Breaking Barça; The Intro

Building a club is something I have done numerous times. I have written about it, I have given it a lot of thought on numerous occasions, it is essentially playing the game as the creators intended you to.  That is the point where it becomes somewhat boring and stale to me. I do the same thing, year in, year out. I refine the process, I pick up some new tricks along the way, I make use of the new possibilities the game offers but there are no radical changes in how I play the game.

So I figured I would set myself a new kind of challenge. If I know how to build a side, I surely have to know how to destroy a side as well. If you know the variables that can bring you success, you can apply those same variables and use them to utterly ruin a team. Just to make it interesting somewhat, attempting to wreck a team without getting the sack should add an extra dimension to the challenge. In a way, I will be the devil’s manager, kind of like the Rolling Stones sang.

Please allow me to introduce myself
I’m a man of wealth and taste
I’ve been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man’s soul and faith
And I was ’round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name
But what is puzzling you is the nature of my game

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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.

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Emulating La Masia; 06. Tutoring

In this installment of Emulating La Masia I want to focus on an often overlooked factor in a player’s development; the tutoring by a more experienced squad member. If you want to look at the importance an experienced player can make in terms of tutoring the youngsters, look no further than the Ajax ’95 team. After the sale of Bergkamp to Internazionale in 1993, Van Gaal re-signed the experienced Frank Rijkaard to complement his young Ajax team featuring academy graduates Frank and Ronald de Boer, Edwin van der Sar, Clarence Seedorf, Edgar Davids, Michael Reiziger, and Winston Bogarde, as well as mercurial foreign talents Finidi George, Nwankwo Kanu and Jari Litmanen, and veteran captain Danny Blind. The team regained the Dutch championship in 1993–94, and won it again in 1994–95 and 1995–96 to become the first Ajax side to win three back-to-back championships since 1968. The height of Van Gaal’s success came in 1994–95, where Ajax became the first, and to date only, team to complete an entire Eredivisie season unbeaten. The team also won its first European Cup since its glorious 1970s era, beating Milan in the 1995 UEFA Champions League Final 1–0, with the winning goal scored by 18-year-old Patrick Kluivert.

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What Drives Youth Development; Another Attributes Experiment

It’s rather funny really. Back in school, I hated mathematics and statistics as courses, so I wonder what my old maths teachers would say if they read my current statistical research. I guess it showcases the importance of motivation. Anyway, back to driving factors of youth development. This is a series that could go on for a while, as there are still quite a few factors I need to look at. The main reason why I did this series is to back up the Emulating La Masia series. I was hoping to use some of Shrewnaldo’s earlier research, but it appears to have disappeared together with the old TheDugout forums. That left me with no other choice but to do replicate his research in order to back up my own findings.

I have quite a few ideas on simulations to run in the future. The influence of first team action, the difference between coaches training, the importance of the facilities at a club and several other attribute combinations are all factors I intend to look at sometime in the future. However, these simulations take a bit of time and well… I do enjoy playing FM as well and all the time I spend simulating is rather precious time I cannot play the game, so I can’t and won’t promise anything in terms of a timeframe.

I do enjoy the feedback and interaction with the community this series has brought so far. Both through social media and the comments section, people are adding their thoughts to the mix, leading to new and refreshing insights. I have had to reconsider my basic development theory in favour of a much more logical current ability adaptation. So please, if you have your own ideas or suggestions, feel free to contact me and add your own thoughts. So far, there are few definitive answers so all ideas and suggestions could help make a difference.

As the title suggests, this article focusses on another attribute combination. We’ve had a look at Ambition, Professionalism, and Determination as individual factors, we have even had a look at the Determination / Professionalism combination. What I haven’t done is look at a combination between Ambition and Professionalism.

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What Drives Youth Development; A Follow-Up

As quite a few people (thanks for that!) have read yesterday, I have started simulating scenario’s to match Shrewnaldo’s research from a few years ago on factors that drive youth development. Yesterday’s post showed us that the hidden attribute Professionalism seems to be a driving force behind proper development, whilst Determination, by many considered an absolutely crucial factor, yielded slightly more peculiar results, with some improvements across the board, but the range of this development being rather flat and oddly favored towards lower determination.

Naturally, such results demand a follow-up post. As Shrewnaldo pointed out earlier, I haven’t looked at the influence of ambition and as Ben (@ZeGerman) pointed out, it should be interesting to see if I made a direct link to Determination and Professionalism, altering both attributes in a batch of players to see how they interact. All in all, that should give me enough to do to keep busy tonight and hopefully uncover some more data.

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What Drives Player Development; A Few Factors You Probably Never Considered

When working on the Emulating La Masia series I stumbled across an old article by Shrewnaldo on tutoring. He also describes aspects I initially did not intend to cover with the whole La Masia series but I do feel are important for youth development. Since the article dates back to 2012 and some of the original research by Shrew and Maestro Ugo has been lost, I am looking to re-new their research efforts and see if my conclusions still match theirs.

After all, many of us enjoy a save in which we have a fair few home-grown heroes in our squads. There is nothing more satisfying than having a youngster come through the ranks of the academy and break into first team. To do so, we must turn a player’s Potential Ability (PA) into his Current Ability (CA). Which factors influence how well a player develops? According to many people, determination is what drives development. According to Shrewnaldo, it’s the hidden attributes professionalism and ambition. This article will focus on the impact of both determination and professionalism and how they can help you make the most of those precocious young stars.

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Emulating La Masia; 05. Requirements

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.

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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.

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Emulating La Masia; 04. The Club DNA

One of those often overlooked yet absolute crucial parts of Football Manager is the star of part four of Emulating La Masia. In this article we look at determining “how you want to play.” One of the more alluring aspects of football and therefore of Football Manager is the almost infinite number approaches to the games. When executed to perfection, nearly each and every of these approaches can set you on the road to victory and glory. There is no uniform way to play the game and the game is better and more interesting for it.

It is important if not crucial that you choose one clear path to success. If you want to execute a plan to perfection, you need to iron out the details instead of cobbling a concept together and making the details up along the way. Youth development is about long term planning, which means you need to sort out your goals, your philosophy and your means to achieve your set goals. That’s what we will be focussing on in this article.

We will look at creating a tactical identity, a distinctive style and setting long term goals and policies.

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Emulating La Masia; 03. The (Coaching) Staff

The second factor that influences and actively enhances the quality of your youth players is the staff you employ, both to run the daily training sessions and to help with the intake of new youth players. Consistently high-level training-sessions help you raise the attributes of your players, both in general and when you employ specific role- or attribute-training. That means you need to find as many good coaches as you can and use these coaches effectively, whereas the quality of the intake is partially determined by the Head of Youth Department, which makes him a quite important staff member. These are the subjects I want to look at in this part of the series. Where to look at when you recruit coaches, how to use the coaches once you get them and what makes a good Head of Youth Department?

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Emulating La Masia; 02. The Facilities

Part two in my Emulating La Masia series focusses on the first factor that influences and actively enhances the quality of your youth players; the facilities. There are several options the board offers you that help you increase the position and standing of your youth academy. This article will look at these options and how they can help you in establishing a powerhouse youth academy. We will look at the Youth Training, the Youth Facilities and the Youth Recruitment.

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