Scouting for players by using Statistics and Data Analytics in Football Manager
When scouting for players in Football Manager it’s easy to get blinded by potential star ratings and scout recommendation rating. Today, I like to focus the attention on how you can use statistics and data analytics to scout for players in Football Manager.
Here I’ll showcase a whole range of different scouting methods of mine, using search filters and views to scout for players who have great on-pitch performances! This means emphasizing stats like shots on target, expected goals (xG) metrics, key passes, chances created, interceptions or key tackles to find both future superstars and potential star players that fit your tactics and playing style!
Welcome back to part 2 of my scouting tips series. Last time I looked at how you can scout for players by setting up appropriate scouting assignments and how you can use the player search to find players based on attributes in general.
Let’s leave scouting for player attributes for a second, and look at player performance and recruitment using a statistical approach. With statistics and other metrics been put in the foreground in FM21, you can use some of the similar tools the Data Analysis Team, or the Recruitment Analyst uses in real life to assess players’ skills and performances.
The main benefits of assessing statistics are to identify over- and underperformers along with getting a better picture of a player’s total capabilities. This way you can combine your knowledge of player attributes, and their combinations, with on-pitch performances, to find great players that fit your system.
In the following article, I’ll be showing you how I approach scouting for creative playmakers, the best goalscorers, defenders and much more. Along with examining different player search filters of mine, a megapack of views and search filters will be available to download at the bottom of the piece, helping you to find players with a similar approach.
Table of Content;
- 1. The Principles of ‘Moneyball’
- 2. What you need to know about searching for player roles?
- 3. How to Setup your save?
- 4. How to find the best players in Football Manager in accordance to the performance?
- 5. Acquiring Analyst Reports
- 6. Glossary
- Download Passion4FM Search Filter Megapack
- Part 1 | How to scout for players in Football Manager
1. The Principles of ‘Moneyball’
Putting your attention on statistics and metrics for your transfer and recruitment policy resembles the principles of ‘Moneyball’.
Moneyball is the idea of valuing data and more evidence-based sets of data to sign players that perform greatly according to the instructions and tasks required of them. It was first introduced by Billy Beane, the managing director of the American baseball club Oakland Athletics in the 1990s to overcome financial constraints.
Billy Beane’s idea was to look for signings that were undervalued. That meant that subjective feelings and beliefs about the player were subordinate to objective performance analysis. Recruitment of players focused on cost-effectiveness by signing players who made a huge contribution to the collective. This meant signing players of lower value who could perform at the same level as the rest of the players within the league.
What is Sabermetrics?
Sabermetrics is the detailed statistical analysis of data in baseball that measures all in-game activity. Its purpose is to evaluate player’s performances by collecting and summarizing more easily digestible charts making it easier to comprehend relevant data to answer specific questions. As a result, it offers objective insights into players’ skills, performances, and other abilities that will become beneficial for the manager to pick the starting XI or for finding the next suitable signing.
Since then, the ‘Moneyball’ philosophy and the idea to use data to find players have changed the footballing landscape. Now all clubs assess statistics and data to not only find potential signings but also analyze a player’s performance, much like the original idea of Sabermetrics.
Now it’s time to take a deeper look at how you can search for players by using statistical data and other metrics, such as xG, to get a better picture of the player’s abilities and make more informed decisions when recruiting players by taking into account cold hard facts instead of subjective opinions like scout recommendations and scout’s opinion of players abilities or potential (e.g. CA and PA star ratings).
PS! Now I will not focus on the cost-effectiveness nor abid to the principles of Moneyball when showing you how I use statistics and data to scout for players in Football Manager. Instead, I thought it was worth mentioning this recruitment policy as it could serve as a great challenge for your next save.
2. What you need to know about searching for player roles?
When scouting for players in Football Manager it’s crucial that you scout for players that fit your system and who can perform in the player roles you’ve selected within your tactics. Here’s a statement that needs explaining. Let me share two things you need to consider when scouting after player roles.
- The different player roles in Football Manager may have a similar set of attributes that are important for their ideal functionality. This means that two different player roles will have somehow the same tasks and requirements. They may behave in a similar fashion (like cutting inside from the flanks), have the same default player instructions ticked (get forward), or can be selected in the same position on the pitch (e.g. AM-strata) that with a few tweaks (mainly adding traits and player instructions, but also changing duties), require almost the same of them.
- Having an overview of the different player roles’ key attributes is important. Considering and comparing the different roles and what’s expected of them and finding roles that could perform slightly differently, but requires the same of the player in terms of player attributes, can help you in your title challenge. For instance, the required attributes of the false 9 and the trequartista are somehow similar.
- Every individual will impact the role in different ways according to their technical, mental and physical attributes. A slight difference in the level of player attributes can have a great effect on how the player will interpret the role. Signing a fullback with 18 in Tackling and 8 in dribbling might mean he will interpret his role as attacking fullback with a bit more defensive focus than one with 15 in Tackling and 14 in Dribbling.
- The roles may slightly differ but improve your tactical flexibility that’s needed to counter the opposition and their way of playing. Perhaps they have found out how to prevent you from coming into goal-scoring opportunities as their defensive shape makes them superior meaning you have to rely on more width. This means that it’s wise to consider additional role suitability when signing players. Don’t get too restricted on the player attributes when looking for a deep-lying playmaker. Perhaps he needs to fulfill the task of the Mezzala at times.
Instead, you can consider key attributes or key statistics to find a suitable signing according to the position on the pitch he will play in and what you require of him.
With that in mind, you don’t need to find a player who ticks of every attribute in your search filter. Finding a player who can both offer tactical flexibility and fulfill the most basic tasks can make a player into a great signing.
What You shouldn’t do?
Your use of team and player instructions and the overall shape within the tactic might mean you have to prioritize certain types of players over others. For instance, it wouldn’t be smart signing wingers if you’re playing with a 3-4-2AM-1 unless you’re considering tactical flexibility and adopting the formation to a 3-4-3 or 4-2-3-1. Or, signing attacking midfielders like the Trequartista if you’re playing 4-4-2 with a focus on getting crosses into the box from deep and more direct counter-attacking football.
Another thing is cases where you tie down players for roles that don’t fit your playing style or can not fulfill the default instructions. It wouldn’t be smart buying a +23yo player with 10 in off the ball and 9 in decisions if he’s required to get forward or roam from the position or get blinded by a midfielder 15 in passing if his vision and anticipation is below 10.
NB! You can learn more about how to create a balanced system and the different Football Manager player role combinations and duty pairs in this valuable guide.
2.1 The 7 Types of Player Roles
So if you shouldn’t get hung up on all the different player attributes for a certain player role, what should you do?
Instead of scouting for player’s who fits a certain player role according to the required attributes (key plus secondary attributes) we can systemize the roles into a more generic description that describes his role and duties. For instance, an advanced playmaker and a Trequartista are expected to perform somehow similarly as both roles look to create chances by providing crucial key passes and assists. Both look to exploit the spaces between the lines and will be important in the passing game. Their generic description could be summarized as a ‘Creator‘. We have a similar case with the Poacher and Advanced Forward – both roles could be summarized as ‘Finishers‘.
This means you consider the roles a bit more generic, putting them into boxes according to what’s expected of them.
Personally, I have categorized the different player roles in Football Manager into 7 categories according to their overall instructions and tasks within your tactics. By categorizing the different player roles according to their overall abilities and what’s expected of them, I aim to make it easier to find the appropriate player. These are:
Goalkeepers: GK and SK
Goalkeepers’ main tasks are to stop shots and make saves.
Primary Attributes: Handling, Reflexes, Positioning and Aerial Reach
Defenders: L, BPD, CD, NCB, A, and DM-D
These roles are tasked to hold position and stop the opposing attackers by closing down and limit their time and space on the ball. In fact, their primary duty is to cover the area in front of the box and shield the goal by helping the goalkeeper to make ‘easier’ saves.
Primary Attributes: Positioning, Tackling, Marking, Anticipation, Concentration
Ball Winners: HB, DM-S, REG, BWM and DW
Tasked to aggressively close down opposing attackers and win the battle of possession in the middle of the park. Instead of protecting the area in front of the goalkeeper, or within zone 17, a ball winner will deny space by putting pressure on the player with the ball. The Defensive winger aims to win back the ball high up the pitch and protect the wide channels from deep crosses into the box.
Primary Attributes: Aggression, Bravery, Tackling, Marking, Work Rate
Runners or Shuttlers VOL, CAR, BBM, CM-A (specifically), MEZ, AM, SS-A
Here’s a slight difference in runners. Some of them are deep-runners like the Segundo Volante, whilst others are more sprinters – aggressively pushing into goalscoring positions by moving into the final third and the penalty box by short bursts of sprints (e.g shadow striker or attacking midfielder. The Carrilero role is a prime example of a shuttler – a role that moves between the channels instead of along the channels like the Mezzala does and is best used in 4-2-4 systems or when utilizing little wing play.
Primary Attributes: Off the ball, Acceleration, Stamina, Dribbling
Wide Players: NFB, FB, WB, CWB, IWB, WM, IW, W
Here’s a mix of roles with different duties but they all got in common that they work the wide channels by either stretching the pitch, support the forwards by making penetrating passes or crosses from deep or byline.
Primary Attributes: Off the ball, Acceleration, Crossing, Dribbling and Stamina
Creators & Link Up Players: REG, RPM, DLP, AP, TREQ, EG, WPM, TM, DLF-S, F9
These roles play an important part in both the build-up process and the transition into attacking third. Tasked to take risks with their passing game to create chances these players are important to feed the finishers with key passes and assists by using their unpredictability, vision and technique to get the ball into dangerous areas.
Primary Attributes: Vision, Passing, Technique, Flair, Anticipation
Scorers / Finishers: RMD, P, AF, CF, PF, IF, DLF-A
Tasked to create chances for themselves or get into goalscoring positions to finish off attacks, these roles look to be the primary outlet for finishing off chances created by scoring goals.
Primary Attributes: Off the ball, Finishing, Composure, Technique
What’s important to understand is that all these different player types have different sets of data and statistics attached to their game. Now I aim to give you a deeper insight into how you can systemize the different statistical data to key attributes to find the most suitable signing that fits your tactics and the specific player roles’ tasks.
3. How to Setup your save? | Preparations Needed
Before considering statistics and data as a way to scout for players you need to make some preparations with your save. Like, there’s nothing wrong with loading a few leagues and set up a scouting network to find players, but in order to take advantage of assessing statistics it’s important to do two things:
3.1 Managing the Detail Level
In order to take advantage of statistics to find players, it’s important that the data is as accurate as possible. One way to ensure accurate statistical reports are gathered not only of the playable leagues but also for tournaments and divisions around you, it’s important to consider the leagues you make playable and how games are simulated around you. This will have a major impact on the player’s performance.
One way to ensure you’ll have realistic statistics and results around you, it’s important to manage the detail level in Football Manager.
The Detail level you set can have an impact on how thorough the gathering of statistics will be. A higher detail level will ensure all stages and matches are played out in full detail coming at expense of the overall game speed. As a result, by ensuring all competitive matches are played out in full detail, Football Manager will run slower but statistics will be more along the same lines as you were playing it yourself. The result is all statistics and other metrics being more accurate.
In Football Manager there are five Match detail levels. From none, where no competition stages are played out in full detail, to All Competitive Matches. To manage the Detail Level, head to:
FM > Detail Level
My preference is to simulate the biggest tournaments and top 15 leagues in the world out in full detail. This will of course depend on your type of save and where you manage but setting the continent to simulate all competitive matches could be recommended.
Even though, I tend to prioritize the nations around where I manage depending on my recruitment plan and where I might be able to sign players from. For instance, I tend to simulate all matches in England, Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Portugal, Holland, Brazil and Argentina if I’m managing in Europe with a youth development save.
If I’m also looking to scout for wonderkids around the world, I prefer to either set the detail level of youth competitions to Main or Later Stages depending on its reputation.
You can learn more about how to increase the realism in Football Manager from Daveincid‘s brilliant article on the differences between playable, view-only, unplayable or unloaded leagues in this article. [Coming soon to Passion4FM!]
3.2 Importing Specific Views and Filters
Apart from loading specific nations and make specific leagues playable to ensure the pool of players is decent enough for my recruitment strategy, it’s important to create or load a custom view for your player search section. Apart from basic information like age, position, preferred foot, scout’s opinion on the player’s abilities, knowledge level, the days since scout report was created and scout recommendation level, I use views that combine specific player attributes with player performance.
For instance, my basic search view features key attributes according to the club DNA together with contract information and availability along with general performance such as the number of appearances, minutes played, goals scored, assists recorded and other basic stats.
This view is decent for sorting by value, the contract expires, minimum asking price, scout recommendation ratings or ability or potential star rating.
In addition to the basic player search view incorporated in my custom views megapack, I’m ready to release more specific search views that are more specific and a bit more detailed. It features further statistics and data to analyze player’s performance. It incorporates specific attributes relevant to the filter along with important data for that role. This means that both the custom view and the search filter should be used in combination for the best effect.
By using a combination of these specific views and search filters you can easily compare players in the player search section. In fact, this is how I scout most of my players. Looking carefully for players that can improve the current squad by analyzing statistics and levels of attributes. What I tend to look at when assessing these players are:
- Average Ratings
- Average Ratings Last 5 Games
- Club Level (Tier)
- The overall level of attributes relevant to role (or playing identity)
- Combination of data relevant to role
To master the art of scouting you need to combine analyzing a player’s performance from a statistical point of view and necessary skills required for the position and his tactical role. By assessing metrics and data analysis you’ll get a better picture of a player’s strengths and weaknesses as you search for players that perform on the pitch!
4. How to find the best players in Football Manager in accordance to the performance?
Finally, we’ve come to the real meat of this article. How can you find the best players in Football Manager? The easiest answer is to combine attributes with general performance. In fact, most often the players with the highest attributes and abilities are often the ones with the best performances.
So how can you find the best players available to you? By assessing statistics and data relevant to the divisions at your level, or the players available to you. Here you can edit the level of Recruitment Package to filter away players or increase the number of players found, or sort by players Based in a specific nation or division to find suitable targets at your playing level.
Now it’s time to look at the different types of players you can search for and the relevant statistics for their position and role.
4.1 Searching for great goalkeepers
A modern goalkeeper requires both to be sublime on the ball as off it. He’s required to be part of the build-up process by being comfortable with the ball at his feet whilst being able to stop shots by reacting fast and communicate well with the defensive line in order to make them cover every angle of the goal. He’s required to deal with high crosses into the penalty box and be great at commanding in the area to ensure the defenders know when he will come out to catch the ball in the air, or where he wants them to help to protect the goal.
Apart from his abilities to hold onto the ball and not let the ball bounce off to an opposing attacker’s foot, he needs to be adept in one on one situations. We can summarize his most important attributes as:
Command of Area
One on Ones
Rushing Out (SK)
When searching for the best goalkeepers in Football Manager 2021, there are limited ways to assess their performances. Since his main objective is to prevent goals from being conceded, it’s natural to look at and relate stats like Goals Conceded, Clean Sheets and number of saves. A goalkeeper’s number of saves is divided up in Saves Held, Saves Tipped and Saves Parried in FM21.
By combining these metrics with every player that has played more than 10 appearances, or minimum of 900 minutes, you’ll find the goalkeepers with the most persistent performances. To further limit the number of results you can sort from the players based in the top 10 leagues.
You would like to sort by the players with the highest clean sheet and least amount of goals conceded to find great goalkeepers.
Another method is to consider the number of conceded goals per 90 minutes to minutes since the last conceded goal. A goalkeeper who rarely concedes goals and keeps lots of clean sheets is recommended!
If you should find great shot-stoppers you might like to combine Handling and Reflexes with Saves Held and Saves Parried whilst also considering the number of clean sheets.
If you’re looking for a new Sweeper Keeper you might consider the above factors in addition to the passing completion ratio along with his Passing attribute.
The Passion4FM Goalkeeper Search Filters & Views
In the megapack available to download below I have provided two search filters and one view specifically created for goalkeepers.
The default search view combines key attributes with statistics – looking to find goalkeepers with a decent level of abilities along with only showing players with more than 10 clean sheets and who have more than 20 saves held.
The other focuses more on the best goalkeepers in the top 10 leagues with relevant statistics as the screenshot above shows.
4.2 Searching for the best defenders
If you’re looking for the next Virgil van Dijk or scouting for great defenders it may be advantageous to consider the type of defensive block and its setup. If you’re playing with a back three then you’ll most likely consider the types of defenders a bit different than if you’re playing with a back two with a high defensive line. While the first might require two intelligent centre-backs who can cover a larger ground, the latter will require defenders with higher acceleration and pace to cover the large area between them and the goalkeeper.
Even though, the objectives of the central defenders are somehow similar. They shall stop the opposing attackers from coming into goalscoring opportunities, clear the ball from danger, intercept passes and block shots. Despite there are differences in how a ball-playing defender will act compared to a no-nonsense centre back in possession. The requirements of the modern game increase the necessity of having players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet, either they must clear the ball from danger when being pressurized or being an active part of building up play from the back.
We can summarise the key attributes of defenders to;
Using a Player Search Filter to Find the best defenders
Let’s take a look at how I use specific stats to find the best defenders in Football Manager.
Assessing Defenders On-Ground Defensive Actions Capabilities
To assess how well the defender is at on-the-ground defensive actions, hereby meaning their ability to dispossess attackers by making crucial tackles and interceptions. One method you can use to find the best tacklers in Football Manager is to combine the stats Tackles per game with Key Tackles. You can even consider their overall Tackles completion ratio which shows how successful or good he’s in tackling relating to Tackles attempts and Tackles Completed.
A search filter that looks to filter all players who have made at least 20 key tackles and a minimum of 2.0 tackles per game is featured in the megapack.
It’s not only by using tackles and tackling completion ratio you can use to identify defenders who are great on the ground. By combining the number of Interceptions per 90 minutes and Tackles per game with Anticipation, Positioning and Tackling you’ll discover defenders with the capability to be at the right place at the right time and prevent the ball from entering the dangerous areas in or in front of the penalty box. It shows you which players are able to anticipate the game and who tends to push out of their zone to regain possession before the opposing attacker reaches it.
Here it would have been natural to look at a player’s ability and performance to block shots and make clearances too, but this is not available as a condition. You can ask the Recruitment Analyst to get an Analyst Report of the player to reveal such information.
Players to avoid
You might even want to consider Fouls Made together with their Tackle completion ratio. You might like to avoid signing player’s who frequently make fouls as these fouls may present the opponent a chance to score at free-kicks from dangerous positions in front of the goal. Often, these players have poor positioning and/or tackles which makes them fragile to make fouls but it can also be the result of the team’s tactics. For instance, if playing with a high defensive line against quick attackers who likes to counter.
Similarly, you might also like to avoid defenders who make a lot of mistakes. By keeping an overview of the Mistakes Leading to Goals you’ll able to avoid players who might easily lose concentration and can’t withstand pressure at the heat of the moment as their Composure is poor.
Strongest Players in Aerial Situations
A great way to find players who have their strongest capabilities in the air can be found by combining metrics like Headers won per 90 minutes or by Headers Won Ratio to Key Headers. Combining those stats with the relevant Heading Attribute and their Jumping Reach can help you identify players who are excellent in defensive and attacking set-pieces.
Finding the best Ball-playing Defenders
A ball-playing defender is required to be adept at playing out of defence and be comfortable with the ball at his feet. Apart from needing great first touch and passing he needs better Vision to play defensive splitting through balls from deep – making the transition from defense to attack faster.
If you rely on a possession-oriented game then one way to find a suitable defender is to assess their Pass completion ratio together with Chances Created per 90 minutes.
By carefully considering all the above metrics when searching for defenders you can find all-round defenders who are as good in the air as on the ground.
Player Detailed - Defending > Blocks
4.3 Searching for Wingbacks
With modern football evolving, wingbacks have become more and more important in today’s game. Often forced to cover the entire flank with their athletism and dynamism, the requirements of the modern wingback have greatly increased within the last few years. Forced to stretched the pitch and give support to both the defence, midfield and the forwards, the best wingbacks need to have all-round capabilities.
In reality, we could split the wingbacks up into three different roles: attacking wingbacks who provides creativity from the flank, defensive fullback who will tuck inside with the defenders to create an impenetrable shape and inverted wingbacks who will cover the half-spaces from counter-attacks, create passing triangles and enable central midfielders to move further forward.
Let’s take a quick look at how you can search for creative wingbacks or fullbacks capable of being both defensive adept as well as being able to support the forwards with overlapping runs.
4.3.1 How to find creative wingbacks?
When trying to locate the best attacking wingbacks there are a few different approaches to take. One way is to consider their ability to create chances and make those penetrating passes that set up the forwards into a goalscoring opportunity.
A search filter could include players who make more than 1 Key Pass per 90 minutes along with Assists pr 90 minutes. You can consider these in isolation within the ‘Most Creative Wingbacks Stats view’ or use a search filter.
The ones with high key passes and assists are wingbacks that have great Vision and Passing technique to get the ball into the box by making through balls or clever passes that lead to a shot on target or a goal.
Another method of mine is to consider how much distance they cover per 90 minutes and how adept they are at covering the entire flank. This is especially important for tactics where wingbacks will provide the width and is required to stretch play by giving the forwards more space in the middle. Then you can combine Distance Cover / 90 minutes with their crossing completion ratio to discover how accurate their crosses are, as this is an important aspect of playing on the flanks.
If you’re playing with a Complete Wingback or Wingback (Support or Attack duty), their abilities in dribbling might be something worth to you. You might like to consider their Dribbles Made per game. Unfortunately, this is the only method in FM21 to see how many forward runs they are doing. There are no other stats that are available as a condition or a filter for custom views to be selected that tells us how many runs they make forward per game. If it was you could combine it with how many successful dribbles they make in a game.
When searching for such players I would put more attention to their Off the ball, Dribbling, Flair, Vision and Acceleration, along with Technique and Crossing of course!
Finding Intelligent Fullbacks
If you prefer utilizing more intelligent fullbacks with more defensive duties you could focus on statistics that are more relevant for defenders. For instance, I would look for fullbacks with high Interceptions made pr 90 minutes and Tackles completed per 90 minutes. Then you might like to include their Crossing Completion ratio to spot their accuracy in crossing when making crosses from deep.
In fact, an intelligent fullback in the mold of Eric Abidal would require great Teamwork, Anticipation, Concentration, Work Rate, Tackling, Marking and Heading.
These defensive fullbacks / wingbacks could be used in a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 as wide central defenders.
4.4 Searching for Ball-Winning Midfielders / Midfield Terriers
Every tactic or team needs a terrier in the middle of the park. One who uses his physical force to regain possession, disrupt the opponents attacking transition by closing down their playmakers, or who is not afraid to cover a lot of ground to deny opposite attackers or midfielders space and time on the ball.
These players are not in the team to be the most creative force, but instead prevent the opposite players to reach the last line of defense – either via passes (through balls), dribbles or crosses.
We can summarize them as both intelligent and physically strong midfielders. A modern version of these midfield terriers is Leon Goretzka. So what do we need to look at when searching for great ball-winners?
Finding midfield terriers
Since tackles and interceptions are a major part of their game you could use Tackles per Game, Interceptions made per 90 minutes, Key Tackles and/or Tackles Completion Ratio to identify suitable defensive midfielders, ball-winning midfielders or box to box midfielders.
Then, you can consider his abilities in possession of the ball, like Passes Completion Ratio and Key Passes made pr 90 minutes to identify player’s who are as strong with the ball as without it. IF you’re using a box to box midfielder you might like to add Dribbles Made per game into the search view.
NB! If you’re searching for a Regista I would combine stats similar to the above with statistics more relevant to passing and chances created.
Finding Intelligent Midfielders
A balanced system often utilizes combines the roles of a holding midfielder (for instance a ball-winner aka destroyer), a creator and a runner. Whilst one is tasked to destabilize the opponent’s defensive lines with his dribbles and forward runs and the other is sublime at retaining possession and creating chances by using his creativity with the ball you need an intelligent player at the heart of your midfield to regain possession, restrict spaces for the opponents’ attackers. Put simply, you need someone who can make great decisions, restricting passing lanes, and work according to the team instructions. These players might not excel in the number of goals or assists, and might be more difficult to find when using statistical data.
One way you could find them is to look for players with great:
Distance Covered pr 90 minutes
Interceptions Made per 90 minutes
Tackles Completion Ratio
Pass Completion Ratio
Teamwork (attribute above 15)
By sorting by the players with the highest number of tackles won or a Tackles completion ratio of above 70% and at least 1 interceptions made per game you can find intelligent midfielders who could be perfect as anchor man, defensive midfielder, deep-lying playmakers (defend), Carrilero’s or box to box midfielders
4.5 Searching for Playmakers & Midfield Creators
For a balanced system, you need a playmaker or two within your team. These players should be capable of retaining possession and move the ball around the park despite being put under pressure. A good playmaker needs to spot available options and have the unpredictability and vision to turn defence into attack in an instant. By making through balls or switching play from one side of the pitch to the other, often dictating the rhythm of play with their passes, their abilities with the ball are of the highest importance!
Their sole objective is to create chances by making through balls and more direct passes that set up attackers for a goalscoring opportunity. This means that these players should normally create a lot of assists for your team.
A great playmaker needs:
Finding the Most Creative Playmakers
When you’re searching for creative playmakers you can import my ‘Creative Players Stats View’. Together with the Creative Players search filter, it’s designed to find the players who constantly are a threat to the opposition defenders with their clever passes.
By combining Key passes per 90 minutes and assists per 90 minutes you’ll able to find those players who make a huge contribution to the team by creating chances and unlocking the opponent’s defensive block with passes.
Another method is to sort by player’s ability to create a high number of chances. Filtering by the players who create the most clear cut chances and key passes per 90 minutes will help you find targets who create chances on a regular basis. Adding Assists per 90 minutes higher than 0.20 will reveal those players who make the most assists according to the total number of appearances.
Finding the Most Creative Dribblers | Wide Creators
It’s not only playmakers who are needed to unlock the opponent’s defensive line. You also need players who can attract attention and create space for the forwards to utilize most effectively. It could be an attacking midfielder or an inside forward, a trequartista or an advanced playmaker with the freedom to use his creativity both with the ball and without – both in terms of movements and moving in pockets of spaces or by dribbling and passing. While these players could be found using the search filters and views shown above, I like to show an example of how to find wide creators.
A good winger or dribbler needs:
Acceleration / Pace
Off the ball
*Depending on role and positioning when entering final third.
Whilst a wide creator, often would enter the final third and be faced with goalscoring opportunities and might finish off attacks, the primary thing to look for when searching for wide creators are to consider their Dribbles Made per game and Key Passes per 90 minutes. This will let you find players who will advance with the ball through the defensive lines before setting up a teammate with a clever pass – something Lionel Messi is incredible at.
When looking for great dribblers you might even consider the number of Fouls Against with the number of Completed Dribbles to identify players who are great at causing havoc in the opposition defensive lines. A high dribbles completion ratio indicates he’s excellent at running past nearby opponents with the ball and the only way to stop them is to make a foul. The freekick is then considered as another scoring opportunity.
NB! In FM21, we don’t have any opportunities to analyze where fouls are made, whether it’s in the final third, in the middle of the pitch or in the defensive third. Statistics such as the speed of a player’s runs (with or without the ball) are something that could have helped us to identify quick players and great dribblers. A player who is good at dribbling with the ball at full speed will definitely cause danger. Instead, we have to consider their Pace, Agility, Dribbling and Balance when looking for pacy dribblers in the mold of Mohamed Salah.
Finding the best crossers
We have touched upon the role of the winger and any other players that should stretch play and be a threat from the touchline whether it’s a winger in a 4-4-2 or a wide midfielder in a 3-4-3 or a defensive winger in a 4-2-3-1 just briefly. One of the objectives of the winger is to get to the byline to deliver crosses into the box.
In order to search for the best crossers in FM21, or wingers, it’s only common sense to consider their Cross Completion Ratio and Dribbles Made per game.
When applying my ‘Default Winger Search filter’ you need to consider the crossing completion ratio with the overall number of crosses completed and cross attempts. A player who attempts lots of crosses but has a poor cross-completion ratio might not be ideal as an out-and-out-winger who are tasked to hug the touchline and provide crosses from the byline.
If we had the ability to search by attacking runs or the number of passes within the final third and its length you could use those figures to see patterns within a players game – whether they like to run forward and past opponents frequently without the ball or wants the ball played to his feet before making a dribble.
4.6 Searching for Lethal Forwards & Goal Scorers
Forwards comes in different types and molds. You have the link-up forwards, such as the deep-lying forwards or the Enganche, who is tasked to hold onto the ball until teammates come in support, and then make short passes to an on-running player or typical poachers who look to fire shots at the first opportunity. Then you have forwards who will use his physic and work rate to cover a lot of ground in order to get himself into dangerous zones and spaces. No matter how you look at the forwards’ role, he’s required to finish off attacks by hitting the target either using his feet or head.
A typical forward requires:
Off the ball
Acceleration / Pace
Let’s look at some statistics to consider when searching for your next forward or striker.
Finding the Most Clinical Strikers
When looking for the most clinical strikers you would like to search for players who score goals more frequently than the number of shots he takes. these players don’t need lots of chances to score goals and aren’t wasting their opportunities.
One way to find the most lethal strikes in Football Manager is by looking for players with low shots per 90 minutes but a high Shots on target ratio and Shots per 90 minutes. You might even consider Goals per 90 minutes with the Shots on target per 90 minutes.
A clinical striker has often a high conversion rate
These players will more regularly find the target with their shots. These players will be highly sought upon as they are the ones who score goals the most frequently in Football Manager.
Similarly, you can also combine expected goals with the total number of goals. A higher xG than goals scored will indicate the player has been a bit unlucky/ineffective recently and could have scored more goals. A lower xG indicates he might have overperformed and have been a bit lucky with his finishing, as he scores goals of lower xG rating. It could be that he has scored goals from a position of the pitch with less chance of going in – like there are several players between him and the goal, or the angle of the shot is tight and overall difficulty hard.
Finding the most Accurate Finishers
Another way to find strikers who are accurate with their finishing is by combining Shots on Target pr 90 minutes with their Shots on Target Ratio. These players are capable of hitting the target as often as possible. Their ability to strike the ball and their accuracy when finishing will most often result in lots of goals scored.
A player with low Shots on target per 90 minutes might not have the composure, self-belief, or skills to be the main goalscorer within your team. It might be a case of his traits, player instructions, or his way of anticipating the game, but it can also be a case of poor abilities that might want you to avoid signing the player.
PS. One feature missing in Football Manager 2021 is the ability to see which foot the player scores with, whether it was right or left, or with the head.
Finding the best Target Men
It’s not only from the ground you could be lethal. A great target man who can use his physic to dominate aerial situations. Here you might focus on a player’s stats relevant to Headers Won per 90 minutes along with his Headers Won Ratio. Consider his Heading attribute, strength and Jumping reach to identify a player who can be a threat in attacking set-pieces and from floating crosses.
Players to avoid?
I would avoid scouting or signing players with low xG, poor Goals pr 90 minute ratio or who are awarded a lot of offsides. These players aren’t good enough to come into goalscoring position or lack the off the ball movement and anticipation to avoid getting caught offside. A target-man with poor Headers won Ratio should also be avoided.
5. Acquiring Analyst Reports
Whether your purpose of searching for players using statistics and data is to replace a player within your team that might not deliver the performances you wished upon, or you want to improve the squad depth, it’s important to consider each player’s performance according to their playing level. Unless you have filtered the players according to the top 10 leagues, it’s useful to get a second opinion about the player and his abilities. When working within the player search section there might be players that you have very little information about (poor knowledge level) or player’s that’s outside your price range and availability.
By getting an Analyst Report of players in your interest you can make better decisions. To get a more thorough report of the player’s performances you can ask anyone within your Analyst Team to create a report of his performances. To do so; right click on the player’s name and click >
Report > Get Analyst Report
Its cases like this it’s beneficial to take advantage of your Recruitment Analyst – the one with the best abilities in Judging Player Ability and Analysing Data.
The Analyst report will process his stats in a more human-friendly way. His stats will be compiled in a similar Performance web chart we’ve become used to from the General Team Performance available in the Team Report.
The performance chart helps us to not only compare the stats of a potential signing with players within the team but also to see his overall strength and weaknesses more clearly. Then you can get a deeper insight into the player’s performance according to his role. The role analysis takes into account positive and negative statistical data and compares his stats to your player’s records.
When analysing the performance of a potential signing it’s important to consider the quality level of the league his records are made at. the player might have good records in a league level two tiers deeper than yours and might struggle to perform at your stage. Likewise, you might find a player who is close to playing at the same level as you but has better all-round stats than your players – which makes him a great signing prospect if the transfer cost is manageable.
Even though, relating the performance of a potential target with your players and players within your league is beneficial before making an offer. Still, a player who is great at finding the target and is still young could be a prime subject and one to consider signing despite he’s not fully at your playing level in terms of the current ability star rating.
In fact, whenever searching for players or analyzing players you need to take into account all the aspects of a players profile to determine the quality of the signing. Stats and metrics are just one way to give you a better picture of a player’s overall strengths and weaknesses. Most often, the stats will relate to the level of player attributes or a combination of different attributes that impacts on area of a player’s game.
Explaining GK Stats
Clean Sheets – When a team does not concede a goal during a match. The goalkeeper and each defensive player is credited with a clean sheet.
Conceded per 90 minutes – the average number of goals conceded per 90 minutes. Can be found by dividing the number of conceded goals by the number of appearances.
Saves Held – a save where the goalkeeper holds on to the ball
Saves Parried – a save where the ball is parried away by the goalkeeper
Explaining Defensive Stats
Interceptions – happens when a player intercepts the path of a pass and successfully regains possession for their team.
Key Tackles – a tackle that prevents a Clear Cut Chance opportunity.
Key Headers – a congested header won in close proximity to the attacking penalty spot
Tackles won – a successful tackle where the dribbler is dispossessed of the ball.
Clearances – where a player kicks the ball away in their own defensive half with no intended recipient.
Blocks / Shots blocked – Any defensive actions that deflects a shot on target away from the goal.
Explaining Attacking Stats
Expected Goals – A metric that measures the quality of a shot based on several variables including but not limited to shot type (header, long shot, volley and so on), shot angle, distance from goal and the position of the defending players and the goalkeeper.
Shot – Any attempt to score a goal with a legal part of the body
Shot on target – a shot that either goes into the goal, or would have gone in to the goal if not saved by the goalkeeper or stopped by a last-line defender blocking the ball.
Shots / 90 minute – a metric that takes the number of shots divided by the minutes played. the stat will then show the average number of shots recorded per 90 minutes.
Assists – Awarded to the player that provided the last touch before a team mate scored a goal. If a pass is deflected by an opposition player, then the player that initiated the pass will still receive an assist.
Assists / 90 minutes – The average recorded assists per 90 minutes
Key Passes – Any open play pass or cross-shot that leads to a shot on goal for a teammate.
Clear Cut Chance – Where a player directly creates a Clear Cut Chance opportunity for a teammate. In FM21, it’s all key passes with a higher metric than 0.30.
Pass Completion Ratio – The number of passes that successfully found a teammate compared to the total number of passes attempted.
Crosses Completion Ratio – The number of crosses that successfully found a teammate compared to the total number of crosses attempted.
Dribbles Made – Any run with the ball in possession that takes a player past a nearby opponent.
A megapack of search filters that focuses on statistics and metrics to find players with the best performance in Football Manager. The complete pack features 43 filters that look at statistics and attributes for specific player types and roles. Recommended to be used along with specific custom views.
Search Views Megapack – Download
Squad View – Player Analysis per position – Download
This article has given you an insight into how you can use statistics and data to scout for players in Football Manager 2021. By merging attributes with statistics or combining different metrics and data to each other you can better find the players with the best performance in Football Manager.
You can then play around with search conditions and other metrics to find players that fit a specific function within your system or look at key statistics for a particular role, according to their general behavior, to identify suitable targets.
Using statistics and data as parameters when searching for players in Football Manager is just one way to improve your squad. By carefully comparing the performances between the players within your team with the candidate’s performance you can find out whether the target is better or worse than the players within your starting XI.
You’ve also gained an insight into how I use views to sort data in descending order. This way you can quickly find the best performers or those with the greatest stats quickly and efficiently.
I hope you enjoyed this piece and that you’ll find the player search filters and views useful.
Until next time, thanks for reading!