Invincibles – Squad Building

Recreating specific styles of play requires specific players to be able to pull of, what you’re creating. This means that over time you need to identify possible transfer targets so when you do have the resources to improve the squad, you make the correct player choice. For me this is one of the most important factors to being successful as I only buy players, who complement the style of play I’ve created or is currently creating. I’ve not really done a post like this before but it’s one people are always asking for. Hopefully what this article outlines is my approach on identifying specific potential transfer targets not only short-term but with long-term in mind. It’s not unusual for me to be looking at players I’ll be buying in three or four seasons time.

At the very start of the game, I normally send my scouts out all over the world to increase the amount of players I know and see what they bring up. However as I was in League One and then the Championship I can’t afford to do that straight away, so I have to manually search for players for the time being (as well as relying on scouts scouting limited areas). Obviously though, I’ll be aware of some players from other saved games. I’ve also used a shortlist I made on a previous save with Swansea, to make the job easier initially to identify possible players. Squad building with the Arsenal Invincibles in mind though is even trickier as I’m looking for specific traits that a player must have, or that I think they’ll be able to learn.


For the foreseeable future the current goalkeeper I have at the club, is capable of playing up until the Premiership. Plus I will be able to attract good loan players for this position. So the planning here is very much long-term and seeing as I can’t be in the Premiership any quickly than two years, then I’m trying to identify players for that time frame or longer. So I set my filters up like this;



I’ve set the age limit to be no older than twenty-seven years old, this is because in two to three years time they’ll be in their thirties and that means the player might be too old for what I’m creating. I want to build a squad that will be able to play together for seven or eight seasons and I’m not sure someone thirty years old fits that. Also it’s going to take me four or five seasons to find all the players I want and then I have to find the resources to be able to afford them.

Anyway, back to the keepers. You’ll see I also set some attributes to look for. The key here is to look for specific attributes you want the keeper to have but try to keep them to a minimum so you don’t miss good players who might have one attribute low. What I tend to do here is look for between three or five attributes that are must have’s. This way the player pool is bigger and you can then look at the player’s profile and add them to your shortlists and scout them or ignore them, but at least you’ll have been aware of them.

Looking through the list above the players valued the highest aren’t going to be realistic options at this point in time because I’m not going to be able to afford the transfer fee’s for quite sometime. However I still shortlist them because contracts expire and I might pick up a bargain on a free or cheap if they get transfer listed. However before adding them to a shortlist I have to search through the players and see which ones I need to shortlist. After all I set the attributes I was looking for in a goalkeeper relatively low, so the older players on the list are probably poorer than you’d hope for, when you could actually afford to bring them in. I try to take age into account here when looking at players because the younger they are, the more likely they have developing left to do.

After looking through the list of players I identified five possible players that could be up to the job I require. Those players were;






Those are the five players I’ve identified as being a real possibility of playing for us in the future. If I was to rank them in order it would look something like;

  1. Gabriel
  2. Hahn
  3. Rajkovic
  4. Bettinelli
  5. Johnstone

However out of the five of them I think Rajkovic is the one who could develop better than the others and look quite a different player in the three or four years. He’s also younger than the others which means I might be able to get more years out of him once I’ve found the ideal squad.


I wasn’t able to find any suitable fullbacks in the first season, so I’m not going to discuss those as there is nothing to discuss. I will update for season two though because I found quite a few.
For the central defenders I set these filters;


This time I’m looking for younger players than the filter I set for the goalkeeper. That’s because outfield players tend to have shorter careers, so if I’m building for the future I need to look at younger players. But I follow the same principles as above and list three attributes I believe the players must have and are vital for what I’m creating.

This time though I haven’t got a top five, it more like a top fifteen. Rather than list them all, I’ll list the player I’m the most interested in.


I like his attributes and I like his versatility. He’s also a natural midfielder as well as a defensive midfielder and defender which makes him appealing. He also fits the Kolo Toure player mould, where he was a converted midfielder. So for me he is the stand out for now but I will be tracking all twenty-three players closely over the next season or so and narrowing them down a lot more and possibly adding newer candidates to the list that I identify as my game progresses further.


The shortlists I’m currently using doesn’t really have the type of central pairings I need because I was building a different way with Swansea so wanted different types of players. I do have someone in mind for the central midfielder role though, which won’t come as a surprise if you’ve followed my Santos career.


The downside here is he’s small and can’t jump, something which Gilberto was known for. But for now he is an option and I’m going to have to make some kind of sacrifices as I’m not going to find like for like players based on the Invincibles. As long as I create the style they used and players have the traits needed (PPM’s) then that’s the most important factor. Plus Arsenal had back up players who were different and the actual starting eleven people attribute to the Invincibles, didn’t start that many games together…….

As for the other positions, I’m struggling to find a Patrick Vieira type of player who I can realistically bring in or identify as a possible future target. I will find one, I’m still at the start of the game though. I always thought this would be the hardest position to fill though because he was a unique player and there’s not many modern-day plays of the same mould.

Searching for the wider players is more tricky though because I run the same search several times but change the position I am looking for. I could just search all midfielders but I prefer doing it this way. One of the reasons for doing this is because retraining a player isn’t an issue, the attributes someone has, is the main thing for me to consider. So if I want a left-sided playmaker for wide playmaker slot then I’ll search ML, AML, AMR and MR positions as well as the fullback positions. Players in those roles all have similar attributes and traits. If I wasn’t working from a shortlist, I would probably just search for attributes with no positions filter and filter that way. It’s more time-consuming but getting the right player is vital so worth it in the long run for me.

These set of filters are me focusing on finding a future wide playmaker for the Pires role.


I did this for all the positions I mentioned above. Lots of players match the criteria I was looking for, in particular two players caught my eye.



The reason why these two interest me is I’ve seen them sold or released on almost every saved game I’ve done. Not only that but both have good attributes for what I’m looking for. I need a player who is able to dribble with the ball at their feet comfortably.  Both players are young and should have some developing to do still. Plus they are young enough for me to teach several PPM’s to them. If the player was a lot older than I’d have less time to teach them PPM’s considering they take six months to learn.

On the right side of midfield for the Ljungberg role, I’m still struggling to identify someone for those roles too. I do however have Che Adams at the club who might fit the role and if developed right might be able to play at a much higher level. It is something I need to watch over the next twelve months or so.


If you’ve been following me on Twitter then you’ll know who my strikers are already and how important they are. I didn’t need scouts or filters for these positions though, I know already who I want for these roles long-term based on other saved games I’ve had.



What makes these so special? Romero can fill the Bergkamp role, he is creative, got good technique, he can dribble and pass the ball. More importantly he is still sixteen years old too. It might be hard to see the end product by looking at him but I can already see it.

As for Kelechi, he is going to be my Thierry Henry! He needs lots of work but his physical attributes are all what I would want from such a player to fulfill the role. There is also a very high chance I get him on loan, which if I did, would mean I can start developing him straight away for how I envision him to be. Exciting times!

There is another post further in the series about these players and if I was able to buy them or not. There will also be other new additions I haven’t mentioned thus far. I will also write a bit about how I search players who my scouts haven’t identified or players who aren’t on my shortlist. I’ll show exactly how I search for players using the filters.

28 thoughts on “Invincibles – Squad Building”

  1. Great stuff! I’m curious about the type of player you’re looking for in the Vieira role. I’ve always thought of this role as somebody who has some playmaking ability but also has the work rate, marking and tackling to help out defensively. It can be difficult to find a player with the right combination of playmaking, mobility and work rate. FM god Lucas Romero is one who has always fit my interpretation of this role.

    1. I’m still struggling for someone now for this role. He was very unique. I need to hope there’s a regen out there somewhere he could fit the mould but if there is, I haven’t found him yet 🙁

  2. Interested to see what factors pay into your decision to sign. For instance do you go for ‘just’ the attributes that you belive are good enough or do you look at players ratings over the last few seasons? For instance, the attributes of a player may be really good but his rating over the last 3 seasons average 6.70 – would this put you off or is this insignificatn for you? If you do take ratings into account, what would be the cut off for you to sign a player?

    1. I dismiss ratings completely as they don’t tell you how good someone is. It’s all about the attributes for me. The player could be playing for a rubbish manager, in a poor league, out of position, being subbed all the time etc and all of that would impact his ratings. As long as he has the attributes, that’s the only factor I need 🙂

  3. Liking this new direction!

    One tip I might offer – I follow a similar routine to you with filters per position and a focus usually on signing younger players. What I’ve started doing though is to add all the ‘long list’ candidates to a shortlist, and then filtering that shortlist based on the appropriate mental attributes. I figure these are often the hardest to train, if they can be trained at all – if the player has these to start with, it’s a real bonus.

    In League 1, there are often many players that I could sign, and so differentiating on this (and based on what the scout reports tell me as to temperament, potential etc) has proven useful so far.

    Also, I’m assuming you signed Richie Towell! He’s my False Nine on my latest save…

    1. Cheers Nik. I’m just trying different things out to make my writing stand out from what everyone else is currently doing. Hopefully it’s coming across 🙂

      I actually do the same thing you do. However on this save I’ve gone a different route which you’ll see in the future and instead of mentals, I’ve sorted by PPM’s instead because that’s the end goal and what will make me resemble the style I’m creating. So all the ones with the correct PPM’s or have some of those needed are on separate shortlists.

      And no Towell rejected me for the first time ever and signed for Bristol City ffs 🙁

  4. really enjoying this set of articles and looking forward to seeing where the tactic ends up, re the CMd in my FM13 game I’ve gotten into the habit of retraining any 16/17 yr old CB with halfway decent passing 8+

  5. Really great read again Cleon! Could read you and Rashidi all day long!

    In terms of the Vieira role, what attributes are you looking for? What stood out about him for me was Composure, Aggression and determination as well as strength and stamina. Are these the sort of attributes you’re looking for? Also, I think Patrick was an excellent passer of the ball, but in a very subtle way, dunno if you would agree or not?

    1. I’d agree completely yeah. I’m looking for a fantastic defensive midfielder/ball winner with playmaking skills. But he has to be very physical too. That’s why it’s proving hard to find for now.

      1. These may be well out of your budget/scouting criteria, but 2 or 3 players I’ve looked at myself for that role are Kondogbia at Inter, Bakayako at Monaco or Walace at Gremio. Not entirely sure if they’re what you’re after, but I guess they would possibly not have the technical ability for the role. Perhaps it could be trained somewhat but I have my doubts.

  6. this is top class scouting, so interesting to see!

    one thing that looked somewhat strange, for the Pires role you happened to target two left-footed players. Sure their attributes look great for the role, but Pires being a right-footed was a key part of his particular left side playmaker role imo.

    Just my two cents 🙂

    1. I know this but you need to remember it’s the first season. You can’t find the exact players you need straight away, so it’s not really that strange is it that I have to look at left footers? 🙂

      1. you have a more flexible mind than me hahaha

        I’m really looking forward to see your development of Bergkamp/Henry roles, in my mind they’re the ideal attacking partnership and for my life I’ve always failed to recreate that in FM! Bergkamp not so much actually, but Henry is so hard to recreate, probably because he was such a unique striker. Dortmund’s Aubameyang plays a little bit like him imho, with an inferior technique though.

        keep up the great work!

        1. This might sound foolish, but I honestly think it was the uniqueness of the players available to Wenger (Pires had outstanding ability to score goals from left midfield as well as provide countless more, Vieira as highlighted by Cleon’s struggles to find a suitable replacement :), Bergkamp with vision and touch matched by few ever , Henry as you point out, Cole a wingback/fullback as complete as any in the modern era), coupled with their technical abilities to carry out his vision/style which made this team so good.

          1. Spot on, that’s why this has to be a long-term challenge and isn’t something you can full do justice in 2 or 3 seasons. These unique players need to be found and developed which is the hardest part, even if money was no object.

  7. I thought that you are going to match the foot of the players in their positions, eg Kelechi is left only how are you going to replicate the Henry role, same for Patrick Roberts for Pires role.I think you should pay attention into those details as you may struggle to replicate the style of the Invincibles.

    1. Dude read the full series. I know this already maybe you should pay attention? I’ve already said in the articles it will take time to match everyone and find the perfect players. So maybe you should read the actual details that I post about?

  8. Interesting articles mate.

    But good luck with that formation and those roles. I think you may well struggle (at least till the PPMs kick in and/or you bring in better players) for goals with that set up and those roles.

    Should be fascinating to see.

    Btw though I understand your comments about the Arse being strikerless at the time, I was under the impression that the first person to go really strikerless was SPALLETTI at Roma when all his strikers were injured so he used Totti (I think) as a F9.

    Also, if the “invincibles” were strikerless they were weirdly so in one important way: they were not a pressing team. As such you will have another major difficulty replicating them in FM: the fact that without intense pressing, strikerless doesnt seem to work (ie produce penetration) in FM.

    But if anyone can do this its you mate!

  9. Wow really inspiring stuff here. Would love to know what made you choose those specific attributes for the filters?
    I understand that you are trying to have players similar to the Arsenal squad of 2002, but say, someone like Pires had so many qualities to him, what made you go just for those two?

  10. Very interesting read.

    But I am surprised about your search filters. For example that you were looking for tackling and marking in the Central Defenders. For me, if I search filter attributes for players I am looking for, I often use mental attributes. My reason behind this was the fact that it is much more difficult to train mental attributes (like Concentration, Decision, etc.), so that’s what I want in my young players as a solid basis right from the start. Central Defenders with low concentration are just too unreliable. The second reason is that I often find that players who “decided” to play a certain role, have the necessary technical attributes anyway. Most players who are marked as defenders possess a certain level of marking and tackling. But not everybody has the right mental attributes (or “special” technical attributes like heading). That’s why my search pattern for a young central defender would probably have included concentration, and for a young playmaker decision and maybe team work.

    Do you find mental attributes to develop easier than me, or are we just taking the same steps of searching, but in different order?

    1. Well if a player is young then his mental stats will likely be low in most cases as they develop with time, age and by playing. So by searching them now you can miss out on good players. I wanted to ensure I pick up every player so I can then decide if they’re good or not. I’d rather be the deciding factor rather than allowing the filters decide someone is good or not. That’s why it’s low and focuses on the main attributes I wanted.

      After all, all mentals attributes are desired and the more they have the better. So filtering via them when looking for young players can be misleading.

  11. What do you think of Pierre-Emile Holjbjerg for the Viera role? He seems to have a good set of starting attributes and tons of potential for developing the key stats.

  12. Hi Cleon, I have been writing a story on my save and wondered if possible you could publish it on your site? I think you’ll like the way I play, it’s very analytical and uses spreadsheets etc. Do you perhaps have an email address so I could send you some of my work? Or if you have a gmail I can share it with you as it’s currently a Google doc. Many thanks

  13. cleon, are you taking into consideration the physical side of the team? i remember jamie carragher saying he never felt so inferior in the tunnel before the game because they were all big men. Does height actually make a difference in the match engine?
    I know they were a big strong team which made them so good, they had the physical side as well as the technical side.

  14. Great work Cleon. I’ve been building my Invincibles with Fulham and am still in the first season. The whole system was more about the First Eleven players and i was wondering how to plug in other players in the system like Edu, Wiltord, Kanu, Reyes, Parlour, even Clichy had few starts that season. Any tips on PPM’s and how these players play generally to enable me know who to bring in the squad?

    Thank you.

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