The new training module has caused a lot of confusion this year. It is immeasurably different; we have gone from an unrealistic but brilliantly customisable training system to what some would call a much more rigid system, but this is not entirely accurate. The old training was a throwback to the days when tactics meant tirelessly tweaking sliders controlling every facet of team and player instructions; I don’t think anyone could argue in favour of the same unrealistic sliders in the context of training. The game has moved on.
There are a few areas to the training system this year, which you can broadly split into:
- Individual: split between the player’s attribute/role focus, their new position and a new preferred move. This seems to be on top of everything else, so it won’t take time from other training, rather add to it. I imagine it as the player staying behind after training to do some more selective training – they might not like the extra workload but it’s for their best interests and can make the difference.
- General: this affects the team’s training and allows you to give your whole squad a greater emphasis on certain areas. Choosing between Fitness, Tactics, Ball Control, Attacking and Defending will develop, in the long term, a sort of team ethos or culture, probably depending on your tactical style. You can vary the intensity from Very Low to Very High. Players will also work on positional training (check with Nak/Cleon whether this is true) but we are no longer able to edit this.
- Match preparation: we’re all aware of how this works by now. It basically gives you a boost in certain areas in the short-term, or a longer-term increase in team cohesion or tactical fluidity.
General and match preparation training are linked so that when you increase one, the other decreases. The highest ratio of Match Preparation to General Training possible is 50:50 but this can go as low as 0:100, allowing you to dedicate 100% of team training to general training (ie the maximum amount of time is dedicated to distributing CA gains to attributes).
Developing players – the role strategy
One of the biggest losses from the change in training system is the ability to really shape a player’s development to how you want it. As I said earlier, it was pretty unrealistic, so the new system is a move in the right direction in that respect, and we must simply wait until SI develop the system further to allow greater flexibility. At the moment, therefore, we need to be a little more clever about how we try and train players to produce that conveyor belt effect that is effective for any club, whether big or small, and whether they’re training to be sold or to become a first team player for you.
I think the easiest way to do this is through intelligent use of the Individual Role training. You can easily manipulate a player’s development by telling him to focus on a role that covers the areas you want to increase, whether that be the role you want him to play in future or not; a beautiful part of this new system is that you can change on the fly which means you can gain a few points from one role focus, and providing you don’t completely abandon those attributes and the player has more CA to distribute, you can switch to another role to improve another area. This doesn’t just include the polishing and brushing up on the rough edges of young players, it equally applies to declining players and which areas you want to prioritise for them.
Case study #1: established centre midfielder
Marco Hoger is a central midfielder/defensive midfielder, a player I want to play in DMC as a deep lying playmaker. He’s already pretty suited to this role, especially on the ball and going forward, as shown by the following screenshot, which uses FM’s ‘highlight key attributes for role’ (DLP-Support) function:
Marco is superb creatively, with high attributes for passing, composure, creativity and crossing. He’s clearly a very good ball player who I would probably consider as an Advanced Playmaker if it wasn’t for his low Flair, and someone I can trust with the ball. There’s really no need to put him on the DLP-Support focus, as any work he does on Attacking (Passing, Creativity, Off the Ball and Crossing in previous years) and Ball Control (Technique, First Touch, Dribbling, Heading and Flair in previous years), both attribute areas which a DLP focus would emphasise, would be pointless. High attributes take a lot more Current Ability points to raise than low ones, and Hoger is already 26, so his CA is probably very close to his PA. A DLP-Support focus, then, would make no sense and would be only slightly beneficial; you might squeeze one or two extra attribute increases in the areas that this training schedule would prioritise, but you’d be neglecting his weaknesses.
Those weaknesses are in defensive areas. Tackling, Positioning and Marking (not in the DLP key attributes but a key attribute for the way I play) are all lower than I’d like and will undermine his, and the team’s, defensive stability if they do not gain as many points as possible. He’s also a bit on the slow side which should be fine if he sits deep and dictates play but it’s always nice to be a bit more mobile on the transitions if we could possibly improve that, though the clear emphasis needs to be on defending. We can focus training on any role in the position that the player can play, so the natural implication of Hoger’s need for defensive work is to set his focus to Defensive Midfielder, which trains these attributes (DM-Defend doesn’t train Passing but I’ve added it on as the focus excludes Duty):
This is a much better training focus for Hoger as it trains all three of his weak defensive attributes as well as his acceleration. The importance is that this focus trains ALL of the defensive category (tackling, marking and positioning) in comparison to a quarter of the attacking category, 2/5 of the tactics category, 3/5 of the strength category and 1/4 of the aerobic category. So underneath the hood, I would presume, and hopefully with good premise, that this means that this distributes a larger portion of CA to defending than any other category. I could have gone for the Anchorman role focus, but that role relies on very simple and in-elaborate passing, which completely cuts across Hoger’s strong points; I don’t want to lose those attributes. And so far, so good; he’s made handy improvements on Tackling, Marking and Acceleration. Not bad for a 26 year old who has missed 2 months with injuries since he was put on this focus 6 months ago.
Case study #2: young winger
This chap’s name is Gaurav Singh. He’s a 19 year old right winger but also has the capability to play right midfield and right wing back so he’s quite versatile, but as you can see from his attributes, he’s really not cut out for the gritty part of the game! I intend on playing him on the right wing, as a Winger-Attack, a role he is almost perfectly suited to and one he needs little improvement to play in.
Nonetheless, the club culture that I’m trying to develop is one of collectivism and mental strength, to the extent that I’ve already sold some good players, including Joel Matip, for not fitting in with my ideas, so it’s very important to instil certain qualities in youngsters like Singh. At the moment, he’s lacking in Determination – which I’ll fix through tutoring -, Teamwork and Work Rate, all mental attributes, and the latter two especially will increase as Gaurav ages. His young age also means that he’s nowhere near his full potential, and so has the room, and capability to grow, as long as he’s playing football at a decent level, which he is.
The main consideration here, then, is what I need to push his CA points into (answers on a postcard!). Do I put him on a Winger focus, to try and get the maximum Crossing, Dribbling and Pace that I can? Or do I put him on a Wide Midfielder focus to make him more rounded? My decision was to do the latter, to train the following:
There’s not actually that much of a difference between the Wide Midfielder and Wing Back roles, so either would have suited me, but moving it up to Wide Midfielder sheds Positioning, Marking and Acceleration, the first two of which he does not need, and the last he already excels at. The reason for not going for Winger, the role he’s actually playing, is that he’s already good at most of the attributes that that trains – he won’t lose his Dribbling and Finishing – and it fails to address Singh’s weaknesses mentally.
This schedule allows him to work on his Teamwork and Work Rate, as well as his relatively weak Passing and Off The Ball, but at the same time doesn’t abandon Crossing. It’s important to note that you can’t use the specific attribute focus to improve Teamwork or Work Rate, otherwise I would have put him on those focuses for 6 months each, with a Heavy intensity. As I did last time, here’s an overview of the categories covered:
- 2/4 of the attacking category
- 1/3 of the defending category
- 0/5 of the ball control category – I will keep on eye on this as I don’t want him to lose his great Dribbling and Technique
- 3/5 of the tactics category
- 2/5 of the strength category
- 0/5 of the aerobic category – again, I need to keep on eye on this.
Singh’s weakest areas are in Attacking (Passing, Creativity and Off the Ball are slightly too low), Tactics (Teamwork & Decisions are too low) and Strength (Stamina and Work Rate need development) and all of these areas are trained well in this schedule. I could do without the defending work that he’ll be doing but that’s the nature of the new system; we can’t pick and choose but we can get pretty damn close. And that is what we have to settle for, at least until next year.
Developing players – the attribute strategy
I tend to do my development of players a little different to the examples posted above. What I like to do is take several attributes and focus on them via the individual attribute focus for a few years. Normally I take 3 attributes that I class as important and work on them on a rotation basis. By honing these attributes now, later on it allows me to focus on a different individual role than the one the player will be playing for my club. It still works out similar to what is above but this is another way of achieving it.
Let’s have a look at some examples:
This is Jack Butland at the start of the game. I decided that I’d focus on handling, jumping and positioning. Firstly his positioning is really bad and if he is to become a top keeper then this is one of the more important attributes he needs.
This is him one season later:
I set the focus to be heavy so I can make the most of the individual training. The first six months of the focus was spent on jumping and as you can see we’ve seen a 2 point rise in that already. The rest of the year I spent three months on handling and the the rest on positioning. The three months weren’t really long enough to see a visible change but when I checked the training graph I could see it was changing.
For the next six months I would leave the attribute training set to positioning and the results were quite surprising:
A four point attribute change is a big change in a single year. I also spent the rest of the time learning handling to bring that in-line with the rest of the attributes.
To say I’m pleased with how his training is coming along would be an understatement, he is developing like I had hoped. For the next six months I spent time on jumping yet again to rise that and then another six months split between handling and positioning. I’ve not got any further in my save yet to see the player fully develop but here is a screenshot of him currently:
He’s not the only example I have either. Let’s have a look at two of my outfield players and see how they have been developing.
First up is the popular striker Ademilson:
The specific attribute training this time focused on finishing, quickness (which trains both pace and acceleration) and composure. This time I went for three months rotating between the three attributes.
Because quickness trains two attributes I didn’t expect to see much change here for the first season. As well as this, because composure is already high, as is finishing, I didn’t expect to see them rise quickly either due to higher attributes being harder to develop.
You can now see the player is starting to take shape and has seen the three attributes I am working on increase. At this stage I feel 17 for finishing is more than enough so I decided that I’d not focus on that any more and put the emphasis onto off the ball instead. In fact I made the choice of not focusing on composure either as I can work on these at a later date. So now the focus is just on quickness so I can get his pace slightly higher and off the ball.
That’s him six months down the line. Ignore the red arrows, these have occurred because he’s injured for a few weeks and aren’t anything to worry about.
The last example I have is Adryan.
This is him at the start of the game. To try and get him up-to the standard of where he can challenge for a first team place I wanted to focus on his technique, dribbling and passing. Sadly though, a month after signing for me he got injured for four months so that slowed his development somewhat.
He’s progressed a fair bit in all honesty but just not as much as I hoped.
Due to the injury and him developing at a slower rate, for the next year I focused just on passing and technique and these are very important for any kind of midfielder regardless of where you play them.
This is him currently in my save and this will be a big year for him if he can stay injury free. I plan on keeping the focus on technique but along with dribbling and first touch instead.
Another season of individual specific attribute training for all three of these players and I think they’ll be ready for individual role training instead. I’m still not sure which role they’ll be playing yet (except for Butland) for my side but I would presume I’d put Adryan on a schedule that works on his defensive side to raise some of those poor attributes. As for Ademilson he is likely to be trained as a Trequartista to improve his creative side of the game.
Match preparation is a feature that everybody should be getting acquainted with by now, after its first appearance on Football Manager 2011. It is a great feature, as it allows you a decent level of control over what your squad do in the days between matches, though not to the extent that some would want. In real terms, Match Preparation gives us short-term boosts to the attributes of our team in-game, so we have more attacking potency or more stability at the back.
I like to think of Match Preparation as a supporting tool to go along with my tactical plan in big games; otherwise I keep it on Tactics Only or Teamwork. A lot of the time it’s better to use it to strengthen your team bonding than to take time away from general training, especially when you’re probably going to win the game anyway. It’s the big games when you need a little edge that it really comes into its own.
The great Richard Claydon, known as wwfan in the FM community, wrote a great mini-guide to match preparation last year:
Match I expect to dominate: Team Blend (should win anyway, so spend some time building the team understanding)
Match I expect to win: Attacking Movement: Make sure I have the best chance of converting attacking sequences of play
Match I hope to win: Defensive Positioning: Make sure I keep it tight at my end and hope to snatch goals on the counter
Match I expect to be a struggle: Attacking Set Pieces: Try to keep things as tight as possible and score form a set piece
Match I expect to lose: Defensive Set Pieces: Try to frustrate opposition in open play and then successfully defend the resulting set pieces
Match I expect to be dominated in: Team Blend (very little chance of a result, so work on team understanding)
Richard Claydon/wwfan at SIGames
These are good guidelines to go by, though a little different from my usual strategy. The extent of my advice is to stick to sensible guidelines like Richard’s, but keep the Match Preparation intensity lower than usual if you don’t need the ‘boost’ that it offers to you. I tend to keep the slider at 20% until cup matches or matches against a competitive or local rival; it’s all about the balance between improving your players and supporting your match plan.
I have a big Bundesliga match coming up for my Schalke team, away against league leaders Gladbach, the sort of match that prompts me to change my match preparation a little. Typically, I have my Match Preparation set to 20% (so 80% is spent on general training) with a focus upon Teamwork to develop a bond between my players; for most games this is perfect as I don’t need to waste any more time than that on any particular preparation. Sometimes against real minnows I may work on our Attacking Movement if I think they’re going to sit back and make it difficult for me to break through, but I would say that 60-70% of games I don’t change anything for.
What worries me about Gladbach is that they play a 4-4-2, a formation I have found myself to be extremely vulnerable to, especially when teams have fast players up front and some flair in midfield. Die Fohlen have both of these in striker Luuk de Jong, winger Patrick Herrmann, and pass maestro Sebastian Rudy, and they have already put three goals past Furth, two past Kaiserlautern and another two past Leverkusen.
Some of those matches are fairly easy but they have consistently scored in their domestic fixtures so far this season, so I’ve gone for Defensive Positioning match preparation here, on 40%. I could probably have gone for Attacking Movement to give us some more potency going forward, especially considering they have ter Stegen in goal, but I plan to sit deep and create unmissable chances on the counter. Defensive Positioning will give me the organisation to withstand a lot of pressure, and will also mean that we are far more prepared to deal with the crosses that will be increasingly likely because of our deep line.
To be fair, it doesn’t really matter what you choose, but it matters that it fits with your match strategy or helps to support it. If you think you’ve got no chance in the world, work on Attacking Set Pieces and roll the dice on winning through a header; if you want to stop a big team like Stoke from doing the same to you, work on Defending Set Pieces. It’s simple, but it can make a difference.
The days of fully individual training workload are gone. Now you have a team workload and, on top of that, an individual workload which can actually be seen as extra-workload. So what do you do when some players in your team haven’t got enough time to fully recover due to having low Natural Fitness? Basically, here are the options that you have:
- Add more team rest days so the player can keep up with match rhythm, but it means less training time for others so is probably not the best idea, unless your whole team is generally low on Natural Fitness
- Lower team training intensity for the whole team, but it means you could be sacrificing other players progression as a result, especially the most Determined and Professional players who can handle high workload, and thrive on it
- Using individual day-off to help that particular player (Player -> Training -> Rest -> 1 Day)
- Avoid individual training where possible (most players reach a point where there is little need to train them specifically as attribute shifts will be hard to come by)
- Sub him off earlier in games or giving him regular games on the sub bench (1 of every 4, for example)
For one, I don’t think these options are satisfying enough. It’s a shame I can’t ask my last first 11 to train only 50% the day after a game while non-used players train at full rate. As a manager, I feel I don’t have enough control on players fitness. Don’t get me wrong though, I don’t want sliders back but a “light training” options for a group of players would be both realistic and perfect when dealing with fitness and training workload, while still having to have some sort of compromise. At the moment, I recommend monitoring how players are recovering between game and if you notice a particular player is not fully fit (under 95%) then either play him less or try giving him a day off. If he is your talisman, then you may want to reduce his individual workload (if he is working on a new position, role or attribute) or the team training intensity if you really need him to be fully fit and available for every match.
Training camp are chosen at the board’s discretion so you do not have any input on its organisation. It depends mainly on team financial situation and any previously arranged preseason friendlies and tournaments. Once the board is confident with your ability for the past years at the club, then they may let you have your word regarding training camp organisation. Bear in mind though, that training location is yet to have an impact as confirmed by Riz Remes at Sports Interactive, so you can safely prepare your team without worrying about latino night clubs temptations or benefiting from Alps fresh air. Advantages of training camp are mainly twofold: it helps a little regarding squad gelling and, at the same time, match preparation. So, don’t consider it as a key feature but more as a nice half-cosmetic/half-boosting module that could help your team settling in during pre-season; apart from that there is little difference from the past. This is a feature that is sort of half-cooked by SI and will probably improve in the future versions of the game.
Simply put, general team focus is all about matching the style of your team. Rest assured though, when you are choosing an attacking focus it does not mean all your team is only doing attacking training, only a small portion of training time is affected to your focus choice. Basically, under general training tab you are choosing which focus is default and how hard your player are training, by default. Then, on a week by week basis you can override team focus and intensity of training for that week. The following focuses cover the following attributes:
- Fitness: Acceleration, Agility, Balance, Jumping, Natural Fitness, Pace, Stamina, Strength
- Tactics: Anticipation, Composure, Concentration, Decisions, Teamwork
- Ball Control: Dribbling, First Touch, Heading, Technique, Flair
- Defending: Marking, Tackling, Positioning
- Attacking: Crossing, Finishing, Long Shots, Passing, Creativity, Off The Ball
The idea is to have a global style using tactics and training. There’s no point shifting training towards Attacking for the full season if you are going to fight for survive the whole season. But, if you are a patient, controlling team you may want to back up this playing style with ball control training. At the same time you may add variations using individual role training. Here are some examples that hopefully everyone fits into in some capacity:
Relegation battler – Your team is one of the weakest in the league and you expect to struggle most of game. Your strategic spectrum is roughly defend /counter so your first objective may be to have a solid and tight defense to keep shape and then try to grab a few goal on the break or on set pieces. Your team will face tough games and will need to work as a unit to go through that hard season. Note that this example is valid for a high pressing defense for team focus selection.
- A bit of team cohesion focus to help squad gelling + high match preparation workload for your team to get accustomed to playing with your tactics
- Defence focus to shift a bit of workload towards defensive attributes like tackling, positioning and marking
- Tactics focus to help improving concentration, anticipation and other useful attributes
- A bit of fitness focus to win defensives challenges in the air or when tackling. A strong and quick backline is very difficult to get through.
- Individual roles like ball winning midfielders, defensive wingers or quick striker like poacher to grab some goals on the break
Counter-attacking – your strategic spectrum is counter / normal so you want to prevent conceding too many goals and your objective is to exploit space behind opponent, hitting them on the counter. To do so, your team will need good level of fitness to keep going the whole match.
- Defence focus to try to improve your defensives abilities and try to keep shape and win the ball back
- Tactics focus to improve your defence and your attack when it comes to concentration, anticipation, etc…
- Fitness to carry over counter-attacking style efficiently at pace and don’t get runned through by a lack of physical impact in defense
- Individual role like a deep-lying playmaker to launch quick passes towards wingers, targer man and poacher. Attacking fullbacks make sense to.
Possession focus – Your strategic spectrum is Counter/Standard/Control. Your style is to keep control of the ball as a defensive measure and try to unlock defence cautiously. Your team will need good technique in the passing department good thinking when it comes to choose how to use the ball efficiently. Your defenders should be able to recycle the ball and be composed on the ball.
- Tactics focus
- Ball control focus
- Team cohesion
- Individual role like deep-lying playmaker, wingbacks, trequartista, ball playing defenders and advanced playmaker
Brazilian flair - Putting pressure on the opponent, unlocking defence using flair and dribbling move and by committing players forwards. You are playing a high risk game and your strategic spectrum is Control/Attacking. Your team will need to be highly skilled on the ball when it comes to go past players or slotting the ball home
- Attacking focus to try to improve your attacking abilites like passing or creativity
- Ball control focus to focus a bit of your training on dribbling and first touch skills
- Fitness to run at pace at defense, have a good mobility or try to outmuscle defence.
- Individual role like inside-forward, trequartista, offensive midfielders
Thanks and credits
This article has been an absolute pleasure to write and it’s amazing to see how in-depth it’s turned out to be. It would not have been possible without the brilliant existing works regarding the training system within the community, and a couple of superb contributions from friends. We must thank:
- Cleon: for his input and comments on the article, and his contribution of the second strategy of training. As brilliant as ever.
- NakS: again for his input and suggestions for what this article should become. Nak has been the all-knowing man when it comes to training for years now and it was a pleasure to work with him. His contributions of Training Camps, General Training and Fitness are greatly appreciated and demonstrative of his extensive knowledge of Football Manager.
- Llama3 for his introductory guide on the new training system in October which is a helpful and straightforward explanation.
- wwfan for his guide to Match Preparation that shed a lot of light on the feature last year and will continue to do so.
- The community for your encouraging responses to our ongoing updates concerning the progress of this article. It has kept us going when the task seemed too big to finish!
The PTW Team