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’m currently managing Brighton in the Championship, I’ve prioritised certain mental attributes along with the prerequisite technical and physical attributes necessary for each player’s respective position.
Now, I can’t resist a classy ‘Number 10’, but not every one I’ve signed has lived up to the hype. 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.
This guy, for instance, has some excellent skills and he’s a good athlete but only has 3 bravery which means I can’t trust him. I’m sure I’m not the only manager who gets frustrated when one of their players ducks out of a challenge and it’s especially annoying when they have the ball in a great position.
Moriarty 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?
Nino 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’s 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 can’t guarantee its his bravery that has made him perform so well but, watching him play, I really notice it. He’s always first to the ball and quick to tackle. His quickness also helps in that regard.
Let me introduce you to Paolo Bonotto. I wouldn’t 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’s not very strong and might be described as a ‘selfish player’ if you 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.
Cameron 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 wasn’t the only attribute that stood out, so I couldn’t wait to get him on our books. Interestingly, there’s a trend in my career of Scotland producing excellent attacking midfielders.
Here’s a familiar face for you. Ryan Gauld. He’s 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!
Bezjak is an example of a striker with pretty awful technical attributes who still scores tons of goals. I think he’s such a good goalscorer because of his mental faculties. Great composure, anticipation and off the ball. I think determination helps too as he’ll keep trying to score even if he misses chances.
It’s 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.
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