Football Manager: Stay Young, Stay Old and Mix It All Around

Older people have experience, while youth has the drive and mentality to move forward new ideas. Before I have a bunch of canes and mortgage payments thrown at me, I’m not stating this as a universal truth. I’ve met older people who were very adaptable to change. And I’ve met younger people who get caught in a this is the way it should be bubble. However, in football (soccer) a squad that gives confidence to youth players with the steel and push of experience players is deadly.

 This approach saves a team from paying expensive transfer fees. In fact, a reputation as a talent developer, will have clubs with more money lining up to buy your players. It takes a balancing act to enjoy a couple of seasons of your young players before moving them on. We see too often that a player turns pro at 16 or 17 only for them to be sold before they turn 20. That’s not using your assets properly. You must keep your team competitive, AND MAKE A RUN FOR A TROPHY (looking at you whoever owns teams that just make money), while ensuring the club is financially healthy.

As you know, I’m going to connect this to Football Manager 2017. I deeply believe that a club should have an ethos of giving youth a platform to gain experience. For some of the bigger teams, domestic cup competitions is the way they give youth experience. There’s cases where teams don’t have a choice but to play youth. Regardless, you should set up a functioning youth setup that feeds players into your first team. You can do that by:

1. Scout youth

– Add age to your scouting parameters when giving your scouts assignments. For example, set a 17-20 age range where only players that fall in that age bracket will show up on the screen. I’m pretty sure the game also has a few age ranges you can already pick from. In a past article I’ve mentioned that location, role and money are also variables that should be tweaked when setting parameters. All of this should go together, but cannot be accomplished if the board doesn’t set apart money to run a scouting department. Here’s where you come in! You can always make requests to hire more scouts and to raise the staff wages to pay them. You can also make efficient use of whatever budget you have by going for youth players instead of established ones. This might require you to also comb through the database while waiting to hear back from your scouts. In some cases youth players are more inexpensive than established players, unless they have had a great international tournament or have a lot of promise. This all falls apart if youth are just acquired and not used.

2. Affiliate Yourself With Others

– A crucial thing to establish for the sake of both the youth structure you’re trying to set up and the whole team is becoming affiliated with another team. You have that option in Football Manager 2017. Some teams already have this, but if they don’t, you have to out in a request to the board. In my experience, they hardly ever turn this request down. All these requests make it seem like you’re a child who can’t even get juice without telling mommy because you go apeshit while on sugar or have not reached your growth spurt like the other kids still saying mommy, wait that doesn’t sound right… However, why should one establish links with their fellow peers within their industry? Does this even need to be a question? Networking. Networking. NETWORKING. And when one becomes a parent affiliate club to a feeder team or a team in the lower divisions, you have a set place to send your youth players on loan. They hopefully get experience and playing minutes that aids their development. You’ll still have to pay their wages and a small fee each season to the team you connect with, but in return, you get first dibs any of their player sales. It could be another way to find youth for your youth teams or gems that play in lower divisions. Some lower division teams rely on a youth setup and have the infrastructure in place. If you’re going to do this why not find a partner who shares the same core philosophy as you. It works in relationships and it’s something the corporate world preaches. You also save yourself time by not having to find other teams to send your players on loan. You also don’t have to set aside your preparations for a bit while waiting for your technical director to move these players for you. It helps to already have a team willing to take on your players for a fixed amount of time.

I’m detecting a wonderful smell in the kitchen so I’ll leave this like it is. I’m off to investigate this smell and hopefully eat whatever is causing it.

Stay youthful folks!  

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Give Me A Piece of That

Football (soccer) is a global sport. That might be the most understated sentence I have ever written on this blog. The game has always been a presence for European and Latin American countries. However, within the last twenty five years, more continents have been opened up to the infectious nature of the game. In many ways the action of pioneering something into a new market, geographical location or industry is very exciting. You get to create something from the ground up while creating a blueprint many others will hopefully follow after in the years to come. 

In 1994 the U.S. hosted the World Cup that would bring the sport back to a country tapered with immigrant roots. In 2002 South Korea and Japan hosted the World Cup in a move that uncovered the presence of the sport in Asia in a move reminiscent of being the investor who already knew potential was there. In 2010 South Africa hosted a World Cup that proved Africa could host a sporting event of that magnitude and peel back the third world image of has been at times unfairly painted with. 

The World Cup gets rotated continent by continent as stipulated by FIFA. Africa, Asia and North America will get more chances to show why they are seen as the remaining frontiers of a sport that has captured the hearts and minds of many people woldwide. But questions arise over how it will disturb the already established powers within football. The 2016 winter transfer window was a shopping spree for Chinese teams. They were in Europe not to vacation, but to buy the most expensive items they could find and being them back home. That window rattled top Euro clubs who were now threatened by state supported teams that could not only match, but exceed the top wages offered. 

Another issue to think about is how much will other sports or sporting culture in these final frontier continents will influence how football is now. Will we see a playoff system become the norm as the American influence in the Premier League increases? Will some Euro teams embrace a franchise style system that encourages team to just pack up and move to other lucrative markets in other cities? Will politics come into play by having clubs be public relations pieces for a particular ideology of state? Perhaps the viewing preferences of one continent differ slightly from another.

Look, I’m not saying on Europe and South America should dictate what football should and shouldn’t be. The sport is a global presence that should reflect that special status it has over other sports. I just want to point out that globalization is bringing interesting perspectives to think about that will challenge the version of the game we now enjoy through culture, economics, demographics, sport, laws and hopefully new ways to coach or play the game.

Have a noggin day folks!

Football Manager: Not Everyone Is Yours, But All Is You.

In my last post, I shared two strategies I use while playing my Football Manager saves. They had to do with delegating responsibility and concentrating where you draw talent from. This post will also be dealing with club staff and scouting. This post isn’t going into any books on how to develop critical thinking. It sure as hell isn’t going to win any plaudits for outside the box thinking, but it will share my experience on a game I spend many hours on. Who needs more porn anyways? Well, I’m not one to say no to some publicity, but playing Football Manager with the manufactured moans of some contorted actress getting penetrating tested all in the interest of achieving that perfect moment in the background, isn’t an overlap that appeared in my head until now. It’s distracting. How else will the numbers get my undivided attention. I let the numbers woo me. The internet infrastructure has enough space for my blog and everything else.

Anywho. Here’s two more strategies that make my time virtual managing more efficient. 

1. Staff Retention

– When one begins a new save the option to fire all the remaining coaching staff from the previous regime is available. I would be sitting here with a long nose if I said the temptation to do this never manifested. However, when it comes to football(soccer) management, I think it’s bad practice. Even more so if you’re a relatively new player or its your first time in a leadership capacity, because this type of transition requires know how. If you start from scratch the hours required to scout and hire new staff will increase. 

What do you look for? Staff from the country you’re managing in or from the countries you hope to bring players in? Youth or experience? Do you yourself know the team and inner workings of the club well? Save yourself some time and invest that time in hiring people who will upgrade your coaching methods or to fill up vacant positions elsewhere on your staff.

 It would be wise to keep staff that knows the club well because it can be an asset as to not be walking blind. Those you keep must obviously occupy the standards you deem necessary to perform their job. If they fail or cause issues, your will to fire them isn’t muddled because you gave them a chance. Remember, this isn’t showing indecision on your part because the coaching staff isn’t entirely new. You made the decision to combine already there staff with your own new hires. You made that decision. That’s powerful stuff.

2. Clear Role Descriptions

– The goal of every player is to play. They want time on the pitch and to see their names on the team sheet. Unfortunately, not every player is starting material or needed in that capacity. When offering a scouted player a contract you must think hard about his role on the team. Do you need depth in your squad to challenge the starters and compete in several tournaments? Are you looking to bring in youth players to develop? Bench options that get 15-30 minutes? 

Being clear with this part of the negotiation saves you the trouble of that same player being unhappy later on over lack of playing time. Not being clear disrupts team morale by being a negative example to other players and shows your lack of preparation. It also tips the power dynamics in the players favor because if you cave in through error of your own, other players will begin making demands. Save yourself money and being part of a disadvantage position by having a clear idea of how your players will be utilized.

I again reiterate that I’m not breaking new ground here with my strategies. Experience and a few mistakes have given me information that I use to developed my strategies. Have a good week folks!

Football Manager: When Two is Better Than One

I play Football Manager to satisfy my fantasy of managing a football (soccer) team. It’s a simulation game that has you taking notes, creating spreadsheets, keep a budget and research their database for players. To some this might sound like work, but to me this sounds like my idea of a great time.

Over the last few years, I’ve gone from emerging myself into the deep end to somewhat formulating strategies that not only help my saves, but define me as a manager. I would like to share two of my strategies.

1.  Delegate

– I think the modern game is leaving the role of an all encompassing manager to a more defined one. The role of a manager should be above all to coach your time (training, tactics, matches) and not shoulder the full weight of other responsibilities (scouting, negotiations, transfers). As a manager you should fully take advantage of your staff and the club executives, such as the Director of Football to delegate responsibility. You save yourself time and a DoF can come to the rescue when a player you want to purchase is wearing on your negotiating skills. You should also assign various assignments to your scouts. I’m not saying to not dive into the deeper recesses of the FM database, but again delegating saves time. The modern game is a team effort on the pitch and among those who keep the club running. 

2. Location

– Before you begin to scout make sure to have a clear idea of where in the world you want players from. I advice to scout from three countries. It helps you familiarize yourself with what talent is available based on your needs. It also helps team chemistry because the team will have one or two common languages they share. Homesickness, miscommunication and lack of adapting are handled this way. Unless you give crappy peptalks… Of course every save will have different variables and challenges, such as your scouts pre-existing knowledge of a place influencing where you scout from or maybe you’re looking for a left-footed central midfielder with great decision stats and passing. Why do you think Lyon brought in many Brazilians during their dominant stretch or Brentford liking Scandinavian players? 

I hope these two strategies help any existing or new players thinking about virtual managing. I don’t think I’ve said anything profound. I’m fact, I’m sure I can dig deeper in another post about even more strategies.

Happy Autumn folks!

You Score When You Don’t Defend

I enjoyed the goal fest that was the Arsenal versus Leicester game last friday. From an entertainment point of view the game delivered, but I didn’t think it was a good game. The wingbacks, despite providing offensive cover, left large stretches of territory unguarded behind them that Leicester exploited. That’s not to say Bellerin and Ox didn’t defend, because I vividly remember Kolasanic running up to mark Mahrez on the left to stop him from advancing with the ball. 

It didn’t stop there as I saw Mahrez being pushed back a few feet in what reminded me of a Greek army pushing through another army. This all occurred within the first fifteen minutes. A few minutes later Kolasanic again ran up to Mahrez on the left in an attempt to win back the ball. It was a great display of a player staying with his market and using his strength to win back territory. I believe one of the Arsenal Player commentators called him a “Neanderthal” which gives connotations that’s he’s all brawn. I get the feeling this isn’t the case. It does show that a center back had to constantly cover his wingback who was higher up the pitch. 

Bellerin on the other hand traded in his defensive responsibilities for more offensive ones. He was ever present on the right touchline providing crosses and another lane for his teammates to use. This allows him to stretch the Leicester defense to open up gaps and capture the attention of other markets that can release his teammates move around in the box. We all know Bellerin is important to the Arsenal attack. His lack of defense at times needs to be covered by a center back or has to pull one of either Xhaka or El Neny to cover the spacing he left behind. This doesn’t mean I think Ox had a bad game. I quite enjoy his drives into the final third with and without the ball. It just would be reassuring if it didn’t come at the expense of defensive responsibility. 

To further discuss the Arsenal defense I have to mention the second goal of the match that Okazaki scored. It continues to highlight how vulnerable Arsenal still are at set pieces. The three center backs were caught looking elsewhere and not one covered the right post where Okazaki ended up heading in. It might just be me but a team with a better defensive shape doesn’t partake in matches ending 4-3. It’s just the start of the season you say. I know. I know. Yet, how many seasons has this been an issue that hasn’t been addressed? The two games against Bayern Munich continue to haunt me. 

Here’s to Arsenal having a better season than the last one and winning another FA Cup. Later. 

Operation: Top Half (Philosophy and Operations)

I’ve been playing Football Manager 2017 this month. As I mentioned earlier I’m working on a multimedia project where I pretend I’m a manager managing a team. The closest I’ll get to that is through a simulation game. I didn’t want to pick a big team with a lot of money. This game is more fun when you torture yourself with a budget that can’t even cover the amount per week Alexis Sanchez is reported to want. So I chose the finest team in Scotland, Heart of Midlothian. We’re going to share our journey like a newly formed couple hiding the cracks in their relationship by sharing more pics on Facebook than usual. 

I’ll start by sharing my ‘philosophy’ and how I plan to manage this operation. Here goes:

Coaching

  • Tactics – 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 with a focus on wing play
  • Style – A passing team that keeps possession while transitioning quickly from defense to attack and vice-versa. 
  • The reserve team will act like the 1st team. A clear path from reserve team to 1st team will be established. I’m doingn away with the youth academy. 
  • Delegation
  1. I set weekly training sessions and tactical work. 
  2. My assistant and staff will work on individual training and give me input.
  3. A Director of Football (DoF) will be used as an ally who mostly takes care of recruiting the players I want. 

Recruiting

  • We see ourselves as part of chain where our players can go from the reserves or another league to Hearts to a bigger team. This does not mean we do not want to challenge for trophies. Winning a trophy is always the main goal in sport. However, we’re a realist bunch who know we have to grow our budget. 
  • Where? – Our talent will be drawn from Scotland (Championship and League 1) and Europe (Scandinavia and Eastern Europe).
  • Who? – These players will at the minimum be 16 and at most their mid 20s. I want players who can pass the ball well, have good technique and are adaptable. They will be free agents or castaways from other teams.
  • Cost? 25,000 or less
  • Scouting – Our scouts will comb the already mentioned targeted areas in Scotland and Europe. I will need three reports (profile and matches) before a decision is made to recruit a player. 

There you have it! I look forward to turning Hearts into a nuisance that buzzes at Celtic and Aberdeen. 

1/3 Of A Trident

Holy shit! Arsenal have signed Lacazette!! 1/3 of my French Trident piece over a week ago is being validated. Maybe I should post more nonsense like that… 🙈

It can’t be worse than Paul The Octopus (R.I.P.) or that one polar bear who supposedly predicts match winners. All bets on people!… Jk, I’ll be putting my money on more French things. Maybe that’ll get us Mbappe and rescue Martial from his oppression at United.

We can only hope 🙌