Having just written a post introducing my approach to recruitment in this series and in Football Manager, in general, I had intended to move on and for my next post to surround my tactical approach to the game. That was however until something came up in my save that I thought was worth drilling further down into. This will very much be a theme as I continue this series with my intention to introduce you all to my thought process as I try to build Atalanta in my own particular way.
With that said we will look in-depth at my first signing in the game through a case study.
First we have to meet the subject of this particular case study.
Meet Sandro Tonali. Sandro is an 18-year-old midfielder who is a product of the youth academy of Brescia and indeed he has broken through to the first team at the Serie B club already. The young midfielder is an extremely promising prospect who has already been linked heavily in the media to more illustrious clubs like Chelsea in England and Inter and Milan in Italy.
When I loaded up my save Tonali was one of the first players that I checked in on with a view to having him scouted and shortlisted for the future. Unfortunately, though my hand was forced by interest in the youngster from Lazio and Napoli.
I moved quickly before either side firmed up their interest to agree to a £7M deal to bring the young Italian youth international to the club. How though does this affect my horizon scanning and succession planning with a view to developing the young midfielder Allesandro Cortinovis. I feel as though I have some explaining to do.
Let’s start with Tonali
I have already touched upon the fact that Sandro Tonali is a highly rated prospect in the real world but how does that translate to him in Football Manager 2019?
The player profile screen will tend to be the first thing that we look at when we are initially interested in a player, the scouting reports that you get in the scouting centre, or straight into your inbox, will carry a certain amount of information but here you have access to everything that you need to make your initial decision at your fingertips. I think that sometimes, however, the information presented can be quite noisy, let me show you my own mental workflow when I work my way through the player profile in the first instance.
I tend to work from left to right and assuming you already know the player in questions positional abilities we will start with technical ability. Referring back to the squad management spreadsheet that I use for tracking players in each position, that you can find in my last post here, the three main technical attributes that I want my central midfielders to score high on are first touch(14) passing(15) and technique(14) each is right around where you would expect for a player entering his late 20’s and the peak of his career. Now consider how high he will be in these attributes when fully developed?
The rest of his attributes are less spectacular but there is nothing there that I would be alarmed with when it comes to an 18-year-old player who still has a lot of developing to do.
Now on to the mental side of the game and we begin to see the picture that made me move immediately for Tonali. The player tracking spreadsheet that I use has four mental attributes which are the same for each player regardless of position. These are the non-negotiables that I want to build my squad around, more specifically these are composure(15) decisions(12) determination(16) and teamwork(14). That Tonali scores so highly in each of these at just 18 speaks highly of the type of player he will be in the future, I fully expect Tonali to develop in to a captain and team leader well before he reaches his peak.
Physical attributes always take a slightly back foot for me when assessing players, with the exception of pace, but is important that we do our due diligence across the players’ entire profile. Stamina(14) stands out but acceleration(13) balance(13) and natural fitness(13) are all strong.
Now, onto another of the most important aspects of the profile screen that you should examine, the intangibles. The first thing that jumped straight out at me when I was assessing Tonali was his personality, already professional at 18 years old. This is a huge plus for me as it indicates that he has a good chance to reach his full potential when his development is at an end. The new mentoring system (which replaces tutoring) will also make it more difficult to change a young players personality so the fact that he is coming into the club with this personality is a huge benefit.
Next, we have to look at something else that is essential in shaping the type of player that you are considering signing, player traits. In development cycles in real-world football, you hear people talk about a player’s individual ID’s. This is basically the factors that differentiate between two players that play in the same position, take Arjen Robben and Jadon Sancho for example. Both players are capable of playing on the right of the front three but their ID’s are very different and this affects the way that they play in possession of the ball, in possession Robben will invariably cut inside to shoot on his left foot, Sancho, on the other hand, will take possession and look to dribble or pass quickly to combine with teammates.
These player ID’s are represented in-game by player traits and we can see that Tonali already has quite a few traits preloaded as it were. He tries killer balls often, dictates tempo, does not dive into tackles, tries long range passes and brings ball out of defence.
Straight away we get a snapshot of Tonali as a player that has the capacity to play in our midfield and to be the pivot around which our entire attacking gameplan can flow. In short, I believe that Tonali could develop to become the best and most important player in the squad given time.
But what about succession planning?
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.
The above paragraph comes from my last post on our recruitment policy and mentions specifically my desire to fully develop central midfielder Allesandro Cortinovis into a first team player. Given that I mention the dangers of signing another player in this position in terms of blocking the pathway to the first team of the youngster I should perhaps explain myself.
Back we go to out squad management spreadsheet and specifically the central midfielders for the first team. Tactically, we play with two central midfielders so four first-team players should give us the ideal balance, now however with Tonali we have five players, and as a result, fewer minutes to offer to younger players like Cortinovis.
As you can see the ‘original’ four players that I had in Mario Pasalic, Marten De Roon, Matteo Pessina and Luca Valzania were all much alike with only the Dutch midfielder De Roon scoring above 14 with his key attributes, it is also worth noting that at just 18 Tonali already scores 14 himself.
For squad management and succession purposes, however, I have a bit more information, Mario Pasalic is currently on loan at the club from Chelsea and his value is £19.25M, in short, I have no intention of making his deal permanent in any way. Marten De Roon is also making noises about being unhappy at the club, he asked for a new contract initially but I baulked at his desire to earn £56K per week and cancelled negotiations, since then he has been talking about wanting to move to a bigger club.
Now, best case in this scenario is that Pasalic leaves the club as intended and De Roon settles down. This would give us out four central midfielders and allow Cortinovis to come in and play first-team minutes as needed.
What do you think? Would you have taken the chance to sign Tonali or would you have looked to keep faith with your current midfield and dealt with any changes as and when they happened?
Let me know in the comments below, via twitter or on my slack channel #fmanalysis