Charlotte FC just announced the signing of Premier League veteran midfielder Ashley Westwood. But, the word “midfielder” doesn’t really tell us anything about a player. There are a variety of skills that midfielders can possess and roles they can encompass.
Some are tricky, attacking playmakers who dazzle fans with skills. Some are orchestrators who use their passing to control the midfield. Others have engines that never stop and use them to buzz up and down the field to get involved in all the action. Then you have destroyers that look to do the dirty defensive work and love nothing more than to put in a crunching tackle.
Westwood was assessed in part by using analytics in addition to video scouting and traditional in-person scouting. Charlotte FC’s bolstered analytics department, headed by Lisandro Isei, is tasked with narrowing down the players who fit the profiles the team is searching for.
So, where does Ashley Westwood fall on the vast spectrum of midfielder profiles?
Westwood’s best role can be described as the metronome of his team, setting the tempo for his side. He tends to be the heart of his side, not just through his ability in possession but also through the determination with which he plays with.
“Ashley is a player who will help us set the tone and tempo within games, both with and without the ball,” said Director of Scouting Thomas Schaling regarding Charlotte’s latest addition. “Intelligence and experience give him the ability to read the game and help teammates determine what is needed to gain control of it.”
In possession, everything flows through him; he’s actively looking to get on the ball and push his team forward. He’s the type of midfielder who keeps the team ticking.
He does so by using his keen vision and expanded passing range to pick out passes to initiate attacks or progress the ball forward. Forward passes are Westwood’s bread and butter. As soon as he wins or receives a ball, his first instinct is to look ahead for a pass option.
“He has the talent to distribute the ball well with both with his set pieces and during the run of play,” continues Schaling. “He is a player that wants to get forward and create danger by looking for a forward pass or a cross at the right moment.”
Some of his favorite looks are when his teammates make runs in behind so that he can play the ball into their stride. First-time passes in behind the defense from deep areas are what Westwood particularly likes. The “Westwood Pass”, if you will, is one of the most dangerous weapons in his arsenal because it is a nightmare to defend against.
Ashley Westwood | Pass Highlight
Westwood’s passing technique is also showcased in his set piece delivery. During his time at Burnley, he was the primary corner and free kick taker for the team. Burnley was ranked 6th in goal-creating actions from dead-ball passes in the 2021-2022 Premier League season, in large part due to Westwood’s accurate delivery.
“Over a number of seasons, Westwood has proven himself at Premier League level and has been instrumental for Burnley FC, competing against some of the best players in the world," Charlotte FC's Analytics Department's assessesment of Westwood. "His productivity as a goal provider has consistently shone compared to his midfield peers, registering impressive assists and expected assist numbers year after year.”
In addition to his footballing ability, his intangibles will also play a valuable role in the team...
Westwood’s resume speaks for itself.
He’s coming off 10 seasons in England’s Premier League, where he averaged 28.6 appearances out of a possible 38 and 2,374 minutes per season, including 26 starts during the 2021-22 season before he suffered a fractured ankle in April that he has since fully recovered from.
His longevity playing at the highest level can’t be understated. Similarly to Christian Fuchs, who just recently announced his retirement, Westwood will set certain standards in the team, especially within the midfield.
Keeping teammates accountable, managing the highs and lows of the season, and serving as a coach on the pitch who can relay information to Head Coach Christian Lattanzio and help make tactical adjustments on the fly.
Westwood’s injury didn’t stop him from contributing to Burnley in their relegation fight in the 2021-2022 Premier League season. He was actively involved with the coaching staff behind the scenes providing a different perspective and insight.
“He [Westwood] has joined our club in the ‘Batcave', watching the analysis, watching games,” said Mike Jackson, Burnley’s caretaker manager at the time, to Eleanor Crooks of Yahoo Sports. “He has great experience as a player, good knowledge. He’s looking to get into coaching and he’s doing his coaching badges.”
Charlotte FC may have lost an experienced leader and player in the locker room in Fuchs but has gained another just as capable one in Westwood. He brings a skillset and demeanor that will make an impact both on and off the pitch elevating the team as a whole.
“We think Ashley can give our team a different dynamic with his determination to get on the ball, his all around skillset and versatility,” said Schaling. “We look forward to having his veteran presence on the pitch and take advantage of his leadership in the locker room.”
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