So, with everything covered up to this point, it’s probably time to play a match.
Pre-Match Staff Meeting
The Pre-Match staff meeting is the last chance to go over everything in-depth before kick-off. Your backroom team provide an opposition report that includes the expected line-up you’re set to face, and key tactical advice for the match ahead.
If you haven’t settled on your team selection by match day, this is your final chance to put your plans into action. Armed with the information from the staff meeting, you should be well set.
In the build-up to a match, running through the items below as something of a check-list will serve you well ahead of kick-off:
- Are your players appropriate for the Positions, Roles and Duties defined in your tactics?
- Are those players fit and match sharp enough for the demands of the fixture?
- Who’s in form? Who isn’t? Does your team represent the best it can be right now?
- Do you have sufficient flexibility to change your tactic if it’s not working?
- Do you have the ability to change the game with your substitutes?
- What is the morale of the team? Are there players with higher morale not involved? Could they be a better fit for the next match?
- What does your fixture list look like? Do you need to rotate your squad?
- Are there any unhappy players who you have promised more first-team football to?
- What threats do the opposition carry? Have you successfully identified them, through opposition analysis reports, and made plans to counter them?
- How important is the match? Can you play a weakened team or give some younger players much-needed playing time? Board Confidence tells you how important the Board deems the competition to be when appraising your performance.
Answer all these questions before confirming your match day team selection. Being able to provide a comprehensive answer to each question gives you a much better chance of achieving the desired result.
Having submitted the team and informed your players of the approach you want to take, they then give you instant feedback on how they feel going into the match. Pay close attention to both the positive and negative reactions and try to use them to your advantage once the match kicks off; confident and happy players are likely to go out and play with positivity, while those disappointed by your choices could struggle but might equally have a point to prove.
The Team Sheet is in and there’s bound to be a reaction, so your Press Officer gathers the very latest from social media. Your staff, meanwhile, advise you of any changes that might need to be made if your opponents have sprung a last-minute surprise.
If you’ve assumed the responsibility for attending pre-match tunnel interviews, you’ll be asked a question or to just before heading out onto the pitch.
Team talks give you a tremendous opportunity to have a positive impact on your players before, during and after each match. A good team talk can lift spirits, sharpen focus, and improve performance. A bad one, however, can do the exact opposite in each regard.
The pre-match team talk is your chance to ensure the players are ready for the task at hand; that they know what’s expected of them, and are put into the right mindset before going about their business.
The half time team talk is a chance to react to the first 45 minutes of football and instruct them accordingly. They might need some encouragement, or waking up, or a reminder that their standards have dropped, or any number of similar things. It sets the table for the second half and can make or break a result.
The full time team talk can be celebratory in the right circumstances – even in defeat – or it can be a stark reminder to ensure complacency doesn’t creep in, that the outcome was unacceptable, or that they were perhaps lucky. It ensures the players go home with plenty to think about before returning to training and playing their next match.
Your Assistant Manager offers advice on the best team talk to give and this can often reveal something about the players, particularly if they’re somewhat nervous or complacent. It might act as a warning that you should take heed of and address directly with your team talk. Alternatively, you can ask the Assistant Manager to take the talk directly.
Team talks may be issued in one of six distinct tones:
Aggressive, Assertive, Cautious, Reluctant, Calm, Passionate
They each carry an emotion to be transmitted from you, the manager, to the team and it should be appropriate for the situation you find yourself in. A calm tone issues considered, well-gathered instructions and is probably the most advisable ‘base line’ tone to adopt the majority of the time.
The rest of the scale can be used when you feel the team needs a stronger dose of emotional reasoning; each player will react differently depending on their personality, morale and body language. For example, an Aggressive approach might work well for a player who is ‘Fired Up’ while being either Spirited or Resolute in character, but it wouldn’t be successful if given to a player who is Easily Discouraged as a character, and is displaying Nervous body language. To repeat a common theme from throughout this manual, using common sense when dispensing with team talk advice is a sensible approach, and will likely return good results.
In addition to those six tones, team talks as a whole cover six more basic sentiments:
Angry, Disappointed, Encourage, Sympathise, Pleased, Delighted
You might be Delighted after a big win, but Angry or Disappointed at a below-par performance. You might want to Encourage the team to perform pre-match, Sympathise with the way the game has gone at half time, before returning Pleased at full time with their application and the outcome. The combination of tone and sentiment creates a multi-layered device that can truly affect each and every fixture you play.
Try to take as many factors into account as you can before you issue a team talk:
- What has your recent form been like?
- Are you expected to win this match?
- How is each player’s morale?
- Is this your strongest team? Are there any inexperienced players involved?
- How important is this match in the context of your season?
- How did the team perform in the first half? Could they have done better?
- Have you seen signs of the team playing as you want? Has luck simply deserted them?
- Have the team been lucky? Are they focused enough?
- Does the outcome match the performance? Are you happy with the result?
- What does the fixture list look like after this match? Do they need to avoid complacency?
- Is there room to boost morale? Do the players need to come back down to earth?
The questions might well be endless; the above is just a top-level list of suggestions that can form the basis of a comprehensive approach. Team talks matter more than you might realise, and it is definitely worth spending time getting to know what works for your team in order to get the best possible results.
The Match Screen
The Pitch View takes you to a match screen designed specifically for the full match view. The primary and majority focus on the screen is, as you’d expect, on the pitch and what’s going on. The scoreboard and settings are at the top of the screen, while the commentary and your managerial actions are at the bottom.
The bottom left of the screen is dedicated to tactical adjustments, allowing you to make quick changes to shape, style, mentality or instructions, as well as delivering touchline shouts to your players. ‘Full Tactics’ takes you to the Tactics screen for complete control.
Running along the bottom of the screen is a list of your players currently on the pitch. You can select any of them to change their position, role or instructions, shout directly to them, or make a substitution.
The Dugout is where you can ask members of your backroom team for specific information. It’s split into ‘Show Me’ and ‘Ask For’ sections; ‘Show Me’ requests information from your analysts about either team, as well as the latest scores and information from other matches being played at the same time, while ‘Ask For’ is an on-demand Assistant Manager advice option.
Along with the match speed sliders, the manager can also toggle whether replays are on or not and the saturation of highlights shown. If you’re ambitious and have some time on your hands, you can view the ‘entire’ match (note, this is not actually 90 minutes), extended highlights, just the key events, or none at all and watch the game with just commentary text. The ‘Camera’ options offer a list of different views from which the match can be watched, both live and in replays.
How can I see more of what’s going on?
You can look at all the information you could possibly want by bringing up the ‘Touchline Tablet’ from the tablet icon.
In Between Highlights
If you’re watching a match on a condensed highlights mode, there will be spells where there is no action to show. When this happens, you have access to key information highlighting how the match is going, and advice arrives from your coaching staff for you to take on Board and action as you see fit.
Managing During the Match
Making tactical changes during the match starts and ends with watching the match. Whatever your preferred camera view and highlight mode might be, make sure it gives you a sufficiently complete view of the action, and allows you to be aware of every development as play unfolds.
The shortcut buttons allow you to make substitutions, tactical changes, mentality adjustments, touchline shouts and set opposition instructions.
At every turn, you must decide whether or not:
a) your tactical instructions are being carried out as designed,
b) the opposition are nullifying your tactical instructions,
c) the opposition have left something you can exploit.
Let’s use an example. If you’ve adopted a 4-2-3-1 formation with your AML and AMR both set to ‘Inside Forward’ Roles and instructions to ‘Cut Inside With Ball’, you should be able to clearly see each of them leaving the touchline and moving into central areas in possession. However, if the opposition have seen this, and have decided to play two DMs with the express intent of blocking the very space your AML and AMR are seeking to exploit, you have a decision to make:
a) You could change their roles to ‘Winger’, for example, and attack the opponent on the outside, potentially rendering those two DMs useless.
b) You could adjust the team’s overall playing style; if the opponent has adopted a ‘low block’ with the two DMs ahead of a deep defensive line, it might call for a more patient passing game to probe for space and lapses of concentration, or a more direct approach where long balls are pumped into the penalty area, going over the heads of the DMs.
c) You could do nothing and hope that your players are simply better than theirs, and that quality will ultimately always shine through.
The same applies in reverse; if you’re stopping them from doing something, or have left an area of weakness for them to exploit, they might tweak their tactics and try to get on top that way. It’s a perpetual chess match, where each manager is seeking the upper hand, and the possibilities are nearly endless. You must know the versatility of your tactics and your players, be able to identify what’s working and what isn’t, and know when and when not to make a change.
In addition to being able to make more comprehensive tactical changes, you can give a series of ‘Shouts’ to your players – either individually (using the drop-down option next to each shout) or collectively - from the technical area.
Encourage and Praise contribute to the players being pumped up more if successful. If unsuccessful, they’ll become more frustrated.
Berate, Fire Up, Focus and Demand More increase each players’ individual and collective focus and motivation if successful. If not, they’ll lose focus and become demotivated.
Calm Down and No Pressure seek to relax the players but, in some situations, can burden then with additional pressure.
Berate loosens the shackles on the players and encourages them to be more expansive with their passing.
The success of a touchline shout depends on the morale, motivation and body language of each player, and so it pays to ensure you’ve checked this information (from a widget or from the main tactics screen) before making a shout.
At Full Time, your Press Officer returns to deliver a round-up of events elsewhere, as well as a summary of the media and social reaction. Then it’s time to fulfil your post-match media requirements if you’ve retained those responsibilities.