Instilling Fighting Spirit Into Your Squad

While the old Greeks never played football, one of Plato’s quotes can easily be applied to any footballing context. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Some people fawn over Barcelona and whichever team Pep is managing and their one-touch football. Others prefer the more energetic and physical brand of football played by the likes of Klopp and Pochettino. There are others still who have a taste for an even more physical, almost violent brand of football.

If you don’t have the players to play a technically or tactically demanding still, is playing aesthetically pleasing football still a goal in itself or can beauty be found in being efficient and maximising the resources you have? Can you compensate for a lack of technical (and tactical) skills by instilling a fighting-spirit into your squad?

The Italians call it “grinta”, a word that loosely translates to “grit” in English, but there is more to it than just grit. Grinta is more like when you not only dig deep and play against all the odds, but you play with heart, you leave your soul on the pitch, your every last bit of sweat and blood.  The Argentines use a similar term, called fibra, and the Germans call it Kampfgeist. When we’re going to look at how a concept like that would work in FM, who better to ask for help than Tony, @FM_Grasshopper, the man who made “FIBRA” a well-known phrase in the blogging community.

What is grinta/fibra/Kampfgeist?
— a brief note from FM Grasshopper

Hi, anybody who followed my FM16 Grasshopper Club Zürich save they will know that, despite having a decade of domestic dominance in Switzerland, my squad lacked a certain amount of composure and fight on the big stage. My exciting young team of underdogs would often collapse in the final moments of massive Champions League/Europa League knockout games…as if the pressure brought out their worst football.

So, during the few months prior to FM17’s release, I decided that I wanted to try a different approach. I wanted mentally strong players of fight, sacrifice, teamwork and work rate. Lots of reading and theorising eventually led me to Argentina…a country constantly at odds with itself at how the game “should” be played. FIBRA was the concept: recruit players with high Aggression, Determination, Teamwork & Work Rate and play them in a workmanlike way. Think Diego Simeone, Javier Mascherano and Javier Zanetti.

Estudiantes de La Plata was the chosen team. A team with one of the darkest histories in the game – polarising views across both sides of the Atlantic, most notably during the Intercontinental Cup Finals of 1968 (Vs Manchester United) and 1969 (Vs AC Milan). Win at all costs? Or should there be a moral compass to football? We doubt the question will ever be conclusively answered. But Estudiantes were pushing the debate to the forefront of footballing consciousness 50 years ago.

Emboldened by FIBRA in FM17, my Estudiantes team were hard to beat during my three-year stay: they never lost from a losing position in the league and only once in all competitions (a 2-1 home loss against bogey team Grêmio in the 2017 Copa Libertadores). Despite the football at times being a bit primitive (76 of my 137 games were clean sheets, which include twenty-nine 1-0 wins), the whole approach was enjoyable and refreshing. The ‘Fame & Fibra’ journey can be re-read at your leisure here: fmgrasshopper.com/fm17

Now over to Guido to take FIBRA to the next level.

fmgrasshopper.com/fm17

The attributes required

If we want to instil some fighting spirit into our players, there are a number of mental attributes we want to look at. We also want to distinguish between primary and secondary attributes. The primary attributes are the main attributes to make this fighting spirit work, whereas the secondary attributes can be used to supplement and further strengthen the fighting spirit. Fighting spirit and fighting spirit deluxe, if you would.

The primary attributes

Aggression – How combative is your player?
A high attribute means an energetic and forceful player, willing to get stuck in. A low attribute means a docile and unassertive player. This has little to do with how violent a player is, which is more controlled by invisible attributes like dirtiness and sportsmanship. A high aggression attribute does not necessarily mean a player is likely to commit more fouls, as this is determined by a myriad of other factors, such as Decisions and Tackling. If you want to install a fighting spirit into your team, you want players with a healthy dose of Aggression.

Determination – How committed is your player to succeed and give 100?
Determination refers to a player’s commitment to succeed. A determined player will give everything in order to win. If you want to instil fighting spirit into your team, you’re going to need players with lots and lots of Determination. Determination on its own isn’t enough for what we’re trying to achieve. We want players who will dig deep, hit rock bottom and then keep going. Determination is one of the building blocks for what we’re trying to achieve.

Teamwork – Is your player willing to put the team’s interests first?
A low attribute means the player will put his own best interest before the best interests of the team, like taking a shot from a difficult angle, even though a colleague might be in a better position to score, thus ignoring tactical instructions. A high attribute means the player would base decisions on what is best for the team, not what is best for himself. We need this self-sacrificing attitude if we want to achieve our fighting spirit. Players who are willing to put their ego’s aside for the cause.

Work Rate  – How active is your player on the pitch?
Players with a low Work Rate are often lazy players. They wait for their opportunities instead of working to create chances for themselves or for others. These are not the kind of players that keep moving around, trying to find space for themselves or drawing opponents away to create space for team mates. A high Work Rate means your player would make himself available and tries to get involved in play as much as possible. Work Rate 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.

The secondary attributes

Bravery – How willing is our player to sacrifice himself?
Or translated into FM terms; how much a player is willing to risk injury in order to win the ball back, or put his life on the line for the cause. Will he hold back in the 50:50 challenge or will he dive in? Is he going to slide in to clear a ball off the line, risking life and limbs? Or will he just let it go in? When we are looking for players to play their heart out for the team, this is definitely of added value.

Concentration – How long will our player be able to maintain focus?
A high attribute means our player will be able to maintain his focus throughout the match, limiting the number of mistakes a player is liable to make. A player who can focus makes better use of all his other mental attributes and since our fighting-spirit is strictly inside the heads and minds of our players, we can definitely use players who can remain focused for the full 90 minutes every match.

Just to summarise

So how do you use this fighting-spirit in recruitment?

Working with these criteria isn’t very difficult and we’ve made the process even easier for you. We have created two search filters for you to use when you are perusing the transfer market.

You need to place the filter(s) in the My Documents/Sports Interactive/Football Manager 17/filters folder, before importing them into the game. When the filter is loaded, it will look a bit like this. This is the fibra deluxe filter by the way.

Naturally, you can tweak the numbers and the other variables to include more or less other data you require. These are the basic fighting spirit filters we use though. Should you come up a bit on these variables, you can easily broaden your horizon.

If you click on the “match” setting, you can set it to match on five out of six variables, which generally gives you quite a few extra results, without dropping the overall quality terribly. Please note that this is a very likely scenario when using the Deluxe filter, as the pool of players will be considerably smaller and maybe only attainable for those managing big clubs, the nouveau riche bourgeoisie.

In his earlier work, Tony described that he had various recruitment-models. He used a specific model for players over 25 and a different model for players 18-24 years of age. We had a look at this model and figured we could refine it further to adjust for the development-curve of players, especially those under 23, who can still make rapid gains in the Mental attributes.

We have created a few more age brackets to account for the often steep development-curve of younger players. If we had stuck with the original values, it would be nigh impossible to recruit youth players for our squad, while we all know that the right training and tutoring can see a player’s mental values skyrocket, making a player who at first glance seemed unfit for the fibra-regime, develop into a player who slots in just fine.

The values we have used above might indicate you are scouting for absolutely world class players, but that is simply not true. For players to reach the preferable quota, you need surprisingly low averages pro attribute. The differences in averages are due to rounding off at times.

If you look at these attributes and their average values, you can see that it doesn’t require a world class player to have the fibra needed to succeed. The values can be lowered for LLM-clubs or further increased for truly world class clubs, but this method adds another weapon to the arsenal of the Football Manager who wants to make his mark on the game.

Prime examples of players with fibra

While we could never list all the players in the starting database of FM who have plenty of grinta/fibra/Kampfgeist/fighting-spirit, we have put together a fibra XI of player we feel embody the true spirit of fibra.

Notable omissions from that squad feature Koke, Gabi, Thomas Müller, Dani Caravajal, Kevin Strootman, Nigel De Jong, Luis Gustavo, Jamie Vardy, John Terry, Michael Bradley, Dirk Kuyt and Pablo Zabaleta.

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