A Practical Example of Incorporating a Training Philosophy in Football Manager Based on Possession Football
The key to success lies in the training ground. No matter if you’ve created the tactic yourself or downloaded one of the best Football Manager tactics from reliable sources within the FM community, the success of it is predetermined by how well you grasps the tactical style and its underlying football philosophy and how well you can translate it onto the pitch to the players.
It’s a question of understanding the basic requirements of the players within each position, role and duty, its use of specific instructions, whether it may be player or team instructions, in accordance with the overall requirements of the playing style. Together with establishing a club DNA and a football philosophy that runs through the entire club, which has been one of my objectives for the articles released for Football Manager 2019, the need to incorporate a training philosophy that aims to not only develop the players into better players, but also strengthen the team at specific phases of play and make them able to employ specific strategies and game models to improve the play, is necessary to get success.
Today I’ll talk about how to set up training in Football Manager and incorporating a training philosophy aimed at successfully employ a football philosophy based around possession football. This article looks to answer some of the questions on my social media accounts from dedicated followers and fans of the Barcelona Tiki Taka tactic about how I set up training to make the tactic successfully. This extreme possession tactic is used in my FM19 save where I look to restore the glory of the French club AJ Auxerre, which I manage to promote to Ligue 1 after first season.
Keep reading as I head to the training ground and examines how to set up training schedules by carefully picking training sessions that’s aimed at both player development and the progress of the club towards a possession football philosophy.
Whenever I think of Football Manager as the general term, I think of it as a game where everything is linked to each other. Your desired tactic and selected tactical style should link to your manager profile, which links to the ‘required’ backroom staff and its players to successfully employ it. The level of the players and their development ratio is linked to the club’s training facilities, the level of the coaching staff and the given number of appearances (plus a number of other factors ‘decided’ within the database). How you approach scouting should be linked to the football philosophy at the club in additional to the preferred tactical style, whilst your approach to squad management is partly determined by the personality of the players, their individual performances in matches or on the training ground and finally the financial powers at the club. As you see, there goes a red line between every aspect of Football Manager, from the manager profile to your approach in scouting.
You can’t focus entirely on one thing to get success. You need to look at the bigger picture once starting on your managerial journey. Whilst it may be fun to employ or use a specific tactic (that others in the community may have had success with), it must fit the players at your disposal. If not, the road to glory becomes even longer. Here it’s essential to remind you that a subtle difference in player attributes between two players can have a great affect on the performance … and output of a tactic… and you’re required to rebuild the entire squad to your likening, either you head down the easy route backed by the club’s financial powers or look to develop the players in a long term.
To be successful in Football Manager, you sometimes needs to take the time to micromanage. You need to be a bit hands-on in order to secure success with your managing club. You can’t simply let your assistant manager control training and setup training sessions for you, if he’s got a mismatching preferred playing style, formation or coaching style, the result will not be ideal. Likewise, you can’t ask your director of football handle signings if you opt for a certain transfer policy. Finally, you won’t have any prerequisites to understand why your team looses or why your tactic is ‘bad’ if you never analysis it, either in-match or pre-match, or you too often use the instant result button. Similarly, you won’t go far if you employ a tactic without caring for training (e.g. player development and/or traits), scouting, staff recruitment and tactical analysis.
And finally, you can’t determine whether a tactic you have downloaded or created is good or bad before you’ve taken every matter to ensure it follows the ‘rules’ stated by the playing style. It means creating a foundation and a platform which the footballing vision can come alive. It’s here, training becomes essential!
The following article helps to understand the importance of training relating to your tactics and looks to answer how I set up training in Football Manager to improve the result of my Tiki Taka possession tactic and the development of players to fit the style. In other terms it looks at how I approach player development in relationship with squad progression – aiming to play possession football at a club which has not the foundation nor the prerequisites to play that way. I’ll examine the different training sessions necessary to strengthen the teams style of play in additional to providing a bunch of training schedules which you can download and import. I won’t talk anything about how to develop the players in the most effective way to reach their potential ability or go deeply into how training works in Football Manager, as I feel this can be discussed at it’s own. Instead I’ll share with you my tips on how to incorporate a training philosophy in Football Manager, specifically aimed at a possession football. My hope is that this article can work as a framework and help you to better setup training schedules for your preferred tactical style on your own, by picking the training sessions that’s related to your preferred playing style and specific tactical variations.
What Training in Football Manager Influences?
The training area in Football Manager is the primary tool to develop the players outside friendlies and consecutive matches. As the players spend almost 80% of the weekly daytime on the training ground it’s worth to spend some time in the game setting up training schedules that fits the tactic. After all, it’s the mandatory place for player development to improve their weaknesses or better their strengths.
The training department is laid out in a way that helps you to improve both specific aspects of play, whether it may be a specialized area such as improving a players marking or a more general area focusing on the different phases of play (e.g. in defensive third working on players positioning and shape, in attacking third working on movements or players technical skills with the ball at his feet).
It’s where you can style a player’s set of skills to your liking, mainly by focusing on specific attributes (see additional focus in individual training tab), and let him learn specific traits which benefits the employed tactic, or unlearn those who weakens it.
The main aim of training is bilateral. On the one hand it helps to improve the individual player to enable him to reach his fullest ability, whilst on the other hand it helps to fit the individual player into the whole, by making the player understand his role within the team, either for the short term (for the next match) or in the long term (fit him into the football philosophy).
Apart from that it prepares the squad for the coming match by working on specific situations that the opponent might be better or worse at, compared to your team. This means that the focus you set on training, or lack of it, will be one of the factors which influences on how successful/unsuccessful your tactic will be in the next match, for the coming months or in the future.
In order to understand how training is laid out in Football Manager it’s important to understand what the training area makes an impact on within the game. Below you’ll find a brief overview of what training influences on and which training sessions that relates to it.
Training and specific training sessions influences on a whole range of factors;
- Tactical Familiarity is divided into the teams overall familiarity with specific characteristics of the playing style, such as mentality, width, tempo, passing style, creative freedom, pressing intensity and marking, and the individual players familiarity to his position/role/duty in addition to the characteristics mentioned above. Simply speaking, the familiarity levels impacts on the team and player performances. A new player who is used to play at a higher tempo in a counter attacking style will take longer time to adjust to the new tactical concept (possession football). Same goes for a player who has been used in a different player position, role or duty. The more suited a team or a specific player is to play under a specific tactical style, the earlier you’ll get better performances from it/them.
- Training Sessions: Every ‘General’ (except goalkeeping and physic), ‘Attacking’, ‘Defending’ (except Ground Defence and Aerial Defence) and ‘Tactical’.
- Team Cohesion & their unity; A team exists of a range of individual players with their unique skills and personalities. The more the players train and play matches together the stronger unity. Improving the team cohesion helps to improve player positioning during the matches as well as their vision and reactions, since it directly improves the players teamwork abilities. Buying several players in a short period of time will directly influence on the level of understanding between the players. Partly influencing the team cohesion is the teams unity or dressing room atmosphere. The team unity is influenced by the amount of different languages spoken within the dressing room, the amount of time players have played together, the general happiness of the players, the amount of nationalities and if the players are of similar age or if there are major gaps in the age groupings.
- Training Sessions: Mainly Match Preparations and ‘Team Bonding’. But it’s partly increased in ‘Community Outreach’, ‘General’ (except goalkeeping and physic), ‘Attacking’, ‘Defending’ (except Ground Defence and Aerial Defence) and ‘Tactical’.
- Match Preparations: Specific training sessions can improve certain aspects of play for the upcoming match. It gives the team a minor boost in set-pieces, passing style, marking, pressing intensity, defensive positioning, attacking movement or teamwork (see team cohesion).
- Training Sessions: Every ‘Set Pieces’ and ‘Match Preparations’ training (except Match Practice).
- Individual abilities are linked to the players attributes, which again is linked to the player traits and his capabilities and prerequisites to learn new traits. Each player profile comes with a set of attributes which shows you the players skills. They are split in three categories; technical, mental including tactical and physical abilities. You can learn more about the player attributes here. Most training sessions looks to work on a set of attributes, either they are linked to abilities necessary within the final third and in front of the goal, such as finishing, or tactical understanding such as positioning or off the ball movement depending on whether you’ll like to work on the defensive phase or attacking transition phase. Relating to individual abilities comes specific work on additional focuses which let you instruct the player to put extra effort and focus on specific areas of his play. Most often the additional focuses are related to technical or tactical capabilities such as passing or defensive positioning, but areas related to rehab, physic or set pieces can also be selected. Working to improve a set of abilities means the player needs to play within the position u(e.g. AMR), selected to work on his preferred role (e.g. winger) and assign sessions he’ll need (e.g. ‘Attacking Wings’) to see improvement in for example crossing. All players will benefit from playing matches regularly, as match practices and consecutive matches all have an impact on both the tactical, mental and technical aspect of football. Facing better opponents for example will somehow benefit the players more, as they are more likely to improve their skills (mainly mental).
- Tactical Knowledge can be linked to the role suitability as it describes how likely you can expect good performances within the position. Additionally, it also summaries his tactical familiarity and ability to play with your tactical style fitting your football philosophy. You’ll get feedback from your assistant manager during the matches if a player is used to play your way or not, whether he’s having problems to play with the high tempo you prefer or the selected passing style. A player’s tactical knowledge can be improved by working on his tactical abilities in additional to technical ones. Quite simply, a player who is assigned to work on training sessions that relates to your style of play, whether they are newcomers, youngsters or experienced first team members will sooner or later adopt to the playing style. The key to adopt a player to your style of play and improve his tactical knowledge is to select specific training sessions that resembles your playing style the most. Training sessions focusing on mental attributes such as anticipation, decisions, positioning, off the ball movement, teamwork and partly vision, work rate and aggression are favored.
- Training Sessions: General Tactical or Tactical Attacking Shadow Play or Defensive Shadow Play plus any training sessions which improves tactical familiarity, or sessions that focuses on Individual Roles.
- Role Suitability describes how well a player will perform in a selected player role based on his attributes according to the key attributes for the role. You’ll locate each players role suitability within
Team Report - Squad Depthtab, where you can filter by role suitability. Another option to view it is to head to the Positions tab on the individual player profile or within the Tactics overview where a colored pie chart next to the selected role and duty will indicate from red to bright green if the player is capable to play the position and role. By giving a player time on the pitch in a selected player role and duty and make him on it in training will make him more suitable for that role in the future. This means that if a player is selected to train as a winger in individual role training but plays as an advanced playmaker in the central winger position he will not perform as good as if he worked on improving his playmaking abilities (due to the different requirements and characteristics of the role).
- Training Sessions:
Individual Training - Position/Role/Duty. Additionally, will training units work on their individual role whenever another unite work on specific technical abilities, such as when the defensive unit works on their role while the attacking unit are scheduled to ‘Chance Conversion’.
- Training Sessions:
- Player Happiness in regard to training happiness. Each training sessions will influence on the player happiness. Players within the defensive unit will increase their happiness if they are scheduled to work on specific areas relating to the phase of play, they are directly involved with the most. For example, the attacking unit will be happier to work on ‘Chance Creation‘ than working on transitioning to defensive phase after losing the ball. Individual players will also increase their happiness if coaches with decent star ratings are assigned to a specific coaching area, likewise a player can become unhappy if there’s a lack of focus on a specific coaching area relating to his positional requirements. Players can also become unhappy if too much focus is set on a specific training area (e.g. quickness), you try to improve too many aspects of their play at once, or you’ve added him into a mentoring group and two players don’t get along. You’ll get a full overview of training happiness within the Dynamics sections. Locate ‘Happiness’ and view column Training. Here you’ll get information if there are concerns and why they are unhappy with training.
- The level of injuries (aka injury risk) – Each training session influences on the players condition and the risk of getting injured. Your training schedules must provide a balance between the number of matches and the selected training sessions. Physical training such as ‘Endurance’ will impact the most, but also ‘Resistance’ and ‘Quickness’ impacts the players likeliness to get fatigued from the session, whilst ‘Recovery’ training will reduce its impact. Creating new schedules from scratch or looking at the ones pre-made within the game gives you an indication of how it impacts player condition and fatigue. A hard training schedule with intensities that’s close to a match (100%) increases the injury risk of the players. Your team training, match schedule and whether you’ve selected additional focuses, traits and intensity setting are all factors who impacts the conditions of the players and finally the injury risk. You can view each players injury risk in the
Training - Restscreen. Here you’ll get the medical teams recommendations of the training intensity for each player.
What’s a Training Philosophy?
A training philosophy incorporates a set of principals regarding training that relates to the playing style and the footballing vision at the club. While the foundation for the training philosophy is directly linked to the playing style and the specific tactical concept used by the manager, it revolves around everything that’s said and practiced from the coaches at the training ground. It includes theoretical plans, overall visions about player development, ideas and policies that’s practiced within the club.
Similarly to the definition to the football philosophy term, you might say it can be described as “this is the way we do it in order to reach our goals”. It can involve everything from how the club perceives player development or youth development should be carried out, or how the coaching staff, including the manager, perceives how it’s best to take care of the players to get them in match form, nurture them back after injuries or balance training with the level of intensity. It involves the methods used by the coaches to reach the ultimate state, whether it may be how the players shall enter the final third, play out from the back, how to press the opponent or their defensive positioning when the opponent has the ball, relating to which training sesssions the manager uses to teach those principals to its players.
On the other hand, it can feature plans and policies regarding individual player development, either it consists of ideas and practices used to fit players into a group and improve the team mentality, to lay the foundation to understand their role on the pitch or to focus on specific areas of the game that’s necessary to play at a certain level of football in 1, 5 or 10 years ahead.
Broadly speaking, it defines the importance of training relating to the club’s overall objectives and goals, which is explicitly detailed in the Club DNA statement, and defines every steps necessary to reach ‘the main target’ or several minor ones within specific time periods.
It can include training plans and specific sessions that help the players to grasp their role within the team, specific tactical concept and variations required to understand how to play a certain way.
A training philosophy in Football Manager should be based on your vision on how football should be played. By thoroughly analyzing what is the most important parts of a certain playing style, or tactical style which is known as in Football Manager, it helps to provide a foundation for incorporating a training philosophy. You might say that the main characteristics of how you want your team to play should provide the main foundation for the training schedules and development plans.
There are 5 premises or characteristics of a tactic within Football Manager that helps to determine your way of incorporating a particular training philosophy next to your own vision and ideas for how to produce (better) players. (Below I’ve listed them, but not in order of importance);
ii) Passing Style
iii) Pressing Style
iv) The use of Width
v) How to enter the final third
Mentality in this case is not so much about the players duty nor the match mentality you opt for, but the boards or the manager’s vision on how they believe football should be played; either from a commercial perspective, an ideology based on what the club believes the fans want to experience or an ideology founded deep within the personality of the manager. What I’m talking about is the defensive or attacking intent within the tactical style and how the club prefers to play. You can say it resembles how the club wants to be perceived while in possession of the ball – how attacking or defensive they play. The mentality is often deeply rooted within the football philosophy and managers are often picked due to their natural inclination to play a certain way, either it’s attacking to entertain the fans, parking the bus to carve out points similar to Jose Mourinho or use a mix of both with an counter attacking style that take advantage of the seconds in transition like Jürgen Klopp.
Your intent towards mentality provides an indication of which type of players that’s required for the playing style to be successfully implemented and the type of skills that’s preferred, either they need to be good with the ball, tactical adept, physical and mentally strong or quick off the mark.
The club’s/manager’s preference towards a certain mentality affects both how the team should go about their business in all phases of play – affecting both passing style, pressing style, the use of width, tempo and how they are inclined to finish off attacks. As you’ll notice, the premises are influenced by each other and provides the overall club football philosophy.
The type of mentality you prefer have a huge impact on your tactics and therefore it’s THE MOST important element of training.
ii) Passing Style & Tempo
One of the most striking features between two football managers approach on how they want their team to use the ball and move it from A to B is the passing style they favor. While some boards expect the club to play at a certain passing style, it comes natural for some managers to employ a specific passing style due to their footballing vision. Here it’s only natural to think of the difference in vision and ideas between last seasons Josep Guardiola’s possession philosophy versus former Brighton manager Chris Hughton’s long ball approach. While the use of one passing style over another in some terms are related to the clubs football philosophy, it also relates to the match odds and how the manager believes he would achieve a good result against a specific opponent. In these days, the passing style is often linked to the level of the club, it’s predicted league finish and the characteristics of the players (their overall skills to play a certain way).
Incorporating a certain passing style takes time. It’s a matter of a players anticipation, technical abilities (first touch and technique), his composure and vision with the ball at his feet, and last but not least his passing abilities (how accurately he can move the ball from A to B, and whether he can move the ball with accuracy over longer distances, or not) and teamwork abilities.
Football Manager differs passing style into three different approaches; short, middle or long. But you have managers who use a mix of them, depending on how they prefer the attacking transition should be at specific scenarios. No matter which passing style you favor and find most beneficial for your team, there’s a loose connection between the passing style and the formation and shape. Some formations naturally better the terms for possession football in regard to the amount of support the player positioning creates by default, while some produces better results employing a more direct play. For example a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3 creates better terms for possession football compared to a 3-5-2 or a 4-4-1-1 (4-5-1). It all depends on the player roles, individual players movement and positioning at different stages and their creative freedom with the ball at their feet.
iii) Pressing Style
Next to the passing style, you’ll find the distinct difference between manager’s and their philosophy to regain possession. It includes their vision on which areas of the pitch they believe is most favorable of winning back the ball and how they prefer to try to regain possession. Relating to Football Manager, the pressing intensity involves the line of engagement (meaning how close to the opponents defensive third you’d like to start pressing), the individual pressing intensity of players and their instruction to close down the ball in specific areas of the pitch or towards specific opponents and your instructions to the team in the seconds after loosing the ball.
The pressing style you intend to use is partly independent of the formation or shape that is employed and the level of defensive line you prefer, but there are some formations that makes pressing more effective than others (e.g. 4-2-3-1 with high pressing versus a deep 4-5-1) similar to the effect player positioning has on the passing style.
A teams pressing style might vary from much less to extremely urgent. We will take a closer look at the different pressing styles and how to achieve it in Football Manager later on.
Important attributes to look at before employing a certain pressing style is (mainly): Aggression, Marking and Tackling. Secondly you’ll have Determination, Work Rate and Stamina. Partly you’ll might want to look at a players acceleration, as it underpins how quickly the player can come up against his opponent to press.
The effect of a certain pressing style is also related to a teams (including the individual players) tactical knowledge; positioning, concentration and decisions.
iv) The Use of Width
How you prefer to use the width is often based on your interpretation and analysis of where your team is the strongest, but in reality your reliance and focus on this department should be based on your vision on how to create the most effective chances and make the best terms for the attacking unit to score goals. Since the ultimate objective with football is to win matches and score goals, the importance set on using the width is determined by how you want to approach play. Do you favor to stretch play to create holes in the opponents defensive line, early crosses from deep or get players to the byline to swerve in crosses quickly to a tall target man?
How you utilize the width is often a result from tactical analysis and a vision on how to penetrate spaces and take benefit from specific areas of the pitch. There are three main approaches to using width, no matter if your game model relies on crosses or not. It’s the idea that the team is strongest down the middle channel and by winning the battle for possession in the middle the attacking intent of the opponent is weakened. The other is to believe that working the half spaces (the area between the wide channel and the center channel) by overloading it improves the ability to convert chances into goals. At last, you’ll have the reliance to working the wider channels, getting the ball to players who hug the touchline and gets around their marker to put in crosses or opened up play in this way.
Your vision on how to use the width is linked to the player roles, your team instructions on how to approach play (whether you favor overlaps, focuses play down one side due to an opposition weakness and the crossing type). It’s based on the level of attacking width you select, the match mentality and the formation and shape you decided upon, whilst also influenced by the amount of and types of forwards you prefer.
Either you work the width or not, essential attributes might be; Off the ball Movement, Quickness/Pace, Technique, Dribbling, Crossing with favorable secondary attributes in flair, vision and passing.
v) How to enter the final third
How to enter the final third is directly linked to the teams passing style, the tempo and the use of width. On the other hand, you’ll have the level of creative freedom that’s affected by the match mentality, the selection of specific player roles and their duty, in additional to ticked player instructions on freedom of movement within the team shape. Your approach to these situations can be direct, patiently probe the opponent, slow or quick, focused down the middle, down the flanks or a mix of all, where you use one approach on one side and another at the other side to make play as unpredictable as possible and play at your teams strength.
How you look to carry out this stage gives an indication of required movements, specific traits and skills required of the players that should shine at this stage. Since it’s more difficult to be creative and get the ball in the back of the net, ideas and plans must be sketched out and worked on at the training ground.
Now that you better understands how the playing style impacts on training and the requirements of the players to play a certain way, it’s time to turn the focus to my AJ Auxerre career, and how I have incorporated my training philosophy there, with the focus on playing possession football. At first I’ll reveal the training policy at the club and the youth development plan within the club.
The AJ Auxerre Training Policy [An Example]
A training policy helps to clarify for yourself, the backroom staff and the players the objective with training and what the club wants to achieve in the near future or for the next years ahead. It’s the written form of the training philosophy. The training policy statement can be written alongside the Club DNA statement and should focus on the main objective with training and the club’s principals regarding team and player development. It feature a list of ‘the way’ the club goes in a number of matters, ranging from the basic requirements of players skills (read key attributes) that’s desired, to the way youngsters can be promoted to the first team.
The training policy statement can also feature demands to the coaches level of quality, their coaching qualifications as well as depicting the methodology of training used at the club featuring its training methods and the overall structuring of training to let the players reach their potential ability level (e.g. training sessions and schedules).
Following is an example of a training policy policy and an introduction to my training philosophy at AJ Auxerre in my Football Manager save;
They have acted as a stepping stone for a number of promising talents such as Olivier Kapo, Lilian Laslandes, Stéphane Guivarc’h, Abou Diaby, Taribo West and Steve Marlet.
Based on the history, its reputation and past records, AJ Auxerre shall continue the focus on developing great French footballers. We shall serve the Ligue 1, but also European top clubs with players developed at the Auxerre academy. With the current motto at the club “Training and the future” we want to continue the legacy of Guy Roux and get the club back where it belongs (in the Ligue 1), which provides the youngsters at the club both a sporting platform and a competitiveness challenge to reach their highest potential.
We can offer the players within the Academy Excellent training facilities and great youth facilities. We have plans to further upgrade our training facilities with the long term goal to have one of the most updated training facilities in the country. Our focus on decreasing the average age from 26 to 22.7 within the first year shows that we will continue the focus on build the future around the youth. Those two aspects within the club hopes to attract the interest of talents within the country providing them with the best foundation to become good footballers.
With the focus on youth development and give trust to the youth, we shall become a powerhouse for producing local talents from the region while acting as a stepping stone for first and foremost French Under-23 players.
We want to develop good French footballers, who can compete for a place in the French National squad. We want to ‘fill’ the national youth football teams with players and hope to see as many players as possible being called-up to represent the national team, whether it may be Under-19, Under-20 or Under-21. (Currently we got 2 playing regularly for the French Under-19 squad).
We aim to produce technical gifted players that has learned the basics of football which provides them with the best foundation to reach the highest level of football. Our aim is to develop players that’s great with the ball and can take advantage of it.
We will be happy to promote a maximum of 3-4 players from our own academy to the first team every year. Minimum 1 of these players will feature in the first team XI on a regular basis.
The long term aim is to see Auxerre Academy players playing a key part in the Ligue 1 and making their mark in Europe.
Development Plan (Structure)
The structure of AJ Auxerre is split into three squads; First Team, Reserves and Under-19.
David Carrè will be in charge of the Reserves and will look to work with players between 21 and 18. Since they share the training ground with the first team, these players will benefit from the coaching team of the first team so minimum of money will go to the reserves coaching team.
Players within the Reserves will get a first taste of competitiveness as we play to win.
The Under 19s
The Under 19s features players between the age of 15 and 18, but may include youngsters at the age of 19 who have not yet reached the level required to play in the Reserves or for other reasons will train and play matches for them. Situations like these may involve injuries to current first team members of the Under-19s, the Reserve player has just come back from injury and therefore lacks match sharpness, troubles with getting regularly playing time for the Reserves and is not good enough for promotion.
The players within the Under-19s shall first and foremost care about their development rather than winning matches. The coaching staff nor the club don’t care about whether the team win or looses as the objective is to get match experience. Since the team is registered to play within a youth league, it lets the team take what they have learned from the training ground and put it into practice.
The Under 19s is lead by Jeremy Spender, a manager with excellent working with the youth capabilities.
The Head of Youth Development, Bernard David – one of the best coaches within the club, will play a key figure in our youth development project. He will not only bring players into the club and inform about their development, but also be in charge of Possession – Technical, which is one of the most important training areas for the side.
Development Plan (Training)
The entire AJ Auxerre Academy (all players between 23 and 15) consists of four ‘Development Units’ in regard to their current and potential ability. I’ve split the players up after;
Group A: Exceptional Talents – who has the potential to reach the highest level of football in France and enjoy international football. These players will be registered for the first team and train with them on a weekly basis. They are expected to get around 50% of overall matches throughout a season including sub ins (around 15-20 matches per year). These players are close to the first team level and are expected to take on the role as a First Team player, once the experienced player has been moved on (sold). The A Group may exist of both players at the age of 16, 18 or 21 depending on their current ability star rating and or potential rating. In positions with great competition, I will ensure they are eligible to play for the Reserves if I don’t expect them to feature for the first team.
Group B: Great Talents, who are somewhere off playing regularly with the First Team, but who may be trusted in Cup matches and get 15 minutes of action here and there depending on the score. Some of them will travel with the First Team to get that experience. Most of their playing time will be recorded with the Reserves. I will closely monitor their progress, and promote them to the A group if their achievements justifies it.
Group C: exists of mainly 15-17 year old players. Here’s a mix of players with exceptional talents and decent youngsters. The oldest players within this group doe not have the ability nor the potential to ever feature with the first team. They will train with the Reserves, but play for the Under-19s.
Group D: consist of players that does not fit the playing style, or for other reasons are not good enough to earn a place within Group A, B or C, perhaps due to fierce competition for a position. Most of the players are between the age of 19 and 21. These players are put on the ‘Development List’ in order to be loaned out to get match experience that way. The hope is that these players can come back to the club at a later point and do good, or if possible sell the player for a ‘small’ fee in the future. Some of these players might have the potential to become Ligue 1 players in the future, but since their skills does not fit the playing style they will not perform at the level I require.
Training Plan (Summary)
In short we can detail the training plan for the Academy into three sections;
- Basic Development – Under 19s (Group C)
- The fundamental requirements of a footballer will be focused on by playing football and have fun with the game. Less focus on results and more focus on improving the basic skills (read: key attributes) are aspired. The players play to improve their teamwork abilities and understand how to play with each other by understanding how to use their individual strength to benefit the whole.
Training sessions are more focused on technical and physical work rather than tactical familiarity, as players will look to improve their skills in possession with the ball and their quickness, balance and agility. Training is laid out in a more general approach to develop sets of attributes relating to the game rather than specific work on attributes related to phases of play.
- The fundamental requirements of a footballer will be focused on by playing football and have fun with the game. Less focus on results and more focus on improving the basic skills (read: key attributes) are aspired. The players play to improve their teamwork abilities and understand how to play with each other by understanding how to use their individual strength to benefit the whole.
- Talent Development – Reserves (Group B)
- Training becomes more specialized. Training is laid out to improve their skills relating to the different phases of the play rather than the more general approach to improving their attributes. More focus on personality development will be practiced too, herein comes mentoring as a major factor. The players should understand their individual role in relationship to the team and have decent teamwork abilities, which lets the coaching team to focus more on individual improvement rather than basic training. More focus is put on making the players ready to understand his role and duty, and his role within the team in relationship with others. The players will be registered within the same training units as the First Team members to tie the bonds between them. Some will train with the first team from time to time to let them experience the playing level of the more experienced players. For once, the players will attend sessions that’s more focused on tactical learning and mental development as match preparation sessions are introduced for the first time to them. Their skills regarding movements and positioning will be strategically worked on. Players within this step will be encouraged to improve their individual strength rather than working to much on improving weaknesses that’s not necessary for their role. The coaching team want to see a stabilization of the on-pitch performances. It’s within this stage of their career I would ask them to learn new positions if that’s the case.
- Elite Development – Reserves / First Team (Group A)
- Players within this step of their career will see more specialized training to improve their individuality. Training is focused on additional focuses as well as team training that’s related to tactical knowledge. It’s not until the players reach the Elite development step that focus on learning new traits that’s beneficial for the first team will be accessed. The players will work under training sessions very much similar to the first team. The focus on learning new traits will be started on as soon the player reaches 19 years old, and older players will continue to learn new traits that’s beneficial for him. This lowers the steps to compete for a place in the first team. The will to win matches (which originally begins within the Reserves team) aims to be developed. They should at this stage understand some of the basic tactical concepts used within the playing style. Some players within the Elite development group may benefit from international football as they have been called up for the National team, Youth national team or facing top clubs which increases their level of experience.
The Talent and Elite Development steps will continue to develop their physic, but will look to develop their tactical knowledge far more than with players within the Basic Development step.
The Manager will praise players that makes an effort in training rather than praise results or achievements. Monthly chats with the individual about their development looks to encourage the player for further development and boosting the relationship and support with the manager.
An Universal Identity
Every squad within the club shall play with the same formation as the First Team. Our 2-3-2-3 will be the main formation for the Reserves as well as the Under-19, but they will also look to learn the technical and tactical requirements of the 4-3-3 formation and the 3-4-3.
By instructing the Under-19 and the Reserves to play with the same tactic as the First Team I look to ensure that the players gets familiar with the playing style from as young age as possible, making them adept to play ‘the Auxerre way’ in the future.
Instructing the youth sides to play with the same tactic as the first team is beneficial for a number of reasons:
- It helps them to get familiar with the roles and duties from a young age, making the step up to the first team shorter
- they will get familiar with the playing style and learn the basic requirements of it from a young age
How to Instruct the Reserves or Youth Sides to Play With the Same Formation as the First Team?
Go to the Staff Responsibilities tab - Locate Reserves or Under 19/18 - Under 'Play Matches with this tactic' - Select Use First Team tactics
Within this location you can also instruct the specific squad to play with a specific formation or one of your other previously used tactics, perhaps your 2nd or 3rd choice. This way you can ease the youngsters into getting familiar with a certain playing style. Letting them use one of your former tactics is great if the current tactic is amended into a more complex variant which requires more of them both physically, tactically or technically.
As you have read, the AJ Auxerre project looks to implement possession football using our very own Barcelona Tiki Taka tactic which emulates Josep Guardiola’s positional play. The use of player roles within the tactic and its requirements in terms of attributes is accessed earlier, but here’s a summary of the key attributes for the playing style.
In short, the ‘perfect’ Auxerre player needs good level of;
Key Mental Attributes
- First Touch
There are three different training units according to their position; Goalkeeping, Defensive Unit including wingbacks and defensive midfielder and the attacking unit including central and wide midfielders. My approach is to add youth prospects and youngsters from the youth sides to train with the first team. It expodes them to an higher standard of training, which looks to improve their development.
Goalkeepers will not be able to be dragged or dropped to another training unit, but it may be beneficial to employ the player tasked to perform as DLP-S (MCR) to the defensive unit at times to improve his tackling, marking, anticipation, positioning and concentration.
I ensure that everyone in the unit is working on the position and role they perform in during matches and within the training sessions. This relates to the individual training of the player.
The Training Methodology at Auxerre
Football Manager is a number driven simulation game where a player’s attributes, current ability (hidden factor stated in the database), the level of eligibility to play within a position and his familiarity with the player role/duty and playing style are just some of the areas which affect a player’s performance. Other factors are his condition, match sharpness and morale.
Almost every factor stated above will be influenced in training. My training methodology is to improve as many of the factors above, in a players time at the club, as possible, to ensure the best performances of the player. Most important is the team training, which I will discuss below.
My training methodology at Auxerre is to work with players to improve their technique and skills with the ball. As football has evolved over the past years, it’s not enough to be quick nor strong, or have the best stamina. The best football teams are able to take advantage with the ball at a higher tempo than in the past. If you’re able to master the ball, you are already one step ahead of your opponent as you don’t need to look at the ball to get control of it.
In order to develop players for the future it’s necessary to work with players passing and receiving, their technique and dribbling. The players nowadays are required to quicker anticipate what might happen, see and exploit gaps and have the creativity and tactical knowledge to get the opposite players out of position by movements and intricate passing patterns, so training will focus on improving a players anticipation, vision and decision-making, or his tactical understanding you might say.
Much of the training will be based to improve the key attributes stated above. You might say the key attributes can be described as the backbone of my training and how I select training sessions and creates overall training schedules for player development. This means that training sessions that looks to improve the attributes described above will be selected for all sides and be worked on in a weekly manner.
While working to improve a players attributes is one of the main purposes and objectives with training, my training methods at Auxerre is laid out to enhance their knowledge of positional play through enhancing their tactical knowledge about their position and role. While it requires a lot of time and effort before the team will play positional play, every session I instruct them to do shall enable them to control specific phases of play, even those where no team are in real control of the situation, such as in the few seconds after the ball is lost.
Another principal I got is that physical training will be restricted solely to the pre-season(s). I might instruct the players to work with their quickness from time to time, but I believe that there are no need to work on players stamina throughout the season as matches will take care of that. If we take into account the average kilometers run throughout is over 10km per match for every individual player, plus training will see them run 50-80% of that, I think there is no need to set up specific ‘Endurance’ sessions, since I want the players to work hard with intensity to develop themselves and through that improve their physic.
Instead, if it’s highly important, I tend to instruct specific individuals to work on their quickness, strength, endurance or agility and balance as an additional focus rather than letting the entire team work on any of them in the middle of the season.
This means that all training sessions will be done with the ball, at maximum intensity. It aims to develop their skills and replicate the intensity and tempo within matches. My philosophy is that you need to work on what you like to be good at. There is no need to work on finishing if they are not capable to get the ball into a goalscoring position, or there is no need to work on regaining possession if the players does not understand their defensive positioning and how to lock off passing lanes and restrict spaces.
Intensity & Rest
In case someone wonders I’ll just briefly describe my methodology in terms of rest and how I set up the training intensity scheduling.
The training intensity scheduling let’s you auto-select a player’s intensity in training according to the level of his condition. Even though I normally have a rest day with focus on recovery the day after matches, it’s worth to understand the individual differences in terms of how much training a player can tolerate before getting fatigued or even worse injured.
The training intensity schedule instructs players to lower their intensity in training according to their condition.
You can find the training intensity schedule at:
Training - Rest
Here your medical team will provide their recommendation about the preferred training intensity for each individual player which you are free to disregard. Their recommendation takes into account the fixture list and the overall workload on the players.
My approach is almost following the default setup with one exception.
In order to maximize the development of the players, I have instructed all players with 90% condition or more to double their training intensity. The setup has the players on the bench and those who does not regularly play consecutive matches in mind. My idea is that the players are fit enough, they can put an extra effort in training to become better and compete for a first team spot.
I follow this approach on every youth sides.
The more complex the playing style, the more a training philosophy based on sessions that enhance the level of understanding is needed. The key is to build on the knowledge in a step by step manner. I use a methodology much similar to tactical periodization – a training methodology most famed to use by José Mourinho, but came through by Victor Frade’s experiences and studies.
The idea, which I’ve taken with me into Football Manager, is to work on the phases of play and make the players master them.
The phases of play are;
- Defensive Organization
- Offensive Organization
- Attacking Transition (from defend to attack)
- Defensive Transition (from attack to defend)
The reality is that I’m more inclined to select training sessions that looks to improve a player’s skills and understanding within a game phase rather than taking a more holistic approach, letting the team work on general training sessions that looks to improve solely attributes.
The method I use is to improve their knowledge in a step by step manner. This means that the players needs to master the basics before learning the more advanced tactical concepts or variations you might employ. A training week will feature and be structured around a specific area of the game, according to the principles of play, and in regard to the game model that’s detailed within the clubs football philosophy statement. The principle of specificity relates to training sessions that incorporates every aspect of the playing style and shows the players the relationship between all the dimensions of the game. At Barcelona, Pep Guardiola used ‘the rondo‘ to train in specificity – something that was done at least once every week. In Football Manager, I believe the ‘Ball Retention’ session that’s available under Technical training can relate to how Barcelona practiced the rondo.
In my instance, it’s the positioning and movements of the players when building up play from the back that will be focused on in a weekly basis, as I believe it’s one of the key factors for possession football. Here the players learn about the preferred body position to receive and pass the ball while set under pressure. They learn about the movement to enhance numerical superiority at the back whilst getting knowledge about how triangles and diamonds enhance ball circulation. It gives the opportunity to make the goalkeeper comfortable with the ball whilst improving the defenders vision. In the broader aspect it helps the players to understand how they shall advance the ball into the attacking third using passing play.
Getting the team to learn and the players to be adept at playing out from the back efficiently, is one of the most important aspects of getting control of the game in my point of view.
Selecting the ‘Ball Retention’ and ‘Ball Distribution’ session in Football Manager is my way of training on specificity. Normally they are part of the weekly training for all sides and follows naturally each other.
Similarly might a team playing ‘catenaccio‘, a style of football revolving around defensive organization, employ training sessions revolving around maintaining defensive shape and improving the technical and tactical requirements to restrict space and concede less goals.
With tactical periodization in mind, training will be laid out to get more advance throughout the year. To help me plan, I split up the training year into minor sections starting with the pre-season.
An Overview of the Training Year
- June – August: Pre Season + Tactical Familiarity
- The time between the start of the career or once the new season starts until the end of the transfer window (August) looks to focus on getting the players ready for a new season in terms of their condition, match sharpness and improving their physical levels. The pre-season will feature a number of friendlies which helps with that, but will also work on basic requirements of the playing style and start to get familiar with the tactic including its player roles and duties. The most mandatory training sessions for the playing style will be worked on. We will come back to discuss the pre-season and its practices to improve match sharpness in a later article.
- September – November: Basic Skills + Tactical Familiarity Continues
- While the time of pre-season starts the work on getting familiar with the playing style including its formation, the use of player roles and duties, a complex tactic similar to my tiki taka tactic forces you to continue the attention on improving the teams familiar with it. Training sessions are selected with the sole purpose of improving the knowledge of the playing style by working on the basic requirements of the playing style (e.g. tactical knowledge and technical work). Training in this period might be seen as repetitive, but it helps to create habits that reduces the reaction and decision times.
- December / January: Mid-Season Boot Camp
- Some leagues like France and Germany has a mid-season break. Normally I look to arrange a tour in such scenarios to improve the team cohesion even further. The team will attend a pre-season training schedule which works on the players physic in additional to teamwork and/or Match Preparations. For leagues and nations with congested fixture lists, like England, this period will go to specific work relating to the next opponent by focusing entirely on ‘Match preparations‘. Select a light pre-set schedule for 2 or 3 matches, which can be found within Scenario, Tactical Style or Training Style.
- December to May: Match Results & Advanced Tactical Concepts
- The second half of the season takes into account that the team is adept with the playing style, its use of player roles/duties and style of play. From now on, focus will be on match results and working on specific areas of the game that we look to boost for the upcoming match relating to weaknesses or strength of the next opposition. While 50% of the training sessions could go to match preparations, all extra sessions will be focusing on set pieces and/or set piece delivery. While some key sessions will be continued to use from the first half, some training sessions will be selected at times to let the players learn more advanced tactical concepts (e.g. playing more direct, restricting space for the opposition when transitioning to defence or ground defence. Players will see less physical work than in the first half as the fixture list and risk of injuries are more congested and therefore higher. The reason for swapping out and changing the approach of training has another reason as well. It helps to make training not as repetitive and ‘boring’. It aims to take what they already know into new situations which increases their tactical knowledge even further.
How to Set Up Training: Creating Training Schedules
There might not be any secret, but Football Manager lets you create custom training schedules according to your own preferences. While there are default training schedules for every tactical style featured within FM 2019, specific training schedules for specific scenarios and default training style schedules available, some of the advantages of setting up training yourself in Football Manager is the detailed attention you can set to training – either you want to focus on specific phases of play outside what the default training schedules includes.
The default training schedules can be seen as a framework, which you can alter or use to your liking. They will focus on attributes and areas of the game that’s important for the playing style of preference. It carefully balance the workload on the players and improves/decreases conditions and fatigue depending on what you’ll after.
But what’s fun with that?
In order to improve the gameplay and the fun of Football Manager I recommend to set up training schedules yourself (or download the ones specifically designed for the tiki taka tactic below). By creating training schedules yourself you can give a more specific or universal attention to training that fits your tactic. Often, a tactic you creates yourself is not as black or white as the default tactical styles as you take systems of play from several managers you admire and which you’ve been influenced by.
It brings a totally to the game as you gives as much attention to training as tactics and scouting.
Other benefits is the option to work on specific areas of the game and employ them in training weeks before they should be used in match, as the default training schedules does not include work on set-pieces or specific match preparations.
By setting up training schedules yourself, you’re able to balance the workload and training intensity of the different units more specifically.
You can set up training schedules for yourself by going to:
Training - Schedules - Click the New schedules Drop Down Menu - Create New Schedules
- Selecting new schedules gives you a clean slate to work with, letting you customize every training session from session 1 on Monday to extra sessions on Sunday.
When creating your own training schedules there are some useful information to know:
1. Selecting ‘Match Days’ adds automatically ‘Match Preview’ to the last session the day before, while Recovery are added automatically to the first session the day after. This ‘rule’ does not apply when selecting Match Practice (located in Match Preparations).
2. Match Reviews located within Match Preparations are only eligible at the day after a match.
3. You can select the same training session a maximum of 7 times per week (but why would you do that?!)
4. Extra-curricular’s can only be selected once per week (e.g. ES Monday – Community Outreach plus ES Sunday – Team Bonding)
5. The intensity bar reflects the combining intensity level of Injury risk, Condition, Fatigue, Sharpness, Team Cohesion and Happiness. A red bar indicates a reduction or increasing factor, while green indicates improvement or an decreasing factor. The bar will range from blue to red where the percentage of intensity relates to the overall match intensity, which is 100%.
6. Each ‘Match Preparation’ sessions can only be selected a maximum of three times per week.
7. Each training session, except tactical ones, which are the lightest – 9%) will replicate 15% of match intensity. Quickness training will replicate 45% of match intensity, while Endurance is 40% and Resistance (35%).
8. General training sessions will see all outfield players prioritise specific attributes within a specific category (e.g. Attacking or Tactical). This means that more players will focus a greater deal on developing specific attributes, as more priority is given.
9. Depending on the amount of tactics you have employed ( Primary, Secondary and Third Tactics), the contribution towards the team’s tactical familiarity for your Primary Trained tactic will benefit from 60% impact, while the other two will gain 20% each. I expect that if no other tactic than one is set up the contribution level will be 100%, and 70 / 30% if two tactics are set up. It’s worthy to note that the familiarity level rises and falls depending on the team and player instructions set in a tactic. If there are major differences in familiarity levels, the player might see a reduction in familiarity. Similarly, if a player is instructed to make Short Passes in all three tactics, his familiarity level will be higher in that area.
10. Selecting inappropriate training sessions or give the players too much to do (team training, additional focus plus traits) might lead to unhappiness. Similar applies if you focus too much attention to one training unit at the expense of another or refrain from working on certain attributes (they feel is beneficial).
11. Adding to many training sessions might result in overloading your players. They will be more inclined to fatigue and more susceptible to getting injured.
12. Extra sessions may quicker lead to tiredness and fatigue and should be carefully accessed according to the amount of matches per week and the overall workload. However, the youth sides may benefit from extra sessions in terms of their development, as they play fewer matches per year than the first team.
13. Professional clubs will have the full week available. Semi-Professional and Amateur clubs will have three days including a match day to work with.
It’s important to find a balance within the training schedules you either create or amend. You’ll need to think about the amount of matches per week, the intensity of training. The number of training days and sessions is one of the aspects that forms the training philosophy at the club. No matter your preference to training it’s important to keep a close attention to the injury risk and happiness of your players.
Below I’ll reveal the training schedules I use in my save for playing a possession game and explain how I’ve thought when setting them up and how I think throughout the season.
Structuring the Training Week
Structuring the training week and have a plan for what the team shall work on throughout the week is highly beneficial. Once setting up a training schedule I follow a few principles or rules. The principals below applies first and foremost for me towards the second half of the season as I more inclined to alter the current training schedules at this stage, since the team should be fairly familiar with the playing style by now.
What’s certain when planning the training week is that you’ll have a match in the weekend and occasionally a match mid-week. But how shall you train the rest of the week? Let’s examine my approach;
Mondays: Normally a light session with low intensity, often technical or tactical training focusing on the basics of the playing style
Tuesdays: Emphasizes on specific issues that arose last match. The team will work on specific issues and some of the problems that occurred, whether it was ineligibility to convert chances, poor defensive positioning, ineffective pressing or bad movements.
Wednesdays: Preparation before the next match starts. The team works on a specific area of their playing style that might be important before the next match, whether that might be specific weaknesses of the opposition or boosting specific areas of your tactic. With two days of lighter sessions executed, it’s time to incorporate more intense training. Personally I tend to select an extra session this day plus sessions which might increase the injury risk whilst reducing their condition.
Thursdays: Focus on areas of the game that relates to the playing style and the selected game model. Personally I prefer to work on the attacking phase and the players ability with the ball and improving their creativity with it. Since it’s so close to the match I believe it gives a boost the players capabilities within this phase far better than if it was focused on earlier in the week. It’s fresh in their minds, both the attacking movements, their attention to finishing technique or specific tactical variations you’ll want to employ in the match. I tend to schedule an extra training session focusing on set-pieces that relates to the strength / weaknesses of the opposition, either I’m worried of their qualities in attacking set-pieces or spot a potential to win the match by corners.
Fridays: Last day before the match. Work will go to specific match preparations and focus on individual roles. Today it’s time to boost a specific area for the upcoming match whether it may be Teamwork, Attacking Movement, Defensive Shape or Pressing Intensity. I tend to determine the session according to the opportunities in the next match. Are the opponent far superior to yours or do you got an equal chance of winning by focusing on your main strengths? Despite the fact that I tend to have a rest before the Match preview, the 2nd session of the day might be used. It depends on the trends from the last matches, whether the forwards are vaccinated against scoring goals or the midfield has squandered the possession.
How to Set Up the Training Calendar
Within the Training department inside Football Manager, you get the chance to set up the entire training calendar, from the very start of the season to the last week before the players leave for vacation.
Here you can take into account specific opponents and big matches when setting up training and plan how training shall progress to get the players familiar and skilled within a situation. I won’t determine how you shall set it up, as every team and manager is unique.
Instead I’ll simply show you how you can set up the calendar and give a few tips.
It’s very easy to select schedules for a training week.
Simply go to:
Training - Calendar. Click the title area with its down arrow to open pre-set schedules. Here you can either select custom schedules or specific schedules according to the time of the year.
You’ll have 5 different types of pre-season schedules ranging from light to heavy workloads, Training styles, Tactical Styles and Scenarios.
What’s typical for the Training Styles pre-set schedules is your training philosophy regarding working on a specific area of the game, such as Possession, Tactical, Technical, Physical, Defence, Attack or Balanced. The balanced pre-set will put equal attention to every aspect of the game including physical. The possession pre-set will focus on areas of the game relating to retaining and regaining possession and make the team able to pass and receive the ball.
The Tactical styles pre-sets are created according to the main characteristics of the Tactical preset styles ranging from Gegenpressing and Catenaccio to Route One, Tiki Taka or Direct Counter Attacking. Here you’ll see specific sessions that’s most important for the tactical styles to be successfully implemented.
When setting up the training calendar I feel it’s recommended to start focus on specific scenarios, such as working on a specific situation or tactical variation, 2 weeks ahead of the match, to maximize the impact. My personal experience is that it often takes 2 weeks before you’ll see a boost in match regarding what they have worked on. This means that I advice you to start planning for mjaor games at least 2 weeks before it happens, and not the days before, even tough the players will receive a boost for the upcoming match by employing specific match preparations and set-piece schedules.
When planning the training year, takes into account congested fixture lists including possible cup matches already from the start of the season and alter training when your assistant manager gives his recommendation to review the training two weeks ahead. This review will be provided within an action news ticker, meaning you can alter the training from the inbox.
If you should set the assistant manager, the head of youth development or any of the coaches as responsible for training, make sure the backroom staff has a similar coaching style as yours playing style. An assistant manager in charge of setting up training with a Defending coaching style will be more lenient to select sessions within this area of the game, which means that training won’t be as effective towards the development of player attributes and familiarity of important tactical aspects.
Examining the Tiki Taka Training Schedules With Explanations
In order to successfully incorporate a certain playing style the players needs to work on areas of the playing style that relates to situations they will face within the game. With that in mind I have created 12 training schedules only for the first team. Five of them are sessions used within the pre-season, while the rest are a mix of general sessions and specific sessions that looks to improve a players skills within the different phases of play.
All sessions has been created with the key skills and requirements of the playing style in mind. See key attributes above.
Training Schedule: Tiki Taka General
The general training schedule for the Tiki Taka Tactic and a possession football playing style is used as soon as the pre-season ends. It’s used for the first months as a basic training to incorporate the playing style into the players minds, unless something ‘unexpected’ happens which requires a situational training session to be used. This basic training schedule focuses on ‘habit football’ and looks to improve a players technical abilities with the ball plus their tactical understanding. Almost every aspect of the playing style is worked on. It balances between improving the tactical familiarity of the tactic whilst letting the players become adapt at the main characteristics of the tactic (e.g. pressing and its intensity, how to behave in the final third and playing out from the back).
The Tiki Taka general training schedule is one I use at congested fixture lists and will be employed from time to time to remind the players of the basics. If you have just started a new save with a club that’s no where near to play possession football, this training schedule can be applied for the entire first half of the season as most of the key attributes (e.g. anticipation, decisions, passing, technique, first touch and teamwork) for the playing style is focused on.
Every positional unit will get almost identical amount of attention which increases theirs player happiness.
Match Preparations: Mentality, Width, Position/Role/Duty, Pressing Intensity, Marking, Passing Style, Creative Freedom, Attacking Movement, Tempo
Attributes: Anticipation, Decisions, Positioning, Passing, Technique, Composure, Off the ball
Workload: Fairly Light
Attacking Phase – In Possession
General – In Possession
The general in possession training schedule (named Tiki Taka – In Possession if you download), focuses on every aspect of the playing style with the ball. Key focuses are increasing the familiarity of the passing style, creative freedom, attacking movement whilst develop their skills with the ball, both in terms of passing and receiving but also dribbling and/or decision-making with the ball, helping the team to maintain the tempo and utilize spaces when play is congested in the final third.
The Monday session looks to improve the technical skills with the ball, whilst being a light recovery session after the last match. The sessions are repetitive and aims to make the players play on autopilot.
At Tuesday, the players will focus on the behavior and skills required within the attacking third. The sessions have been selected to increase the tactical familiarity of the passing style and creative freedom in additional to improve important areas of the Tiki Taka playing style such as Dribbling, Off the ball and Finishing. The players will learn more about the movements, passing patterns and taking advantage of the ball plus becoming more efficient on their wing play. The Attacking Patient session aims to replicate how I want the team to work the ball into the box by using through balls and moving the ball from side to side to create gaps to penetrate in. It’s THE basic attacking session if you’re playing a style similar to the Tiki Taka and looks to dominate the match in the final third. If you are playing a more counter attacking style or the Vertical Tiki Taka, you might like to switch to Attacking Direct.
On Wednesday, the team will take part in one of the basic drills for improving their tactical knowledge; Defensive and Attacking Shadow Play. These sessions looks to improve their anticipation, composure, positioning and decisions – important mental attributes no matter the playing style. The extra session can be scraped, but since we are focusing on their skills with the ball it’s important to have a session which works on their defensive transitioning if they lose the ball. Here the attacking unit will learn what’s required of them if the ball is lost and work on regaining possession as quickly as possible by asking the players to restrict spaces and close down quickly.
At Thursday, they will continue where they left from previous day by working on attacking transitioning – trying to advance the ball successfully into the final third, before the last two sessions will work on how I want the team to play in the final third in terms of chance creation and scoring goals. These sessions looks to improve players first touch and passing, anticipation and composure in additional technical skills needed to score.
The last sessions this weeks works on preparing for the upcoming match by boosting the players creative freedom and attacking movements.
This training schedule gives the most attention to the attacking unit meanwhile the defensive unit will come secondary. The goalkeepers might become unhappy, so use this schedule sparingly. Personally, I might use it after pre-season to improve the tactical familiarity regarding passing and creative freedom, or in the build up before facing opponents that’s inferior of me.
Workload: Fairly Heavy
The Technical schedule resembles the basic ‘Tiki Taka General’ schedule and the In Possession General. It features the basic sessions for the Tiki Taka playing style but puts even more attention to the attacking unit. The schedule is better laid out than the ‘In Possession General’ one since it puts extra focus on the attacking unit in the build up to the next match.
I’ve included two extra sessions which can be altered according to your preferences and fixture list. Tuesdays extra session can be scraped, while the Thursday extra session can be changed to another attacking set-piece session than simply Delivery. Delivery is selected to improve a players technical abilities relating to set-pieces.
I recommend to keep the match preparation session Attacking Movement on the day before the match as it looks to give the team an extra boost in attacking movement and passing for the upcoming match.
Match Preparations: Mentality, Width, Position/Role/Duty, Passing Style, Creative Freedom, Tempo
Attributes: Passing, Technique, First Touch, Anticipation, Decisions, Composure, Positioning, Teamwork
Workload: Fairly Heavy
Defensive Phase & Attacking Transition
This training schedule is created to improve the players knowledge and capabilities without the ball. The week kicks of with sessions working on maintaining their defensive shape when out of possession looking to improve players positioning, concentration and anticipation (aka tactical understanding) before making an effort to regain possession quicker and efficiently. The players within the defensive unit will look to improve their marking, tackling and aggression while the attacking unit gets an opportunity to use their vision and flair in additional being put under pressure.
The following day will focus more on how the team shall transit from defense to attack and from attack to defense. The extra session can be scraped depending on the workload of fixtures and players condition, but I’ve included the Quickness session as an example of a session I feel important within the defensive phase as the faster the players can close down the opponent the better. Also playing the 2-3-2-3 formation means that the central defenders and the wingbacks must be quick. The central defenders might come up in one on one situations against speedy forwards, while the wingbacks must be quick to get back in position if the attack breaks down, as they tends to push high and wide looking to affect the game near the opposition penalty box.
The next following days are more basic sessions, that you are used too from the other schedules. Yet again, they are selected to make training a bit repetitive – making the team as strong as possible both with the ball and when playing out from the back. The attention to triangles, diamonds, rhombuses and perfect passing angles and getting the team to play fluid football is constant. Week in and week out, the players will work on it, no matter if the tactic develops along with arrival of new players, as they might affect the team play with their atttributes, traits or role suitability, either you have to alter your approach to the setup of roles and duties or the player himself making slight changes to the attacking or defensive shapes on its own.
In the build up to the next match the players will continue their focus on defensive positioning and marking. Thursdays extra session works on defensive set-pieces. I recommend to select a session which you are weak at, or the next opposition is really strong at, whether it may be defensive corners, defensive free-kicks due to the opponents strength in attacking free-kicks or throw ins.
This schedule is created to improve the Tactical familiarity levels of pressing intensity and marking in additional to make them able to regain possession as quickly and high up the pitch as I want.
Workload: Fairly Heavy
Specific Situational Training Schedules
Is the team cohesion low? Have you bought several players in a short time? Have you made changes to the tactic and needs to improve the positioning and unity of the players? The teamwork schedule looks to make a greater impact to the Team cohesion in additional to improving the tactical familiarity levels of mentality, passing style, pressing intensity, marking, defensive positioning and Teamwork (both boosting the area for the upcoming match in additional to the attribute).
This schedule is perfect the first week after the transfer window ends, after youth intake or in the first week after pre-season ends as focus turns from improving a players physic to the unity of the players, as the teamwork abilities are carefully attended.
Workload: Fairly Heavy
Convert Chances & Score More Goals
Do you record 15+ chances per match and only a few on goal but have problems to convert these chances into goals? This training schedule looks to make the team more effective in front of the goal. It aims to score more goals by putting more emphasize on the individual skills relating to finishing and threading passes.
The players within the attacking unit will work on improving their capabilities against teams who park the bus and try to create chances against a low block, while the defenders try to cut off passing lanes and restrict spaces. Focus on Attacking Wings looks to make the team more effective playing with more width, overloading the wide areas with 2 versus one scenarios, crosses into the box and stretching the opposition to take advantage of the space between the fullback and the nearby central defender (half space).
Attributes like decision-making, off the ball, flair, vision, crossing and dribbling will be focused on in additional to the players technique and passing. Tactical familiarity of roles, attacking movement, creative freedom and passing / passing style provides the extra boost required to get players into goal scoring opportunities once the team gets into the final third.
Mondays extra session can be scraped, but aims to improve the familiarity of the outfields individual roles whilst giving attention to the goalkeepers technical skills relating to one on one situations because of the higher defensive line used within the Tiki Taka tactic.
The goalkeeper unit and the attacking unit will get the most attention by applying this schedule.
Due to its heavy workload, I recommend to use this schedule occasionally for a short time span, but you have the option to remove a few sessions to reduce the intensity (e.g. Wednesdays extra Session plus making a few changes to the 2nd sessions of Tuesday and Wednesday to let them have the rest of the day off.
Shut up Shop & Concede Less Goals
Having problems with shutting up the shop? Do you concede goals frequently and the players make mistakes with their defensive positioning and marking? Here’s the ultimate training schedule for you. It helps to improve the players understanding of the defensive phase both in terms of their tactical knowledge without the ball, but also their skills looking to restrict spaces and/or regain possession.
By employing this schedule over a few weeks it looks to concede less goals by making it harder for the opposition to penetrate.
Also included are sessions focusing on the defensive and attacking transitioning, adding focus on how you want the team to press the opposition to regain possession and how you want the team to advance up field from a defensive block to entering the final third.
It can also be used from time to time in coordination with an in possession schedule by putting an extra effort at the defensive phase in the build up to facing a much stronger opponent. This schedule is quite similar to the Defending schedule provided above, with the exception that it puts extra focus on defending from wide areas (an area the opponent might take advantage of with the positioning of the wing backs in the 2-3-2-3 formation).
Workload: Fairly Heavy
Conclusion to the Training Schedules
As you will notice from the training schedules provided above is that they are created using a specific framework. Every week, attention will be given to technical areas relating to ball distribution and ball retention plus tactical sessions (Attacking Shadow Play and Defensive Shadow Play) working on their positioning and the team shape which are very important for the success of the tactic.
The days working on technique and tactical can be regarded as the backbone of training.
All sessions will look to replicate specific match situations that normally occurs within a match using the tactic relating to the selected team instructions and player instructions that impacts the play.
All extra sessions within the schedules looks to improve certain aspects of the phase of play they have been working on. I’ve tried to laid out the schedules so the training intensity is at its highest in the middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday and/or Thursday).
I’ve also taken into account the team instructions I use and find corresponding schedules that either boosts it or focuses on that element of the tactic. For example if you play with ‘Work ball into the box’ it’s natural to select Attacking Patient. If you look to utilize an higher pressing intensity, it’s smart to put attention to ‘Transition – Press’. Similarly, you should put more focus on the defensive phase and sessions relating to defensive positioning if you look to play counter or parking the bus compared to a more attacking style.
In fact, it’s not wise to focus attention too much on Attacking Wings if you look to play in the middle. Herein, comes the tactical periodization and working on the basics of the tactic before going more advanced, such as Attacking Wings when using the Tiki Taka tactic.
This way you can select and set up a training schedule according to your football philosophy and the tactical style and instructions you use. And with only a minimum of four different training schedules you’ll come a long way employing a certain playing style successfully to your players.
Hope you’ll enjoy my training schedules. If any questions, please use the comments below.
A megapack featuring the training schedules created for a possession game similar to the Tiki Taka tactical style. Features training schedules working on everything from the technical skills of the players in possession to their skills relating to restrict spaces and regain possession as quickly as possible. Does not include pre-season schedules.
- Click the link above and Download the Megapack via Google Drive. Use a tool such as 7-zip, or WinRar for Windows to extract its contents. Mac users need The Unarchiver in order to extract the content.
- Extract the content at:
Documents\Sports Interactive\Football Manager 20**\schedules
- Open Football Manager and go to
- Click Custom Schedules.
- Scroll to the bottom and locate ‘Get More…’
- Tick the Schedules of your preference and click ‘Open’
- Remember to click Save (which makes the schedule appear within the quick list)
- Use the schedules by selecting them via Calendar or via an inbox message from your Assistant Manager
Sources & Recommended Reading
#1 AFC Ajax’s Youth Development Philosophy with Arnold Mühren, Generation Adidas International, Last Accessed 18.06.2019
#2 The Fall of AJ Auxerre, The Set Pieces, Last Accessed 18.06.2019
#3 About AJ Auxerre, Lagardere, Last Accessed 18.06.2019
#4 Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail – A Planner Tool for Training, FMAthlete, Last Accessed 23.03.2019