Man management and match day: five simple ways to get the best out of your players when it counts

Hello and welcome to another FMScrapbook article on the beautiful virtual game, Football Manager.

I’m not a perfect virtual football manager, nobody is, but I have learned my fair share of lessons in my vast playing time, not least the 80+ real-time days I’ve spent on Football Manager 2014 (‘Nothing to see here, move along…).

So let me share with you the what I think are the five best ways to win a match on FM14.

1. PICK THE TEAM: Don’t be lazy and let your assistant pick the team for you, he’ll generally show a frustrating lack of contextual awareness, he might ignore that a player is in a run of very poor form and pick him, he will probably not consider that although your striker can play on the wing, he’s normally ineffective there and playing him there could cost you a win!

By taking control of this aspect of match day you get in to a good habit of making all important decisions which gives you the edge when reaching for success.

It can be beneficial to drop a star player to the bench and replace him with an inferior player who is more of a threat in a certain position in your chosen formation. If you really can’t leave a player out think about changing your shape, however, this tends to have an adverse affect on perfomance.

2. WATCH THE GAME: I know some FM’ers switch to auto-pilot when playing. I think that’s madness and a recipe for disaster. If you simply leave your players to it, it’s worse than asking your assistant to manage the team. You can’t see when your opponent is finding weak spots in your team and you can’t capitalise on their respective struggles.

Every idea you can use can give you an advantage which could lead to that vital goal you need to get the three points or even win you a trophy.

If you ever want to develop a virtually unbeatable football manager tactic your only chance is to carefully study how your team plays, why you concede goals and why you score them. Doing this allows you to make small adjustments to scribe that perfect tactical masterplan.

Moreover, watching the game in comprehensive or full highlights will give you a better idea what your players are good at, maybe your inside forward with 15 finishing seems much worse on the pitch and you might want to drop him.

Sometimes your team is playing so well you can get away with letting the game run without paying too much attention but it’s still a destructive habit to get in to.

3. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE: We’ve all heard of the saying and it’s no truer than in FM14 matches. I’ve been guilty of making rash decisions, for example making all three available substitutions early in a game, because I’m annoyed my team was a goal or two down.

Teams come from behind to win all the time in real life football though, Manchester United used to do it every week it seemed, so there’s no need to panic.

4. KNOW WHEN TO MAKE CHANGES: Realistically the only thing that determines whether a decision was correct is the eventual outcome of it. Some outcomes are easier to predict of course, such as putting an extra striker up front should lead to more shots. Nevertheless, with experience, you’ll likely sense when it’s the right time to make a sub, change formation or instructions.

Sometimes you have to be brave and go for the win against a strong team even though you know you might be caught on the counter. A brave choice is often the difference between mediocrity and glory.

5. PRE-MATCH HALF TIME AND FULL TIME TEAM TALKS: Although the on-pitch effect of motivational speeches is somewhat ambiguous in FM I am sure I can tell the difference between my team’s performances after a rousing talk and when I let them run out without a word. So I try to always say something that will see the ‘green’ reactions pop up and see my players are ‘motivated’ or ‘convinced’.

At the break it’s a chance if you’re winning to let your players know they have to keep working for the win. I’m sure you all know the agony of throwing away what seemed like a very comfortable lead. Apart from tactical changes I find the best way to retain a lead is to tell them ‘Don’t get complacent!’ or something similar. It invariably focuses the minds of most of my team.

In full time team talks, encourage your players in preparation for your next match. You might have lost but it is generally best to move on as quickly as possible. Don’t get me wrong though, giving your team the ‘hairdryer treatment’ now and again is very useful. Pick out a couple of players who played especially well or poorly and give them praise or criticism.

If you take heed of my advice I hope and expect it will give you an edge, however, my sixth tip would be simply enjoy the matches and you’ll learn and win along the way.

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