Learning to play Football Manager

At the time of writing this post, it’s the eve of FM19 proper being released and I’ve been playing the beta. FM19 is the best version of FM I’ve played. That’s not saying much though, since I just started playing the game with FM18. I’m really not trying to damn them with faint praise, FM19 does seem to be a step up in many areas, both in quality and complexity.

This is somewhat daunting to me, as I had already considered calling myself FM Learning Curve after taking the game up at an age when many seem to have either put it down to focus on family and career or have been playing for 20 years and know the game in and out. Sometimes I wonder why I’ve tried to insert myself into this community where I’m out of place geographically, culturally, and generationally. And that’s before taking into account my lack of history in following the beautiful game. Baseball Manager would have been no sweat, Football Manager has been another story.

To help deal with some of that complexity, one thing I was looking forward to was the New Manager Inductions. I even wrote into Gaffer Graemo’s FM Notebook podcast to say that I was hoping they would be better than just upgraded tooltips. After playing the Beta I feel safe in saying: they really feel to me like upgraded tooltips.

Perhaps I was unrealistic in hoping for an entire playable tutorial though. And maybe I don’t need one anyway. Going through the inductions made me realize how much I’ve already learned and what it was I really wanted to know in each of these areas.

So this post is my thank you to the community as well as a list of pointers to places I found good information.

Maybe the scouting induction doesn’t show me how to assess a player and decide whether to add them to my team, but FM Grasshopper introduced me to the concept of fibra and talked about what traits he considers essential, aggression, determination, teamwork, work rate.

More recently Lee Scott detailed his preferred traits, composure, decisions, determination, teamwork, with bonus points from me for some screenshots of a spreadsheet, which I think I saw him offering to all takers on Slack. Then he followed that up with how he analyzes a player from start to finish.

Being confronted with dozens of attributes was definitely something I found incredibly confusing, how do I rank their importance and which should I really be picking out? I’ve used the posts above to think through what I value most in my players and what attributes I should be looking for in order to ensure they’ve got it.

No induction or tooltips will tell me what to look for in a staff member, but FM Laudrup did a great job in his late, lamented blog. I can’t find a cache of the article, but it laid out what he looked for in each member of his backroom staff and it helped me crystalize what to look for. FMFutbolManager also wrote a spreadsheet with a formula to analyze staff members which he has recently updated for FM19. There’s a link from that page to his piece on why the formula does what it does, make sure not to miss that.

His site is also where I first found a good sense of how to actually use scouting and he’s updated his comprehensive 2018 scouting post for the new version of the game. I found this one very helpful since it made me realize I didn’t need to use the brute force approach I had tried to bring over from my days playing FM Mobile, where the scouts barely brought any useful players and the only way to find someone good was painstakingly combing through every squad in an an interesting location. That still has it’s place for many people, I know, but I’m glad it’s not the only way to do things.

A good spreadsheet accompanied a post by Ponzie about areas that completely befuddled me when I was starting out: how to analyze your division to figure out when to rotate players and keep from going broke too.

As for the tactics induction, well, I still have a hard time looking at a squad and figuring out who my best players are to pick out a tactic, so I’ve been re-reading some tactics classics, like FM Samo’s 4-4-2, the first tactic I tried that really worked for me. Dan Gear’s post on how to beat a 4-4-3 was the first post I read where I started to see how to make in-game adjustments when needed. I can no longer find my favorite Cleon articles since he revamped Tea and Busquets except on the SI Forums. His 4-4-2 Chronicles was a great introduction and from there you can branch off into his possession and other formation piece. Unsurprisingly, his post about tactical changes in FM19 is also top knotch. The FM Notebook was also incredibly helpful, both generally and in response to questions I sent in.

Training is one area where I think we’re all starting over. So far I’ve seen decent stuff from Cleon on Twitter and linking an SI Forum post and for once I watched a video too, from Fox In the Box. The main takeaway seems to be to really look at what everything does, don’t just try to set it and forget it. There may come a time when we can do that, but early on at least we will need to look at what each training module is actually doing.

The last of the inductions was medical center (centre) and for that one I actually developed a way to use it through playing FM18. I don’t like it that the induction doesn’t really tell you why you should pay attention or what you can do to lower injury risk levels, but I also can’t think of anyone who wrote a good piece that went over that either.

I could go on into other areas, but mainly would just like to thank all of those who so patiently answering my questions whether over podcast, twitter or slack.

So I’ll close with a link to one of the most important things that helped me play matches as well as visualize data better outside of matches: the Keysi Rensie skin.

My sincere thanks to all of those noted above (and anyone I’ve left out, I know there are many others whose posts I’ve read). You’ve all helped teach this old dog new tricks.

3 thoughts on “Learning to play Football Manager

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