This is a piece written by guest author Sam Drew.
I’d like to start off by saying that I’m not very good at Football Manager. That’s not me trying to be humble, it’s the honest truth, which is partly why I’ve hopped from game to game to game this year trying to find a save I can stick with. I actually enjoy reading about other people’s saves and about how they play the game more than playing the game myself, although that’s partly to do with the lack of success as mentioned above. I’m not particularly great with tactics and that side of the game doesn’t interest me as much, so I don’t always do well with that aspect of FM. I’m more interested in squad management and signing players, although don’t call me a wheeler-dealer…
I’ve always found it interesting reading about how other people find interesting ways of bringing the game to life, like when StatApp had his spreadsheets which I tried to emulate, which was fun. Cleon’s article about using notes was also interesting because that’s something I hadn’t thought of. I think I’ve now found my own, unique way of managing which suits me, and I thought I’d write about it since it’s made the game more engaging for me despite my lack of tactical prowess. It’s also something I’ve not seen anybody talk about: using nicknames for something other than giving players funny names.
This method did require me to set up a tactic initially to be fair, but it’s very basic. It got me 4th with Valencia in the first season, which is about in line with expectations, but we had some really good runs which saw us only lose two games in all competitions until mid-January. Unfortunately we had some miserable runs of form in the second half of the season and I struggled to lift us out of it. Still, I think the tactic is solid.
What I’ve done is assign a shirt number to each role in the tactic, and every player in my squad is meant to fit into a certain role. I use nicknames to help with the development side of it and in the squad management, but for now I’ll detail my tactic and go through the roles, with my 16/17 Valencia squad members mentioned in there too.
#1: GK (D) – Diego Alves, Mathew Ryan
Standard goalkeeper really, not much to say about this role. As a PI I have various settings on to improve his passing. Diego Alves is my first choice here, Ryan is the back-up.
#2: FB (A) – Joao Cancelo, Antonio Barragan
At right back I have a full-back set on attack, and this role generates some surprisingly good performances. The idea behind this role is that I have a powerful, strong runner who is aggressive and good defensively but can also bomb forwards and put some good crosses in. I also want him to be good in the air, so he can help out from set pieces and win long balls from the goalkeeper. The value of this role was demonstrated when Cancelo and Barragan, who I rotated, were 1st and 3rd respectively in our Player of the Year results.
#4: CD (D) – Shkodran Mustafi, Ruben Vezo
Another neutral role, but my recruitment and selection in this position allows me to tweak it without changing the settings drastically. Here I want a composed defender who is good on the ball and is quick enough to cover for his partner. Basically a covering BPD, but I’m happy with keeping the role neutral as I said, and allowing the style and attributes of the player to dictate how the role is interpreted.
#5: CD (D) – Aymen Abdennour, Aderllan Santos
Again a simple role, but this centre back is a different beast to the #4. I want a player who’s strong, aggressive and brave, and also a good leader. Kind of like a LD (X), but I thought that would be too extreme, especially since I want us to play out from defence.
#3: WB (S) – Jose Gaya, Lucas Orban
You can see the difference between our RB and LB in the roles selected, and this guy is meant to offer slightly more cautious support than the #2. I’m looking for a guy who’s a good passer but also quick up and down the line. I’m an Arsenal fan, so if you think of the Invincibles, this guy is the Ashley Cole, whereas the other full-back is more Lauren. Clichy and Sagna had a similar thing going on in 2008.
#6: DM (D) – Danilo, Javi Fuego
My sole defensive midfielder is the guy who protects the back four but he also has responsibility to help build up play. I didn’t go for anchorman because it’s possibly too one-dimensional and defensive, whereas I thought DLP (D) would be too creative and not defensive enough.
#10: AP (A) – Andre Gomes, Enzo Perez
This guy is my main creator and is meant to be an additional goal threat, although it hasn’t worked out so well in terms of goals so far. I may need to tweak this role. I tried out RPM initially but it wasn’t perfect.
#8: DLP (S) – Lucas Romero, Ruben Neves
Another role I’m not sure about as I started out with a BBM, but I thought a DLP would make more sense for a possession-based side. The middle man in the centre of the park who links play and hopefully chips in with a few goals.
#7: W (A) – Leroy Sane, Santi Mina
On the right is our secondary goal-scorer in theory, although I’ve got two youngsters who are a bit inconsistent with their finishing. I might change this role to IF (A) to get him in the box more but the basic idea is the same: somebody to get up alongside our striker to either score or assist.
#11: IF (S) – Rodrigo de Paul, Fede Cartabia
I love the idea of balance, so to account for our direct player on the right we have a creative player on the left, who’s meant to be our secondary creator helping out the #10. De Paul ended up scoring quite a few last season, which is fine, but I could end up changing this role to an AP if I want him to be more assist-focused.
#9: CF (S) – Alvaro Negredo, Paco Alcacer
I’ve had a bit of inconsistency up front, with Negredo mostly first-choice. He started slowly, as did Alcacer when he got a chance, but eventually Negredo started scoring and we relied on him quite a lot. He had a few injuries but Alcacer was able to find some form. I started out with a DLF (A) as I want this player to help link midfield to attack as well as scoring, but I’ve switched to CF (S) as it suits these players more.
So these are the roles I use, and here’s how my numbers system works. Every player on the books is assigned a specific role, from the first-team to the youth team. I like having two players for every position, and I generally rotate quite a bit to keep everybody fit. All of the youth players have a role in the tactic that they’re being developed for, which helps focus their development. None of this is particularly new.
What I’ve been doing for a while, once I find a long-term save game to get stuck into, is to use nicknames to keep track of who is being primed for which position, and also to make training much easier. Here’s a view of my first-team squad.
It doesn’t show everybody, but you get the idea. This is how I sort out training really quickly and easily. Every player has a nickname with their primary role number at the front reflecting which role they play in the system. I then sort by name, and go through each numbered role and assign role training for that position, and that way I can do lots of players at a time. Usually I use the filters to include all the players at the club, so I can select all of my #9s from the first-team, B-team and u-19s and give them all Complete Forward training with one click for example.
As well as having numbers for their main role, there are a few other numbers in the nicknames. I have a system for this, and I’ll explain with some examples.
8 (6). Ruben Neves: This shows that his main role is as a #8, but he can also fill in as a #6 if needed.
8/6. Lucas Romero: Romero is similar to Neves, but I think he’s equally suited to playing as a #8 as he is to playing as a #6. In the squad depth he’s one of our first-choice #8s though, so that number goes first so that he’s trained as a DLP along with the rest of the #8s.
7 . Santi Mina: For the moment, Santi plays as a #7 because we don’t have many right-wingers and he’s good there, but long-term I see him as a #9, so I’ve put the 9 in square brackets to indicate that his future, long-term position is up-front. I might swap this around to have his short-term position in brackets so I can train him as a #9 with the rest, rather than including him in the training to be a W (A) like the other #7s.
Throughout my squad, every single player has a nickname like this. As soon as my youth intake comes in, I evaluate every player, assign them a role, give them a nickname that reflects that and set them on the training needed. Any individual areas of their game which need ironing out I set on additional focus, although as you can see I’m not great at doing that just yet…
Another way I integrate the role numbers is in my scouting. I’ve created search filters for each one of my roles, like this one for the #6:
The attributes reflect what I’m looking for from that particular player, and I aim to have no more than 25 players in the search results. Throughout the year I scout these players and add them to specific role based shortlists, like so:
So at the start of the season, I get initial scout reports on all of the results in the filter for #1. Any player with a recommendation of 2.5 stars or higher is scouted for a month. Once all of the players are at 100% (which rarely takes a month because my scouts usually already know the player) I’ll add them to the shortlist for their role, in this case #1. Once I’ve finished looking at all of the results for that filter, I start scouting the results for role filter #2 and so on.
The idea behind this is a bit like something I’ve seen in Moneyball articles, which is another way of playing that interests me. It boils down to always having a replacement lined up and ready in case an offer comes in that you can’t turn down. If that happens, as it did with Dani Parejo, my #8, when Arsenal came in with an offer that I negotiated up to £30M including instalments, I have at least 10 players on my #8 shortlist and I can probably pick up one of them for a considerably lower fee. As it turned out, lots of good potential #8s were transfer listed, like Adam Maher for £1.8M and Sergio Canales for £9M, but I went for Ruben Neves for a steal at £6.25M. Still, the point remains: I can always have a replacement for each role lined up if I keep my scouting ticking over. In the past I’ve also created adjusted search filters for players under 19 so I can pick up promising youngsters to fit into my roles, but it takes a lot of time and it’s often difficult to filter it right so that the players with high potential are included.
I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to. Hopefully this is something people find interesting and can maybe use in their saves, because I find using numbered nicknames incredibly helpful and a fun way of playing the game.
If you enjoy this article or have any questions then why not give Sam a follow on Twitter @samueljadrew