Marcel Ruiz is making his first significant transfer in his career. The 19-year-old will depart his boyhood club Querétaro FC and head up north to Club Tijuana. Despite not being 20, the teenager has made 60 appearances in his two seasons with Los Gallos Blancos.
In this tactical analysis, we will analyze what Ruiz will bring to Tijuana. With the number of changes made by Los Xolos over the summer, Ruiz could be their marquee signing.
Positioning and passing
Ruiz can play all over the midfield. However, former Querétaro manager Víctor Manuel Vucetich’s tactics preferred the teen as attacking midfielder. With occasional starts one the left side of the midfield. Under Vucetich, Los Gallos Blancos favored three formations the 4-4-2, 4-1-3-2, and 4-2-3-1.
Below we’ll see the formation against Deportivo Toluca, one of Ruiz’s best matches of the 2020 Clausura season. When Querétaro plays in a 4-2-3-1, Ruiz occupies the right side of the midfield. Despite being more comfortable on the left, this match against Toluca showed his versatility. Furthermore, he was still effective in playing on his weak side.
When it comes to looking at the overall picture, Ruiz prefers playing the midfield’s left side. Although he’s versatile, Vucetich would play him all over the midfield. Whether it’s on the right, left, or attacking role. Nonetheless, like any player, Ruiz has his preference, which is the left side.
Vucetich had the teenager start 26% of his starts as the attacking midfielder in the last calendar year. However, the 65-year-old understood of Ruiz’s comfortability of playing as a left-central midfielder. As a result, 21% of his starts came on the left side of the midfield while 14% were on the right. Furthermore, analyzing the heat map, two things it will show. It displays the preference that Ruiz has for the left flank. The match against Toluca serves as an example of this action. The 19-year-old can take the ball in his half, push it forward, and place it into the final third.
Ruiz played 95 minutes against Los Diablos Rojos, where he received the ball 46 times; the most of any match during the 2020 Clausura season. Having the ball that many times at his feet led to 57 total passes, with 47 being accurate and a success rate of 82%. Dissecting the passes will show that 19 were forward with 13 being successful, and a completion percentage of 68. Then looking into how many of these passes landed into the final third. Ruiz was able to push the ball into that area on 11 occasions. It led to eight of those passes being successful with a 75% accuracy rate.
When taking a look at the bigger picture, Ruiz’s passing numbers against Toluca mirror his overall statistics for the last calendar year. The 19-year-old is averaging 34.9 passes per 90 with 86.3% accuracy. Meanwhile, when it comes to his forward passes per 90, Ruiz is averaging 10.2 with a completion rate of 77.2%. Then comes the amount of passes that consistently find their way into the final third. During the 2019/20 season, the midfielder is averaging 4.2 passes into the final third with a success rate of 80.2%.
In the next section of the scout report, we will take see how the effectiveness of Ruiz’s passes. The 19-year-old can push the ball forward, but it’s time to see how often they lead to scoring opportunities. Especially since most of his playing time comes from a position where it requires some creativity.
When looking at his creativity to generate scoring chances, Ruiz has potential. His numbers might not reflect it, but at 19-years-old, he displays flashes. Let’s begin looking at the 1.41 smart passes per 90. This example shows how Ruiz can receive the ball his end and help springboard the attack.
After Atlético Morelia turns the ball over, Ruiz recovers the ball and pushes it forward. Despite being a teenager and not having the strength of an adult yet, he can protect the ball. The Querétaro midfielder will dribble up to the midfield before deciding what to do next. With two players from the opposition closing in to try and dispossess the ball. Ruiz remains calm, something that not many teenagers can do at that moment.
Furthermore, his target has two Morelia players who can intercept the pass. However, Ruiz can thread a pass through the opposition. The play may not have resulted in a scoring chance, but it does show Ruiz’s composure. Although 19, he’s not afraid to make a play.
Two other metrics that will help show the chances Ruiz can create. Passes into the final third and progressive ones will give a glimpse of the build-up he partakes in a scoring opportunity.
Let’s begin with his 4.3 progressive passes per 90 with a 78.1% accuracy rate. One example that displays how practical Ruiz can be progressing this ball is in a match against Club León. The play begins with the 19-year-old receiving the ball from a throw-in pass, with one player from the opposition closing in defensively. The other decides to wait in case Ruiz decides to dribble out of trouble.
However, Ruiz’s teammate catches a León defender sleeping, and he begins his run. As a result, the midfielder identifies it and proceeds to lop it where the pass can lead to a scoring chance. The play doesn’t result in a goal, but again displays the qualities of Ruiz. Despite having two from the opposition ready to generate a turnover, the teenager remains calm. He doesn’t force a pass and can hold onto the ball long enough for his teammate to break free.
Finally, the last statistic in this section is the passes into the final third. Ruiz averages 4.4 passes per 90 into the final third with a completion percentage of 80.2. These numbers put him in the top ten for the U-21 age group and helped Los Gallos Blancos finish in the top ten for passes into the final third. One example of Ruiz helping jump-start the Querétaro attack with a pass into the final third is against Toluca.
Unlike the previous examples, the opposition doesn’t pressure Ruiz into a decision. With time on his hands, the 19-year-old scopes the pitch. Having all the time in the world, Ruiz launches a pass from his end into the final third. The pass goes over the head of two Toluca players and onto the feet of his teammate.
The pass led to a possible scoring chance for Querétaro, but it didn’t materialize; nonetheless, whether Ruiz is under pressure or has time to decide where to pass the ball. The teenager is more than capable of helping start the attack for Los Gallos Blancos. Ruiz will improve on these statistics from the last calendar year as he moves to Tijuana.
The next part of this scout report on Tijuana’s Ruiz is the defensive aspect of his form. Although he looks to attack and create, the 19-year-old is average defensively. Furthermore, being average at his age and the position he often plays isn’t bad. Focusing on his duels and interceptions show how Ruiz takes the ball away from the opposition before pushing the ball up the pitch.
In the last calendar year, Ruiz averaged 8.5 successful defensive actions per 90. Below is an example against Toluca; it’s a simple defensive action. Los Diablos Rojos are looking to push the ball into the final third and create a scoring chance.
However, Ruiz prevents that from happening. Although there’s support behind him, the midfielder wants to avoid the attack from occurring. When the opposition comes towards him, Ruiz decides to play the player rather than the ball. As a result, he separates the two, and it makes for an easy interception for Querétaro.
The teen averaged 6.6 defensive duels won per 90 and winning 50% of his duels during the 2019/20 season. Let’s take a look at another example that displays Ruiz’s defensive play. Against FC Juárez, he turns the ball over. Once he commits the turnover due to some miscommunication, Los Bravos can create a scoring chance. Despite there playing four Querétaro players, there’s a passing lane for the ball to go through.
Although Ruiz was the cause of the turnover, it’s the teenager that hustles back with a sliding tackle. It results in Juárez losing the opportunity to create a scoring chance. Hurrying back to fix a mistake isn’t a metric that will be measured by a statistic. However, it’s encouraging to see a player trackback and makeup for their error. Furthermore, when it comes to his tackling, the Tijuana midfielder is averaging 1.32 tackles per 90 with a 67.7% success rate.
The last defensive statistic that will get the spotlight with Ruiz is his interceptions. The teenager is averaging 3.87 interceptions per 90, but when looking at his Possession-adjusted interceptions per 90, the number increases to 5.5. Against Monterrey during the 2020 Clausura tournament, Ruiz had six interceptions. This example below is one of them, and it provides an idea of how he looks to intercept the pass.
Los Rayados were looking to create a scoring opportunity with their give and go pass. With Ruiz in the middle, the 19-year-old has two options. The midfielder can remain passive and let the opposition to try and intercept the ball. Option two is to become aggressive and rush towards the ball, forcing the Monterrey player to make a quick decision.
Ruiz chooses the latter and is aggressive on the ball. The opponent realizes that he’s coming up to force a decision, the play results in an interception for Querétaro. Using the pattern of examples displays how Ruiz isn’t lackadaisical when it comes to his defense. The teenager looks like he takes pride in defending, and when there’s an error on his part, Ruiz tries to fix it.
Progressing the ball
Ruiz will be creating opportunities for Tijuana if he remains in the attacking midfielder role. However, even though he could stay at central midfield. It will be interesting to see where new manager Pablo Guede sees him playing. Nonetheless, one of his strengths going forward is carrying the ball into the final third.
Whether it’s a pass or a dribble, Ruiz gets the ball into a position where his team can create a scoring opportunity. Below is a chart that shows the ball progression from the teenager. Despite being two seasons into his professional career, Ruiz is in the top 30 for progressive passes in Liga MX and 12th overall for his U-21 age group.
Looking at the completion percentage shows how accurate Ruiz is with the ball progression. With his 4.3 progressive passes per 90, it puts him in 26th place in Liga MX for that statistic.
Furthermore, when looking at the players around him like Alexis Vega, Uriel Antuna, and Nicolás Benedetti. Ruiz is in good company with some of the best young talents in the Mexican league. With more time and experience under his belt, Ruiz could easily climb the rankings.
The next statistic that correlates with his strength of ball progression is penalty are deliveries. Looking at the chart, it displays Ruiz’s preference for putting the ball into the penalty box from the center considering his role as an attacking midfielder. 11 of 15 passes into the penalty area comes from up the middle with an accuracy rate of 73.3%. If Guede wants to continue with having the 19-year-old as an attacking midfielder, expect them to rise.
However, despite this being a strength of his, there’s still room to improve for Ruiz. Although the right-flank did see four of six passes into the penalty area, there’s room for improvement. Then there’s the left-flank that is nonexistent. These numbers will improve if Ruiz sees time more on the flanks as a central midfielder.
Improving his dribbling
The different aspects of Ruiz’s passing game are what makes him an exceptional talent. One with a bright future, but there are still parts to his form that will need improving. Most notably, his dribbling. The 19-year-old is in the top 15 when it comes to received passes per 90 with 24.8. Despite being in his second year professionally, Ruiz became a vital member of Querétaro’s offense.
With the number of times that Ruiz will have the ball at his feet, his dribbling and offensive duels must improve. The teenager can pass the ball out of trouble, but he often won’t dribble his way out. The midfielder averages 2.1 dribbles per 90, with a success percentage of 47.4. When looking at the top 30 dribblers in Liga MX, the lowest success percentage his 57.5%, so there’s some need for improvement.
Here’s an example of Ruiz dribbling against Morelia. Once the 19-year-old receives the ball, he needs to beat one defender to get into the final third. However, that doesn’t occur, and he instead dribbles his way into trouble. Perhaps misreading the situation he found himself in the build-up. As a result, there are three defenders around, which leads to Ruiz turning the ball over.
Dribbling around the opposition comes with confidence and experience. At 19, Ruiz is getting his feet wet in Mexico’s top-flight league. Furthermore, with Guede, now his manager in Tijuana, will expect the Mexican international to have a significant role. With his new manager primarily using a 4-3-1-2 formation, it could lead to Ruiz filling that attacking midfielder role.
The teenager will once again be receiving the ball from his teammates at a high rate. Ruiz will progress the attack up the pitch through his passing. However, it remains a mystery if he will take another step in his development and add dribbling to his arsenal.
Finally, this analysis shows that despite Ruiz having a lot of qualities that will attract European clubs in the future, there’s still some improvement to do in his form.
When a player departs his boyhood club, it’s never easy, but it’s a step most footballers take. They leave in search of a new challenge that will help them develop and grow. Ruiz is moving away from a familiar environment for the first time. Nonetheless, the 19-year-old has all the tools that could allow him to become an impact talent for Tijuana and the Mexican national team. It will be interesting to see how long Ruiz becomes comfortable under Guede and if he takes another step in his development during the 2020/21 season.