The boy from Brazil was one of two summer signings for Chelsea and his arrival has seen him cop the flak from the Chelsea faithful. But does Chelsea’s No.7 really deserve the criticism?
Florent Malouda is a great footballer. Mourinho knew, that’s why he signed him. Hiddink knew: that’s why he played him. Ancelotti knew: that’s why Malouda went into the form of his life last season.
It’s not always fun watching a new signing struggle. New teammates, new weather, new shirt, new home and a new style.
The Premier League is a violent world, where managers can be dumped despite sitting pretty at 11th in your first season post-promotion.
The style of the league is often challenging for new arrivals, with the physical nature of the English game a stark contrast from, for example, Spain’s emphasis on technical talent.
Florent Malouda struggled, as anyone might, with a move from his home country France to England, and it showed on the pitch.
But last season a more than respectable tally of twelve goals and eight assists along with sparkling champagne performances on the left hand side of Ancelotti’s diamond and 4-3-3 saw him amongst the EPL’s best last season – even if the Premier League didn’t select him in the team of the season. It was the Malouda Chelsea fans knew existed, and had been waiting for. He had arrived.
France to England would be hard – but imagine Portugal.
Ramires is in a similar periods to Malouda – the unfortunate subject of criticism and the finger of blame when something goes wrong.
But patience is the wise man’s virtue. Ramires is young, energetic and full of potential – he is after all, just 23. He has also had more first team starts in his first five months than he would have expected, due largely to the absence of Frank Lampard through injury.
It doesn’t help when blind fans rely on Goal.com’s woeful player ratings to pass judgement on Ramires. The ineptness of the site is greatly endorsed by the staggering number of monetary methods employed by the writers.
A more telling rating is the real stats. Whilst Mikel is quite widely credited as our best player so far and Ramires is constantly panned, it’s really quite telling to observe the amount of passes done by both players against Newcastle (at St James Park). Ignore the name at the top, that is Mikel in the top panel and Ramires on the bottom panel).
It’s not unfair, however, to say that the boy from Benfica is not playing to his full potential. This can obviously be attributed to what has been argued above, but we can also draw a conclusion from the varying role he played for Benfica and plays for Brazil compared to his Chelsea duties.
Note: The following Brazil / Benfica diagrams and quote have been sourced from both shady YouTube footage and the wonderful work Michael Cox does at Zonal Marking www.zonalmarking.net
Quote @Zonal_Marking: Brazil’s fluid system analysed
The role of Ramires is also interesting. He effectively plays the same role he does for Benfica, shuttling from a central midfield position when defending, to a right-wing position when in possession. This requires a tremendous amount of energy, but the fact that he and Maicon (the right-back) possess both stamina and speed, means that those two can effectively cover three positions (right-back, right central midfield and right-wing) by themselves.
Benfica: Most attractive side in Europe?
…the offensive slant of the midfielders is compensated for by the fact that the two carrileros are very energetic, and work hard to get goalside when Benfica are not in possession. Indeed, this is a good example of how to play the diamond shape – Di Maria and Ramires play from inside to out, and are comfortable scrapping in midfield as well as getting to the byline and getting crosses in.
What we can take from the data above is that Ramires’ “strong position” is on the right hand side of a diamond midfield. (As Zonal Marking notes, Brazil is so fluid that it is impossible to nail it down as any certain formation – but it could be interpreted as a 4-4-2 diamond as the image below shows (again courtesy of Zonal Marking)
So now the evidence tells us that Ramires revels in the right hand side of a diamond. Does Chelsea play with a diamond? Well yes, we used to do, but we now line up with the 4-3-3. As the image below shows (and incredibly, it’s my own image, not ZM’s):
The right hand side of the triangle midfield, where Ramires has played for Chelsea, is the support player for the more creative left winger. The point of the “V” is the holder, a la Mikel.
But all our evidence above shows that Ramires is a creative player with a tireless work ethic, working with his right back to balance defence and attack. The Benfica side also saw Ramires crossing from his touchline, something that has rarely occurred in his performances this season – simply because his role doesn’t involve that. That is performed by the right winger of the front three.
Ramires’ job is simply to hold the midfield – which is something he did at Benfica. But the Portuguese League has less physicality than the Premier League, and again – players need time to adapt. You have to have faith.
It takes time for a player to settle in a new surrounding and evolve into a new position. Ramires, virtually undroppable as Benfica stormed to the Portuguese title, now finds himself surrounded by superstars left, right and centre. As Chelsea evolves with the inevitable departures of our current midfield, it will mould into a bright new engine with Mikel, McEachran and Ramires. Ramires is the fuel that will keep it running as the years roll past.
Dunga knew. Ancelotti knows.