Category Archives: Football Scouting

Top five players in FM17

After playing (methodically) around six seasons on FM17, I’ve had my fair share of disappointment but I’ve also enjoyed the odd pleasant surprise. Most of these precious moments have involved players I’ve been able to rely on for match-winning performances. Others have always stuck to their job, allowing me peace of mind or just have a special skill. Here are my five favourite players on FM17 so far…

Dusan Tadic

He was loyal to my Southampton until I let Villa prise him away at 32 years old. I regret it now because he was consistent on either wing, best as an inside forward. He’s a composed and able finisher. He’s good at free kicks and penalties. For me, he’s an ideal attacking midfielder; I love his versatility and wide range of skills. I only sold him because I bought a couple of forwards who needed game time. He’s elegant, has flair and he’s one of those players that people describe as seeming to have more time than the players around him on the pitch. A special player.

Harry Arter

I’ve never seen someone close down and tackle like this chap. They say he was refused entry to all nationally-recognised long-distance races as it would be unfair to any competitors: ‘Oi, no professionals.’ That may or may not be a myth but what I know for sure is he NEVER STOPS. This is very reassuring for a manager who can’t stand lazy footballers. He’s a player who’s singlehandedly changed what I want in my teams. Now I won’t go in to a season without this sort of player. Arter actually went on to let me down, asking to leave if I didn’t give him a hefty pay boost, after less than a season under my stewardship. I believe LA Galaxy had unsettled him (infuriating) but they lost interest. He still wanted to leave though and when Atalanta came in with an acceptable bid, he joined them. He’s on less money now than he was with me at Watford!! What is this game sometimes?

Gylfi

Gylfi, formerly known as Gylfi Sigurdsson, has had some fantastic seasons for me. As well as being reliable in possession and resilient to injury, he’s always a danger from freekicks, is great in link-up play and has very good vision and passing. He’s a class act. Like Tadic, he’s a well-rounded player – not amazing defensively, but not awful – he’s a very good team player. As I write this, I’ve played two games on FM17 and Gylfi has scored in each, including a 30-yard freekick.

Marco Asensio

Probably the most talented player I’ve managed so far on FM17. Who needs a right foot when your left is as good as Asensio’s? Apparently that’s what they say in Mallorca, where the Spaniard started his career before coming to greater prominence at Real Madrid. You could do worse than mopping up Real’s sloppy seconds. Although stuck in a dip in form at the moment, he’s scored 19 goals this season by January and notched seven assists. I imagined he’d be primarily a provider of chances so I’m very pleasantly surprised to see him taking the responsibility of putting the ball in the net from long range shots, freekicks, headed goals, penalties and more. He runs a lot with the ball, which can be a deadly weapon to have in my team, however, it can be frustrating when he gives away possession, sometimes putting us on the back foot. Overall though, a great £7.5m signing and only 26 when I signed him.

Moussa Dembele (striker)

Moussa was one of the first players I signed on FM17 in my first job at Swansea City. I’d seen him performing well for Celtic in real life; I copy-edited Scottish newspapers and it was impossible to miss the progress he was making and his goals against Man City in the Champions League this year confirmed he had real talent. He was extremely important for me and my Swansea team after I whisked him away from Celtic for only £7m. Although a ‘streaky’ player, he went on impressive scoring runs and he often created goals for himself. He wasn’t just a fox in the box, he could run at and beat several defenders at a time before smashing the ball home. Moussa has lost his way since I sold him to Arsenal for £25m but I’d be tempted to buy him again.

 

Using Moneyball ideas in Football Manager

I’m watching Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt, for the second time and it’s once again got my manager senses tingling.

It’s a film about a baseball team called Oakland Athletics who ‘changed the game’ winning a record 20 games in a row in Major League Baseball, against clubs whose teams cost much more to build, using an analytical scouting technique which helped them find cheap, unfashionable, but highly effective baseball players.

Ever since I read articles about using Moneyball ideas in Football Manager, by Alex Stewart, and maybe before then, I’ve used aspects in my own FM careers. It makes the game more challenging and gives me something to aim for, a reason to keep playing. The game is so much more rewarding when you have to work long and hard to succeed. It’s also satisfying for those, like me, who seem to enjoy the agonising struggle of having to suffer loss after loss after loss before they eventually succeed, knowing they were never willing to give up.

So I’m going to use the ideas of Moneyball in Football Manager again.

My challenge starts in earnest in my second season managing Sampdoria in Serie A. It’s July 2016.

Step 1 is to take another look at each player in my squad. What were their average ratings last season? Why are they here? Are they only at the club on reputation? Who are the most valuable players? Are they tied down to long-term contracts? Are they happy?

Step 2 Find undervalued and/or unknown players. Sign scouts with knowledge of players in obscure nations so I can find these players and sign them for low prices.

Step 3 Get rid of players who flatter to deceive, a la Luis Nani. Looks like a footballer, appears very talented, but does not contribute enough consistently.

The most important thing for me though is finding the right players to make a squad that can compete with the big boys, namely Juventus.

So that’s the plan. I’ll update you when the squad is sorted out and explain why I’ve picked those players.

Lower league scouting

As you probably know, FM16 has been out for a few months now and I’m sure many of you will be entrenched in one or two careers.

It took me longer than usual to get going with the new game though. I don’t have as much free time as when I was unemployed. In those days I spent all day most days sat playing and watching TV/ applying for jobs.

But the game is never far from my mind. I wanted to recapture my enjoyment of the greatest football management sim and I’ve done it, with… Southport!

Every year I want to get a career going with a big club and enjoy managing top players but I always get bored. I know the players already. I don’t look far for new players; it’s easier just to sign players I’ve heard of. There’s no mystery and it’s harder to create history with a club, such as Manchester United.

So I often turn to the lower leagues where it’s easy to find the simple joy of football. There’s lots of room to develop a team in your own image and a vast pool of young talent to sift through.

So let me tell you about a few players who have impressed me:

Michael West

Michael West is the best!

If you’re managing in any division lower than League 2 sign Michael West! He’s probably one of the most gifted players in the lower leagues and has 11 assists in 20 (2) appearances in the 2016/17 season so far.

Jordan Jowers, the Fox in the Box

Jordan Jowers, the Fox in the Box

I had never heard of Jowers before managing Southport in the Vanarama North but he’s been a revelation. If you put a cross to the back post, sure enough, he’ll be there to knock in a goal. Fourteen goals and seven assists in 25 (5) appearances isn’t a bad return at all and he links up marvelously with his strike partner, Sam Hillhouse.

Hillhouse

Sam Hillhouse

Speaking of Sam, he’s another highlight of a fun first season with recently relegated Southport. He has a fantastic 16 goals and 12 assists in 19 (1) appearances. In truth, he could have 30 goals if he hadn’t missed some sitters. Hillhouse is definitely worth a look. I took him off Halifax’s hands who, incidentally, seem to have a knack of signing good young players.

To be continued…

Focusing on mental strength in Football Manager 2015: The unlikely heroes

MY PHILOSOPHY on Football Manager – and it would be my philosophy if I was a coach in reality – always involves an emphasis on great technical attributes with physical attributes a not-too-distant second. On FM I often neglect the importance of mental attributes. Their effect is harder to visualise but mentality is probably more important than any technical or physical strengths, because without mental strength, a footballer could wilt and give up and never make it in the game.

Lately, in my career where I am currently managing Brighton in the Championship, I have prioritised certain mental attributes along with the prerequisite technical and physical attributes necessary for each player’s respective position.

Now, I cannot resist a classy ‘Number 10’, but not every one I have signed has lived up to the hype. And that is disappointing. So I wondered what they were missing.

I realised common mental weaknesses in players, especially flashy attacking midfielders, included bravery, teamwork, work rate, aggression and decisions.

Footballmanager.com describes these mental attributes as so:

Bravery: How committed and indeed, brave, a player is. Braver players will risk injury more in situations a lesser-minded player may shy away from. They’ll go in where it hurts and lay it on the line for the team.

Teamwork: How well the player follows tactical instructions and works for and alongside his team-mates. A team full of players with a high rating here will work better as a unit. Players with lower ratings will slack off and not ‘buy in’ to the team ethos.

Work rate: This reflects the player’s mental drive to work hard. A high rating will ensure a player wants to work his socks off from start to finish, but he will need the necessary physical attributes to actually be able to pull it off. Nonetheless, it is an admirable trait to have in your team.

Aggression: This reflects a player’s attitude in terms of playing mentality but is not necessarily a dirtiness indicator. A more aggressive player will look to involve himself in every incident and get stuck in, perhaps at the expense of a yellow card or two. A less aggressive player may shy away from situations and merely drop into his comfort zone, waiting for the play to find him.

Decisions: The ability of a player to make a correct decision a majority of the time. This attribute is important in every position but perhaps more so for central defenders and midfielders, who will see a lot of the ball and have a number of options when in possession.

moriartyThis guy, for instance, has some excellent skills and he is a good athlete but only has 3 bravery which means I cannot trust him. I am sure I am not the only manager who gets frustrated when one of their players ducks out of a challenge and it is especially annoying when they have or could have the ball in a great position.

Moriarty actually has some impressive average ratings in previous seasons but why settle for him when I can get someone as skillful but who will also win the ball and keep the ball in dangerous areas?

NinoNino has to be one of the major success stories of my Brighton job. His technical attributes are generally pretty uninspiring. It was his 19 bravery that made me want to buy him, plus, he was young and I could see potential in him. He has good physicals too. I paid Villarreal only £375k for him at the start of this season (it’s January now) and his value has boomed to £4.9m after 25 appearances and an average rating of 7.22. He has only scored three goals from centre midfield but each has been a long range scorcher. Here is one of them http://t.co/VQ9WXsu1ez.

Nino is always one of the first names on the team sheet and has done well since his first game.

I cannot guarantee its his bravery that has made him perform so well but, watching him play, I really notice it. He is always first to the ball and quick to tackle. His quickness also helps in that regard.

BonottoLet me introduce you to Paolo Bonotto. I would not have found him had I not looked for attacking midfielders with high bravery. His weighs in at 17. He brings fantastic skills across the board. He is not very strong and might be described as a ‘selfish player’ if you simply look at his attributes (low teamwork and average work rate). However, judging by some of his assists – and he has made 13 already this season – the truth is he contributes more than his fair share to the team. Eight goals and a 7.52 average rating help form a picture of the sort of player he is.

cameronCameron is another example of an attacking midfielder I found after searching for brave players. I saw he was brave and, as you can tell, this was not the only attribute of his that stood out, so I could not wait to get him on our books. Interestingly, there is a trend in my career at the moment of Scotland producing excellent attacking midfielders.

gauldHere is a familiar face for you. Ryan Gauld. He is the most valuable player in the Scotland squad in 2024. Currently at Leverkusen after leaving Bayern who signed him for £31m from Sporting Lisbon. £115k a week!

bezjakBezjak is an example of a striker with pretty awful technical attributes who still scores tons of goals. I suggest he is such a good goalscorer because of his mental faculties. Great composure, anticipation and off the ball. I would propose determination helps too as he will keep trying to score even if he misses chances.

It is easy to power through the seasons without thinking too much about the mental attributes of the players you want to sign but the more I use my own mental attributes the more I think that would be missing a trick.

The official description of ‘teamwork’, especially, ‘Players with lower ratings will slack off and not ‘buy in’ to the team ethos’ is particularly thought-provoking, because if my tactical plan is to succeed, I need as many of my players as possible to have a good teamwork attribute. I rarely prioritise this as I always thought it was something that I could get away without. Not anymore. At first I searched for brave players. From now on, I will add teamwork.

I find how these mental factors affect the game fascinating. A player’s level of aggression is another feature that I intend to consider more for future signings. ‘A more aggressive player will look to involve himself in every incident.’ I want all of my attacking players to have this trait as I want them to capitalise on every opportunity to create a goal and I think aggression will aid that.

That is all for now. Please share this article if you liked it and say ‘hi’ on Twitter and/or Facebook. Links are on the right sidebar :]

Good players for lower league clubs in FM15

OgilvieOgilvie starts at Spurs where he’s unlikely to make the grade. Their loss can be your gain though if you’re a League 2/1/ Championship manager.

He has good technical defensive attributes and excellent acceleration, especially for someone who can play centre back.

bolasie1

When Bolasie gets close to his 30th birthday Crystal Palace might be happy to let him go making him available for free. And he can be excellent in League 1 and the Championship and doesn’t demand ridiculously high wages.

fon WilliamsFon Williams starts at Tranmere and is very reliable for me at York. He arrived on a free in 2017/18 but I expect you could sign him for about £150k.

adam phillipsAdam Phillips, a Liverpool youngster, probably won’t develop to be a Premier League-standard player on FM15 but he’s a very good midfield player for lower league sides.

Alberto Moreno can replace Patrice Evra at Manchester United

News that Old Trafford folk hero Nemanja Vidic had signed a contract with Inter Milan and is ready to to leave Manchester United for the Italians in the summer was hard for some fans to take despite the Serbian’s steady decline, however to make matters worse, respected BBC news reporter, Richard Askam tweeted today “Hearing [Patrice] Evra to Inter at the end of the season is well on the way to being a done deal if not already done”.

richard askamAskam is a familiar face on North West Tonight and should be taken seriously although at this point the story is only hearsay.

It is not the first time the controversial French full back has been linked with a move away from the Red Devils, he is nearing the end of his playing career and his contract with the Manchester club is up at the end of the season. Rumours of his departure had cooled in recent weeks though, possibly because it seemed so inevitable it was no longer news worthy.

Nevertheless, Evra and everyone associated with Manchester United, know the club will need fresh blood in this position sooner than later and there is one man I fancy to take the mantle above all others. Sevilla’s 21-year-old Alberto Moreno.

Sevilla are reportedly willing to negotiate the sale of the scarily talented player who reminds you of the current best left back in the world, Barcelona’s Jordi Alba. Liverpool, who seem obsessed with replicating the ‘Spanish way’, are also interested as are Real Madrid and presumably any club with any sense.

Here is a clip from YouTubers TalentedStarsHD

I could not be more convinced Moreno is destined for greatness. Here is his profile on Football Manager 2014alberto moreno

At the moment the idea of Moreno strutting his stuff in front of the Stretford End is just a dream but dreams do come true (and so do nightmares, i.e. Sunday vs Liverpool). Whether United can persuade this ambitious youngster to join a team currently on the wane or beat currently more reputable clubs to his signature remains to be seen but he would be available for a reasonable price and could become a world class wing back so whoever Manchester United’s manager is this summer should pull out all the stops to attempt to lure him to the ‘Theatre of Dreams’.

Screenshot from transfermarkt.co.uk