Kays Ruiz-Atil signed a pro contract with PSG in August 2018, after spending several years at Barcelona. He hopes to be able to train with the pro group next year and appear for a few minutes in Ligue 1. However, he is not yet considered physically ready by the PSG staff and suffers from a lack of regularity. But the former FC Barcelona player (2009-2015) has great potential and impressive technical ease on the ball, which has earned him the interest of several big European clubs. In this tactical analysis, in the form of a scout report, we will look at Ruiz-Atil’s style of play and his profile in PSG U-19 tactics.
Style of play
Ruiz-Atil is a 17-year-old, right-footed, central midfielder. His attacking qualities also allow him to be higher on the pitch, especially as a winger. Although he seems to be lagging in his physical development with a small build, the Franco-Moroccan stands out in other aspects of his game. First of all, he’s a player who doesn’t hide, who makes himself very available to his partners and who has confidence in his abilities. The young PSG player even appears as a technical leader because he likes to dictate the tempo and organize the game from a low position. Ruiz-Atil is versatile in the sense that he directs the game, but also projects himself forward without the ball, and his technique allows him to be effective in dangerous areas for the opponent. Everything he does with the ball is done with great elegance, precision and even a form of insolence, that shows how easy it is for him.
Orientation in space
The young midfielder also has excellent vision and a good sense of space. The quality of the information he takes about his environment allows him to detect gaps between opposing lines, or the movements of his team-mates very quickly, even when under pressure. All this work before receiving the ball makes his technical qualities even more evident, and that’s very natural. It allows him to stay one step ahead of his opponents and improve his speed of execution. All the work that Ruiz-Atil does without the ball conditions what he does once he has the ball at his feet. The availability he offers to his teammates is related to his need to touch the ball. He wants to be the one who initiates the actions and makes the game progress towards the opponent’s goal.
In the picture above, the PSG U-19 player is under pressure from the opposing team in their half of the field. Ruiz-Atil drops low to help his team build-up play. The Franco-Moroccan will attract pressure from an opposing player by his ball driving, and then pass the ball to his defender. And there, immediately after seeing him make his pass, he tries to be available again, notably by a movement that frees him from any pressure from the opposition. This action demonstrates the young midfielder’s composure and his ability to be productive with and without the ball, through the intelligence of his movements.
Many players become disinterested with the ball once they have made the pass. He is the opposite; there is this willingness to be useful to his team at all times and you also notice his need to have the ball. Throughout his move, he never takes his eyes off his team-mate who has the ball as well as the opposing players, to know their position and thus adapt his own.
Its orientation and movement in space allow Ruiz-Atil to be in an interesting area before receiving the ball. This is where the use of his body comes into play to allow him to launch his action in the best possible dispositions. The young midfielder knows how to use his body effectively to be out of the opposing pressure and to orient himself in the right direction of play. The 17-year-old player always tries to control the ball with his shoulders facing forward, toward the opposing goal.
On the above action, Ruiz-Atil is under pressure from an opposing player in a very dangerous area in case of ball loss. He will try to fake his opponent with his body attitude. His shoulders are oriented in the same direction as his look, towards the inside of the game. He shows a lot of composure and absolute calm despite being under pressure. This form of nonchalance, which Ruiz-Atil often displays, places his opponent in a form of false rhythm. And it is often at this moment that the Franco-Moroccan speeds up the game, either through passing or dribbling.
Ruiz-Atil eliminates his opponent with a body feint, with great agility. The latter is unbalanced and surprised by the movement of the PSG player, who can then run towards the free space. The calmness and ease with which he executes this skill is impressive and shows great self-confidence. Knowing how to withstand pressure is becoming essential these days, where pressing is becoming more and more intense at the top level. Ruiz-Atil is also good at hiding his passing intentions and placing his opponents in a state of total uncertainty. He’s an unpredictable player with great vision, allowing him to speed up the game at any time.
On the above action, Ruiz-Atil makes a world-class action, combining technique, game vision and unpredictability. He is surrounded by five Lyon players in a very small space. His taking of information a few seconds before allows him to notice his team-mate’s move into the penalty area. He also notices the large space between the left centre-back and the opposing left-back. His shoulders and look are directed at his right-back, who is running deep. The two Lyon players to his right are anticipating the pass to his right-back and are preparing to run in that direction. Nothing leads the defenders to believe that Ruiz-Atil will make a laser pass that will break several lines and put PSG U-19 through on goal (in a very important Gambardella Cup match). The timing and precision of the pass are perfect and offers an incredible opportunity to PSG.
Orientation of the game
Even if Ruiz-Atil is very good in the phase before receiving the ball, it is when he has the ball that he is the most efficient. His unpredictability seen previously coupled with his technique forms a very nice mix. Very gifted in the art of dribbling, he is also very gifted in his ball driving. He can attack very efficiently into free spaces by driving the ball and thus destabilize the opponent’s block, by attracting pressure on him. He practices well what is called “conducción”, a term that characterises a player’s ability to drive the ball when not under attack. By advancing with the ball, the player will thus attract pressure from an opposing player and creates free spaces for his partners.
In the image above, this is a counter-attack situation for the PSG U-19. Ruiz-Atil is in possession of the ball and notices a possibility of running inwards. He takes advantage of the Lyon players’ withdrawal to speed up and put them in a dilemma. Either they let him continue his run and gain yards, or they press him at the risk of being dribbled past. In the end, Ruiz-Atil advances several metres without pressure and can quietly attempt a deep pass following his striker’s run. Once again, it’s interesting to analyse his ability to attack the good spaces, using both his understanding of the game and his pure technique.
The Franco-Moroccan also uses his vision of the game to be an excellent passer. He has the ability to pass in the right tempo, with perfect timing and with great precision. He is equally at ease in the short game as in the long game, and is excellent in small spaces where he knows how to combine very well with his partners.
In the picture above, Ruiz-Atil carried the ball about ten metres between the opposing lines. As a result, he became a threat to the opposing team and attracted pressure from a Lyon player. In a closed space, the young midfielder makes a deep pass with the outside of his foot for his striker, who comes in one-vs-one against the opposing goalkeeper.
It is this area that perhaps prevents him from turning a corner today, his defensive work. So of course, his intelligence and understanding of the game can be felt when he defends, in the sense that he will be able to anticipate, to make fouls at the right time, to place himself in such a way as to disrupt the opponent’s build-up. But he still seems to be far too soft in the physical aspect, even against players of his age. His lack of regularity is also linked to his endurance.
It is sometimes complicated for the young PSG midfielder to finish the matches, and we note a drop in work-rate after the hour of play. The 17-year-old is very frail and has difficulties in duels in particular. The match against Lyon this season in the Gambardella Cup is certainly his reference match, because of his offensive contribution and in the build-up play. But on this match, he played 19 duels and won only nine of them. He rarely wins more than 50% of his duels. That’s why it’s hard to imagine him playing in a two-man midfield at the moment, as his defensive contribution would be too low. It’s a pity because he has the technical profile to play in any type of midfield, given that he is excellent at improving his team’s game and is capable of bringing attacking flair to the last 30 yards. Also, his work-rate is not yet high enough and Ruiz-Atil has difficulty repeating his efforts intensely throughout the match.
Ruiz-Atil has long been considered a great hope for European football, due to his early signing at FC Barcelona and his technique with the ball. His style of play immediately appealed to Thiago Motta last season (former PSG U-19 coach), who made him play a lot despite the fact that he was outclassed. This season has been a little more mixed, with PSG’s chaotic performance in the Youth League. However, he has made his mark in some games, such as the one against Lyon in Gambardella with a goal and two assists. The young midfielder has recently stated that he would like to take on more importance at PSG and make a long-term commitment to the club. Although he appears to be ready technically, that is not yet the case in terms of his physical strength and work-rate. But he’s still young and will develop more fully over the next few months, and may be able to aspire to train with the PSG first team. As we have seen in this tactical analysis, Ruiz-Atil has great potential and his profile can offer many possibilities if he improves on a few facets of his game.