Tactical Twins: Manchester United's Michael Carrick and Villa's Ashley Westwood
In our latest edition of tactical twins, we turn our attention to two English Premier League midfielders who carry out the very same role for their respective clubs.
He makes many people's Team of the Season on account of his cool, calm and collected play in the heart of United's midfield, and he forced his way back into a starting role for England under Roy Hodgson.
A player that models himself on Carrick is Ashley Westwood, a new signing at Aston Villa this season.
Westwood is a product of the famed Crewe youth academy, his bread and butter passing and retaining possession of the ball.
The 23-year-old was a late summer signing in 2012 by Paul Lambert, and many Villa fans had no clue what to expect from him at the time.
"I see myself as a Michael Carrick-type of player," he told the Daily Mail upon arrival.
"Someone who stays out of the limelight and keeps it simple, retaining the ball and laying it off to teammates."
It's fair to say that description is spot on—a rarity from a footballer—and a tough 45-minute induction at St. Mary's Stadium was all it took for Westwood to acclimate to Premier League life.
From there, he began to show remarkable similarities to Carrick.
Both players sit deep in their respective midfields, expertly controlling the tempo of a game by using the ball intelligently.
Neither are the most mobile so this role suits them, and they'll take the ball under pressure and find a teammate without any errors or hesitation. Penetrative runs are a rarity by design, and both excel in zonal marking with a partner in midfield rather than diving into a tackle.
TalkSPORT presenter and Daily Mail columnist Adrian Durham also noticed the accuracy of Westwood's comparison, lauding praise on the young Englishman:
Calm in possession but creative as well.
Westwood went from boy to man at Crewe and has gone from League Two to Premier League seamlessly. He looks a natural.
That through ball to Agbonlahor [against Norwich, to win 2-1] was one of the passes of the season, especially when you bear in mind what it means to Villa.
At 23, he could go on to be as good as Carrick, and even win the medals Carrick has won (Carrick didn’t win anything until he was 25).
High praise, and with such rapid progression before our eyes, it's tough to disagree at this point.
Both Westwood and Carrick excel in the short-passing game but can launch a pin-point delivery if necessary. They tackle carefully, guard territory well and, above all, have an excellent understanding of how the game is played.
As Westwood grows into his body more and more, it's going to become difficult to tell the two apart.
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