Over the last couple of seasons, one of the most entertaining aspects of FIFA has been the Manager's Mode. In my mind nothing is more fun than taking a squad, doing your best to make it championship caliber and then watch as it dominates in part because of your decisions. This year, next generation players have an even bigger challenge available: take a team in one of the lower tiered leagues, build them up slowly, advance to a higher league and see if you can continue the trend. This article will provide you with some tips on how to take a lowly door mat of a team -- specifically an English League One team -- and advance it to fame and glory.
If you're starting with a top flight team some of this might be different, but the general philosophy can still be used.
Picking Your Team & Early Transfers
Step one of course is picking your team. How good or bad this team is in relation to the rest of your league might dictate what you do at the beginning.
My very first team was pretty bad. I tried to wait it out by scouting but by the time I got some better players and was starting to field a decent team I was fired.
So if you are using a sub-par team your first decision might be to sign some relatively cheap players to bolster the talent you have on the pitch. After all, building through scouting (the best way to slowly build toward a powerhouse) takes a matter of months to years, while the transfer market can get you a few players by the end of August.
Your first target should be a goalkeeper. If the best player on the pitch is your keeper, you're going to buy yourself some games and negate the many mistakes your young, poor overall defenders are going to make.
A good keeper to get is a young Norwegian by the name of Rune Jarstein. I have him in my season and he's very solid. He starts at a 72 overall I believe and he can be had for less than €400,000. I'm currently in April of my second season and he's at a 76 overall -- so he moves up (my keeper coach is a lvl 6 and was a lvl 4 at the beginning of season 2 i believe).
Your second target should be a striker and then also a midfielder if you have the time and cash. In each of these cases try to snag a guy who is in the high 60s to low 70s. If you get a guy who is too low it's really just wasted money as you'll end up getting recruits better than him before the end of the year.
Also try to get them as cheap as possible; don't spend €600,000 on a striker, instead look for a guy with a market value of around €200,000. If you need to grab an older player so be it. If you do a good job they'll be a role player by season three anyway.
Also make sure not to jump a league to get a guy. If you snag a premiership player to play for a League One team he's going to be pissed and his performance (and your team chemistry) will take a hit. I had Freddy Adu on my team and he had awful moral the entire time because going from Portugal's top league to League One was a step down in competition.
Philosophy & Team Make-Up
You need to make some personal decisions about your team around this point. First is how much you're going to want to spend on your negotiator, which in turn ties in to how active you think you'll be in the transfer market. The higher the negotiator the more players you can have discussions with at the same time.
If you are going to dabble you can stay at a 2 for a couple of seasons until you have filled other needs, but if you think you're going to be a player in the market, you might want to bump that up so you can be talking to a few guys at once.
What formation are you going to play? And how flexible are you going to be? There are two ways of looking at this. The first is to pick your system and then recruit to the system; the other is to pick your players and then pick a system that fits them.
Either can work, although I prefer the first way -- picking a system and then fitting your players in. The reason is continuity; I know where the players should be based on the scheme and it helps with passing and defense. The second way could work if you're mostly a visual player who relies on the radar a lot more.
With the way I do it I sometimes get some round pegs that I force into square holes. For instance right wings that get put at either Right Midfield or Striker. They take a hit in their overall but it works best for the team. If you like to change your system you might have gone from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3 to accommodate the player and then have to relearn things a bit.
If you are brand new to soccer, stick with the 4-4-2 and play your best players at each of the positions. For your starting squad take your best players and put them at their primary positions.
These are the guys you build around not ones you move around. From there take your other players and move them around a bit while looking at their overall. You'll notice it changes as they move so always try to get your best mix and match overall team on the pitch.
I might be oversimplifying things but when picking a sponsor I always go for the most money per match. Sure the requirements might be a bit tougher, but you'll also have more financial resources to make it happen.
The bonuses and what not are nice, but the weekly payment will always end up being more in your pocket. As the saying goes, "that's money in the hand." I'll take that over the potential to get a better bonus.
For ticket prices, I tie the level directly to my fan support, and have done well so far. As you start to push into the 80s, switch to high ticket prices. You're doing so well the fans won't car and you'll still sell out every game. If you are below that I would stick at medium, since you don't want to risk losing fan support and potentially your job. If you push into the 50s you might want to consider switching to low ticket prices -- although at this point the writing is on the wall and you have bigger concerns on the pitch.
Fitness, Scouting & Stadiums Oh My
Starting out you have two priorities with your team. First, to get the fitness level of your team up a couple of notches. This will keep your best players on the field and make sure they don't get too tired. It will also let you play most of your starters for both games if you have a cup match that week. Since you are building through scouting, this is a good thing. Your new recruits get more pitch time, which means more experience points. And you also keep as many of the left over scrubs off the pitch as possible.
You also want to get your scouting to level 5 by the end of season one and to level 10 by the end of season two. At level 5 you'll be recruiting players in and around 70 overall. If you are a League One team, these guys are starters for you, with new starters coming in every few weeks. You can literally turn over your entire roster by the end of the first season.
A higher level scout also means you have a better idea what kind of player you're getting. Not only does the quality of the player improve, the overall window also shrinks. By rank 10 there is no window, you are told what overall the player is going to be.
After that you want to even out your position coaches and spread the wealth. Since you'll be playing young players it makes sense to have better coaches -- as your investments will pay off more. Start with your keeper and striker coaches. I keep those guys tied or one ahead of the rest of the coaches; however, you can develop your own mix depending on your strength and style of play. For instance if you like to control the ball in the middle you might favor midfielders, or if you like to have a solid defense you can put your points there.
Again though, you want to make sure your keeper is as good as possible. Even as you get some 60s and 70s onto the pitch, they'll have lapses and a good goalie can bail you out of their mistakes.
You should also have money for a stadium upgrade or two by the end of the first season. Simply put, it means more cash and the earlier you do it, the better the investment becomes.
The Art of Scouting
Personally I rotate my scout(s) to all the positions at the beginning. If you send him out for "a few games" you can usually hit each position once a year plus a few extra; so it's a question of what you want to hit at first. Plus I have found sending scout(s) out for a full search is a bit too much to absorb at one position over a relatively short period of time.
I usually start with a keeper. Getting a decent backup is never a bad thing and if you're lucky you'll pull two keepers better than the guy you have sitting on the pine. I then move to striker, defender and midfield. If things work out to plan you should have your number two striker, one or two better defensemen and another two midfielders. After one rotation I look at my starting lineup and hit whatever position has the lowest rated starter. Rinse and repeat.
Honestly I'm not sure if there's a difference between the regions other than cost. So far I've done most of my searches in Europe and the Americas with good success -- hit Asia and Africa at your own risk.
For the most part I let the computer handle experience points and progression for me. It gets a bit to into the nitty gritty for me and I also use it as an anti-cheese measure for me (I'd just load guys on speed).
The one thing I do however is check all new recruits traits. If they have a negative trait I will turn off the auto-experience allotment and do it myself -- until that guy has enough points to turn that trait off. At that point I'll turn the auto back on.
Also sign every single player you recruit. You might lose some money punting some guys to other teams, but the Russian roulette is always worth it for the players that come out at the top end of the overall spectrum.
In January clear out any of the total turd burgers you have on the team. If the guy was at the bottom of your roster before you recruited seven guys, he can go. Just make sure your roster has a nice mix of yellows, blues and greens, a backup keeper and 23 guys total (I believe that is the roster minimum).
During the transfer market keep in mind you have two options for players: sell them or loan them. Loaning is a good way to get them playing and gaining experience without selling their rights.
Keep in mind, players you recruit are almost an investment. If you have a good young player, even if you don't need him it makes sense to hold onto him for a bit instead of selling him outright. Take these guys and loan them out. Let them get some experience and when they come back they'll be worth a bit more as seasoned prospects. Better yet, you aren't paying their salary. And it keeps a potentially unhappy bench player from impacting your chemistry.
If you were lucky enough to get two good keepers, I will usually loan out the second best on my entire team; leaving me with a starter and the old third stringer as his backup. This leaves you with a good backup and spot starter while giving the other guy some needed experience. Keep in mind goalies are good money, so if you can get their value up you can sell them for a good chunk of change.
Continue the scouting cycle, and make sure the scout is never sitting at home. As soon as he gets home, send him back out. He's got the summer to rest after all.
By the end of your first season you should have a starting lineup of players in the high 60s to low 70s. For me, the best of the bunch is a 74 overall striker named Troy Ireland (ironically he's Scottish). He's young, has great pace and is a strong finisher. Plus at 6'1" he does a good job with headers in front of the net.
Moving into the second season I have a bench full of high 60 to low 70 reserves, mid 70s starters and I also just recruited an 82 overall striker to complement Ireland. This in addition to several players on loan, including a 72 overall American keeper.
And the oldest guy on the field is Rune Jarstein, who is a 76 overall keeper at the age of 26. After buying him for €400,000ish his market value is now over €1,000,000. If he gets into the 80s he can stay on the pitch as I move to the Championship League. If not he'll fetch a good price to bolster me signing a top flight keeper.