It is the summer months in Europe and everyone not on international duty is taking an off-season holiday. This period of time represents a window for the manager to disrupt the usual season operation of his club to bring in new faces and to trim dead wood. Three key dates are on the managers calender; start of pre-season training, start of the transfer window, and the first competitive match of the season.
A manager has untill the start of pre-season training and the start of the transfer window to decide the shape of his squad for the next season. Ideally the players return to club training to a fresh season, with lingering problems from last season resolved and a new squad outlook and composition already firmly decided. He has until the first competitive game of the season to make vital squad additions, to achieve match fitness, to attain a 90%+ level of player condition, and to construct a viable tactical framework for the coming season.
With the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere having summer and winter at different times, and with various leagues across the world playing at various times throughout the year, the off-season in a particular continent or region represents the time when your scouts get a holiday; to the other side of the world. The manager of an upper echelon European club would be well advised to send his scouts that have previously trawled the U19 leagues of European football across the world to take in the delights of Brazilian, Arabian, Australian and Asian football. There is very little to see in Europe beyond the televised biannual International Tournaments where the media acts as a scout its self. Haul your Dutch U19 scout back to the club and send him on a two month vacation to South America.
Speaking of scouts it is time to hunt out that genius JPA 20 and JPP 20 scout (or get one) and send him to compile detailed reports on every single player in the first team squad of your first league opposition. Make sure you remember his name when his reports land on your desk, so you don't bin those reports as crappy transfer targets. Never underestimate the benefit of being able to pull up your "Next Match" shortlist and have detailed strengths, weaknesses and future potential of every first team player of your opponent at your fingertips. Keeping abreast of club football in your league and at your level in this manner is priceless.
Next thing to do is hunt out your tactical knowledge 20 scout (or get one) with as high JPA as you can find, and set him to scout your next opposition. These two scouts now provide you with a tactical overview of the oppositions formation, a description of their playstyle, a description of pitch conditions, a warning about their on-the-pitch star performer and a detailed analysis of every individual players strengths, weaknesses, relative ability and potential. You will even get a video of the opponents last match to watch. Brilliant.
On the topic of scouting never be afraid to ask your staff their opinions on players you are looking at. You are free to disagree with their opinions, but it is free to receive those opinions, so long as you do not overwork people too much. A quick report card from a coach on a possible transfer is a few notepad scribbles left on your desk highlighting your coaches opinion on the players ability and potential. Cheap, quick and happens all the time. Or it should do.
With the scouts on their way to the airport with tickets in hand it is time to plan out the Pre-Season training for the next couple of months, and the general training strategy for your players in the coming season. A low key approach to Pre-Season training is generally advised as players are going to return to the club as if they have been out for two months injured. The goals here are to slowly re-introduce players to a high level of training while aiming to reverse some of the more serious drops in a players ability during the off-season, usually his physical attributes. A good pre-season training strategy can see an older player of 30+ lose 4 physical attributes during off-season and pre-season and gain 3 back by the first game of the season. For a younger player of 20 ish you might see a loss of one or two during the off-season and a gain of four to six in physical attributes alone by season kick-off.
The most important aspect of Pre-Season training from the managers perspective is arguably the ability to analyse the reaction of individual players to identical schedules and workloads. Pre-Season training should be focused on cranking up the intensity of a schedule aimed at general development of all attributes and player fitness, combined to observing player reaction and individual player mentality and application towards all areas of training. As players age and develop, their individual response to training will change, and each Pre-Season is a means to re-evaluate each individual in a training context on a season by season basis.
I personally like to squeeze each available point of training out of each level of Overall Schedule Intensity, while maintaining a Light schedule during the first week of Pre-Season and cranking it up to the limit of a Heavy schedule during the final weeks. My Pre-Season schedule evolves in a fairly predictable manner from the exact same initial schedule to the exact same final schedule each Pre-Season.
My initial schedule is at the very limit of light training load, and if we count each slider position as 1 position, with the extreme left of each slider being position 1, then position 10 is the first position of medium intensity, 17 the first of heavy, 24 the first position of intensive, then my initial schedule looks like this:
Strength: Position 8 (two clicks to the left of medium) Aerobic: Position 8 Tactics: Position 10 (bang on medium) Ball Control: Position 10 Defending: Position 10 Attacking: Position 10 Set Pieces: Position 8
This is bang on the limit of light but gives each area of training almost identical focus in intensity. My final Pre-Season schedule looks like this:
Strength: Position 13 (3 clicks to the right of medium) Aerobic: Position 13 Tactics: Position 16 (1 click to the left of heavy) Ball Control: Position 16 Defending: Position 16 Attacking: Position 16 Set Peices: Position 19 (two clicks to the right of heavy)
This is bang on the limit of heavy. If you watch the training levels in each players training screen you will see that the final schedule has each level of training either on or above the final dotted line, while at the same time being bang on the limit of Heavy and one click away from Very Heavy. I consider this to be an ideal balanced Heavy training schedule, and I use this basic schedule template as well as variations in individual player training levels as a guide to custom schedules for each player later on in my preparation for the season. I generally crank up the training levels on a weekly basis and give each increase in intensity a full week before the next change. It is up to each individual manager to analyse the number of weeks in each Pre-Season and to increase the schedule intensity by the relevant quantity each week. I also watch my players carefully and when a player is no longer happy with this intensity of Pre-Season training I construct a personal schedule on the basis of the previous intensity he was comfortable at.
Now that your scouts are enroute to some Samba and your coaches are busy hauling out plastic cones and fifty footballs from the training storage cupboard it is time for the manager to get on the phone and organise the final stage of squad preparation. Get rid of all friendlies currently arranged and use the calender to plan out 3 vital tactical challenges and 3 morale boosting low quality kick-abouts. If the manager is free from affiliated club promises, requirements to raise cash, or transfer friendly promises then he is looking to find three key friendly matches against lower quality opposition that offer the following tactical challenges.
The first tactical challenge is against an opponent that has a weak attack and weak midfield but a strong defence.
The second tactical challenge is against an opponent with a weak midfield and weak defence but a strong attack.
The third tactical challenge is against an opponent with a weak attack and weak defence but a strong midfield.
Ideally these three tactical challenges come a week before your first competitive game, two weeks before your first competitive game and three weeks before your first competitive game, all on a Saturday or Sunday. In between these three games the manager should provide opposition of a very low standard, usually playing on a Wednesday, for his reserves and youth team to ideally thrash comprehensively. Alternatively a manager could begin and end with weak opposition but have during the middle of Pre-Season a friendly cup against high quality opposition. Either way the emphasis is on squad practice and controlled challenges.
With players beginning their holidays, the transfer window a few weeks away and the general strategy for your clubs Pre-Season already set in motion, now is the ideal time for some short, sharp changes to your coaching staff. Ideally all changes to your staff will be completed long before the transfer window opens and your players return for Pre-Season training. Your coaching staff can be a vital network of managerial support, intelligent opinions, club morale and long term player and club development and to get the best staff it is important to understand what they can do and how they are likely to go about doing it. Of all the staff roles it is the assistant manager that can have the greatest impact on a club, but this impact will be wholly determined by the manager. A good assistant manager that enhances the club through strengthening managerial weaknesses is therefore the first priority, but to do this it is necessary to understand yourself as a manager first and foremost.
An assistant can do several things to support the manager. He can be a judge and source of accurate and important opinions on the clubs players and future transfers. He can take team talks and media interviews and enhance the morale of the squad. He can offer tactical advice and team selections before and during a match. He can be involved in training and manage the youth and reserve squad matches. He can deal with contracts and setup friendly matches. In short the assistant manager is able to assist in areas of club management that the manager is weak in, and if a manager has a particular weakness or finds it difficult to get the best out of players in particular situations then the assistant should be brought in to help out and offer strong advice in those areas.
It is important to remember that there are areas where other coaching staff can do a similar job to the assistant manager, such as taking control of youth and reserve teams or offering player ability and potential analysis. This gives the manager leeway in recruiting the right staff for particular jobs, and means that although ideally you want a near perfect assistant manager, you don't necessarilly need one. Focus on your own weaknesses first and foremost and reinforce those with the assistant, then look for coaches to take control of other areas of the club.
First and foremost the assistant manager should be an individual with a similar footballing philosophy to the manager. You want to share similar ideals for preferred formation, pressing style, playing mentality and marking style, but remember also that slight variations in playing mentality and pressing style etc. may lead to a wider and deeper tactical opinion on the game in question. You then want to make sure that the assistant is determined, focused but easy to get along with. An assistant manager that no one likes will not be an asset around the club, but an assistant manager that players get on with can also get the best out of them if he is a good motivator. You then want to decide exactly what areas of management your assistant will excel in. Generally these will be teamtalks and tactical advice, which demand high motivating and high tactical knowledge. A manager that desires an assistants advice on players individually will be looking for JPA and JPP etc. The key is to focus on the managers needs and requirements, and then to look for the assistant that offers the widest possible choice of good advice in other areas after these essentials are met.
Do not think twice about hiring your ideal assistant and firing your current one, no matter how favoured the current assistant is around the club. You are the manager and finding the best assistant for yourself is a priority that is second to none. When it comes to other members of staff that are favoured around the club it may be wise to retain their services in some minor or general role. Coaches can develop just like players, and so chucking a recently retired player into training as a general all area coach can pay massive dividends in the long run.
The next area of concern is the general distribution and quality of your staff. More general coaches means more room for flexible and talented youth team managers or coaches that double as training morale boosters and player scouts, but it also means higher workloads and less individual attention for good strong training staff upon first team players. I generally like to have amongst my staff a coach that is involved with all first team training and has high JPA and JPP that acts as scout for my own players and whose opinion I ask for possible transfers. I also like to have a young, friendly coach acting as a reserve team manager, ideally a coach with the statistics that hint at a possible future assistant role. Much like developing youth players it is possible to develop coaches, and the bonus of emerging assistants from within your own staff ranks is that he will likely be a favoured individual around the club.
Do not neglect scouts and physios as you hire and fire staff members during this period. Good physios can make the world of difference when it comes to recovery from injuries, and good scouts can make the world of difference when it comes to transfers. With scouts I find that you only really need three or four highly active manager favoured scouts as you combine scout reports with coach report cards. You want a scout that knows his tactics for scouting your next opposition, and you want a perfect or near perfect judge of current and potential ability to scout the first team of all your league opponents. Beyond this you want a mix of scouting ability and football knowledge, and ideally a third near perfect scout that is never assigned a particular league or competition or region, but operates as a transfer scout watching closely all your shortlist targets.
The manager is now itching to get his fingers dialling up the chairman to dive into the transfer market, but he needs to put the phone down and rally his staff around him for a lengthy conference on the current state of his squad. It is likely that the manager was lured into many preconceptions regarding the transfer in or out of specific players during the course of the season, but now that the season is over it is time to take a careful look at the true extent of the entire club squad and see precisely where the problems, potential and gaping holes reside.
The first thing to do is to promote absolutely everyone in the club to the first team squad. Set the view to general info and sort by age, youngest at the top. Now go through the entire squad with a fine tooth comb and decide who simply cannot cut it under any circumstances at first team level. If they under 18 they go back into the under 18s, if they are above 18 they go into the reserves. Be ruthless but fair. Players over 18 that cannot cope with the football at first team level are finished. Players that can step in and do a job during an injury crisis might yet have a future. If you have doubts whether a player is finished completely then leave him be for now. You want to be able to see the possibilities and options available to you once the first team has been weeded of the completely inept or the far too young. If a player is currently in the middle of or just returning from a long term injury then leave them be. No one will buy them and they deserve another season to show you that they can offer something. One season and no more, during the next Pre-Season be as ruthless with them as ever.
Once the underdeveloped players are in the U18s and the completely inept are in the reserves, it is time to study what remains. The ideal football club consists of a first team regular for each position and an up-and-coming starlet challenging for that position, with a couple of veterans providing cover and experience and direction, and the occasional extra squad player to provide a challenge for the first team and to provide some tactical depth and options for the manager. The ideal squad rarely exists though, and it will take time to produce the ideal squad should you lack it. As manager it is up to you to provide the right balance of first team players, young challengers, experienced cover, and flexible backups, and it is up to you to construct a squad that gives each of these players the games that are necessary for their development, morale, and match practice.
As a manager you should prepare yourself for the worst case scenarios, within reason. Can your young right back play ten games in a row and produce acceptable performances? Can you cope with the loss of both of your strikers? Do you have enough keepers? It is important, perhaps fundamental to remember that having too large a squad limits opportunity for youth, and too small a squad limits your ability to make an effective challenge for your desired goals. The chaff you relegated to reserves can be sold, but equally you might make a pretty penny selling that extra squad midfielder that is blocking the path for your next Zidane or Roy Keane. Analyse your players carefully and if your current first choice right back is in his prime but not much better than your experienced right back, and is being chased by a youngster then you have a difficult situation that requires some decisive management, but equally contains opportunity for getting the best out of everyone in that position next season. Be mindfull of the situations you face, the wishes you have and the reality of a footballing season, and prioritise players accordingly.
So you have spent the last three hours debating the current strength and depth of your first team squad with your staff (seriously) and it is now, finally, time to unleash the purse strings and annoy the hell out of the board.
Player transfers should follow a clear mantra, improvement, improvement, improvement. Improvement is not necessarily all about adding players, but equally about making space for talented youth, and sending out clear signals of intent to the footballing world, your own players and the fans. Improvement may also take the form of adding liquid cash to your club, to be used in any number of ways. As a manager it is up to you to take into account all of these methods and consequences of improvement, and ultimately to begin next season in a better position collectively than you began the last.
The primary concern in the improvement of a squad, team and club is the removal of problems. While the removal of problems can mean the addition of a key player, it also means the removal of problematic players in a way that minimises disruption to the squad. This is a vital concern, for as stated at the very top of this post the players should return to a fresh squad with a clear focus on the season ahead. A manager needs to move swiftly to clear dead wood and remove problem players, and should always look to "rest" or otherwise ban players that have no future at the club from training until they are sold. Sometimes the speed and decisiveness of an exit matters more than the transfer fee received, especially when the player in question is likely to become disruptive and detrimental to squad harmony and managerial control.
With regard to transfers the manager should have a list of multiple players suited to the club across multiple age groups in every position. These players should all offer something that is lacking from the squad, whether that be backup, direct instant influence or long term development and first team challenge. The manager should highlight his vital targets in vital positions of vital concern and aim to bring to the squad roughly three key players per season, offering instantaneous impact with one signing and two or three long term, high potential youth players.
When planning transfers the manager has a simple guideline to follow in terms of cost. Take the basic value of the player, take the maximum cost the manager is willing to pay, and find the half way point between the two as the guiding value of the transfer. Take into account the available transfer funds and add the halfway points of the key transfers together. If the sum is higher than the transfer fund then do not expect to gain all three players this Pre-Season. Each transfer should be dealt with individually and in turn relative to their initial impact. Start off by offering a value slightly higher than the players basic value and sweeten the deal with sell on clauses and friendlies etc. It may take a few weeks to arrive at a deal that is acceptable to both parties, but starting low maintains the ability to sign multiple players, while starting high ensures a realtively rapid deal concluded at many times a higher cost than could have been obtained otherwise. Never underestimate the benefit of a rapid resolution and early addition to your squad. The faster players get sold and bought in the initial stages of Pre-Season the quicker the players and squad will gell and prepare for next season.
When selling players and signing contracts the key is always to maintain discipline and to send signals to the squad. Some squads may benefit from the sale of the lowest average rated player of the previous season and this send out a strong message to the team while increasing transfer funds and removing inadequate and underperforming players. Never be afraid to sacrifice apparently vital players if you can see an underlying gain and overall improvement, but never forget the importance of continuity. The wise manager will understand key moments in the development of his squad and take all measures necessary to achieve maximum improvement.
With the essentials dealt with for now you should take a quick look around at what else might need tweaked. For example now is the ideal time to relay the pitch, or to sort out and improve your feeder clubs for the upcoming loan decisions you may have to make. Spend some time looking through the various news and transfer rumour items as these all serve to bring information to your attention, regardless of the accuracy of the stories. You might spot something regarding a player you had never heard of, or a name may jog your memory and inspire a bit of transfer market genius.
|The above was all written by SFraser in the Sports Interactive Community Forums. All credit for the above goes to him. As footballmanagerwiki is available to anyone to edit as they like, I can not guarantee that the below is the exact work of the original writer. To see the original thread and to discuss this team, please visit the Tactics and Training Tips Forum.|
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