James Ward-Prowse’s set-piece mastery is a beautiful mystery in plain sight | Football

The ritual is almost religious in its precision. He bounces the ball twice on the spot. Spins it around in his hands so the Nike swoosh faces upwards. Places it lightly on the ground. Four steps back at a 45-degree angle. A little shuffle to set his feet. A little wipe of the nose on his sleeve. One last look at the target. And then the tiniest pause, the pause that all great art requires. The fractional instant when the picture is already painted, but James Ward-Prowse is the only one who can see it.

The first movement is actually backwards: a little quarter-step, the recoil that will give…

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