Bryan Ruiz is clearly a talented footballer but it's probably fair to say we've never seen the best of these talents at Fulham, not in the Premier League and not in the Championship. For every good performance, there were probably 5 or more mediocre ones.
The problem for me has always been, where to play Ruiz; what actually is his best position? If you watch the highlights of the 3-0 demolition away at Bolton in 2012, where Ruiz was utilized in a 4-4-1-1 formation behind Dempsey, with Dembele and Diarra behind and with Kacaniklic and Duff wide, this seemed to be about the best formation to utilize Ruiz as we had talent both through the middle and on the flanks. This width and talent would undoubtedly create space and time for Ruiz to do what he's good at. But all too often during Jol's tenure however, Ruiz was utilized on the right of midfield, which never seemed to work or be a suitable fit for him or for Fulham. Just compare Ruiz in that position to that of Damien Duff, who could cut inside with pace to unleash a shot on his left foot, whilst getting to the byline and putting in an effective cross on his right. I think Ruiz is much more effective in a central position, where pace (or lack of pace) is less of an issue and where as a creative player you have more opportunities to spread play and play that killer pass. But herein lies the problem.
Let's turn the clock back to the 2000/2001 season, where Kit was part of the all-conquering promotion winning team. We played the whole season extremely successfully with a diamond formation. Not only did we have quality in midfield with the experience of Clark, Collins and Goldbaek as well as the talent of Sean Davis, but we probably possessed the three best strikers in the division at that stage in Saha, Boa Morte and Hayles. Moreover, Saha and Boa Morte were probably the fastest strikers in that division too. But to play the diamond formation successfully, in my opinion you need strong full-backs who are more than capable going forward and in Finnan and Brevett we had certainly had that. The speed in which we moved the ball around and our all round play was phenomenal and needed to say, most opposition players/teams struggled to contain us. Perhaps we didn't need to worry as much about our defense in those days, due to the old maxim of 'attack being the best form of defense'.
So as manager, it's easy to see why Kit likes the diamond formation, clearly he has experience of it working and will have fond memories of it from back then. In Bryan Ruiz, he has a talented and experienced player who seems to be the perfect fit for the CAM role at the point of the diamond. Kit did try Ruiz in the 'Martin Jol' right midfield role but quickly saw how ineffective this seemed to be, so credit at least for correcting this. Initially, the diamond formation worked well for Kit as our strength with three central midfielders plus Ruiz as CAM usually gave us a numerical advantage through the middle. But in wide positions our weaknesses have been all too apparent. If possession is lost with either full-back up the pitch, opposition teams can attack down the flanks with no other wide players to hinder their progress unless one of the central defenders is pulled out of position to try and block, which leaves a hole in the middle. More and more of late, this has been exploited by opposition managers and our full-backs have been under pressure from the start from opposing wide players, which has led to a large number of crosses and corners being conceded. From these, we have been leaking goals, whereas if we were to play with genuine wide midfielders, you'd at least expect the opposition wide men to be contained further up the pitch where they cannot cause as much harm.
So is now the crux of the matter for Kit Symons, if he wants to include Bryan Ruiz (a player who has no desire to be at Fulham and is only here because he has to be contractually), then he seems obliged to play him and that means the diamond formation which once again, means we are vulnerable on the flanks, as well as being weak wide offensively. How many telling crosses do our full-backs play into the opposition box, not enough clearly. If Kit Symons wants to stop the rot, then if seems obvious (for now), he MUST utilise a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 type formation. The will offer protection to full backs, hopefully eliminate many of the crosses and corners we concede as well as offering more width offensively. But to play a 4-4-2 there isn't really a suitable position for Ruiz and as a 4-4-1-1 Ruiz can only really play as the second striker, which then begs the question where does Ross McCormack fit in. That opens up a whole new can of worms, as we've seen the difference McCormack can make as a genuine striker as opposed to a CAM or wide attacking midfielder. Could McCormack play as the 'centre forward' with Ruiz just behind him, I doubt it to be honest. McCormack is not that type of player from what I've seen. That means for a 4-4-1-1, we can only reason pick one our of Ruiz or McCormack, unless Kit plays one of them 'out of position', which is far from ideal when we potentially have better player for other roles.
In summation, this isn't really about Bryan Ruiz, it's about Kit's dependence on the diamond formation. But with Ruiz still on the scene and Kit clearly a fan, then it's likely Kit will continue to pick Ruiz. This means it's much more likely we'll be playing the diamond formation and we will continue to be exposed on the flanks, leading to too many crosses, corners and goals being conceded, which can only make it difficult to win matches and potentially, difficult to guarantee a place in the Championship next season. The way things are going, I cannot see Kit Symons remaining as manager of Fulham beyond the end of the season at the latest, so Kit it's time for a major rethink of tactics, formation and team selection, even if this means ditching the diamond formation and Ruiz for the sake of Fulham!