Fresh off captaining the English U21 team against Croatia over the international break, Jacob Ramsey returned straight into the starting lineup against Chelsea. On the whiteboard, it looked like a daunting task with Reece James and Kalidou Koulibaly in front of him. Yet, against two defenders with past transfer links to teams such as Real Madrid and Barcelona; JJ Ramsey looked right at home.
Firstly, let's talk about Ramsey under Steven Gerrard. Initially considered the ideal mentor, Ramsey struggled to get forward and often looked overwhelmed by the tight spaces he was receiving the ball in. It is crucial to note that while Ramsey has lots of good traits for a 21-year-old, his passing vision and ability to play in the tight spaces of the midfield is still a work in progress.
In comes Unai Emery, and a different role. Emery saw that Ramsey's best traits were his directness and pace with the football and his ability to relieve pressure by himself. Ramsey is not too dissimilar to Ollie Watkins in style of play. Both are hardworking, direct players and expert finishers, with a tendency to take an extra touch or two.
Emery has played Ramsey on the left in a defensive winger role. Although Ramsey is not the best defender (see clip below), his skills will improve fast as he gets used to playing against different formations. On the flip side, what he does bring to the team as a defender is a determination and an intensity that almost matches McGinn on the right. Although Ramsey is a defensive liability occasionally, there is still a back four and two holding midfielders between the right wing-back and the goal.
Will Ramsey get much better at defense? It's debatable, but I lean on the side of no. He will get more comfortable defending overlaps, finding the right body positions, and so on, but he will never be able to play as a 6, or in a double-pivot, without being greatly neutralized.
Thankfully, Villa has two fantastic holding midfielders, allowing Ramsey to play higher up the field, where he is at his best.
Here are four clips that illustrate Ramsey's unique abilities in the attack.
Notice how two of these goals were scored with the left foot and two with the right. Ramsey is uniquely two-footed and thus can play anywhere in the attack. He is always a threat to cut in and shoot with his right, but also comfortable crossing with his left.
Ramsey's ceiling is an interesting conversation. To my eyes, if he can continue on this developmental track, I don't see why he can't transition into the role of a 10. However, it's a similar conversation to Phil Foden. Ramsey's best strengths are more effective in the midfield, yet he also would lose the ball more often, in worse spots, and might struggle with consistency.
To conclude, Villa fans should appreciate Ramsey's ability with the ball at his feet, his elite finishing, and his determination, while also understanding that his decision-making and defense are still a work in progress.
There's no need to coronate him as the future Villa captain or suggest he should be starting for the England Senior Team, but in good time that is likely all possible for our star boy, JJ Ramsey.
Written by Kevin Baer - twitter: @BaerKev