Utilising the Central Winger on FM15

Apologies to everyone for the wait for this article, but there’s been a few reasons why it’s taken me until December to write this. Firstly, I’ve wanted to make sure I get this right after the success of the FM14 article, and have all the material needed to show why the Central Winger is such a fantastic role. Secondly, I’ve actually had some problems using the Central Winger on FM15. I developed a 3-6-1 on the BETA with Manchester United, with Angel Di Maria as the CW. I’ve always said that Angel Di Maria was the archetypal Central Winger, and to my surprise, well, it didn’t work very well. Januzaj ended up being far better in the CW role, but on the whole, I didn’t see many of the movements I saw on FM14, and I worried that my favourite role was going to be largely useless on FM15.

In the end, I figured out that the CW’s ineffectiveness was as a result of two things, both my fault in a way. In an attempt to avoid horrific Back 3 spreading that I’d seen on FM14, I decided not to ask the team to ‘play wider’, condensing the diamond midfield in the centre, meaning that the Central Winger didn’t have the space he needed, and therefore was largely useless.

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Utilising the Central Winger

Those of you that follow me on Twitter (@JLAspey) will know how much I’ve banged on about the ‘Central Winger’ these past couple of months. It’s something I originally said whilst watching Angel Di Maria’s early performances in central midfield for Real Madrid, saying that he was playing almost like a central winger. It’s also a position FM Analysis has been analysing, particularly with Peter Pawlett of Aberdeen, a natural winger who has been moved inside into a midfield 3, much like Di Maria.

Although the term itself may sound like football hipster mumbo-jumbo, it actually has a lot of reasoning behind it. In its basic nature, it’s the idea of playing a competent dribbler in central midfield, who can beat players and get to the byline to cross. Anyone who has seen Madrid this season can see the effect that Di Maria’s vertical and direct running has had on the whole team, and therefore it has made them extremely dangerous on the counter attack, something that has carried on from Mourinho’s Real side.

In theory, the role can be so much more dangerous than just a normal winger, or a box to box midfielder. Defenders are unable to use the sideline as an extra defender (as they would against a normal winger), and instead are forced to engage a fast midfielder dribbling at pace, something no centre back would be comfortable defending against. In addition, the player also has a much wider range of passing options, especially if he has additional players breaking forward with him, especially in wide areas, and runners from full back. A setup utilising a CW has the potential to completely overrun the opposition defence.

For a while now I’ve wanted to utilise the role on FM, but I’ve never really felt I had the correct players to allow the role to reach its full potential. I did use it in a save at Racing Club in Argentina, and whilst initial results were promising (for the role at least), the save was soon binned (my last attempt at a back 3). However, I’ve now started a new save in Austria with Red Bull Salzburg in 2018, and I believe I’ve got the CW working extremely well, and it’s become a key part of my tactical planning. The players I’m using aren’t even my ideal players for the role, but it’s still working extremely well.

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