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’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. 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’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?

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’s one of them

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.

BonottoLet 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.

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 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.

gauldHere’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!

bezjakBezjak 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.

That’s 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 :]

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

  1. excellent article! but SI also says that mental attributes developing when a player gets older. so it has to be a balance betwwen ages..for example a player that is now 18-19y his bravery must be around 8-11..just a thought.thanks!

    • Hey 🙂 Of course some mental attributes develop with age. But bravery? Hmm, I think you are either brave or not. I don’t think it comes with age as much as something like composure might. Thanks.

  2. Those attributes aren’t just for show. You can go into the editor to experiment. It’s quickly done, hold shift, left click the first player of a squad, right click the last one, click edit. A team lacking work rate, determination, bravery, aggression etc. basically won’t bother in particular when the ball is with the opposition, which is apparent from closing down and pressing behavior in particular, and manifests massively into the ground being covered in statistics. Otherwise top teams can actually enter a relegation battle on occasion.

    Aggression isn’t the only thing that plays into cards though. It is also the hidden dirtieness attribute. I once build a fantasy squad where the midfield was orchestrated by the likes of de Jong, van Bommel, Liechtsteiner, etc. the strike force consisted of Zlatan and Mario B., the defense features the likes of Pepe, Srna and similar, and witnessed them picking up bookings for fun. 🙂

    • :] yeah I am sure hidden attributes come in to play. But they ARE hidden :p so I can only discuss what everyone cane see at face value. Thanks for commenting.

  3. For me the most important are decisions, concentration and determination, for any player. Especially decisions. I don’t see something more important for a football player than the the ability to make the right decision. Hatem Ben Arfa with better decisions would be one of the best players in the world.

  4. For some positions people really undervalue these mental attributes. AMC being the main one.

    Also I noticed that most of the players you picked up also have quite high values in Natural Fitness and Stamina.

    Coupling those general mental attributes and these 2 I think you can get away with under average tehnicals.

    I will try and focus more on these attributes for my current save.

    Good post.

  5. I’d be cautious with aggression, not only do these players get more cards, they are also the ones most likely to be the cause of training injuries. I avoid getting players with Aggressions >15 since one of them took out two of my regulars early in the season.

    • I didn’t really aggression had an effect in training? I’ll consider that in future but I do think it’s a good trait to have, maybe not in all 11 players though.

  6. One mental skill I always look for is determination, which is how hard is a young player going to work to become a successfull football player. That always helps me. You can look on your exemples and you will find most of them with decent numbers.

    Jean Leopoldo.

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