Emulating La Masia; 07. First Team Action

So far, my Emulating La Masia series has looked at various factors that help you in developing your youngsters. However for all the promise of youth development and improved standards, the development of players is the ‘easy part’, it is integrating them into the first team which matters most. Teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid and ironically enough in recent times Barcelona snap up top talents on a global scale and excel in various youth competitions, but in my eyes youth development is not about winning competitions, it’s about preparing players for professional football and I cannot remember too many academy players breaking into the first team in recent years at any of these sides.

Although the academy teams of these clubs can be regarded as being amongst Europe’s best and in terms of facilities and coaching they most certainly are, what is the point of having a youth academy if you do not attempt to produce players for your first team? If their youth development efforts are so impressive then it begs the question as to why there are so few youth academy prospects breaking into the first team.

Clubs need to find a way to bleed more youngsters into their team, to bridge the gap between youth and senior football much more effectively and as sides like Chelsea and Man City are showing, for all the money spent on facilities, coaching, and wages if they cannot integrate these young players into the first team squad then what really is the point? In terms of this article, we will look at the influence of first team football on the development of our youth players.

In order to research the influence of first team action, I created five equal newgens in an FM16 save with the help of FMRTE. All five have similar positions and age. All of their attributes, including hidden, are set to 10. One of these players will feature every week in first team, one of these players will be placed in the U21/reserve squad, two of these players will feature in the U19/youth squad and one player will be sent to a feeder club. Every player will be on a senior contract, save for one of the players in the U19 squad.

As before, I will holiday the save for half a season and see how the players have developed. I will note their development in four areas:

  1. Current ability;
  2. Technical;
  3. Mental;
  4. Physical.

These are the five newgens.

fta05 fta04 fta03 fta02 fta01

These are the five newgens after six months of playing.

fta10 fta09 fta08 fta07 fta06

Their progress looks like this, number-wise.

fta11

In a graphic, the numbers look like this.

Player 1 = First team only Player 2 = Reserves/U21 Player 3 = U19 with a senior contract Player 4 = U19 with a youth contract Player 5 = loaned to a lower level feeder
Player 1 = First team only
Player 2 = Reserves/U21
Player 3 = U19 with a senior contract
Player 4 = U19 with a youth contract
Player 5 = loaned to a lower level feeder

One would expect that player 1 would have shown the most progression. That is true in terms of his CA, but attribute-wise, the others have developed just as well or even better in some cases. With the various other driving factors behind development all being equal, this must mean first team action is not that important at all. The player active for the U21/reserves has developed just as well, whilst there is a bit of a difference between the development of the U19/youth players. The player really developing worse than the rest is the player I sent away on loan. With significantly worse facilities at his new club, it makes sense that his development has stalled somewhat. The conclusions are definitely inconclusive, as they do not account for some of the differences.

Clearly, I need to look at another factor in the equation to try and make sense of the outcome of this simulation. The most logical factor to look at would be the amount of games played and the level at which the newgens saw action. The numbers look like this when you factor in the games everyone played at their respective levels.

fta13

In a graphic, the numbers look like this.

Player 1 = First team only Player 2 = Reserves/U21 Player 3 = U19 with a senior contract Player 4 = U19 with a youth contract Player 5 = loaned to a lower level feeder
Player 1 = First team only
Player 2 = Reserves/U21
Player 3 = U19 with a senior contract
Player 4 = U19 with a youth contract
Player 5 = loaned to a lower level feeder

After taking this extra factor into account, we can draw a few careful conclusions. First team action is a driving factor behind CA development. The players with more first team action (players 1, 2 and 4) have developped much better. The results from player 5 are indicative that the club’s facilities do have a major impact, as this player has played the most first team games and has developped the least.

On the other hand, we can see that the level of football is not that important, as the youth players have developped almost as good as the first teamer lads in terms of their attributes, provided they play regularly. The most steady progress was made by players who played for the youth side, reserve side and first team side in alternating shifts. Since players loaned away to other clubs lose precious time counting towards club home-grown status, you may want to reconsider actually loaning them away to other clubs.

So where should we loan our players to? If I do loan away players, it will be to domestic clubs with good facilities and a decent chance of playing time in either first team or the reserve squads. If your team has a B-squad which plays in a competitive league, like FC Bayern Amateure or Barça B, it might even be better to keep the better talents at your own club.

 

14 thoughts on “Emulating La Masia; 07. First Team Action

  1. The level of football DOES matter. The reserve leagues aren’t rated the same on FM and give less CA development. The same with the different tiers in a league system too, the highest competitions always give off better CA development.

    A few important things you’ve left off the test which are vital to development are;

    Injuries – Even a small niggle halts development for a short while.

    Event based development – This can’t be overlooked at all but I’ve not seen this mentioned in any of your series so far? Will you be covering this at a later stage or is it not accounted for?

    Match fitness, did players in your test always have 83 or higher for match fitness? As players who aren’t match fit can’t develop, it halts.

    Squad influence, was any of them impacted by the squad influence that was introduced in FM16, meaning that the squad’s overall personality type can be transferred to the players. Again this would influence results.

    Which attributes changed the most? As they’ll have different weights behind the and some of them are free. I know you’ve said mental/physical etc and listed the number but that doesn’t tell you much because some of those can’t be influenced, cost no CA or cost more CA than others.

    How were the players being trained? As match time frees up CA while training distributes the CA.

    Sorry for sounding critical, it’s just you’ve left some important bits out imo that impact the rate or development.

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  2. Thanks for doing these Guido. I do have a concern about sample size in your analysis (5 played, 6 months is not much)
    However for this post re first team action I think one other important element is their age/CA. 16y Olds do typically develop well without first team action but after a couple years they will plateau without 1st games of a good standard…

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  3. Hi Cleon, don’t worry about sounding critical, I don’t mind that. I am going in rather blind and just looking at the numbers when drawing conclusions.

    To address your concerns. First of all, injuries. I have used FMRTE on a weekly basis to heal any and all injuries sustained by the players so that injuries could not impact development.

    Secondly, event-based development. I must admit I did not factor this into the equation. I’ll see if I can whip up an addendum regarding this point.

    Thirdly, match fitness. Much like the injuries, FMRTE takes care of fatigue. By pressing the heal button on FMRTE, it heals the players and restores match fitness to 100%. Like injuries, fatigue isn’t a factor.

    Fourthly, squad influence. Again, I must admit I haven’t factored this in. It wouldn’t explain any of the major differences between the first four players since they’re all part of the same squad.

    Fifthly, attribute changes. The changes between the various players were rather minor, a point here and there. I don’t have the exact numbers, but I did post the original players and the progressed players in screenshot form. I’d have to delve into those screenshots for those numbers.

    Sixthly, training. The assistant manager handled this. No specific role training, no focus on any roles or attributes, they just tagged along with the masses. A valid point I suppose, as the youth team probably has a different schedule and different coaches.

    Lastly, the level of matches. I agree with the different ratings and I would have expected this to have more of an impact than it actually did. I was rather surprised by how well the lads in the youth squad did compared to the player in first team.

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  4. I have really focused on youth in my current save and your posts have been very useful. I have definitely found with the correct training, tutoring and a good run of first team football development is so much higher than youth games or loaned out. Great research, very informative and useful

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    • I wish I had all the answers, but even players with some very minor CA changes seem to develop somewhat. I did hear a theory by Cleon that this was the game balancing out the attributes to match the 100 CA.

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  5. In my Bilbao save I’m coaching the B Team as well, making sure all the talents are either getting bench minutes for Seniors or full matches for the B Team.

    The B Team is in the third tier atm, would you recommend that I push to get them promoted to the second tier in order to speed up development even more?

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