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So, as you are probably all aware, the FM23 Beta is finally out. Several months of sitting around and frantically waiting have finally come to an end. The beta is obviously not the finished article and will still have the occasional glitch or bugs that need ironing out, but it gives us FM fans a chance to delve in at the deep end and start our FM23 journey.
For those of you that have never played Football Manager before, firstly, where have you been all these years? Secondly, you are probably going to feel a little overwhelmed when you first load up your save. The simulator game is quite notorious for being rather complex, and differs enormously to your classic FIFA career modes and similar video game series. Some people will get lost in the menus, others won’t have the foggiest when it comes to setting up a tactic or utilising the different tools available.
If that sounds like it could be you, then these 10 tips should hopefully improve your FM23 experience and better your managerial CV.
View the club’s philosophy
Just like in real life, every football team has its own philosophy, a desired way of playing, and a long-term vision. These differ from club to club, and it is important to fully understand what is expected of you in your role as the manager of the side. Some teams will have aspirations to achieve a European place, others will be looking to avoid the drop.
Sports Interactive have added a new feature exclusively to FM23 called supporter confidence, pictured above. We all know that the fans play a massive role in the day-to-day dealings of a football club, and this is now replicated in the game. It sounds all well and good, until you realise you now have to please both the board and the fans, and they aren’t always on the same wavelength.
Alienating either the fans or the board can have fatal implications, and if the modern day is anything to go by, will probably earn you your virtual P45. Before you set up your tactics or delve into the transfer market, understand exactly what it is the board are looking for from you. If the club culture is to play high-tempo football and you line-up in a low-block, then you’re not going to last very long in the job. You can even see the club culture before you take the job, as it is presented to you on the team selection screen, so there really is no excuse.
Affiliate clubs and youth development
It’s no secret that developing your new project Mbappe is one of the most interesting parts of the whole FM experience. However, signing a wonderkid and ensuring that they are getting enough game time can be difficult when you are competing for the elite-level trophies, such as the Champions League. That’s where affiliate clubs come into play.
Instead of your wonderkid rotting away in the reserves, picking up the odd five-minute cameo at the end of the game, loan them to an affiliate. In real life, Chelsea have benefitted massively by having Vitesse as their affiliate for their young players to gain some experience. Mason Mount, Armando Broja, Dominic Solanke, and Nemanja Matic are all Premier League-level players that reaped the rewards from a loan spell in the Eredivisie.
For those who are managing a club with an existing affiliate, all you need to do is select the player you want to loan, click development, then move to affiliate, finally selecting the duration and conditions of the loan.
However, for those who are managing a side without a recognised affiliate, then this is an added incentive to keep the board happy, as they are the only ones who can sanction an affiliate club. To request an affiliate, or feeder club as it is sometimes referred to, then replicate the steps in the image below. You may need to get some points on the board and build up a bit of trust before your request is accepted, but it is definitely worthwhile in the long term.
Understanding the league structure
This may sound like a self-explanatory tip, but it is very important to be fully aware of the league registration rules in Football Manager. There is nothing more frustrating than coming to the end of the transfer window and being unable to register your new £30 million pound striker because you’ve already registered the allotted number of non-EU players.
From wage caps and squad registration rules to prize money and competition structure, it’s always worth having a look at. For those of you looking to ease your way into FM23 in regards to league rules, then I’d highly recommend the Bundesliga. Not only is dethroning Bayern Munich a fun challenge, but their registration rules are extremely lax in comparison to the other European leagues.
If you are looking to take control of a side elsewhere in Europe, or maybe overseas, then you will probably want to check for any dodgy rulings. To do this, simply search the name of the league in the search bar, then click overview and select ‘Rules’. You will be greeted with a screen similar to the own shown above, which gives you a breakdown of all the nooks and crannies of that specific league.
Staff roles and recruitment focuses
So, you’ve loaded up the save, had a look at your club’s philosophy and current situation, maybe had your initial meeting with the board to discuss the long-term vision, what’s next on the agenda? For me, it would be reviewing my backroom staff and the responsibilities that they have.
Having the right staff is important to the on-field success, both at first team level and in the development squads. What’s the point in putting a player in the development squad when they don’t have a manager or a sufficient number of coaches?
It might just be an OCD thing of mine, but I really hate it when I view my staff members and realise, I’ve got three fitness coaches but no goalkeeper coach. Before a ball has been kicked, I would set all of your staff responsibilities up and also start the process of sourcing some new staff to pluck the holes that you will inevitably inherit.
Equally, I’m not paying my scouts to sit around and do nothing. Using the shiny new feature, the squad planner, you can create new ‘recruitment focuses’, where you are able to refine the parameters used to find players, as shown above. Gone are the days when the scout would needlessly suggest players you have no intention of buying. The sooner you set your recruitment focuses, the quicker your scouts get on their bike to find you some potential signings.
The squad dynamics is a relatively new feature on FM, but an essential one in terms of happiness and morale. In the dynamics tab, you are able to see the hierarchy pyramid of your players, which helps you establish who the team leaders and influential players are. By clicking on a player, you are able to see which social group they are a part of, as shown in the picture below.
Keeping the highly influential players happy is self-explanatory really. If they are part of a large social group, then there’s the potential for them to cause unrest and negatively influence the dressing room. By paying close attention to the squad dynamics, you can ease the process of integrating new players into the squad, as well as selling on players who don’t fit the ethos.
Most footballers are spoilt brats in real life, and this comes across quite well in Football Manager. Any minor inconvenience and they are ready to pack their bags and leave the club. By constantly perusing through the happiness tab in the dynamics section, you can track your players’ satisfaction levels with playing time and training etc. This way, you can nip any concerns in the bud early before you end up with a disjointed dressing room wishing you get the sack.
Keep it simple
The biggest mistake that all beginners make, overcomplicating their tactics. On the tactics screen, showcased above, you have a variety of different instructions that you can set for when your team are, in possession, in transition, and out of possession. This does not mean that you need to choose every single one. The AI is clever, so just because you haven’t told your team to ‘run at defence’ doesn’t mean they will never dribble with the ball.
Simplicity is key with a lot of things in life, and it certainly applies to FM instructions too. There is a bit of a common misconception surrounding team instructions that suggest that they are necessary for a tactic to be successful. However, just by setting the team mentality and the player roles, you can experience success.
Your first decision is choosing a formation to play in, which should echo the club’s philosophy and desired style of play. Then it’s a case of choosing your starting 11, making sure that the players are suited to the roles that they are being asked to perform. What’s the point in having a ball-playing defender when the player fulfilling that position has poor vision and passing?
Once you have a rough idea of your ideal team shape and starting 11, then tinker with the team instructions, but only if they will directly enhance your team’s performance. As a beginner, I would recommend selecting one of FM’s default pre-sets, as you’ll be able to see which instructions they deem important to the specific style.
A key part of football in real life is the training regime, and this is equally as important on Football Manager. Individual training is tailored to specific players, which allows you to improve certain areas of their game to fit your system. This is a mistake I see beginners make, as well as FM veterans. Always train your player to the specific role they are playing. It improves their familiarity to the role, as well as developing their attributes.
Let’s use Southampton centre-back Duje Ćaleta-Carr as the example, who at 25 years old still has a couple of years left to develop his game. In my save, he is being utilised as the middle centre back as a ball-playing defender with the stopper duty. As you can see from the screenshot above, I have set his specific training to the role that he is being played in and have added an additional focus to include his passing.
You can also train your squad to develop new player traits. This improves their tendencies to perform an action and only enhances their suitability to a specific role. In this instance, Ćaleta-Car already has the two best player traits for his role. He brings the ball out of defence and tries long-range passes, both traits associated with a ball-playing defender.
The eye test
Finally, a tip that actually involves the match day. The good old classic eye test. When you go into your games, Football Manager will give you the option to watch extended highlights, key highlights, or the full match. Now I know what you’re thinking, who has the time to watch the full match.
Granted, it is more time-consuming, however, watching the full game gives you a much better insight and understanding into how your tactic is performing. Maybe you’ll notice that your inside forward and box-to-box midfielder are occupying the same spaces and getting in each other’s way, or that your striker isn’t playing on the last man’s shoulders like you hoped.
By watching the full game, you can spot these potential problems and make adjustments to solve it. Alternatively, you may spot potential weaknesses in the opposition tactics that you are able to exploit. If the opposition’s left-wing back is bombing forward and leaving his flank completely exposed, then you might want to focus your play down the right-hand side.
Being equipped to make quickfire in-game decisions only betters your chances of winning games.
So, I’ve spoken about the eye test and how useful it can be in working out how efficient your tactic is, but as the wonderful Shakira says, the hips stats don’t lie. The data hub was the new shiny feature on FM22, and quickly established itself as a fan favourite. As the modern game has shifted to a more data-driven approach, it is good to know that Football Manager has followed suit.
Using the data hub, you have access to a variety of different statistics on both your team’s past performances and also your opposition. Like the graphs and tables that they show on Sky Sports and BT Sports, some of the data can be fairly useless to you as a manager. However, there are certain statistics that you can collect from your analyst that will be extremely beneficial when it comes to match planning.
My top tip for FM23 is to play around with the data hub. Not only are the graphs aesthetically pleasing to a football nerd such as myself, but they also provide some excellent insight into your team’s output. The more knowledge you have on both your team and your opposition, the better position you are in to defeat them.
My final tip for the FM23 beta is to experiment. Spend some time exploring all the different features of the game, all the various tools available to you. There is so many different actions available to you as a user, exploring these should be your first priority.
I know it is tempting to load it straight up and get started on a long-term save but going in blindly without fully understanding your surroundings can either make your managerial career very stressful, or very short-lived, depending on the results.
If there is ever a time to experiment with tactics and personnel, it’s on the beta. Experiment with what works for you, and what doesn’t, before embarking on your long-term FM journey, whatever that may be.