What would you choose: Box to Box or Ball Winning Midfielder?

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Honestly, I like both roles, but it all depends on the opponent, tactics, away/home match and so on.

For me, the Ball Winning Midfielder (BWM) is synonymous with strong and high player who has the simple task – take the ball and send it forward.

However, Box to Box Midfielder is a combination of intelligence and strength, which means Playmaker + BWM or CM.

This role is reserved for the best of the best!

If you look at the picture above, you will notice that this formation has 2 CM in the midfield.

The question is – which is the ideal combination? Is that Advanced/Deep Lying Playmaker + Ball Winning Midfielder? 2 Playmakers? Box to Box Midfielder + Central Midfielder?

The answer to this question doesn’t exist because each of us has his own vision of football.

But one thing I’m sure of, is that most FM managers have one playmaker and one powerful player when the formation requires 4 players in the middle. But …

Who is CM (Left) and CM (Right)?

Therefore, it is important to know a little more about these roles to help us choose the right tactics and leading players in the club.

Box-to-Box Midfielder (BBM)

The non-stop dynamism of the Box-to-Box Midfielder enables him to contribute greatly to both defending and attacking.

In attack, he pushes up to support the forwards, often surging late into the box to get on the end of crosses and pullbacks, as well as providing a threat from distance.

In defence, he harries attacking midfielders and helps protect the defensive line.

The role is only available with Support Duty.

Ball Winning Midfielder (BWM)

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 attacking roles.

Defend – the player looks to win the ball in the centre of midfield and quickly lay it off to a more creative player.

Support – the player aims to win the ball back high up the pitch and support resulting counter-attacking opportunities.

Central Midfielder (CM)

The Central Midfielder is responsible for providing an industrious and versatile link between the defence and the attack.

Expected to perform a variety of tasks across the centre of the pitch, the Central Midfielder benefits from having the tactical awareness and technical ability to support both defensive and attacking play as needed.

Defend – the player will focus more on sitting deep, curtailing opposition counter-attacks and controlling the tempo of the game from the centre of the pitch.

Support – the player will look to judiciously balance his attacking and defensive responsibilities.

He’ll get forward when necessary, but will mainly keep to the centre of the pitch and attempt to thread passes to players in the final third.

Attack – the player will more readily surge into the final third to support the forwards in and around the box.


This is the modern interpretation of the Mezzala, a central player that likes to drift wide and operate in half-spaces.

The Mezzala is essentially a central/half winger, who likes to do his defending slightly further up the field, although he does generally have less defensive responsibility.

Support – the player will seek to balance his responsibilities between more traditional midfield work and the inclination to contribute in the attacking third.

Attack – the player will often leave his midfield responsibilities to his team-mates whilst mainly looking to make attacking contributions in the final third.


The Carrilero – or “Shuttler” – is a supporting role more often than not utilised as part of a midfield three, or as two central midfielders in a diamond midfield.

It is the job of these shuttlers to cover lateral areas of the pitch and link the defensive midfield area with the attacking midfield area.

This is what separates the Carrileros from a Box-To-Box Midfielder, as they are not expected to shuttle between boxes, but merely between lines of the midfield.

The role is that of a runner but also a water carrier for the team, should the team need it.

The Carrilero is only available with Support Duty.

What are the preferred moves ideal for these roles?

I can have the best tactics and the players, but without preferred moves, it is difficult to notice the quality of the team watching a 3D match.

Therefore, it is important to “reduce mistakes through training,” especially in the middle of the pitch.

The opponent easily punishes the inexperience of individual players in strong leagues!

When we’re speaking about the roles (BBM and BWM), the first thing I check with the player is the key attribute – Passing. Why?

It may happen that a player, who plays as a Ball Winning Midfielder, doesn’t have a satisfactory rating for this attribute.

Other attributes are ok, but this one is under the question mark. What happens?

Against strong opponents, he starts making amateur mistakes in the middle, and that’s not good. Plus … If the mental side is weak (attributes), big problems arise.

Simply, a bad judgment and a momentary lack of attention open the door to an opponent for a quick counter-attack.

That’s why it’s a right task for this player – play short simple passes.

After that, I check what is written below the preferred foot. If I see “left or right only” it’s a sign that the time for this task is – avoid using weaker foot.

And then we go to the harder level …

1. Likes to switch ball to the other flank

The real task for both roles – the Box-to-Box Midfielder and the Ball Winning Midfielder.

From the player, I expect to make it easy for me during the match by not using the tactical instruction “Clear Ball To Flanks”.

2. Arrive late in opponents area’s

This is more than necessary for BBM, and less important for BWM.

Someone who has a good finishing and long shots can certainly be of great help in the attack.

3. Try to blast the ball into the back of the net

If the player is 185 cm tall or higher, this means that he is slightly slower (accelerate and pace) but he has strength!

Of course, it would be nice to have a good finishing, but that is a rarity in the CM position.

In any case, I don’t expect too much, but this task is on my to-do list.

4. Slow down play

We’re going back to the strength attribute and the player’s physical side.

I am convinced that, in this way, I am buying time for counter-attack because the ball is in safe hands.

5. Looks for pass rather than attempting to score

When a player has no technique, dribbling, and finishing then I focus my attention on the key attribute – passing.

As I said, mistakes are very costly in the middle of the pitch, and each player has a “joker up his sleeve“. Our task is to find a hidden card.

There are some more interesting tasks I use for these roles, but only if I estimate that the player has quality:

  • Dives into tackles or Does not dive into tackles (tackling);
  • Marks opponent tightly (marking);
  • Runs rarely with ball (bad mental side);
  • Long shots
  • Curls ball (through tutoring and cannot be unlearned);
  • Dwells on ball (tutoring and can be unlearned through training).

That’s it. Finally, I have to answer the key question.

My favorite role is Box to Box Midfielder, but lately, I’m increasingly using the Ball Winning Midfielder. And you?

Thank you for your attention and time.

Author: Alen Stefanovic     Game: Football Manager 2017