This is the final part of the series by The Hand of God. The full series can also be downloaded in PDF format.
This final chapter considers some additional details that define a manager’s approach to running a club. At a well managed club, the manager’s philosophy will extend beyond the pitch to every other area of responsibility, so when dealing with players and developing a squad, you should always take into account how this will affect your ability to implement your tactics. The following sections provide some ideas for better representing your own style of management.
10.1 MANAGERIAL PERSONALITIES
Football Manager 2015 introduced new options for representing your approach to management. Now, you can set attributes to give yourself distinct individual strengths and weaknesses in different areas. The game divides managers into two basic types (tracksuit managers and tactical managers), but there are many more possibilities. This section outlines some additional templates that will allow you to better reflect different coaching backgrounds and managerial styles.
But first, here are descriptions of each attribute:
Attacking: This is your ability to design and run training sessions that improve the tactical and technical aspects of attacking play.
Defending: This is your ability to design and run training sessions that improve the tactical and technical aspects of defensive play.
Fitness: This is your ability to design and run training sessions that improve work rate and players’ physical abilities.
Goalkeeping: This is your ability to design and run training sessions for goalkeepers.
Tactical: This is your ability to design and run training sessions that improve players’ overall tactical decision-making.
Technical: This is your ability to design and run training sessions that improve players’ ball control.
Mental: This is your ability to design and run training sessions that improve players’ focus and ability to play under pressure.
Working With Youngsters: This is how effective you are at shaping and developing U21 players. This usually involves a keen understanding of the unique limitations and needs of younger players as well as a patient demeanor on the training ground. A high rating indicates a knack for teaching and encouraging younger players who may still lack the understanding and maturity of a senior player. A low rating indicates a coach who is only comfortable working with established professionals.
Adaptability: This is how easily you adjust to life in a new country and work with players who don’t share a language. A high rating usually indicates a well traveled manager who is used to working with players from different nations. A low rating usually indicates a manager who has spent most of his career in the same nation. This affects your ability to gain employment in a foreign league.
Determination: This reflects how you react to setbacks, and to some extent, the forcefulness of your personality. A high rating indicates a tenacious personality who rarely stands down in an argument. A low rating indicates a manager more inclined to choose his battles carefully. This affects your ability to negotiate with your club’s board of directors.
Player Knowledge: This is your knowledge of senior player abilities and represents your eye for a good player. A high rating indicates a manager who knows how to spot subtle strengths and weaknesses in developed talent. A low rating indicates a manager who might be overly biased towards certain types of player or struggles to differentiate between form, tactical issues and ability.
Youngster Knowledge: This is your knowledge of the abilities of young players and represents your eye for undeveloped talent. A high rating indicates a manager who can spot genuine signs of potential in a youngster. A low rating indicates a manager who tends to judge all players by the standards of senior players.
Level of Discipline: This is how strictly you run the club. A high rating indicates a more authoritarian personality who expects his players to act like professionals and follow a strict code of conduct. A low rating indicates a manager who treats his players more like peers and might be happy to help them work through personal issues. This will affect the likelihood that players will approach you with their concerns. Keep in mind, this doesn’t necessarily mean it will affect the likelihood that players will actually have concerns.
Man Management: This is your ability to get your players to do what you want and follow your advice. A high rating indicates a persuasive and perhaps intimidating manager who commands the respect of his players. A low rating indicates a manager who struggles to deal with unhappy or stubborn players either due to an abrasive personality or an overly passive demeanor.
Motivating: This is your ability to inspire your players to adopt a positive, competitive mindset. A high rating usually indicates a more energetic manager who can rally his players, encourage positive thinking and calm nerves in high pressure situations. A low rating indicates a more distant manager who lacks the ability to make an emotional connection with his players.
The following templates were mainly designed to inspire immersion in the game, though your attributes will make certain areas of the game more difficult. Each template lists strengths (these are attributes to which you should assign more points) and weaknesses (these are attributes to which you should remove points). Some templates will also tend to lend themselves more to either a systematic or flexible tactical philosophy.
You are an idealist who believes attractive football comes first. You see football as an art form, and the pitch is the medium on which you intend to create its purest expression. Above all, you love the game, and your enthusiasm makes players want to learn under you.
Strengths: Technical Coaching, Mental Coaching, Motivating
Weaknesses: Defensive Coaching, Tactical Coaching, Level of Discipline
You’re an expert at helping clubs avoid a crisis after the loss of a manager. You know how to come into a club, cool tempers and keep things running smoothly while you slowly persuade the board that the best option for a permanent position is already at the club.
Strengths: Adaptability, Determination, Man Management
Weaknesses: Tactical Coaching, Level of Discipline, Motivating
The Company Man
You’re an even-tempered professional who is known for getting results while making minimal demands. You enjoy the challenge of working with what you’re given, and though some may accuse you of a lack of ambition, owners and directors value your ability to keep the club within its means.
Strengths: Defensive Coaching, Tactical Coaching, Player Knowledge
Weaknesses: Determination, Level of Discipline, Motivating
You’re an intimidating personality who commands respect and discipline from your squad. You’re not a particularly brilliant coach, but your players tend to push themselves to avoid your wrath.
Strengths: Level of Discipline, Man Management, Motivating
Weaknesses: Attacking Coaching, Defensive Coaching, Tactical Coaching
The Former Captain
You are a well known retired player who transferred your leadership abilities on the pitch into management. Though you prefer to avoid board room politics, you know how to work with professional footballers, and you excel at developing strong relationships with those who play for you.
Strengths: Attacking or Defensive Coaching, Man Management, Motivating
Weaknesses: Adaptability, Determination, Level of Discipline
You’re a former star player who was convinced to go into management. Though you were never known for your leadership ability and tactical acumen, you have a unique understanding of the more subtle aspects of the game and players respect you for your past accomplishments.
Strengths: Attacking Coaching, Technical Coaching, Man Management
Weaknesses: Tactical Coaching, Level of Discipline, Motivating
The Old School Coach
You’re not the kind of manager who uses terms like “philosophy.” You’re an advocate of simplicity who detests the modern game. You expect your players to act like men, work hard and fight for the club.
Strengths: Fitness Coaching, Level of Discipline, Motivating
Weaknesses: Tactical Coaching, Working With Youngsters, Adaptability
The Opposition Scout
You began your career as an opposition scout, and you’ve used your incredible eye for detail to move into club management. Though you aren’t particularly adept at dealing with players on a personal level, you know what makes good players.
Strengths: Adaptability, Player Knowledge, Youngster Knowledge
Weaknesses: Level of Discipline, Man Management, Motivating
The Player Psychologist
You’re a man management specialist who excels at dealing with morale issues. You know how to stop the rot at a demoralised club, and though your tactical knowledge might be lacking, you have a knack for inspiring players to rediscover their form.
Strengths: Working With Youngsters, Man Management, Motivating
Weaknesses: Tactical Knowledge, Determination, Level of Discipline
The Progressive Coach
You’ve traveled the world, studied under some of modern football’s great innovators, and now, you are ready to put your cutting edge ideas into practice. However, you may have some trouble convincing the board and even your own players that your unusual ideas will actually work.
Strengths: Attacking or Defensive Coaching, Tactical Coaching, Adaptability
Weaknesses: Determination, Level of Discipline, Man Management
You are a visionary manager who excels at reshaping clubs from the ground up. You thrive when you are given absolute control, but as a result, you have little appetite for compromise. You quickly come into conflict with other strong personalities, and you prefer to ostracise and push out those who don’t buy into your meticulously planned club philosophy.
Strengths: Attacking or Defensive Coaching, Determination, Level of Discipline
Weaknesses: Adaptability, Man Management, Motivating
The Relegation Specialist
You are an expert at steadying a club in crisis. Though you rarely stay at one club for long and have little patience for those who won’t fight for the club, you know how to turn a group of willing players into a cohesive unit that can grind out results.
Strengths: Defensive Coaching, Level of Discipline, Motivating
Weaknesses: Working With Youngsters, Youngster Knowledge, Man Management
The Technical Director
You’re a former senior coach who was promoted into management. You know how to identify and develop good players, but you have a lot to learn about the other aspects of being the boss.
Strengths: Technical Coaching, Mental Coaching, Player Knowledge
Weaknesses: Tactical Coaching, Determination, Man Management
You’re a pragmatic tactician known primarily for your ability to coach tactics and engineer ways to win matches. Players can find it difficult to relate to your cerebral approach, but you look to keep them happy by producing results on the pitch.
Strengths: Attacking or Defensive Coaching, Tactical Coaching, Player Knowledge
Weaknesses: Mental Coaching, Determination, Motivating
The Youth Coach
You began your career as a youth coach and worked your way up to the senior level. You excel at developing talent, though you still have a lot to learn about dealing with the politics and egos of the senior level.
Strengths: Working With Youngsters, Youngster Knowledge, Motivating
Weaknesses: Tactical Coaching, Determination, Man Management
10.2 PLAYER PERSONALITIES
Your ability to persuade players is controlled by a number of factors. First, there are the man management and motivating attributes as discussed above. Beyond that, significant factors include your reputation in the game and your existing relationships with players. If you are a well known manager, you will find it easier to command respect from players. If you’ve had positive interactions with a player in the past, you will also find it easier to motivate him to fight for you and convince him to follow your career advice. Of course, if you’ve mainly had negative interactions with a player in the past, then he’ll show less interest in saving your job or following your professional advice.
If man management and motivating aren’t your strengths, then it is far more important that you pay attention to player personality when both selecting your team and building your squad. Generally, if you are poor at motivating players, it is far more important to maintain a determined and professional group of players. These players will work and fight for you without being asked. If you are poor at man management, then you also want to prioritise bringing in professional and loyal players while being careful about bringing in purely ambitious and outspoken players who are quick to demand new contracts or threaten transfer requests, especially if they are a key player at the club.
The highly professional personalities include: Model Citizen, Model Professional, Professional, Perfectionist, Resolute, and Fairly Professional.
The highly determined personalities include: Model Citizen, Perfectionist, Driven, Determined, Iron Willed, Resilient and Resolute.
Ambitious personalities who may cause unrest under a poor man-manager include: Driven, Determined, Very Ambitious, Ambitious and Fairly Ambitious.
Unprofessional personalities who are very likely to create various headaches for poor motivators and man-managers include: Temperamental, Slack, Casual and Jovial.
Potentially unprofessional personalities who may cause problems for a poor man manager or motivator include: Fairly Determined, Fairly Ambitious, Fairly Loyal, Fairly Sporting and Balanced.
Personalities very likely to give up or crack under pressure include: Slack, Casual, Honest, Sporting, Easily Discouraged, Low Determination, Spineless and Low Self-Belief. These players should be avoided at all costs.
10.3 PLAYING STYLE AND SQUAD ROTATION
Squad rotation involves changing personnel from match to match to either give yourself different tactical options or manage player fitness. The main benefit of squad rotation is that it will help keep players fit and avoid injury, but it can create morale problems if it’s handled poorly. Heavy rotation can lead to complaints of a lack of playing time from first team players, and it can also upset senior players who feel they are in a good run of form, especially if rotation sees them forced to miss out on an important match.
The extent to which a manager must rotate depends greatly on the team’s schedule and style of play. If the team is playing in numerous competitions, rotation is a necessity, though you have several options for how you want to handle it. One method involves simply prioritising certain competitions and playing youngsters in the competitions that you’re least concerned about. A second method involves playing a low tempo game in cup competitions, often relying on an obstruction tactic as much as possible. Of course, you’ll need the personnel to pull this off, but it will help you avoid any needless use of the players’ energies.
In terms of style, a pressing style of defending and a high tempo style of attacking (especially one that results in end-to-end play) will put more physical demands on players, and over time, this can lead to exhaustion and injury. If you are looking to implement these styles, the ability to rotate the squad is vital. Otherwise, you should consider match strategies that balance out the physical demands of your preferred approach.
If you think that you will need to rely heavily on squad rotation, this should weigh heavily on your squad building decisions. Teams that rotate will need more ready replacements who can slot seamlessly into the first team, and this means maintaining a larger senior squad. However, a larger squad creates a greater risk of players being unhappy with a lack of playing time, so to avoid this, you should look for professional squad players who are happy to sit out more games. Even if you have the resources to bring 25 top names into the squad, competing egos and expectations will lead to general discontent, and this will negatively affect performances on the pitch, regardless of who you decide to play.
10.4 SQUAD BUILDING STRATEGIES
When building and developing a squad, the manager’s tactical philosophy plays an extremely important role. You should always be careful about bringing in players who do not fit your style and system. Though players can be retrained (especially if they are young), players can only be reshaped to a certain extent, and this will naturally require a longer period of adaptation during which the player might become dissatisfied or utterly demoralised. The temptation to bring in a big name who doesn’t fit the club philosophy can be especially strong, but a celebrity misfit can prove disastrous for a club with limited resources.
With that said, there are a few different approaches that a manager can take when building a squad. With a more systematic approach to tactics, the manager will usually have the benefit of knowing exactly what he wants. He will want to look for a player who can play a specific role and position that fits the team’s clearly defined tactical identity.
The extent to which a systematic manager values player versatility depends greatly on his preferred style and system. A manager who prefers a more structured system may like to have a couple of utility players who can fill multiple roles in the squad, but they will generally favour more specialised skill sets. On the other hand, a systematic manager who prefers a more fluid system will tend to favour versatile players since versatility fits the nature of the system.
For a manager with a more flexible philosophy, there are generally three approaches to squad building. The first is a more laissez faire approach that simply involves bringing in the best possible players. For the wealthiest clubs, this will tend to result in a galacticos policy where the manager’s challenge will involve finding a way to get some of the world’s biggest stars to play well together. However, even for a flexible manager, this approach can end up being tactically limiting.
The second approach for a flexible manager is to look for versatility. This means bringing in players who can comfortably play in multiple styles and systems. This approach will usually be favoured by managers with limited resources who must cope with having a smaller squad.
A final approach is to take a toolkit approach where you have many types of players suited to different systems and styles. Assuming everyone stays fit and healthy, this will provide the greatest variety of tactical options, but it can create tremendous difficulties if the club is hit by an injury crisis. A toolkit approach also tends to be more costly, and many players may resent being rotated out of important games when their skills are not required.
10.5 COACHING STYLE
The nature of a manager’s tactical philosophy will have a tremendous influence on his approach to training and developing players. Though there are many managers who fall somewhere in between, there are basically two approaches to player development that correspond to a systematic or flexible approach to tactics. Essentially, a manager will focus more on coaching the fine details of an intricate system or he’ll focus more on coaching the basic principles of football.
For a systematic manager, the system is the foundation of training. A player will be developed to operate according to the manager’s vision with a strong emphasis on perfecting the player’s understanding of his role, duty and position within the system. This doesn’t necessarily mean a manager uses a more structured tactic (though that’s often the case); it simply means the manager believes that the player’s ability to carry out the system is his primary concern (whether the player’s role is itself general or highly specialised, whether the system itself is very fluid or highly structured).
In terms of training programmes, a systematic manager will normally spend more time training team tactics in larger groups with sessions simulating specific match scenarios. With less time devoted to coaching players individually, players who are uncomfortable in the system will either be promptly sold or given an opportunity to retrain to fit a new position or role. In terms of the team’s overall tactical focus, systematic managers will tend to prefer an emphasis on either attacking or defending depending on his preferred style of play. A manager who prefers a physically demanding style may put an emphasis on fitness training, though focusing on fitness training will normally require much heavier squad rotation. In the case of a system manager who does like to make more time to work with players on an individual basis more often, there will also be a heavy emphasis on role training.
For a flexible manager, the principles of play are the foundation of training. A player’s development will be mostly focused on improving his general understanding of the game and ability to adapt under different tactical set-ups. As with a systematic approach, this doesn’t necessarily mean the tactic itself is more structured or fluid; it simply means the manager prefers to equip the player with the underlying tactical acumen needed to adjust his own personal playing style to different approaches regardless of whether he is naturally a more versatile or specialised type of player.
In terms of training programmes, a flexible manager will spend more time working in small groups with sessions designed to improve individual decision-making and skill that can be adapted to any scenario. Since players will have fewer opportunities to fall back on the organisation of a trusted system, they are expected to develop a more intuitive grasp of the principles of play with a view of the game structured more in terms of the concepts of the first, second and third attacker/defenders as opposed to a broader system with more intricately developed positional responsibilities.
For the team’s overall tactical focus, a flexible manager will often prefer a broad tactical focus, especially if he often changes formation or expects the team to rely more on defensive tactics. Other managers, especially those who prefer more fluid systems, will adopt a ball control focus with training based around small-sided games intended to maximise time on the ball. This is most frequently the case with managers who often adapt the team’s style or expects the team will need to focus more on attacking play to break down defensive opponents.
10.6 THE DARK ARTS
In contemporary football, the manager must often act as a public relations officer for the club. For many, the relentless series of press conferences and interviews is nothing more than an annoyance, but if a manager is willing to play the psychological game, it can also be an effective tool for creating tactical advantages.
The first and easiest method is to respond to media questions about opposition players in order to draw the media’s attention to the performance of a player who struggles to keep his nerve under pressure. These players will struggle to cope with the spotlight, and this can force his manager to choose between playing a nervous player or relying on a back-up. If the player takes the field and his play is visibly affected, you can gain an advantage by directing the attack into his zone of responsibility or setting up your defence to channel the ball to him. However, this approach can backfire completely if a determined player decides he wants to prove you wrong.
A second and far more difficult method is to use the media to unsettle a rival’s key player by declaring him a transfer target. Assuming you actually have the ability to turn the player’s head, this can cause him to become unhappy which can lead to a decline in form. This requires playing a longer game if you are going to use it to gain an advantage for a specific match and there’s always a risk it can also upset your own players, but this trick can potentially win titles if used correctly. Of course, using the media in this way will win you no friends among your managerial colleagues, and this can end up costing the club if you look to conduct business on more amicable terms further down the line. But for those who resort to the dark arts, making new enemies is a small price to pay.
10.7 THE FINAL WHISTLE
The principles underlying football tactics are not rules. They are always just guidelines, and on the pitch, there are times when a player must act against his coaching to find a better solution to the problem that faces him. Ultimately, the world’s enduring fascination with football is based in the fact that, despite its fundamental simplicity, it cannot be reduced to dogmatic rules and procedures. There is an abstract, theoretical element to the game, but there is also an unpredictable, human element that is persistently pushing its boundaries. In football, there is always room for the creative thinker, the innovator and the rebel. That is the essence of the beautiful game.
This applies to managers as well. An understanding of tactical theory is only the beginning. From there, a manager’s most important qualities are his abilities to think critically and creatively. With that being the case, the suggestions put forward in this handbook are intended only as guidelines, not restrictions. Above all, my aim in writing it was to help you acquire the tools to begin shaping and realising your own ideas about how the game should be played. There is no one right way to do this, and like football itself, the fun of Football Manager lies in what you make of it.