Within Football Manager there are a number of different aspects of the game that you have to pay attention to in order to be successful. From the tactical side of the game through training and to squad management it is no longer possible to only specialise in one area whilst all but ignoring all of the others. The purpose of this second piece of this series is to give you an idea of how I plan to manage recruitment at the club in order to be successful both at home and in Europe.
Over the last few years, I have been lucky enough to be involved with recruitment within the ‘real’ footballing world. This has gone some way to show me exactly how I think a club should handle their recruitment in order to be successful both over the short term and the long term. The combination of these two viewpoints is the key in continuing to be successful within your Football Manager saves.
The now and the importance of horizon scanning
As a club at the level of Atalanta, there is no immediate shortcut to success at the domestic level. Realistically we are already behind the likes of Lazio, Roma, Inter and AC Milan and that is before we take into account the current ‘big two’ of Napoli and the all-conquering Juventus.
Our excellent youth academy and training facilities give us an edge of some of those sides that I have mentioned but in the short term that will not be enough for us to make a sustained impression towards the top of Serie A. It is important that we recruit in order to improve the first team as well as concentrating on bringing in wonderkids and newgens.
In order to achieve this, I have created a series of spreadsheets to identify the strengths and weaknesses of my squad position by position. To do so I have identified a set of four mental attributes that are my ‘non-negotiables’ going forward every player that I bring in to the club will be expected to be strong in these four attributes. To go along with this I then have identified four attributes between the technical and physical strata that are position specific.
This is my configuration for my central midfield positions. The first thing to note is what is not there, I have not included the players best role and nor have I further broken down my spreadsheet into attributes that are role specific within the central midfield position. This is very much a deliberate move as the roles that I use within my tactical structure can be fluid.
I have split the sheet up to show current first-team players on the top with young players at the bottom and at the end of each row and the bottom of each attribute I have averaged the score. This gives me a number that I can reference in my recruitment, any player coming into the first team will have to at least equal the score of the players already in the first team although I will, of course, be looking to improve on the score.
The section for young players is something that I will be revisiting every six months in order to assess the extent to which the younger players are developing. Age effect is, of course, something that has to be taken into account when you are comparing players in this manner. Allesandro Cortinovis, for example, scores a 12 when his attributes are averaged, at just 17 years old however he has the potential to grow and exceed the four players currently at first-team level.
In order to enable Cortinovis to grow and develop into the first team player that I know he can be however I need to ensure that he has a pathway to the first team, this is managed by clear succession planning within the squad. During this, his age 17 season, I can afford to have him play the majority of his minutes for the youth team, he has however been moved to the first team squad so that he can be part of a mentoring group to affect his personality, this is something that I will drill deeper into in further articles. Going forwards however in order to continue and enable his development I will have to start providing him with more significant levels of first team minutes. This is where the succession planning kicks in if I sign a player for the midfield positions without moving anyone out then I face the prospect of blocking his route into the first team, this is, of course, something that I will have to pay close attention to.
This form of succession planning is known in some sectors as ‘scanning the horizon’ you have to pay attention to the short-term and ensure that you are not missing opportunities to improve the first team squad but you also have to be watching the horizon and planning your steps carefully to ensure long-term success.
When it comes to recruitment once of the worst things that we can do is sign too many players in any single transfer window. Your squad cohesion can suffer hugely from too much of an influx of talent at any one time. I see people again and again when they talk or write about their saves and sign six or more players into their first team setup. To avoid falling into this trap I have decided to put a small stipulation on my recruitment.
- Only two over-24 players will be signed per season
That’s per season, not per transfer window, indeed I don’t plan on using the January window at all. Only two players over the age of 24 will come into the club per season but that is not to say that I will always fill that quota. There will be a definite reliance on youth players as this series goes on and for that to be an effective strategy I have to safeguard the aforementioned player pathways into the first team.
In order to plan for such a specific recruitment strategy, I will be using priority planning in order to target signings in the correct areas.
For each position, I plan on having at most three realistic targets at senior level and three at youth level (U23). As you can see from the top of the above image I have ranked each position from 1-6 in terms of priority. This will give us a sense of focus when it comes to finalising transfer plans in terms of which players we will target to bring into the club.
I am going to leave this there, I had planned to write a short introduction to my recruitment strategy but that has turned into more than 1000 words, my bad, there will be much more to come in terms of individual case studies and targetted recruitment pieces.
Thank you for reading.