In part five of the Emulating La Masia series we zoom in on the requirements players should have and more importantly, how you can polish the precious raw diamonds your recruitment efforts have yielded, turning them into players who can effortlessly slide into first team. There is some overlap with the previous post, especially the part detailing the tactical identity. There will be a few WTF-moments this post, but bear with me.


I have set up a four step proces to look at the requirements and tailor all the factors to suit my needs.

  1. Step 1: determine which roles are required;
  2. Step 2: set your training regimes;
  3. Step 3: work with the players ready for first team action;
  4. Step 4: assess the performances of the players;
  5. Repeat ad infinitum if necessary.

Step 1: Determine which roles are required

Since we have established a tactical identity and identified our style, we can also start streamlining both the external recruitment and the results of the internal recruitment. We can scout for specific kinds of players and establish a system to retrain or filter the players that come in through our own intake or feeder clubs. To do so effectively means we need to know what to look for in the first place. We have already established a basic profile suiting our style, but we also want to look at more role role-specific requirements. To do so with a modicum of efficiency means we need to know which roles we use a lot in our tactic.

I generally distinguish between basic roles, specialist roles and backup roles. The basic roles are the standard roles in our tactic, the roles with limited to no tweaking or no special influences on the game. You can think in terms of basic defender and midfielder roles for these basic roles. Specialist roles are roles for players that have a very specific skill-set. This includes most attacker-roles (which we don’t use, with this being strikerless and all), but there are also a fair few midfield roles that I consider specialist roles. Most playmaker or creative roles are specialist roles, but also a more defensive role like the Half-Back role is a specialist role. The difference between the actual specialist roles and the backup roles is whether or not I use them in my tactics. Specialist roles that I actually use are important, specialist roles I do not initially use are backup roles, which can be included to add some tactical variety, but are not essential to the initial recruitment process.

Determine the basic roles

Now when you look at the basic roles, these are, in my eyes, the basic roles.

For the defenders:

  • Central defender (Defend/Stopper/Cover);
  • Full back (Defend/Support/Attack);
  • Limited Defender (Defend/Stopper/Cover);
  • Limited full back (Defend/Stopper/Cover);
  • Wing back (Defend/Support/Attack).

For the midfielders:

  • Attacking midfielder (Defend/Support/Attack);
  • Central midfielder (Defend/Support/Attack);
  • Defensive midfielder (Defend/Support);
  • Wide midfielder (Defend/Support/Attack);
  • Defensive winger (Defend/Support);
  • Winger (Support/Attack)

In my humble opinion there are no generic attacking roles, as each and every role requires a very specific skill set to actually work.

Determine the required specialist roles

When determining the specialist roles, please note that each and every role NOT mentioned in the paragraph above is basically a specialist role. The difference between specialist and backup roles is determined by my own tactics. The roles I frequently use are specialist roles, the ones I hardly ever use are backup roles.

For the defenders:

  • Complete wingback (Support/Attack);
  • Inverted wingback (Support);
  • Libero (Support/Attack).

For the midfielders:

  • Anchor man (Defend);
  • Ball winning midfielder (Defend/Support);
  • Box to box midfielder (Support);
  • Deeplying playmaker (Defend/Support);
  • Enganche (Attack);
  • Half-back (Defend);
  • Regista (Support);
  • Shadow striker (Attack);
  • Wide playmaker (Support/Attack);
  • Central winger (Attack) * this is a custom role *;
  • Advanced destroyer (Support) * this is a custom role *;
  • Withdrawn targetman (Support) * this is a custom role *.

Since I don’t use forwards, with this being and all, I don’t use any specialised forward roles.

Determine the backup roles

I really don’t want to name each and every role the game has. If I haven’t mentioned it by now, it’s not one of the key roles I use in my tactics. When you determine which roles are your primary specialist roles, be sure to look at all three of the tactics you are training and select the roles currently in there as well as the roles you often use when you change things around. Any and all other roles are backup roles, which means they are basically not that important for your training regimes and development processes.

Step 2: Set your training regimes

In this chapter I want to look at role regimes and additional focus training. I am ignoring PPM training for now, as I do feel this is better discussed when I write my article on tutoring in the near future.

Setting role regimes

Once a player has arrived in your youth setup, I highly recommend you set a custom training regime for this player in order to speed up his development as much as possible. There are basically two routes to go down when setting a specific role regime. You can choose a basic role, which allows for a broader, more universal training approach or you can opt for a more specialist role to train in, generating a more specialist approach.

When you are going for a universal approach, you focus on a lot of attributes at the same time. Universality is a concept where players interchange between positions, where they are not fixed to any role and instead simply rotate with each other in games. It is along the same thinking as total football, the only difference, and perhaps the key aspect for the future game, is that the team is made up of universal players, all with the skills and attributes required to play in any position. It makes sense that such a role focusses on a lot of different attributes. It also means that progress is fairly slow but broad.

When you are going for a more specialist approach, you focus on the specific attribute-set a player requires to play in a certain role. If you already know which role a player is supposed to end up playing once he hits the senior squad, you might as well start him off early by training for that specific profile. The progress a player makes in this regime is often steep for the key attributes he trains on, most of the other attributes do not improve much or even decline a bit.

To start the training, all you have to do is access the development tab on a player’s profile, you can quite easily see and alter his training regime.


Setting masking or strengthening regimes

Rather than focussing on an entire role, you can also opt for either a masking or a strengthening training regime. We all have strengths and weaknesses and ideally we should consistently work to improve both. We should make areas of strength stronger and help eliminate areas of weakness. Is it more important to focus on one over the other, though? You can do either one and even follow up one with the other, it all depends on what you want to do with your player in terms of development. Their are philosophical pro’s and cons to each side of the argument of course.

When you develop a player’s strengths, it leads to a unique selling point. They slot into a clearly defined role within the position. Their strength would help them stand out in their competitive position and role within the squad. The more a player improves his strengths, the more he’ll stand out in his respective niche and the more likely he is to get selected or to be sold to a bigger club.

In terms of absolute development, a player is also far more likely to take his strengths further than his weaknesses. That’s usually why they’re his strengths in the first place. He has a talent for certain aspects of the game and because of this he might be more willing to put in the effort to improve his strengths as he get instant results from them. A player goes deeper and deeper into a narrower field, potentially becoming the very best at something particular.

On the other hand, a player is  only as strong as his weakest asset. Where improving a players strengths makes him stand out more within the role-specific niche around his strength, improving his weaknesses tends to open him up to more roles and positions, making him a more versatile player. Versatility is an asset in itsself, as any manager worth his salt can always slot a versatile player into his squad.

In terms of absolute development, a player who has no visible flaws is more likely to develop into a well-rounded player. A player continues to improve across a wider field of disciplines, making less progress in any specific area but often growing more areas at once. His individual links may not be as strong as the links of others, but his chain might be the strongest chain in your squad.

Whichever route you decide to go down, by accessing the development tab on a player’s profile, you can ask to see his training regime. You can then select whatever attribute you wish to train.


The above screenshot shows you all attributes that can be trained using the additional focus option. Instead of focussing on all the attributes suiting a specific role, you will work on a single attribute. You will have noticed some attributes are absent from this list. Simply put, not all attributes are trainable. If an attribute is not on the list, you cannot improve it by training. Tutoring might improve a specific attribute, but more on that in a later article.

In terms of deciding which attributes to select, I highly recommend checking out both the coaching reports and the development advice on your youth players. Weak attributes are often referred to, as are strong suits. You can select whichever option suits you best for additional focus.


The development advice can be accessed when looking under the development tab. This option even allows for a button to instantly start the recommended focus training. The coach reports can be accessed under the reports tab.


Step 3: Players ready for action

Step three is an easy one. When your players are developing nicely, they need to play regularly. If they aren’t quite good enough for your team, loan them away or use your feeder clubs to ensure they see first team action. If they are good enough, promote them to the senior squad and give them the odd game in first team. It really is as simple as that.

Step 4: Assess their performances

Regardless of where the player is sent to gain first team experience, you will need to keep an eye on how he does. If he plays for your own team, that’s fairly easy. After all, you see him in action whenever you bring him onto the pitch and you get to see if he’s doing well or not. If you loan a player away, be sure to let your scouts track his performances. If such a player is not playing enough or not playing in the position you want to see him play, you might be better off recalling him.

Either way, I’d say you need to assess the performances of your youngsters at least once every two to three months. If a players’ development is stalling, it might be a good idea to either ensure he gets more time on the pitch or change his training regimes. Maybe said player isn’t breaking into the team in a specific but can be retrained into another role or even another position so he can break into first team.

To summarise


Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.


Guido is the founding father of Strikerless and main nutjob running the show.


tariencole · July 8, 2016 at 11:40 pm

This has been a great series. The question of specialist/universalists is an interesting one given that the common rule of thumb is that playing highly fluid with a multitude of specialists Is Not The Done Thing. But I generally see this as you described, *every* role on a pitch is specialized, at least to the tactic and preferences of the manager & situation. Therefore, intelligent soccer players should know how to adapt to at least the basics of any position they can realistically find themselves in.

This may not mean that the left wingback is going to find themselves in the shadow striker position often. But if they do, they should have the awareness to press high, play simple passes, maintain possession, and take a shot if offered until they can retreat to their preferred area. To me, the idea that the only profitable thing to do is put that player at AM(A) if you wish to be fluid, is dubious. And not terribly realistic either.

youngster kid · July 8, 2016 at 11:59 pm

do u recommend which one ; loan my young players or play in our u21 team ?

Okocha · July 9, 2016 at 4:48 pm

In your opinion, how many games a season is enough for youngsters to see an uptick in development? And does it matter if it’s as a sub or if he’s starting?

Lok · July 11, 2016 at 10:15 am

Really useful series.
Now i am going to manage Swansea and achieve all Welsh first team .

What if you have a young kid who is really good but he DOES NOT fit your tactics?
For example , you are strikerless, if there is a good, promising striker, will you just give up on him or train him to play other position?

Or just continue to develop him and sell him for $$ later?

    Lontong · July 11, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    For me, I’d retrain him as ball-playing CB, especially if he is still very young. Sometimes it works since CFs have good technical and physical prowess.

    StrikerlessGuido · July 15, 2016 at 8:01 am

    I re-train them if I think the player has potential. Selling the graduates who can’t quite cut it is always an option.

Chris Eadie · July 19, 2016 at 12:56 pm

Hi there Guido – once again a great series of articles. I have a more general question regarding strikerless and the style of play you advocate here. Having had great success with strikerless formations at the highest level I am currently trying to implement it at the very lowest level. By low I mean low. I have taken over my local team in Northern Ireland – Dundela ( However technical attributes are basically nil.

Is it enough to be technically superior to those in your league or is there a bottom line under which this style of play simply will not work? I struggle to find players with high attributes across all those I desire.

I also had a thought about the state of the pitch, mine is currently Terrible and I suppose this would make short passing and dribbling difficult.

It’s early days but I’ll admit it is a challenge so far.

Once again many thanks for producing some great content for the community.

loyaltownlegend316 · July 24, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Im finding this series really helpful as I’ve always struggled to put together a good youth academy. Are there going to be any more in this series or is it complete?

    StrikerlessGuido · July 24, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    I’ve got tutoring and first team football to cover in the La Masia series 🙂

Football Manager - Guides Collection | · March 17, 2017 at 7:34 pm

[…] The Facilities Emulating La Masia; 03. The (Coaching) Staff Emulating La Masia; 04. The Club DNA Emulating La Masia; 05. Requirements Emulating La Masia; 06. Tutoring Emulating La Masia; 07. First Team Action Ajax Youth Development […]

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