I’ve now reached the 2020/21 season in my Morton save, and if you missed my last post, here’s a little reminder.
I felt that going into my 6th season at the club, and having established ourselves at the top end of Scottish football, it was time to put together some aims and targets for the remainder of the save. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read that post yet, the fourth, and final, aim outlined was to answer the question, ‘What makes a Morton player?’ I also completely copped out by not answering it within the last post, but to be fair, who’s ever complained about an extra post to read!
Read on if you’re interested in my thought process for coming up with an answer for the question, ‘What makes a Morton player?’
Our Style of Play
Firstly, we need to consider my preferred style of play and tactics. When I think about it time and time again, all the roads keep coming back to this paragraph from my previous blog on the tactics I’m currently playing with at the ‘Ton.
I like my teams to control the play, have possession of the ball, but not for possessions sake. Just like FM keeps asking me, and just like I keep telling them, if we’ve got the ball, we’re not going to concede.
We play a possession style of play, and I do aim, in league games at least, to have over 55% of the possession. It’s rather annoying that you can’t go back and look at team stats for previous seasons in-game, but I’ll be noting down our average possession stats going forward.
So with possession really at the heart of what I’m looking for in my team, there are a few attributes that I’m sure have instantly come to your mind, and hopefully they match what came to mine too. I’m going to go through them, one by one, alongside their explanation from the FM Online Manual (that’s a thing! I know, me neither) plus a little explanation of why I feel they’re important to what I’m trying to achieve. Then finally, I’ll be analysing a few members of my squad up against these attributes, and showing off my new framework to judge the internal development of players, and that enables me to judge potential new signings too.
Mental attributes are really vital when it comes to evaluating players, and determination is one of the major attributes I look for in a player. The explanation of determination from the FM Manual is ‘A commitment to succeed. A determined player will give everything in order to win.’ It’s hard to argue against that, why wouldn’t you want players that were committed to being the best and giving their all for the win.
There’s no I in teamwork is there. ‘How well the player follows tactical instructions and works for and alongside his team-mates. A team full of players with a high rating here will work better as a unit. Players with lower ratings will slack off and not ‘buy in’ to the team ethos.’ Of course I want the team to work as a unit and ‘buy in’ to the style of play I’m looking for, however for certain positions and players, I won’t value the teamwork attribute as much. Cristiano Ronaldo’s teamwork attribute? 8. Enough said.
Quite a lengthy explanation here, ‘[work rate] reflects the player’s mental drive to work to his full capacities. A high rating will ensure a player wants to work his socks off from start to finish, but he will need the necessary physical attributes to actually be able to pull it off. Nonetheless, it is an admirable trait to have in your team. It does not merely represent a willingness to run – something that would be inappropriate in many positions – but rather the willingness to go above and beyond the regulation call of duty, as it were.’ Work rate is definitely an admirable trait for a player to have as the explanation says, players that ‘work their socks off’ are ones admired by coaches, fans and fellow players. That being said, it’s coupled in with teamwork here for me, in that I won’t hold it in as much of a high regard as determination.
And now for the technical attributes. ‘How good a player’s first touch is when receiving possession. A higher rating will ensure that the player can corral the ball quicker and put it in a useful position to then act upon. Players with lower ratings here will struggle to control the ball as adeptly and may be prone to losing the ball if closed down quickly.’ This explanation even contains the word possession. If we’re going to have prolonged periods in a match with the ball at our feet, I want players who are able to control it with ease, and get themselves into a situation where it’s easy to move that ball on.
‘How good the player is at passing the ball. His Technique and passing ability will determine his success at passing over longer distances.’ Passing is pretty self-explanatory isn’t it. We play a possession-based style of football, so I want my players to be able to find their teammates with a pass. Not too happy about the second sentence there, obviously when the time is right however, passing over longer distances is appropriate.
And finally for the technical attributes, the one that underpins them all. ‘Technique is the aesthetic quality of a player’s technical game – how refined they appear to be with the ball. A player with high Technique will be more likely to pull off a tricky pass or a cross-field ball with greater ease than someone less technically able. This in turn affects a number of technical attributes – poorer Technique will let a player down.’ I want my players to be look refined when in possession and have the capability to make the right pass at the right time.
Last, but certainly not least, it’s the only physical attribute that I’ve chosen to look at. ‘Pace is a player’s top speed. Whereas Acceleration reflects how quickly a player can attain their top speed, Pace is that top speed and together with Stamina and Natural Fitness, is how long they are able to maintain that pace in both short bursts and over the course of a match. A player will naturally be a shade quicker without the ball than with it.’ As you just read, pace is closely aligned with other physical attributes as well, however I am just going to continue with pace as the only one I consider. I’ve always favoured speedy players above anything else, a tricky winger, a pacey centre back.
The Squad Members
With these core attributes now in mind that I’m going to be evaluating players against going forward, let’s have a look at how some of my current squad members fare up against them. These three squad members are all young prospects. One is completely homegrown at the club, one joined on a free and has just made the step up to the first team, and one just recently joined in a relatively big money move from Aberdeen. All three players also contribute to another of the aims I set out in the ‘2020 Vision’, establishing a Scottish core.
And here they are (the links to their attributes are hosted on FMShots, which you should definitely check out):
Jordan Henry – the homegrown prospect. He arrived at the club in our 2016/17 youth intake, and after loans at Nairn County in League 2 and our affiliate club, Ayr United in League 1, I’ve taken the opportunity to have him in and around the first team squad this season.
David Willis – the big money signing from Aberdeen, £2.2m. The Scottish player premium coming into play there, but the revised focus on domestic scouting (another part of my aims) will hopefully prevent this kind of money being spent in future on prospects like Willis. Aberdeen signed him from Hibs for £36k in 2017/18, a very good bit of business for them.
Ian Fleming – another prospect we missed out on originally, he started his career at Stenhousemuir, but moved to Bolton in 2016/17. After 3 seasons down south, he joined us on a free transfer last season. After the sale of last seasons 30 goal man, Daniel Sturridge, Fleming will have a much bigger role to play this season.
But how do their attributes compare up against my new core ethos?
It’s time to get a spreadsheet out! These three players are currently the best prospects at the club, so they’ll be used going forward as the benchmark. Plugging in their individual attributes for the core ethos, we can see that Willis is the stand out of the three. Does that vindicate me splashing over £2m on him? Hopefully. This spreadsheet will be updated in January, and then again at the end of the season, to hopefully reflect the progress they’ve made in improving the core attributes.
As well as using the spreadsheet for developing players, it can also easily be used to compare any prospective signings up against the benchmark, and ultimately, determine whether they’re worth any potential investment. Let’s take a look at two players I’ve got my eye on.
Both instantly jump out at me in terms of players I’d usually target to bring into the club, especially now as we’re really looking to establish that Scottish core I’ve been banging on about. However, with the new scouting system in place, and the benchmark of core attributes to compare them up against, the recruitment process is more thorough than previously.
Both players compare very well up against the benchmark average attribute figure of 12.05, meaning I’m more than happy to pursue bringing them to the club. Gempf’s teamwork and work rate figures stack up really well against the benchmark for those attributes. If you search for him on your save too, he’s probably there. I believe it’s what’s known as ‘faceinthegame’. If you didn’t already know, I think it’s when researchers and SI employees appear as newgens in the game. I’m not complaining if they’re as good as Gempf and are Scottish!
Anyway, I’m digressing, but I was successful in my pursuit of both players. Although there was a slight downside to both. We eventually had to stump up £3m for Gempf from Dundee United, and I was unable to bring in Docherty permanently at the current time, so he arrived on loan for the season from Burnley. Gempf, specifically, will be added to the benchmark and will be constantly evaluated up against the core attributes.
One caveat I haven’t yet made is that I’m well aware that there are other really key attributes that are desirable for specific positions on the pitch. I’ll obviously be taking these into account for both current players at the club, and any prospective signings, but the core attributes outlined have been chosen as that’s the overall profile of player I want to have at Greenock Morton.
So that’s my take on what it takes to be a Morton player. I’m always happy to hear any thoughts or opinions you’ve got, and especially so in this case. What are the key attributes you look out for in players, and how do you evaluate that within your saves? Let me know either in the comments below, or on Twitter! Finally, I just want thank my good friend FM Analysis for being the sound board for this, he was a massive help.