used half the alphabet. Just watch the rest of the video from there, in which you'll see he did a very poor job of retaining possession in a key part of the game. A million thanks to Sir Alister Profitt for the compilation; he's a hero to us all. Leave your angry tirades at home, but put your considered opinions below. I'm just kidding: bring on the tirades! I'm pretty tired of talking about one player at this point though, so I can't guarantee I'll respond. As always, keep calm and keep the blue flag flying high! Peace!