A Football Manager 2019 Club Development Series at A.C. Milan – Part II
To follow up from the introduction of the A.C. Milan Club Development series, it’s time to look at how I aim to found a new football philosophy and club DNA at A.C. Milan with the aim to restore the glory of ‘I Rossoneri’. The introduction looked at some future goals as I take charge at one of the most successful clubs in Italy.
Today I’ll examine the next steps when setting up the save to bring my football philosophy to the club and the essential areas inside Football Manager that worth to look at when establishing a club football philosophy at a new club.
The Manager Profile
Before I delve into the DNA I look to establish at A.C. Milan, I think it’s important to first take a look at on of the often overlooked elements of your game setup, the Manager Profile.
How you setup your profile should be reflective of your planned approach to the game, at least initially, as overtime with in-game time and experience your approach priorities and club profile may change, which in theory will bring a new set of challenges.
It is also an opportunity to add an element of realism to your game, do you take on the hard slog of have no name or reputation, and build yourself up with the club from the nether regions of the lower leagues, or are you the former international looking to use your playing reputation to provide your first break.
Either way you will need to decide what type of manager you are disciplinarian, motivator, tactician, youth developer etc. Usually I take on the role of tactician or youth development, and as I see the bedrock of my club being that of youth, I will choose the latter. Also as I take on the hotseat at the San Siro, I need to fit the bill, so I will arm myself with the Continental Pro License, as a former International player on the Continental stage. Each style focus comes with a set of suggested attribute point distribution, but will customize this somewhat too.
As I have interest in fitness or goalkeeping coaching I will drop all these to 1. I distribute the remaining attribute points as even as possible, but also favoring as high as possible points in working with youngsters. I also adjust the mental attributes to focus not only on youth, which is the obvious in my case, but I also seek to distribute more points to those attributes I feel will be key to the club DNA.
So with my manager profile decided upon I begin my game with the obligatory chat with the President of the club, and my Assistant Manager, I’ve just inherited. The only thing I feel it necessary to mention as I run through this meeting is the discussion I arrange with the board about club philosophy. Getting the boards buy-in here is going to be crucial.
What does the DNA start to look like, well at it’s core are going to be a set of values, in Football Manager they will manifest themselves in the form of attributes. Regardless of the level the player is at, these attributes will not change, only they acceptable minimum value. For example, for my first team squad I may want a minimum of 13-15 for them, but for a player in the youth team 10-13 as a minimum, may suffice depending on your expectations. But before we discuss values, we need to know what these core attributes are:
You may want to add more, but I feel this list represents the most crucial mental attributes I would want any player to have. In the past I have added a sublist of technical attributes, but this has not taken place until the above has been clearly ingrained into the fabric of the club, but for the sake of record, that subset contains the following attributes.
Some FM players have been known to create DNA scores, basically an average score based on the values of the attributes above, which they have used as a guide. I have never found this truly helpful as it often ends up with some players possessing one or two attributes way below the minimum you wanted, but those are compensated by extremely high ratings in other areas. Over time I think this dilutes the concept of the Core Values, rendering them useless.
I also use a set of Core Values for my staff too, which is similar to that of the players:
- Level of Discipline
Though I am more forgiving on the differences between First Team, Reserve, and Youth Teams in any of these areas, as coaches develop just like players, and I’m just as interested in their lng term development. That said there is also a fine line to be drawn here too, as I obviously want the best coaches available to get the best out of my youth players.
While a clearly defined set of core values, can or should form the foundation of your clubs DNA and philosophy, there are other factors at work, which we will touch later.
Obviously, the minimum acceptable value should be set with two factors in mind, the stature of the club, and the league/division you are playing in. Let clarify with this example, Aston Villa for example, the rating I would aim for would be different for them in the Championship, than it would be should they regain a solid foothold in the Premier League again.
In the beginning
Most folks when they fire up a new save immediately hit the First Team squad to assess their best players, and for years this was my approach too, now my first stop is the youth team, and when playing as AC Milan this can be very daunting. To put it simply, there are far to many players, and the youth squad lacks serious balance. This has been my observation with Milan in FM as far back as I can remember, and given the lack of real talent to cement a place in the first team in recent years, this would appear to be symptomatic of a larger issue. In short, the squad is so big it seems a completely unrealistic expectation for any young player to get the attention they deserve.
The immediate reflex is to start culling as many players as possible. My approach is this, sort the players by potential ability, set a reasonable target, say anyone less than three stars, release or list anyone falling below this rating, in reality they were unlikely to make the grade, and by holding onto the 3s, you should be able to develop enough of them to turn a neat profit.
Those players who look like they will almost certainly make the grade get immediately promoted to the first team, but will be set as available for youth matches. This allows me to give them extra attention and ensure they don’t fall out of sight or out of mind. It also helps ensure they get exposed to first team games during the long season, something critical to their development.
A note on the reserves/u-23s
If I assign a player permanently to this squad, it’s for one of three reasons:
- He’s on loan away from the club
- He’s been listed
- He’s got a long-term injury
In other words, his future at the club is in question. I have considered using this squad as another developmental phase but prefer to have players in the first team assigned to play for the reserves/u-23s.
This is an area I don’t feel, I have fully grasped or exploited yet, but here is an overview of my current approach. Although my focus is primarily from the bottom up, the younger players will require guidance from the more seasoned players at the club, and unless you are completely unlucky there will be a handful of players in your first team who will epitomise what you are trying to achieve. This may sound counter-intuitive, but you should retain players like these regardless of their comparative ability to the rest of the first team squad, at least until you are sure you are in a position to replace their influence with better players. I use mentoring to coach behavior rather than skill, and I think this is an important distinction to make here. I have my coaches employed to teach technical skill. The mental aspect of the game is best thought through mentoring. Personally, I prefer the one to one method of previous versions than the group approach
This is another often overlooked area, and one that has many pitfalls, depending on how granular you want to get. In most cases the clubs with whom you have existing agreements are inadequate for your needs. Here are some of the factors I look at when choosing a club:
- Facilities: primarily youth related ones
- Head coach/manager: is he someone who works well with youngsters, and likely to give your players some starts.
- Stability: How likely is the Head Coach to be fired, and replaced by someone who may not favor youth.
In Part 3
Now that I have established at a very high level of what I hope to achieve with Milan. Next time, I will look at A.C. Milan in more detail, and how the individual pieces fit together and contribute to building a cohesive culture and a club philosophy centered on youth development.
Continue to part 3 here… [coming soon]
The background image used in the thumbnail of the A.C. Milan locker room is taken by Дмитрий Кошелев and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.