Before we even begin let me warn you that this could be a long one. I had already spent somewhere between 8-10 hours within this save by the time I had accumlated and organised all the info that will be contained in this blog. Then after pushing continue and proceeding through a few months of the game it had obviously all changed. I think by this point we’re onto a 3rd different tactic, I have radically changed how my spreadsheet works and have already modified rules regarding intra squad player promotion. Yes, the same ones that had only just been set out in the the last post. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time to see how things work and in this instance automatically promoting a 2 star player into the next squad just began flooding the 1st team while leaving the youth squads running a little light. All shall be revealed though, as we proceed through this blog.
Okay, another warning. This might look like it is completely over the top (and it almost certainly is) especially when you consider that Football Manager in itself is just one big spreadsheet. For me though, this acts as a central hub with all the information I might want/need at any time. It also prevents me having to jump in and out of pages in the game while trying to access certain info. Before starting both this save and blog I knew essentially nothing about Schalke, other than that’s where we (Spurs fan, you got me) sent Nabil Bentaleb so the spreadsheet also serves a purpose as a learning tool.
As you’ll soon see one of the tabs is dedicated entirely to the 1st team and it includes info such as age, personality, playing time expectations, player positions in regards to their fit into the selected tactic and the all important league eligibility information. Anybody who is on a quest for continental success knows all about the little light blue “HGC” icon that a player can earn. For this save in particular and the importance that I’m placing on our Knappenschmiede academy and subsequent youth teams I chose to duplicate that same 1st team spreadsheet for both our B team and U19 team.
Attributes get their own special tab, It is the exact same information found in the comparison tab of the Analyst Report. This tab will be updated every season as it informs me of the strengths/weaknesses in my squad compared to the rest of the league. There are different areas in which this aids me; one of which being tactic creation, I can see that our defence is rated above average in every category aside from Pace and Acceleration where we are ranked as below average. Based on that alone there won’t be any high lines being played around here any time soon.
The scouting and Monchi Reports tabs were a last minute addition to the spreadsheet as I chose to have my recruitment method based loosely around the “Monchi Masterclass” which @MattyLewis11 has put into word form so I won’t be going into great detail explaining it as you can find it here. Based on my understanding and implementation of this method I need to be able to recall which scout is doing what and who is available to scout players not discovered by the aforementioned “Monchi” method.
Coaching has its own tab but on reflection it seems totally irrelevant as it’s just a carbon copy of the Coaching Assignments screen already found in game. I decided to add an awards tab so that I can track who has earned awards such as Team of the Week or Player of the Month etc. It may or may not be something that continues long term but would perhaps be nice to look back on should this save go well into the future as I would hope it does.
The final few tabs you can see are all in regards to player statistics and analytics. FM21 has seen me dive head first into this area of the sport and the Moneyball approach interests me greatly. @fm_student started a great series of blogs about using pairs of statistics aimed towards comparing and recruiting of specific positions (one of those can be found here). So this is just a couple of work in progress tabs to help me keep track of everything without needing to have multitudes of separate tabs open in my internet browser.
With all that out of the way perhaps we could actually get into looking at how one of these spreadsheets looks, starting with the 1st team squad.
Overwhelming, I know.
Don’t let the colours put you off, I know there are a lot but they all serve a purpose and frankly make the sheet much easier to look at than just white squares. The keen eyed might notice that the player positions listed down the left hand side indicate that we are playing a 4411, the roles for which are also noted. I only recently added a another group of columns for a third role with the purpose of learning who is capable of playing which positions and roles whilst I am still learning the squad.
Take Suat Serdar for instance, the game, via my appointed staff etc suggest that he is a natural Box to Box midfielder. While that is my preferred role to have him playing, I can tell with a quick eye test of his attributes that isn’t the only role he will be of use to me. So on the spreadsheet I have an average role score calculated for the BBM role, DLP-D and also AP-A. From that I can gauge not only his versatility but the quality of that versatility. In a way the spreadsheet can also serve to help me with the recruitment process, by using Serdar as the example again I can easily identify that he is tied for 2nd choice at both the AP-A and DLP-D roles and so I should probably look to find some better quality back up options in those positions.
The remaining columns are used mostly to detail the information found on the scout/coach report tab along with any other details I deem useful such as personality and playing time. In terms of the scout report information I’m only particularly worried about certain aspects; such as HGN and HGC status. Germany also has a 3rd homegrown criteria in terms of squad registration, that is the amount of players who hold German nationality so that also features on the spreadsheet. This section is rounded off by the players status with certain “hidden attributes.” Consistency, big matches and injury proneness are the ones that I deem important enough to influence my decision making and so I made that information readily available to me.
To expand upon some of the other colours, the important ones to note are the coloured player names. Red is transfer listed or just considered as not having a future in the 1st team. 36 year old GK Michael Langer for instance, has a contract which expires at the end of the season and I have opted against renewing it. A blue name is nice a simple, it’s represents a player in on loan, such as Pacienca for example. Finally the purple names are players who have been promoted up into the 1st team but not yet playing for that squad and so are still playing for the B team. Being in the first team allows them to train with and be mentored by their peers. Initially the idea was to have 3 players per role in the formation which would help me to quickly identify replacements in case of injury, potential sale or even just a poor run of form but replacements in the form of players from the youth squads.
I chose to disable the intial transfer window while setting up the database so that it would require me to rely on what was available to me within the club right from the off. Thankfully the Schalke youth teams are laden with promising young options.
I suppose it’s about time we got into some proper analysis of the squads then?
THE 1ST TEAM…
A 1st team squad overview sorted by current ability as advised by a new and improved assistant manager.
When I was first presented with this squad it became immediately clear who the key players were, or at least should be. At this point I still hadn’t seen a game in real life so didn’t even know the preferred shape. I initially opted for a 442 based on the depth in certain positions at the club. I then changed that approach and looked towards a 4231 after discovering this was how the team actually lined up in real life. For whatever reason I just couldn’t get it firing (neither could 4 other Schalke managers) and the save looked like it could be in real trouble very early on.
We started the season by winning only 2 league games from the 11 played, safe to say the board weren’t happy and something had to change. I took the easy way out and opted for a version of a tactic from a previous save of mine and that is the 4411 I will display momentarily. In the 7 games since implementing it we’ve won 5 and drawn the other two. I have adjusted it to suit and make the most of the personnel at my disposal of course, it wasn’t a complete copy/paste and I plan to expand on it as I familirise myself further with my surroundings and begin to bring in my own players.
The original version that I borrowed this from had a Target Man and Shadow Striker combination between the ST and AM. I had a real issue finding somebody suitable enough to play the SS role but had a host of guys far more suited to being playmakers. I have seen Amine Harit play the #10 role in real life and to me he is the key man at the club right now, so I wanted to try and build around him. His suggested role was AP-A and when paired with his player traits I needed a do it all type in front of him. Luckily enough Gonçalo Paciência is rather handily suited to being a Complete Forward. It’s not a role I have used a great deal before but felt it suitable to the tactical approach I was going for. Plus why select a specific role such as TM, DLF or P (which are the skill sets the Complete Forward possesess) when the guy can do all three, well.
From there it was a case of getting the right options around them. Choosing to have both wingers on attack duties sees the team almost split into two units during the attacking phases of play. More often than not we move forward in a shape more akin to a 4231 (Thanks Copper!) which suits me just fine considering we still have the defensive stability that comes from the classic two banks of four. Having two designated playmakers is a contentious subject but I have found with this tactic in particular and the way it splits into two seprate units that the DLP will supply the ball forward to the AP who then conducts the attacking play for that separate unit of 4 that go forward. Not only that but he provides a shorter outlet to the BPD or a safe, reliable option to play back to should we get stifled further up the field.
Early signs suggest that there are some glaring holes in the squad, a starting caliber RB is at the top of my priority list followed closely by a GK better suited to the Sweeper Keeper role and then a permanent starting level striker. I will cover recruitment in greater detail in a later stage though for fear of this blog getting ridiculously long. I’ll end this 1st team section with some screenshots of the B team players who have made the step up to the senior squad who’s futures I am most excited about.
Sidi Sané in particular, especially if he turns out anything like his brother Leroy!
THE B TEAM…
This is the point where I first began to realise that the rules I’d set around the promotion of youth players wasn’t going to work as well as I had initially hoped. Having initially added 10 B team players into the 1st team squad it has left this team looking very thin, this is also due to the fact I’ve left a fair few names off of the spreadsheet due to me already deciding they won’t be going any further in their FC Schalke careers. Still though, a few adjustments will need to be made around the way players move up through the squads in future.
Maybe 2 stars is the minimum requirement for promotion, the decision to promote then relying on performance, development and demand for that position in the 1st team. Player names coloured in pink have been loan listed with the intention of having them go out and get more first team action to hopefully kickstart their development. The orange player name is to indicate a player already out on loan. 16 year old Joshua Klöckner is highlighted in gold as he looks to have a massive future ahead of him. As soon as he turns 17 his squad status will be reassessed due to the Bundesliga not allowing anybody under the age of 17 to play in competitive matches. Just below I will leave another slideshow featuring some of Schalke’s hopeful next generation.
Last but not least we have the proper youngsters, again the spreadsheet is looking pretty thin but that is caused by the same reasons that the B team sheet is looking thin, player promotion to the B team and some names already being left out. This sheet will look a whole lot better once we get our first youth intake which is only a couple of months away, in game and already sounds like it could be rather impressive. The famed words “Golden Generation” have been whispered into my ear by Head of Youth Development Marco Berlinger. Staff, again is something we might cover in a future post due to the emphasis I have placed on the minimum requirements I have set in regards to hiring of staff. Turns out those rules might also be too strict.
Even though this is a rather small group of players there is still plenty of potential and you might notice 19 year old Tjark Scheller has already been deemed suitable of being loan listed. Otherwise, Erik Lanfer and Ardy Mfundu lead the way in terms of future options that could soon be coming out of this squad.
I know I warned you that this had the potential to become a pretty long read but I think it became longer than I had actually anticipated, it turns out I’ve managed to add words during the editing process. So if you have made it all the way down to this part then I really do appreciate you giving my work the time. Perhaps you got this far and have been left wondering what the hell you’ve just wasted your time reading, either way, I’d love to get your thoughts and you can leave those here or find me on twitter @Chris_ANZFM.
As of this moment I am undecided on where the next post will take us, the date in game is January 22, 2021 and a few things have happened leading up to that point but I’m quite exicted to keep playing games so It will more than likely be an end of season wrap up with an eye towards the future and a rebuild of the squad in the summer. There are a lot of expiring contracts and I’m desperate to find out whether Weston McKennie will return home to us after his loan at Juventus ends. Pirlo is circling though…
Until then though, Auf Wiedersehen