La Scuola di Calcio: Youth Development 1.3

So, once again I have managed to ignore the process and flow that I was planning to follow with this series to bring you something completely different. I had planned for this post to cover the basics of my tactical plan for Atalanta going forwards. Instead, I have decided to bring you a smaller post giving you a first look in depth at some of the young players we have at the club and how we will look to develop them. I have identified three players for this initial post to introduce you to, I must add now, however, that I am at the end of my first season already and as such I will be able to show you a comparison between players at the start and at the end of the season.

There is a slight variance in the way that the three have developed to this point and I think that on reflection I have mismanaged at least one of them over the course of the season, still, I believe that this contrast is useful both for you as the reader and for me going forward with the save.

Musa Barrow

The first player on the list is the one that I was most looking forward to managing on this version of the game before I even started the save. Musa Barrow is a young Gambian forward who has impressed me whenever I have seen him play in Serie A for Atalanta. He is an explosive forward with the ability to find himself in the right place at the right time. What about in game though?

We start the save with Barrow in his age 19 season, this means that he still has at least two years of peak development in him and around six years before we start to see him enter his peak years as a player. With forwards, it is always worth considering the ‘type’ of player that they are, or going back to a previous post, what their player ID is. Given that Barrow has 15 for both acceleration and pace we know that he is a player that relies on his pace in the final third to get beyond defences, that is something that will start to fade slightly as he enters his age 28 or 29 season, this is something that we will have to keep in mind for succession planning as we play.

What else though do we like? Finishing(14) and then dribbling(13) technique(13) and first touch(13) are the obvious standouts from his initial profile in the technical area. Then when we look at the mental section we have anticipation(14) off the ball(14) and composure(13) stand out. Straight away through these attributes, we start to build a picture of the player.

Determination of 4 and a balanced personality are not ideal for his development but they can be altered as the player matures and ages. We should also remind ourselves or where Barrow stands in our spreadsheet looking at his key attributes against the other forwards.

You can see that Barrow only scored 13 across all of his key attributes leaving him behind both Marco Tumminello and Duvan Zapata in our first team forwards chart. It is at times like these however that you have to make a decision regarding the development of players and decide who suits what you are looking to do tactically.

Let’s see what a season of football in the first team has done for Musa..

Green arrows are always a positive place to start. Over the course of the season Musa Barrow played 3639 minutes in the first team and registered 4 assists and 21 goals, this was despite a few injury issues and some tiredness concerns.

He led our line as part of a two-man attack playing as an advanced forward and was one of the key reasons that we had what I would consider to be a successful season. Looking at the progress that Barrow has made objectively I would have to say that I am disappointed that he has not made greater attribute gains across the board. This is, however, my own fault. I have not dug deep into the new training module yet and plan to do so over the course of the upcoming preseason and the start of my second season in charge, let’s see if I can cause a greater shift by this point next season.

Alessandro Cortinovis

The second player we are going to take a look at is the jewel of our youth system, Alessandro Cortinovis. The young midfielder started in our youth team at 17 years old but he was one of the first that I identified on taking charge of the club that I wanted to develop and turn in to a first team player.

In the last piece that I wrote, a recruitment case study on Sandro Tonali, I referenced that I was worried that signing Tonali would mean a reduction in playing time and indeed development for Cortinovis, as it turned out I don’t think that I need worry.

Here is Cortinovis at the start of the save, a natural Mezzala from the CM slot who has the player traits ‘places shots‘ and ‘plays one-twos’ it was the fact that he had the potential to develop into a five star player in the centre of the park that immediately stood out to me. Instead of dwelling on his initial profile this time though let’s jump ahead and take a look at his development over the course of the season.

A significant improvement this time around, and the first thing to draw attention to is that his personality has shifted from balanced to fairly determined, a small step but at least a move in the right direction. This shift in personality was most likely a combination of him being affected by the general personality of the squad and the fact that I moved Cortinovis to the first team and had him join a mentoring group. Indeed, the young midfielder spent the entire season training with the first team although he was made available to continue playing with the U18 side.

Despite being available for the youth team I still managed to give Cortinovis 968 minutes with the first team where he played mainly as a Mezalla on support. The improvements made can most probably be best shown by looking at my spreadsheet from the start of the season and comparing it to now.


Here we see the ratings for Cortinovis across the eight key attributes that I will be looking for in my central midfielders. As you can see he was promising but there was work to be done. Let’s take a look at the same spreadsheet with ratings for Cortinovis updated.

First of all, we can see that his overall rating has improved from 12 to 13. That only tells part of the story though. We have seen improvements in first touch (13-14) passing (12-13) pace (12-13) technique (13-14) and in composure (7-8) determination (14-15) and teamwork (9-10). Indeed the only key attribute that has not improved is decisions and this was already at 15.

The plan for the second season is to increase the first team minutes for Cortinovis to around the 1600 mark, not quite doubling his exposure from the first season but close.

Marco Varnier

Marco is the one that I feel I have mismanaged the most to this point, a central defender in his age 20 season he starts the season in the first team squad although he is on loan from Citadella in the lower leagues, there is a permanent deal in place already. Given that I play with three central defenders you would think that the young defender would be one that I would use regularly, of only as cover or to give someone a rest, unfortunately, this was not the case.

Here is Varnier at the start of the save and straight away you can see that he should fit the profile of central defender that I need at the club, solid across the key defensive attributes and although he only has a spirited personality this is still skewed towards the positive side of the personality spectrum.

Nice and brief then, let’s take a look at his updated profile.

Do you see much difference? No, neither do I but I guess there lies the problem and to be completely honest it is my own fault entirely. For the majority of the season, my defensive line was set with Andre Masiello and Gianluca Mancini flanking the Brazilian Rafael Toloi, when one of those was out or needed a rest I tended to turn to the 18-year-old Davide Betella in their place. Playing the teenager could have been considered the right move though, couldn’t it? Well, thankfully we can turn to our spreadsheet to check that.

So, Varnier at two years older than Betella scores higher than the 18-year-old in tackling, technique, determination, and teamwork. Yes, there is an argument that playing the younger player will have aided his development but it has hindered the development of a second player who will reach his peak first.

If I had planned properly then we should have been seeing Varnier and Betella playing together in the first team in 3-4 seasons but now I have to fix the damage I may have caused. Even with all the information I still make mistakes with squad management and youth development.

So, there we have it, a first look at the way that I will be approaching youth development in this save. My plan going forward is to make these posts shorter, perhaps only concentrating on one young player at a time and really drilling down to show you why that player is either developing well or not developing as hoped.

Let me know if you enjoyed this post, either in the comments, on twitter or via my slack channel #fmanalysis

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