Playing in defence during his first season at the Club, Eric was moved forward at the start of the recently-concluded campaign to act as a shield in front of the back four and he played his part to near-perfection, starting 37 of our 38 Premier League games – only missing the Liverpool home match in October through suspension.
According to Ryan, the role of his fellow England international has been key to the way the whole team has functioned over the last 10 months.
“In our style of playing football we get our wing-backs high up and that holding role is massively important,” he explained.
“It’s ideal with Eric – he’s been fantastic this last season. Playing that role, he can drop in at centre-half as well so then the full-backs can really bomb on and the centre-halves split.
“I think it’s important that the player in that position has a defensive mindset because that helps the team stay high up the pitch, get our passing game going and dominate teams.”
The fine form of Eric alongside Mousa Dembele in 2015-16 led to something of a changing of the guard in the middle of the park as Ryan, who played the majority of the previous season in the centre alongside Nabil Bentaleb, was restricted to just eight starts and 14 substitute appearances in the Premier League.
Always keen to get on the pitch as much as possible, the home-grown grafter believes that competition for places only helped to drive everyone forward.
“It’s part of football,” he said. “Me and Nabil were the starters the season before and then this last year it’s been Mousa and Eric.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen next season, whether there’s a signing or whether it’s going to rotate again – the gaffer makes the right decisions, there’s no arguing about that.
“The important thing is, everyone has been pulling in the right direction and improving as players.”