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Ruben's Renaissance


Notts County's Ruben Rodrigues
Redefined - Notts County's Ruben Rodrigues

All great artists need to refine and redefine their work. And Notts County's master craftsman is no different, with Ruben's performances this season seeing a reimagining of his previous work and adding new dimensions to his familiar flourishes in the Magpies midfield.


As requested by @OffTheLineBlog, we at Notts Stats have decided to take an analytical look at Ruben Rodrigues, and how the Portuguese playmaker has evolved this season. Whilst the general consensus is that under Luke Williams his performances have certainly improved, there is no denying that his actual output has been lower.


We consider the factors contributing to this reduction in goals and assists, and we also compare Ruben’s stats to last season to determine whether he really is better this season.

Before we dive into the stats, it’s important to note the context. Firstly, Ruben is playing under a new manager, who albeit has some similar ideas to the previous coach, but one who of course has different nuances in how he wants his side to play.


One of the big differences is the shape in the final third, something which in itself has evolved throughout the season. More often than not Notts have played with 2 strikers, which of course changes who the emphasis for goals is placed on. Furthermore, the personnel are vastly different this season, both in terms of goal scoring output but also overall style.


Last season Ruben played off of Kyle Wootton, a big strong forward who would hold the ball up and provide flick-ons for Ruben. This season the main man is Macaulay Langstaff, a more diminutive yet quicker striker, one who likes to play on the shoulder of the last man. This straight away helps to explain the change in output, and when we look at the stats it only supports this theory.

Macaulay Langstaff Notts County
Shouldering the load - Macaulay Langstaff

When we compare Ruben's output to last season we can actually see that it’s not wildly different. After 9 games played (the same amount he has played this season), we see that he had scored 3 goals and got 2 assists, just 3 more than he’s managed this season. That means he scored 84.2% of his goals after this point, so Notts fans probably need not worry that the Portuguese attacker hasn’t quite found his shooting boots yet.


Ruben takes 3.08 shots per 90, which is actually 0.01 more than last season, showing that in terms of shooting he hasn’t actually changed all that much. However, the accuracy of his shooting has reduced; last season he hit the target with 36.57% of his shots, whereas this season he has hit the target with just 30% of his shots. Therefore it’s not all that surprising that he hasn’t scored as many goals. You also have to factor in moments of brilliance from the opposition, as we’ve seen goal line clearances from Ruben’s shots this season, meaning his goal tally could have been higher.


The amount of shots his strike partners take is also important to consider; last season Ruben took the most shots per 90 of any Notts player, whereas this season that accolade belongs to Langstaff. In fact, Langstaff actually takes exactly double the amount of shots Rodrigues’ partner from last season, Kyle Wootton took (Wootton took 2.16 shots per 90 to Langstaff’s 4.32).


This just goes to support the idea that Ruben has less responsibility on him in terms of goal scoring, and by reducing this pressure he has been allowed to flourish in other areas. Luke Williams and the recruitment team must take huge credit for this.


Whilst we know Ruben hasn’t been as involved in the final third in terms of shooting this season, from the stats we can see that he has definitely been a much more active playmaker. He has played 0.82 key passes per 90 this season, ranking him 11th in the league, whereas last season this was significantly lower at just 0.55 key passes per 90. This also saw him ranked joint 34th, some 23 places lower than this season, showing how much this side of his game has improved.


Additionally, last season Ruben was second in the smart passing charts, with 1.31 per 90. This figure was extremely high; 3rd was McAtee of Grimsby with 1.09, meaning this figure would take some beating. However, beaten it he has, with a massive 1.44 smart passes per 90 meaning he is ranked 1st in the league both in terms of overall smart passes made and also smart passes per 90. A smart pass is defined as ‘A creative and penetrative pass that attempts to break the opposition's defensive lines to gain a significant advantage in attack’, so once again Ruben is clearly thriving in his role as provider for the side.


He may not always record the assist, but he often splits the defence open with a penetrative pass, meaning he’s just as, if not even more, crucial to our attacks than ever.


In the chart below we can see how Ruben's stats in actions impacted by his new role are generally up this season so far compared to last season, further endorsing his improvement under Luke Williams.


The impressive stats continue, and at the risk of bombarding the reader we'll make this the last one: deep completions. A deep completion is defined as 'a non-cross pass that is targeted to the zone within 20 meters of the opponent’s goal’. In other words, it’s the passes which enter the box played by players in and around the penalty area, something we know Ruben excels in.


The stats back this up; last season Ruben completed the most deep completions, 74, and had the 3rd highest number of deep completions per 90, 1.69. This is a huge number, yet somehow this season Ruben has improved once again in this area. He’s already played 25 deep completions this season, equating to 2.57 per 90, a massive increase of 0.88 or 52.07%. This is an insane improvement, especially considering Ruben was already near the top of this field. The fact he keeps improving is testament not only his ability, but his work ethic too.


Additionally his recoveries, particularly in the opponents half are up compared to last season, a by-product of Luke Williams' insistence on playing higher up the pitch and a high press intensity, suggest Ruben is capable of changes in his style of play to benefit the greater cause.


These stats show that Ruben has adapted well to a new role this season; he has been played slightly deeper, allowing him more time to play passes which are creating our chances. His vision has improved, and from a deeper role he is able to utilise his creative abilities.


Conversely, by having him further back he is less involved in the finishing of our moves, but this responsibility now falls on the shoulders of strikers Langstaff and Scott. And when you have a pair as good as those two, you don’t need Ruben to chip in with goals.


This is clearly the main reason as to why we haven’t seen as many Ruben goals or assists, as the responsibility that fell on his shoulders last season now falls on other individuals. The lessening of this pressure has allowed his game to flourish in several aspects, and not just his playmaking qualities.


From Rodrigues this season we have seen a renewed sense of desire, best shown in his pressing game. Whether this desire and determination is there in order to earn an EFL move at the end of the season remains to be seen, but the rewards Notts have gained on the pitch as a result of his pressing are extraordinary. Take the game against York for example; the third and final Notts goal is a direct result of Ruben’s pressing. We win the ball back high up due to Ruben closing the gap quickly on the defence, and Austin is able to get hold of the loose ball and supply Langstaff. This would not be possible without a presser of Rodrigues’ quality, and this side of his game has been an obvious improvement this season.


Rodrigues press creates Langstaff opportunity


Therefore, due to a variety of reasons, the vast majority of which are tactical, we have seen reduced output from Ruben Rodrigues, but at the same time we have seen improved performances. Not only are National League clubs now more aware of his qualities, and close him down as a result, but his overall game is demonstrably more rounded this season.


COYP

 

Your Notts County Stats Team:

Richard - @notts_stats

Tom - @tomhwilliams23

Colin - @Colin_Sisson


Images:

Header - Dan Westwell

Langstaff - Twitter

Video - Wyscout


Data: Wyscout

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