Jacob Ramsey has fast become a fan favourite at Villa Park this season, and his rapid development couldn't have been timed more perfectly for the club. A boyhood fan, who's main trait is picking up the ball and driving at a defence, sounds all too familiar.
Last season he was provided a taste of Premier League minutes, and he showed glimpses of raw quality, but lacked the composure and maturity in his game. This season he seems a more polished figure, and not only has he added that maturity and composure to his game more often, he's taken on leadership on occasion too. Yes, he still has much to learn, and at times is still a little sloppy, but the way he noticeably affects games now is tremendous given the talent around him in this Villa team.
Whilst he has begun to add a couple of goals to his game, and an assist too, he's not one of those players who is a stat machine, he's much more than that; he's an entertainer. In essence, he's a bit of a throwback, picking the ball up deep, and slaloming his way up to the opponent's box. He gets you up off your seat, and ultimately that's what fans adore about games; excitement.
That being said, his stats are improving. Interestingly, he ranks in the top 10 of U21 midfielders in the top 5 leagues for progressive carries, averaging around 6.0 per 90. In comparison to a couple of other players on the list, Florian Wirtz, the extremely talented German, has 7.1 per 90, and Emile Smith-Rowe, 6.6 per 90. So he is amongst some shining young prodigies in that respect.
One other interesting statistic is his growth in xG this season compared to last, indicating he is finding himself in much better positions to score now. Last season he managed a mere 0.57 xG, this season he's already racked up an xG of 1.78, meaning he's actually outperforming his stats with a return of 3 goals so far. His xG map below shows he often he finds himself in the box now with a chance to shoot, a real handy trait for a midfielder.
(xG map from understat.com)
At just 20 years of age, his potential is only limited by himself to what he can achieve. With hard work, and the correct application on the pitch, the young star can achieve whatever he wants to, and with Steven Gerrard as his coach now, you can only imagine him going from strength to strength. Gerrard as a player never settled for good performances, he strived to continuously be the best at everything, whether that be in training or on a match day, and Ramsey would do well to allow that same mentality to manifest itself upon him.
“He’s a fantastic talent, I think he’s further ahead than what I was at 20, in terms of a lot of aspects of his game" Those were the words of Gerrard in a press conference during mid December, and he goes on to say “If he keeps improving his game, I don’t see why he can’t go all the way to the very top.” An absolutely glowing report from one of the best midfielders the Premier League has ever seen. If there's a coach that will coax the best out of Ramsey, you would imagine it to be him.
The fact that Jacob is a local lad makes his rise to prominence even sweeter, as there is not many better things in football than having one of your own being a big part of the teams successes on the pitch. And after Jack Grealish left last summer, fans were probably reluctant to allow an emotional attachment grow so deep again, but Ramsey's upward trajectory and passion for the club looks to put that irresolution to bed.
Going forward, there is no doubt that JJ will face tough competition for a spot in the starting 11. With NSWE turning the screw on trying to achieve European football, and Gerrard's craving for success in England early on in his career, investment into signings won't stop anytime soon. But the boy from Great Barr will be up for the challenge, if recent performances are anything to go off, and he will set the bar high for players to get in over him.