On late Friday evening surprising news broke that Norwich City had rejected a £5m bid for John Ruddy from Chelsea. How important is the England keeper to Norwich and is he good enough for Chelsea?
With the departure of last season’s number 2 Ross Turnbull and Thibuat Courtois extending his loan spell at Atletico Madrid for another year, Chelsea look to sign a back up goalkeeper during the summer transfer window who can offer competition to Petr Cech.
When Ruddy joined Norwich in 2010, he had been loaned out to 8 different clubs as an Everton player. Whilst this helped his development as a young player, the constant moving around the country prevented him from being able to settle and become comfortable at a club – and this is evident in his improvements as a keeper during his stint at Norwich.
Norwich’s number 1 missed the majority of last season after suffering a thigh injury at Everton in November ruled him out for 6 months, just as he was reaching the best form of his career.
Ruddy’s constant communication to his defenders, something that Mark Bunn lacked, is exceptional, helping to keep the backline organised and alert. The frame of Ruddy was also a contrast to Bunn, at 6ft 4” he dominates t he box when faced with crosses and managed to claim every cross that he came out for, including 18 high crosses put in the box.
This is something he has improved on massively since becoming a Premier League goalkeeper, where before he looked slightly jittery when coming for crosses he now catches them with ease – an area that England rival Joe Hart struggled with at times last season.
Norwich’s drastic rise through the leagues in recent years was based on the team being able to change the style of play if needed, and the importance of goal kicks is underrated when possession is mentioned. Ruddy is very comfortable with playing the ball short, something that is becoming more common within top teams. This is noticeable in 2011/12 as 10% of Ruddy’s passes were directed either left or right, which may be lower than Cech (31% of his passes last season went left or right) but this is due to the difference between Chelsea and Norwich rather than the keepers themselves.
The main strength to Ruddy’s game is his shot stopping, managing to pull point winning saves again and again – his last minute save against Liverpool at Anfield in 2011 the most notable. Last season, the England keeper managed to keep 6 clean sheets in 15 games, an impressive average of a clean every 2.5 games, compared to Mark Bunn and Petr Cech, who made averages of 5.5 and 2.6 games per clean sheets respectively. Also, out of the total shots on target that Norwich conceded Ruddy saved 72.4% compared to 64.1% saved by Mark Bunn despite having to face more shots per game on average.
During his injury last season, Norwich fans experienced life without Ruddy between the sticks and it was no coincidence that it coincided with poor run of results in the first few months of 2013. Losing him to another team this summer would be a massive blow for Chris Hughton’s side as they look to improve in their 3rd year in the Premier League.
A move to Chelsea would not be beneficial for Ruddy as he hopes to break back into the England squad before the World Cup next summer, something that would be very difficult to achieve by spending a season on Chelsea’s bench. If however he is a Chelsea player by the end of August, then they would have secured the signing of one of the most underrated goalkeepers in the Premier League.
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