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Suggestions/Inspirations/Advice for Lower level management

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Hi Everyone,

I apologize for the long post in advance.

In FM16, I started lower league management in Belgium 3rd division and was managing Portuguese Premier league in about 9 seasons. I really loved the rise up. Although I was using my own tactics and ideas, I was never paying attention to the depth in it (so just creating tactics around player skills, hoping something would happen). I never even watched any match beyond "Key", let alone analyzing games on Prozone.

Once I saw the rise, I realized I wasn't being a true manager - I mean, I only know how to move around things, just not the things that work in conjunction with each other. So basically, for example, I knew what short pass vs long pass was, but didn't know how to effectively use it. I knew if I go to fluid from flexible, what it would do, just not how it will affect individual players or my team's shape (whatever that means). Prior to buying FM17, I tried to read up on a lot on tactics, watch videos etc. I just can't seem to focus enough or pay enough attention to details.

In FM17, I started an unemployment challenge for about 90 times, only to not go through with it after a couple of in-game months. I started to watch the matches in full detail to get the hang of it, but I'm either not understanding it, not doing it right, or paying enough attention to details. I know lower level managements can be tough, but still, after a few defeats, I'm just giving up and starting a new game. I really want to understand this game, want to go deep and figure it out - the way those awesome people on SIGames forum are doing in unemployment challenges. I just can't seem to be focused enough to go through it. At this point, I have some questions/concerns and would really love your input/inspirations in the matter.

My goal: start as an unemployed Sunday league badgeless manager and end up managing my favorite club, Real Madrid. I want to climb up the ladders mostly based on my results (don't want to focus on youth developments or long-term visions in other clubs) and playing style (I want to play nice short passing games with possession, but willing to adapt at the other clubs as they are not in my long term goal). Once I reach Madrid, I want to focus on youth development and play beautiful games for eternity. The only thing I will use is no attribute masking and genie scout - because even if I was a real life manager, I would've used them. So I'm trying to keep everything as realistic as possible here.

Questions - these are all going to be related to lower league management as I'll focus on the big-boy things once I make it there.

  1. Tactics and Strategy - seriously, what do you guys do around this area? How can I best work on this? How can I be focused, more attention to detail oriented and consistent?

  2. Mindset - I have a ridiculous mindset - if I lose, draw I just keep giving up. I cannot seem to stick to it at all. Any suggestions?

  3. Training - I don't even know how I can optimize this ideally.

  4. Details details details: I tried to read lines and diamonds, pairs and combinations etc. I understand everything at the time, but I forget everything later in the game - How do you keep track of all the combinations, ideas etc.? How can I improve in these areas?

  5. Substitutions: How do you keep players energy level up? My players usually have 100% match fitness, but their conditions go up and down. How do you work with below 80% condition back to back matches? When do you substitute? What do you look into it?

  6. More tactics: What do you do under different conditions in the game? Winning? Losing? Drawing need to score/defend? What drives you and how do you make those changes in a match to alter the results?

  7. Stats/prozone - I know this is an incredibly helpful tool - I don't know what changes to make based on the numbers. I watched the videos on prozone, I still don't get it. For example, x is making too many key passes to the right, I try to stop that it messes up my formation - how do you work around those? Basically, how do you just utilize it?

  8. Players - how do you analyze your team? There are players that have good attributes, but they still perform **** and some have poor attributes, but perform well. How do you get around that? How do you assess that? How do you optimize their performance? Are you afraid to move them around even if it's a drop in positional ability? What do you do when a tactic doesn't support that?

  9. How do I do it? How do I measure my progress if I'm losing constantly by playing well? How do I keep my spirits up, how do I keep myself from quitting that save and starting over? Seriously guys, how do you do what you do and how do I do it?

I know I'm sounding like one of those people who want to achieve something but doesn't want to work for it. The problem is, it is incredibly difficult to keep your head held high in this game because something that works fantastically if I'm taking a lot of shots, playing the way I want etc. - I might still lose. That will make me doubtful about my abilities and I'll just give up. I'll give up because I'll feel like I'm not making any progress at all and I'm just not good enough.

Please help me get over this, please help me get better. :(

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There are loads of excellent guides around the SI Community. Take some time to read a few of them if you haven't already.

It's getting a bit late over here, so I won't go through all of the areas you listed, but I'll give you a few pointers from my lower-league experiences in recent FMs.

Tactics and Strategy: I'd suggest you ask the tactics gurus here if you're struggling in that area of the game. Provide detailed information of what you're trying to do (formation, roles, instructions).

In general, though, it's probably a better idea to build a tactic around your players rather than fit said players into your preferred tactic. Take a close look at the squad you've taken over and work out where your strengths and weaknesses lie. If your best players are a couple of speedy wingers and a big, strong target man, then a low-tempo possession-based tactic might not be the best way to go. That nicely brings me onto...

Players: Some players could have excellent technical/physical attributes for their level, but if their mental attributes aren't too hot, they have a poor personality, or there's another major fault in their game, they could be next to useless.

I always like to have players with high work rate, stamina and determination, not to mention professional personalities if possible, in conjunction with decent technical and physical skills. Versatility is also a big plus for me - having a covering central defender who can also perform at full-back or in midfield can be as good as, if not better than, having two or three players who are only really suited to one role apiece.

If you're relying a lot on star ratings to determine the abilities of your players, STOP. They're just rough estimations from your coaches. (Case in point: I once had a player finish a season as my team's top scorer, even though my assistant rated him at half a star and said he was only a decent player for the level below.) Look carefully at the players' attributes, and their strengths and weaknesses, to make a more informed judgement.

Mindset: If you're stuck in a rut, take a step back for a while and think about where you might be going wrong. Is there one specific area where you're consistently exposed? Look on the forums for some additional tips if necessary.

Also, don't be afraid to move on if you're stuck in a real lost cause. In FM13, I took on a job at a newly-promoted Spanish third division club with limited resources. After assembling what I thought was a semi-decent squad, I lost my first five league games - four of them convincingly. My team was awful, but at the same time, the other teams were miles ahead of us on all fronts. The hunger I had for that challenge died very quickly.

I resigned and soon took over at a Conference Premier club near where I live. Through a combination of a greater understanding of how FM works and a fierce determination to succeed with a local team, I got them into the Championship within seven seasons.

Training: Pre-season should be all about building up your team's tactical understanding. During the season itself, I like to use all the other training focuses at different stages (i.e. Defending before a couple of very tough games, Ball Control if we've struggled in possession recently, Team Cohesion if my team's out of form). If your next opponents are excellent at set-pieces, perhaps concentrate on training your team to defend set-pieces just before you face them.

When my team's played a match, I like to give them the next day off training if they've got another game coming up in 2-4 days. If my team are playing at least twice in a given week, I never have Training Intensity set higher than Average, so as to lower the risk of my players tiring themselves out or picking up injuries.


I don't claim to be an excellent FMer (an average FMer, perhaps). I go through the same highs and lows that you do. For me, though, the key is to set small goals before every season, whether that be merely avoiding relegation or going far in a domestic cup. Then I can gradually build up to bigger goals before reaching my ideal end goal - in my FM13 save, that is to win the Club World Cup - much like your end goal would be to manage Real Madrid.

Edited by CFuller

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I usually play by starting unemployed with Sunday League and no badges and no super-tactics.  Here are some thoughts:

-Make sure you load low enough leagues for your stature.  

-Be very wise on picking a team.  

  • If you are a mid-season replacement hire, I would avoid teams that have ambitious goals.  For example, if the team fired its coach because they are in a relegation battle but they still expect a top-half finish, this is risky.  
  • My recommendation is to sim the game from start to late in the first year when teams start getting rid of managers at season's end.  Then you can be hired with a full transfer and training window, plus you will not be held accountable for any part of the finish.
  • One approach is to get hired on a strong, well-funded team that was just relegated.  This makes you likely favorites next year and in lower leagues you will probably have a much stronger squad than half the table.  You will need to deal with lots of other issues though as you may have financial troubles and players wanting out.
  • Another approach is a perennial weaker team with reasonable expectations.  This gives you the time you need to settle in and make signings.  And you will need time.
  • Watch out for club status things -- if your league has a mix of pro and semi-pro then be alert.  Those pro teams have more practice and higher wages and you may be in a situation where it will be structurally harder to get promoted.  Some leagues may have a big mix of amateur teams.  You can sign some good players and decent coaches and scouts for free -- but coaching amateur will have a bunch of challenges that I've steered away from.

-The first half-year or more is often very hard.  Your reputation is non-existent and your players won't know your system.  I recommend being generally positive with team talks and not pounding them aggressively.  A very good step is hiring an Asst that has high motivation so you can pick him to give many team talks.

-Because this first year is hard, it seems this is putting you off.  Stick through it.  It is very rewarding when your team projected 15th is pushing for the playoffs.  With decent tactics and good young signings who develop you will find yourself succeeding in a couple seasons.

-I see you suit your tactics to the players.  That is probably wise, but I have a preferred tactic and system, so I am spending time getting rid of players that don't fit and searching for and retraining players for positions.  This is fun and can be rewarding, but also make that first phase at the club hard.  I am looking for IF cutting in from the AMR/AML positions with the preferred foot to match, but I might join a team without that.    I am also looking for speed and crossing from my DL/DR but that is not easy at lower levels.

-Use the loan system if you can!  Scout hard for available loanees from big clubs.  Go to their U23 and U18 (not all of these can be loaned so learn up based on your league) and find players that will go to you.  If you are low enough tier, usually these need to be free loans of players in 18/19 age range.

-My approach is to sign young players and try to develop a squad around as much talent as I can afford.  Often those players are loanees that the parent club don't want any more and farmed out to me just to get rid.  If you sign enough young players and play them often you will find some who make remarkable training gains.  Make sure you sign those players and ride their improvement to success.  Pay attention to the determination attribute.

-Scout and use the trials process to sign youth and u23 players released by big clubs.  You may have to be persistent as these players may avoid you at first but be more open to you if they find no takers in higher leagues.  These players often have very good physical attributes but don't have the intelligence attributes that the more experienced players in your league will have.  

-Keep an eye on expiring contract signings from bigger clubs.

-Do not ignore the DC position.  Get players with high jumping and heading.  Height and strength are good too.



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