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The Ball-Winning Midfielder - Winning Tackles & Trophies

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Introduction

With any successful footballing team, there is always a man who does the dirty job, whose job is not to make a weighted through-ball, or a mazy run, or score a screamer from the edge of the box - I am talking about the man who presses opponents, pressurises them into making mistakes, and who is not afraid to make a risky tackle or take a yellow card for the team - the Ball-Winning Midfielder.

The FM Tactics Creator defines the Ball-Winning Midfielder (BWM) as:

"Playing in central midfield, the Ball-Winning Midfielder's main function is to close down the opposition and win the ball."

"However he also needs the technical skills to help the team keep possession and fashion out chances for players with more attacking roles."

"With a defend duty the Ball-Winning Midfielder looks to win the ball in the centre of midfield and quickly lay it off for a more creative player."

"With a support duty the Ball-Winning Midfielder aims to win the ball back high up the pitch and support resulting counter attacking opportunities."

Here are the player instructions for the default Ball-Winning Midfielder:

bwmdescription.jpg

So basically he is a man who covers a lot of ground to hassle opponents, make tackles, but he also must use the ball effectively to help the team keep the possession he earns. He makes a lot of tackles higher up the pitch than most players, and this opens up chances on the counter attack. He is not a man who will sit deep in position due to the aggressive nature of the role, and is not suited to a team that is trying to sit in a rigid shape and soak up pressure, he is better suited as an enforcer in a creative team that is trying to press and dominate the midfield.

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The Example - Alex Song

Our example here is Alex Song who plays as my Ball-Winning Midfielder (Defend) with his key attributes highlighted.

songattributes.jpg

Now we can see Song is physically very fit, energetic and strong, as well as being mentally strong, he is composed, reads the game well and his determination and aggression mean he rarely loses a challenge. He works hard and is technically competent to control and distribute the ball without fuss or danger into sensible options.

Now time to show you my opening day win over Newcastle United and Alex's immense contribution to the final result.

songheatmap.jpg

First of all the heat map shows just how much ground he covers, not just across the park laterally, but also from box-to-box. He covered nearly 2km more than his central midfield partner, the more reserved Mikel Arteta who is playing as a Deep-Lying Playmaker.

songpasses.jpg

Song has clearly been very involved in the game, and has made more passes than anyone else on the pitch, and completed 98.1% of his 54 passes. You can see by the nature of his passing that he is not looking to try a penetrating through ball, he is simply looking to find team mates and retain the ball, often sideways to the overlapping Bacary Sagna, the more advanced Aaron Ramsey & the reserved Mikel Arteta, with the odd passes made to Walcott and van Persie ahead of him.

songtackles.jpg

Song's tackling as a Ball-Winning Midfielder is higher up the pitch than the standard defensively-minded central midfielder, and certainly notably more so than a DM, as he is required to push into opposition territory to win the ball. Song made 3 tackles, winning 2 of them. We will look at 1 as an example of him in action shortly, but first note that he has not made a single tackle inside his own half all game. Make no mistake this man is not here to shield the defence - he is here to win the ball.

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songinterceptions.jpg

Finally we see Song has also made 5 interceptions. Firstly we again note that while all in a fairly central position, he has won 4 out of 5 in the opposition half. We can also note than on further investigation 3 of those 5 were made in the last 10 minutes of the game, showing his immense stamina and how he broke up several late opposition attacks. Often these were made when Newcastle cleared the ball direct from an Arsenal attack, and Song had begun to move a little deeper, meaning he quickly challenged breaking Newcastle attacks and gave Arsenal possession back immediately.

In Action

Now time to see how the Ball-Winning Midfielder works in action. We see here Yohan Cabaye has made a clearing header for Newcastle just outside his own area. Song has been holding position whilst Arsenal had the ball, just in front of the halfway line. He has Tiote and Marveaux to keep an eye on.

example1i.jpg

Gervinho has picked up the ball on the left flank and is under pressure from Danny Simpson. Tiote has dropped off and Marveaux is being tracked by Arteta, so Song moves infield nearer to the ball.

example2m.jpg

Finally as Simpson forces the ball of Gervinho, Alex Song comes in just as Simpson is getting the ball under control, and makes an excellent sliding tackle, in the direction of Ramsey and van Persie who attempt to attack goal, but unfortunately in this occasion are slightly slower than Cabaye to the ball.

example3n.jpg

Discussions and Limitations within a System

As previously stated, the Ball-Winning Midfielder will not sit and break up attacks on the edge of his own area, he goes into the opposition half to actively search for the ball and to begin quick attacks. So he is not suited to systems where his positioning is vital to shutting out the opponents. Due to the very short range nature of his passing he is suited to a formation and system whereby there are lots of good passing options and movement (you should have this anyway!), so in my 4-2-3-1 he has Arteta, Ramsey, Sagna, Walcott and Koscielny in reasonable distance to pass to and choose the safest option. He should not be expected to take on opposition midfielders or to be dictating play. He will suit a team playing a high line and lots of pressing of opponents as this means opponents have less room to manoeuvre and can force them out of space into mistakes and tackles.

Suitable Midfield Set Ups

Example 1

MRC - Ball-Winning Midfielder - Defend

MLC - Deep-Lying Playmaker - Support

AMC - Trequartista - Attack

Example 2

MRC - Ball-Winning Midfielder - Defend

MLC - Advanced Playmaker - Support

Example 3

DMC - Deep-Lying Playmaker - Support

MRC - Ball-Winning Midfielder - Defend

MLC - Central Midfielder - Attack

AMC - Advanced Playmaker - Attack

Example 4

DMC - Deep-Lying Playmaker - Defend

MRC - Ball-Winning Midfielder - Support

MLC - Central Midfielder - Attack

Example 5

MRC - Box to Box Midfielder - Support

MLC - Ball-Winning Midfielder - Defend

AMC - Attacking Midfielder - Attack

I hope my latest guide has been helpful for you in understanding the Ball-Winning Midfielder, please read my other guides on theawaystand.co.uk's tactics forum.

http://www.theawaystand.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/6476-the-regista-regulating-a-steady-supply-of-chances/

http://www.theawaystand.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/6340-trequartista-a-discussion/

http://www.theawaystand.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/6409-llama3s-defensive-masterclass/

http://www.theawaystand.co.uk/community/index.php?/topic/6380-some-thoughts-on-how-to-set-up-a-defence/

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Great post, and the examples at the end are very intuitive.

I do think however that the BWM is something reserved for the higher Reputation teams, with a lot of creative players around him.

In my defensive oriented tactic I so far have failed to find a good setup with a BWM involved. He is either to aggressive and disrupts the team shape, leaving gaps behind him, or he is to limited and offers nothing offensively.

What is your opinion on this?

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Firstly I want to say well done on a good thread, your points are well thought-out and well presented and I love the use of playing examples too! In my opinion the BWM is the weakest of the default TC settings as his settings often conflict with those around him so it's good to see a solid account of the other side of the coin. There's nothing wrong with very high closing down but the problem the BWM has is that he closes down far faster and far harder than other players on his team which can lead to far more problems than they solve.

In your example the high closing down is very nearly your undoing. Sure Song makes a tackle, and a beneficial one by the look of it, but if he is foxed by a more technical player than Danny Simpson then Newcastle have a direct attacking situation. Luckily your DR has stayed back or the situation is even more worrying. If Newcastle are pushing up so that this tackle is missed closer to your goal then it's even more of a problem. As it is it doesn't matter because he makes the tackle, this time.

But this is just one of only 2 tackles made (at a 66% success rate). Hardly a destructive force. Ramsey, Van Persie & Walcott have all attempted more tackles (albeit even less successfully) proving that their endeavour is better placed in your set-up. Where Song has been at his best in this game is at breaking up opposition moves which is highlighted by an impressive 5 interceptions (although, again, Arteta has been more successful in this regard, and he made all his tackles!).

Also, you mentioned Song worked up and down the pitch more than other players. Arteta came off and I'm assuming Coquelin replaced him so MCl travelled 10.5km, the same as Song at MCr. You'd expect a fresh Coquelin to run a bit further than a tired Song at the end of the game so I guess Song did run further than his midfield partner but hardly extensively. And 10.5km is hardly a long way to run in a game. My midfield triangle is inverted to yours but my MC's (moving forward) regularly hit 11.5 or 12+kms per game. I think that Song & Arteta will never hit that many kms per game because the formation dictates that they must hold somewhat and that there is less space for them.

As previously stated, the Ball-Winning Midfielder will not sit and break up attacks on the edge of his own area

In my opinion this is exactly the role Song has played for you in this game (although he broke up attacks higher up the pitch but this is likely due to your dominance pushing Newcastle further into their own half).

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I use a BWM in my very Italian 4-3-1-2 formations that rely on supreme possession, alongside a DLP and another midfield role that tends to change depending on how good my team is, the effect I want, and the personnel available. But the BWM is fairly standard for me at this point.

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Jazperdeman - I agree that he doesn't suit defensive tactics, only more offensive, dominating-style tactics

furiousuk - interesting point you raise on it being a potential undoing, it is for this reason song's midfield partner is a deep-lying playmaker so his partner will hold position more. I find song will make more than just a couple of tackles a game generally. Sometimes I can see as many as 10 in a game and as many interceptions. I do feel this highlights a very effective midfield partnership though between the ball-winning midfielder and deep-lying playmaker because of their very contrasting styles.

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I also tent to use BWM and DLP or in a 4-1-2-1-2 a Deep Lying Playmaker in the DM position and a BWM Advanced Playmaker combination in the middle. Always worked very well for me, although the formation Im toying with at the momemnt could cause me some problems. @furiousUK raises some valid points about him being dragged out of position as my MC is my main man so if he isn't there I fear the whole formation could come crashing down, leaving gaps from say Wesley Sneider skipping the challenge (Im playing as Napoli) and then he has time and space to pick out the killer pass.

A very good thread none the less :applause:

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I've found that a BWM has his pressing on way too high for my liking. He runs around like a headless chicken chasing the ball and definitely doesn't do a great job 'shielding' the back four.

In fact if you look at your analysis, Arteta - your DLP has won 2 out of 2 tackles (compared to 2 out 3), and made 7 interceptions compared to 5. I often find my DLP as the guy standing in front of the back four cleaning up the mess while my BWM chases their deep players aimlessly.

Anyway, its a good analysis, but for me it shows the problem of the BWM rather than the good he does by losing shape and isolating your often defensively weaker DLP.

That said I use the DLP/BWM midfield combination, but I doubt I'd consider a BWM without a partner that would sit back to fetch the ball.

It would be a matter of interest to see where Arteta was making his tackles/interceptions relative to Song in that game. In fact I feel it is a must, as you need to provide a comparison in order for your analysis to make proper sense. So comparing the two would highlight exactly what the BWM brings to the table that the DLP doesn't.

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Alex Song's stuff is on the left, Mikel Arteta on the right. You can see Arteta's play is concentrated a little deeper than Alex Song's and wins interceptions much deeper than Song does

artetacomparisonheatmap.jpg

artetacomparisoninterce.jpg

artetacomparisontackles.jpg

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Thanks for that :thup:

The defensive duties of a DLP cannot be understated it would seem! and appears to be the perfect foil to the blood and thunder of a BWM, shielding the back four more and allowing the BWM to hassle the play earlier on.

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exactly! thats the way i have paired and used them for a while. they genuinely do seem a perfect match. the intelligent, reserve DLP covers a lot for the BWM

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Have to agree. As long as a BWM is paired with a more reserved player they are a brilliant addition. I use them in near enough all of my tactics

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It's a pity the statistics don't show how much "forced errors" Song created by pressing high up the pitch. The interceptions Arteta (and others) made could be explained by Song pressing hard, thus making the opposition panic.

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It's a pity the statistics don't show how much "forced errors" Song created by pressing high up the pitch. The interceptions Arteta (and others) made could be explained by Song pressing hard, thus making the opposition panic.

This is a great point and explains the sometimes lower rating of midfielders - my DM sometimes has the same problem, he often does loads of good defensive work but because he doesn't actually make the tackle his rating doesn't get a boost. Could well be the same with Song in your examples.

It makes sense how partnering with a DLP makes perfect sense in this formation without the protection of a dedicated DM.

I wonder, do you set high pressing in the team instructions? If so it would lead to less of a difference between BWM and the rest of the team.

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This is a great point and explains the sometimes lower rating of midfielders - my DM sometimes has the same problem, he often does loads of good defensive work but because he doesn't actually make the tackle his rating doesn't get a boost. Could well be the same with Song in your examples.

It makes sense how partnering with a DLP makes perfect sense in this formation without the protection of a dedicated DM.

I wonder, do you set high pressing in the team instructions? If so it would lead to less of a difference between BWM and the rest of the team.

The only time defensive players get good ratings is if you are on the back foot and coping well. It's been a big issue since I can remember and one that I hope will be solved for FM13. Defensive players get penalised when you attack a lot due to them not doing their so called job, which isn't fair really. It favours the attacking player instead :(

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I have high pressing, and the levels of pressing are higher than that on the screenshot above.

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Great thread, it shows you have to see the BWM more as an attacking midfielder doing defensive work instead of a defensive one. As such he goes great with a midfielder that plays a defensive role doing attacking work like the DLP. I think the BWM/DLP combo works great for heated high pressure games. You play attacking with a lot of pressure and the BWM in the thick of it doing most of the dirty work while you have your creative player sitting deep away from the pressure in the middle in the ideal spot to unleash an attacker as well as covering for the BWM.

The opposite of that setup would be playing Song in a deeper cover role (like DLP on defend or CM on defend) and Arteta in a more advanced role as box to box, advanced playmaker or CM (support or attack). This is more suited for open games in my opinion as this allows the creative player to be more dangerous in a more advanced position without too much pressure on him while the defensive player is further back covering the large open spaces.

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Some great stuff in here!

Cleon I think we were all hoping that for FM12 only a few months ago (or was it longer, I have little baby now so all time is a blur!!), I'm also hopeful for FM13!!

Marsupian - excellent points as always.

Llama - Congrats again on opening a good thread. I think part of your success with the BWM is down to your overall pressing strategy and might be something to consider (or that you have already considered) for games where you want to press less. I love Marsupian's idea of swapping the 'intent' of each player for open games and that would probably suit those times when you want less pressing.

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The only time defensive players get good ratings is if you are on the back foot and coping well. It's been a big issue since I can remember and one that I hope will be solved for FM13. Defensive players get penalised when you attack a lot due to them not doing their so called job, which isn't fair really. It favours the attacking player instead :(

I think it's fair enough. In real life the defensive players would not be noticed that much too, hence the lower rating. A keeper who does one good save wouldn't get a high match rating, because it "was only one save". This is where the manager manager must notice the difference between "doing their job fine" when everything goes well defensively and "just be mediocre" when it's not going all that well.

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I think it's fair enough. In real life the defensive players would not be noticed that much too, hence the lower rating. A keeper who does one good save wouldn't get a high match rating, because it "was only one save". This is where the manager manager must notice the difference between "doing their job fine" when everything goes well defensively and "just be mediocre" when it's not going all that well.

Nah the ratings are all messed up. A striker can score a goal and do nothing else all game and still get 8+. A defensive player can do 10 interceptions, 100 passes, not miss a tackle etc and still get a low rating.

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Llama do you suggest that I put the team instructions on more pressing or do i change the individual player instructions. Also would you recommend having a high defensive line or normal defensive line. I am playing with Vermlean and Mersacker. Llama could you let me know what pressing or closing down intructions you give to your DLP, Centre Backs and Full Backs. Also I am using a fluid and control strategy would that best for employing a ball winning midfielder.

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The only time defensive players get good ratings is if you are on the back foot and coping well. It's been a big issue since I can remember and one that I hope will be solved for FM13. Defensive players get penalised when you attack a lot due to them not doing their so called job, which isn't fair really. It favours the attacking player instead :(
defenders often get decent ratings, but there's definatly a problem with the rating system for central midfielders or defensive midfielders that aint scoring, assisting or heading the ball properly, a perfect example of this would probably be Cesc on my fm11 Arsenal save, I could see how he dominated the midfield, pulled all strings and keept possesion superbly, but since I played him in a slightly more restricted role, he was not scoring or assisting much and hence ended up with an averange rating of about 6,9 every season

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Llama do you suggest that I put the team instructions on more pressing or do i change the individual player instructions. Also would you recommend having a high defensive line or normal defensive line. I am playing with Vermlean and Mersacker. Llama could you let me know what pressing or closing down intructions you give to your DLP, Centre Backs and Full Backs. Also I am using a fluid and control strategy would that best for employing a ball winning midfielder.

use default instructions - on team instructions ask for more pressing, and make creative freedom default. this will get the best out of the system. with high pressing comes a naturally higher line - if you are struggling to dominate games then instruct to "push higher"

i sometimes use standard or attacking instead of control, the variation is needed.

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great thread.

BWM is a priority for me at every team i manage. ATM Darren Fletcher has been doing the job for me, looking for his successor now.

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Darren Fletcher is a superb example. Given the right partner in the United midfield you must have a really solid team.

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pretty good example there - and proof that you don't need to spend 8 figures to get a good player

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how much it cost you to prise him away from wherever he was playing? Seems a very good signing

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It is far from a cheap player! Usually costs between 10 and 15 million euros, but worth every penny. It is always relative to say this, but most likely is the best BMW in the game, excluding the legends De Rossi and Gatusso.

With Radja have the assurance of having a top BMW for the next 10 years. In addition, the Sharks will double or triple the price you paid for it in the short / medium term.

Cheaper options, but are excellent: Rodney Strasser (defend) and Necip Uysal (support).

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The perfect example of what should be a BWM! = Radja Nainngolan IMO!

23wl0qs.png

Looks good. However, he needs better marking, positioning, decisions.

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Looks good. However, he needs better marking, positioning, decisions.
does he really? much like llama3 have already pointed out, the ball winner is not a defensive holding role, its not his job to hold his possition in front of the defense and constantly be in the right spot at the right time....the ball winner is ment chase down whoever is on the ball and do what he can to ether force the oposing player to make a hurried pass or aggressivly win the ball

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Agree. That's his biggest flaw in my opinion.

For how high up a BWM plays it's not a big issue as one thinks. His job for the team is that more of a 'charger' as he goes to close down any player near him. Heading will help for set pieces etc but for his initial role it's not really needed.

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For how high up a BWM plays it's not a big issue as one thinks. His job for the team is that more of a 'charger' as he goes to close down any player near him. Heading will help for set pieces etc but for his initial role it's not really needed.

:thup:

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song is pretty decent in the air, but its a nice extra, makes little difference to how i play

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does he really? much like llama3 have already pointed out, the ball winner is not a defensive holding role, its not his job to hold his possition in front of the defense and constantly be in the right spot at the right time....the ball winner is ment chase down whoever is on the ball and do what he can to ether force the oposing player to make a hurried pass or aggressivly win the ball

Positioning is required by any defensive role as is a defensive attribute. So is marking, btw. The BWM still needs to be in good positions defensively to make his tackles. And decision is one of those universal attributes that is required for pretty much every role or player on the field. You don't want your hard-tackling ball winner to make good decisions?

In addition, check out which attributes are highlighted as necessary for the BWM on defend role. Marking and positioning are amongst those highlighted.

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as long as he has decent marking and positioning its no problem, but they aren't the most vital of those on the list for me, as long as they are above average

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as long as he has decent marking and positioning its no problem, but they aren't the most vital of those on the list for me, as long as they are above average

Positioning is vital though and no matter how good the player is, if he lacks positioning attribute then defensively he will get caught out quite a lot.

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Positioning is vital though and no matter how good the player is, if he lacks positioning attribute then defensively he will get caught out quite a lot.

however I do not see Song as my most defensive-minded midfielder, I am happy for him to charge off after the ball so long as he wins it. Arteta/Wilshere as my Regista I see as the player who needs to hold position and shield the defence more.

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however I do not see Song as my most defensive-minded midfielder, I am happy for him to charge off after the ball so long as he wins it. Arteta/Wilshere as my Regista I see as the player who needs to hold position and shield the defence more.

Positioning is the ability of a player to read a situation and position himself in the best possible position to deal with the unfolding events. Anticipation will help him in the first stage but in terms of his actual positioning, it comes down to this attribute. A higher rating will ensure the player takes up a better position. So for anyone who you expect to win tackles must have a high attribute for this, it's vital.

This is one of the reasons why people think their defender just stand there and allows the attacker past. It's not that he allows him past, its the fact he was never in a starting position to make the tackle.

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For how high up a BWM plays it's not a big issue as one thinks. His job for the team is that more of a 'charger' as he goes to close down any player near him. Heading will help for set pieces etc but for his initial role it's not really needed.

My BWM regularly gets up for headers from opposition goal kicks and nods it to someone on my team, often my DLP. I consider that 'ball winning'.

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My BWM regularly gets up for headers from opposition goal kicks and nods it to someone on my team, often my DLP. I consider that 'ball winning'.

Like I said, it was a nice bonus but not vital. Although in the scenario you posted in the quote, id be worried if the BWM was doing backward headers. As youd DLP should be deeper than the BWM, so any header he does to him must be backward headers surely?

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Like I said, it was a nice bonus but not vital. Although in the scenario you posted in the quote, id be worried if the BWM was doing backward headers. As youd DLP should be deeper than the BWM, so any header he does to him must be backward headers surely?

I would assume the header is a few yards sideways to his midfield partner because from a goalkick the two CMs will be pretty much level rather than staggered.

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Why would you be worried about backwards headers? Especially to a more creative player who you'd want to make those sort of passes.

To me the BWM in that scenario is making a winning header and playing it to a man in space who then would be able to make a play - being a player more able.

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