When you’re signing new players there are multiple approaches to the matter. I admit that I am generally a firm proponent of the hoarding approach. When you bring in 30 new players every season one of them is bound to succeed or develop into a player who can prove useful to the cause of subjugating the domestic league or Europe.
On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the art of surgically signing new assets through methodical analysis and thorough scouting. While it’s not my general modus operandi, it is an art I have mastered along those many years of playing FM. Last week, I showed you a case study of such a surgical signing.
Again, not quite standard operating procedure. Normally, a case study is preceded by a post detailing the thought process behind the case study. As I was writing this case study, I noticed that a lot of steps had become a routine for me and as such I did not question what I was doing and why. This article is an effort to further explain the steps I have taken.
Table of Contents
TL;DR: summarise plz
Step 1: Assess your needs
The first step is an obvious one but I feel it needs to be addressed. If you want to make surgical signings you need to assess what type of player you wish to sign. You can’t expect to maximise the output of the scouting process if you’re clueless as to what you’re looking for. That means you’re going to look beyond the position of a player and look at the role and status a player is going to hold within the squad. Are you looking for a traditional defensive full back, a more attacking complete wing back or even a modern inverted wing back? What status will they hold within the squad – are they being bought as squad fillers, rotational options, young prospects or instant reinforcements? Assess your needs before looking at further steps.
Step 2: Gather information
At this point, you want to gather as much input as possible. Start putting your people to work. Scouts, coaches, and perhaps even a wee bit of manual scouting, you should try to use all means at your disposal to gather as many possible candidates as possible. If you did your work as a manager well, the scouting set-up you have in place will be able to supply you with plenty of candidates during this initial search. At this stage, you haven’t applied any filters besides the initial position of the player. Most likely, this process of information gathering is an ongoing process in the background because if you want a lot of input, you can’t really get that in less than a month.
Step 3: The first serious round of filtering
After the initial gathering of information, you can apply a more serious filter to weed out unsuitable candidates. One of the tips I would like to offer is to use the “Find Similar Players” option in FM. This creates a search template based on an existing player. If your centre-back is an immensely talented player but getting a bit old, you could use this template as a start to find a replacement. You can even use this option on players which aren’t your own.
Naturally, you can expand and tweak this filter as you see fit. It does offer you a decent starting point for an effective player filter, unmarred by perhaps your own lack of knowledge of what to look for. Effectively, this initial filter consists of four factors you need to consider.
- The position/role-dependant attributes: if you’re looking for a complete wing back, the players in your search need to possess the basic attributes to play in this capacity. I recommend creating filters for the various roles and positions in FM and just using those as an additional template.
- The availability of a specific player: when a player isn’t interested or his club does not want to sell him, you should really consider scrapping him from your shortlist of candidates. Setting ambitious goals is fine but you have to try and stay in touch with reality as well.
- The wage demands of a specific player: when a player is not really interested or simply too expensive for the budget you have to work with, you should also consider scrapping said player from the shortlist. No player is worth a financial meltdown.
- The age of a specific player: now this depends on your own preferences a bit. If you’re looking for a short-term stop-gap, age is not that important as a factor. If you’re planning long-term squad management, it can be important that the player slots into the right age bracket. Maybe you’re looking for an instant reinforcement in his prime, or for a young talent to nurture and polish into a star. Be sure your new signing slots into the proper bracket.
Step 4: The second round of filtering
The first serious filter you applied has most likely reduced the number of candidates to a far more manageable number. Now it’s time to see if one of them is the proper fit for your squad. This means that you are going to apply another filter of sorts by looking at certain characteristics of the remaining candidates. There are roughly four additional factors I consider at this stage.
- The injury history of a specific player: when a player suits the positional needs and has the right attributes but is injured a lot, you really ought to look for an alternative. Your new star signing will be as useful as a chocolate kettle when he spends more time recovering from injuries than he does playing.
- The personality of a specific player: certain personality-types are just not suited to play professional football. The following personality types are generally best avoided:
- A more in-depth statistical analysis of a specific player: this is where the player radars come into play. You analyse the performances of a specific player and look beyond the shell of his attributes and personality to find out if this player has the style of play to suit your tactical needs.
- The current ability of a specific player: while I am not a big fan of the yellow-and-black star system FM uses to display current ability and potential ability, it is a system that makes it easier to assess the ability of a player compared to your own squad. Some managers are derisive of certain leagues, claiming the level of these leagues is too low for players to effectively make the transition to the rigours of the [insert whichever league said pretentious idiot is actively managing in]. Since the stars are always a comparison to the strength of your squad, you can safely assume that a current ability rating of 2.5 stars means he is on par with your current crop of players, which makes scouting for replacements and reinforcements a bit easier.
Step 5: Make a decision
Ultimately, you’re going to have to make a decision. If you have narrowed the search down to four or five candidates, you can select the one that suits your team’s needs best, based on whichever criteria you desire. Finances, nationality, age, whatever you deem important is going to seal the deal for you. If no player can stand up to the scrutiny of two rounds of filtering, you can either opt to lower your standards a bit, or decide not to sign a new player at all.