Ramires is a very strange player. His versatility, running and stamina have made him a regular fixture in the line-ups of every manager since his purchase. Whether this has been in his ‘natural’ position as the third man in the midfield of a 4-3-3, on the right wing, on the left wing (as against Napoli at home 2012), right back (post-Terry sending off in the Nou Camp) or, somewhat less impressively, as the second man in the “2” in a 4-2-3-1. Yet for all of his running and effort and so on, he is also extremely limited. He generally did not look too impressive in when asked to play as one of the two “defensive” midfielders, such is his often frustrating inability to play a pass, control a football, shoot with any consistency or to time a tackle properly without lunging in. When asked to name the most infuriating Chelsea player, Ramires is likely to be near the top of the average supporter’s list.
Yet Ramires is usually trusted in games against the “bigger” teams and there are certain types of game in which he tends to start. Injuries curtailed some of his expected appearances last season in the more significant games, yet he still started home and away against Manchester City, away at Liverpool, away at Arsenal, home and away against Paris Saint-Germain and in the Capital One Cup Final against Tottenham.
For all the talk of his shortcomings and technical deficiencies, Ramires is a player who is capable of extraordinary things with a football. Has any Chelsea player had such a dichotomy between highs and his lows? The go-to reference for his high always should be and always will be his running chip over Victor Valdes in the Nou Camp in 2012. Mentions will of course be made of his goal against Manchester City in 2011 where he seemingly dribbled through at least twenty five players before slotting past Joe Hart. For a more recent example, look at his goal against Leicester last season - a wonderful left footed (!) drive from 20 yards into the top corner.
The issue with Ramires is, of course, his inability to produce these moments on a regular basis. There are some games where he barely looks like a footballer. There are some games where, belying the trust placed in him in a number of managers for ‘big’ games, he will lose his head and get sent off - two years in a row at Aston Villa, away at Manchester United in the Champions League in 2011 and the Super Cup against Bayern, for example.
We are at a stage in Ramires’ career where we know what he’s good at and in what system he thrives. When asked to name a first choice XI, would Ramires feature for many supporters? Probably not. Most would go with Nemanja Matic, Cesc Fabregas and Oscar in the central midfield and understandably so. However, if asked for a first choice side away at Barcelona or Bayern Munich or Real Madrid then Ramires would almost certainly find himself slotted into most fans’ teams. This is, surely, a testament to his value.
Yes, Ramires is frustrating. Yes, he’s inconsistent. But he’s also immensely important. He’s a player for the “big moment”, not necessarily against Bournemouth at home, but certainly United away. Chipping Valdes in the Nou Camp, flying through two footed at Villa Park, elbowing Sebastian Larsson for absolutely no reason, his completely pointless overhead kick pass against Hull ... these are all moments that add up to make possibly the most bewildering footballer this club has seen.
We Ain't Got No History's 2015/16 season preview was edited by Joe Tweeds and designed by Graham MacAree. If you've enjoyed the work of the authors who generously donated their time to this project, please share with your friends and consider supporting The Chelsea Foundation as a way of saying thank you.Credits