Scouting and signings
So I’ve been requested to write a bit on my approach to scouting. As I don’t feel that scouting itself is terribly exciting, I’ve morphed this request a little into covering more on the process of the entire transfer.
I guess that there’s an opinion amongst some of my readers that I am more thorough than some FM-ers in my transfer policy. I say “thorough” but that’s really a polite way of saying it. Pernickity, overly analytical, obsessive or borderline anal might be more accurate descriptions of my transfer policy.
I really enjoy the transfer dealings within FM and I tend to spend an awful lot of time considering my moves, at least whilst I’m managing small clubs (which is 99% of the time).
For me then, there’s a very logical process which culminates in a player signing on the dotted line…
1. Identifying the need for a player
It might seem like a painfully obvious point to make but there has to be the need for a player first. Too many FM-ers make the mistake of simply buying the players that their scouts recommend the most, or finding a shortlist on the internet and buying whoever they can afford and is willing to move.
This is completely illogical to me. The need for a player should be subjective. I’ll identify a gap and then I know what sort of player I’m looking for. I also love planning ahead, so often I’ll identify a potential gap 6-12 months ahead of time.
There is an obvious exception to this rule, though, and that’s in youth players. If I am offered or come across a remarkably good youth player (under-18) then I’ll probably be interested regardless of the role. This is because developing him will give me enough time to either mould him into the role I want or mould the team into suiting his strengths once he is fully developed.
To make this process more than just me waffling, I thought it would be better to make it a case study in finding a particular player. Unfortunately, the timing isn’t great and I don’t feel like I particularly need anyone at the moment. Therefore, I asked for a nomination on twitter and, as per this tweet, it was decided that I should look for a deep-lying playmaker to fit into my system.
2. Is there a youth player I can use?
So with the need for a player identified, the very first thing that I do is check my youth team to see if there is a player coming through who might suit the requirement. There’s a decent chance that I could have earmarked someone for a different role only for him to develop in an unexpected way or that I simply didn’t notice something the first time round.
If there’s a chance of me developing a youth player and saving millions then I’ll do it. Assuming that there’s not, then we’ll move on to finding one elsewhere.
3. Director of Football / Assistant Manager intervention
Personally, I only use my Director of Football to find / get rid of youth players. I finalise all deals and invariably cancel them. This is because I find the DoF borderline useless in the game at the moment. However, many people use theirs regularly to find first team players and this is something you may wish to consider if you’ve hired a DoF with high Judging Player Ability (JPA) and Judging Player Potential (JPP) attributes.
Unfortunately, the DoF function has been poorly implemented and you can only ask him to identify players for all positions. For me, you should be able to speak to him and say something like “I need a DLP from within the EU who is under 25 and will act as back-up. Go find me 5 options / sign me one.”
This option is available for the loan players, though, and it may also be something you want to consider if you need a short term option to tide you over until a permanent option becomes available or simply because you don’t have the funds. If you don’t know how to do this, go to your squad screen – towards the top there’s an option for “get advice from staff”. Use this and your assistant will back to you in a few days with 5-10 loan options.
For me, these are imperfect options but they are worth mentioning. Personally, I’d rather do it all myself.
4. Automated scouting
To differentiate from scouting where you ask a scout to look at a specific player, I’ll call the general scouting assignments that your staff gets “automated scouting”. My approach to this is really quite simple:
- hire the best scouts I can find – i.e. with highest attributes in JPA and JPP, prioritising JPP as I tend to sign youth players as opposed to the finished article
- where my board allows me a significant number of scouts, let’s say 7 and above, I’ll start bringing in scouts of various nationalities – even to the detriment of a couple of attribute points. The premise behind this is based on the “scouting knowledge” mechanic. The new scout will bring to the club a higher knowledge of his home country and potentially neighbouring countries too. This means that your club “knows” more players and they’ll appear on your player search screen.
- for the most part, I allow my chief scout to direct the scouting assignments. All I’m really after is as wide a knowledge of players as possible so that I can make my own judgements based on attributes and personality.
- occasionally, I will commission a particular scouting assignment – i.e. I will pick a scout and ask him to report back on under-19 players in Italy or 3 star ‘keepers on less than £5k per week.
Every so often, say every 3 months, I’ll have a check on my scout assignments and make sure that my Chief Scout isn’t doing anything stupid like sending every single scout to France.
There are some great under-valued markets in FM such as Eastern Europe, Central America, the smaller South American countries and Africa. If my Chief Scout isn’t doing a good job of rotating my scouts through some of these countries then I’ll manually set up some roaming assignments to ensure a balanced approach.
Other than that, the automated scouting system is purely there to gather as much information as possible and make as many players (and their attributes) viewable on the player search screen.
5. Manual Scouting
As opposed to the automated scouting using the assignments which are set by my Chief Scout, I do an awful lot of manual scouting. There’s barely an in-game day, and certainly not a week, that goes by without me asking my scouts to have a look at some player or other.
The majority of the time, I will simply use the quick button to get a scout report on the player without watching any games. This will help to reveal the hidden attributes, personality and PPM’s of the player and lets me know whether I should be having a closer look at him or simply rejecting him outright.
Much of the manual scouting simply comes from having a look at players that are revealed in the news – record breakers, players that the press are making a big deal of or even players that are offered to me by agents. You never know when a gem will turn up and it really doesn’t take a great deal of time to simply get a quick report.
Every so often, most likely when I can summon the motivation, I’ll go on a massive scouting spree through various countries and leagues. The most common targets for these scouting trips are:
– the player stats pages of the lower leagues in my country. A quick browse through the player stats might reveal a youngster who is banging in 30 goals in Serie C. When the next highest scorer has 12, why not have a look?
– the player stats pages of youth tournaments. It might be worth setting yourself a reminder using the notes function for these but competitions such as the NextGen series are well worth having a look at. It might also be an idea to set one of your scouts to specifically scout the entire tournament using the “add assignment” button.
– various academy clubs around the world. We’ve all heard of INF Clairefontaine, well there are hundreds of similar academy clubs all around the world with good facilities and a tendency to produce fine youth players. You can find some of them listed in this here thread at The Dugout.
– various clubs famous for producing good youth players. So we all know the likes of Ajax, Southampton, River Plate, Barcelona, etc have a tendency to produce stars for the future but there’s also the likes of Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia), Ajax CT (South Africa), Danubio (Uruguay), BATE (Belarus), Enyimba (Nigeria), ASEC (Ivory Coast), Chivas and América (Mexico), Dinamo and Hadjuk (Croatia)… I could go on and on… that tend to come up with the goods. The advantage of these is that picking up the next Nigerian superstar direct from his domestic club is going to cost you a fraction of the fee Southampton or Ajax would demand.
It may be worth your while carrying out these manual searches a day or two after the newgen creation date in that particular nation. You can find a handy list of these dates here. Getting in there early could be invaluable, giving you a head-start on the big clubs who will also be trying to poach these youngsters.
– standout players that I notice in games against me. Fairly simple one this but I tend to find that players who play well against me will play well for me, even if their other performances aren’t really up to scratch. If I find that one player has had a particularly good game against me then I may ask one of my scouts to watch him in the next couple of games and get some more information on him.
I could go on and on really but what should be apparent is that I have a few standard ‘tactics’ on automated scouting, manual scouting and then a scatter gun approach of just scouting anyone who comes across my path in the hope of getting lucky.
So the scout report comes back. Then what?
Well I’m fairly picky with my shortlist and it tends to be just a select few, probably up to 25 players – the cream of the players that my scouts find. Even if I don’t particularly need a player in that position, if my scouts turn up a gem then I’ll add him to the shortlist for future reference.
In most cases though, I’ll simply remove the player from my shortlist as soon as the scout report comes in. For probably 75%+ of players, this is the last that they’ll see of me. The vast majority simply aren’t good enough.
The object of the exercise, though, is to give me options on the player search screen. As many options as possible. (it should be noted that I always use attribute masking so revealing the attributes through scouting is important for me) I don’t pay much attention to the star ratings that my scouts or assistant gives me. I like to judge a player myself and only really use the gap between the CA and PA stars to gauge how much progression a player has left in him. What I really want to happen is that, within 1 or 2 seasons of being at a club, my player search screen will start to fill up with options from across the world.
So getting back to our case study and the look for a deep-lying playmaker, if I simply added a filter for that player role and organised by scout recommendation, rather than a few sad souls and a pitifully short return I’d get a lovely screen full of names like this:
Ok, so now that I have knowledge of players, all sorts of players too, how do I narrow that down to find my man? Well…
6. Ascertaining what I really need
And this is where my massive procrastination really kicks in!
The position we have already decided… or have we? I am nominally looking for a DMC capable of playing as a deep-lying playmaker but I am not adverse to retraining a player who is not comfortable in that position. So whilst I will begin my search looking for someone who is already comfortable playing at DM, I will always have at least a brief look at all positions using my other parameters.
The first thing that I try ascertain is what type of attributes the player is going to require to fit into my team.In this case we are looking for a deep-lying playmaker and the game gives us a helpful start by highlighting what are considered to be the key attributes as shown below.
However, that only tells me what someone else has decided should be the key attributes for this role, not what will be most useful to my team. I always try to be as subjective as possible whilst the presets provided in the tactical creator or default interface are, by definition, objective.
To get a more subjective appreciation of the facets required in our deep-lying playmaker I turn to the stats. Here are the two DLP’s that I have been using this season and some key statistical facts about the actions that have been required of them in-game.
Looking at what is higher than the average or higher than expected, we can see that my DLP’s tend to:
– play a lot of passes
– make a lot of tackles
– contest a lot of headers
This then allows us to correctly prioritise the corresponding attributes – passing, tackling and jumping / heading – with a consideration for height and strength thrown in for good measure.
It also highlights that my existing DLP’s do not tend to make a high number of key passes, nor are they consistent assisters (Dolk’s assists are attributed to corner taking, not open play). I can handle this in one of two ways: a. I consider that this is a continuity position, not a main creative outlet, and so prioritise other attributes over creativity, flair, etc or; b. I consider that I would like to improve the creative aspect of this position and so look for players whose creative attributes exceed that of the current options. In this case, I’m going to go with a.
I then consider my team approach and any attributes that I like to see common throughout the team or just attributes that I like in certain positions. You may prioritise determination, teamwork, technique, strength, pace, etc etc – it really depends on your own personal approach. My current midfield approach is intelligence in movement and decision making so I will look to prioritise positioning and decisions.
I also have a personal preference for DLP’s to have good technique and first touch – this comes from their tendency to be exposed to strikers and aggressive midfielders closing them down quickly and the high-risk potential in a turnover from their orthodox position.
So we’re slowly starting to build up a suite of attributes and requirements that we can use as parameters for our signing.
The penultimate consideration that I will make is to look at my current team and identify any “specialisations” which I think are missing. What I mean by this is that, as an example, I believe every team should have a set-piece specialist. If we don’t currently have one then this is a fine opportunity to prioritise the purchase of someone with high set-piece attributes.
In our little case study, let’s assume that my team is short on experience and leadership. Therefore, if given the opportunity, I will prioritise a signing in the higher age brackets with good values for influence and potentially determination and teamwork.
Finally, we come to PPM’s. It’s rare that I will target particular PPM’s. Rather I will consider which PPM’s may be beneficial and which to avoid at all costs. “Dictates tempo”, for instance, would be advantageous for my DLP but I would consider it to be an added bonus that might sway my preference between two otherwise equal options rather than an item that would convince me to sacrifice attribute value
So… we really have built up quite a list of requirements. Will we find someone who ticks every box? Almost certainly not.
7. Putting it into practice
So now we just have to take our parameters as outlined above and plug them into our player search screen, suitably populated by our now extensive scouting régime that has made hundreds of players’ attributes filterable.
Therefore, I’m going to implement the following attribute filter:
The values here are almost immaterial as they will depend on your club’s status and what level of player you can attract. This filter is just for illustration purposes.
I will always start by implementing the filter in full but, even if a number of options are returned for the full filter, I will start looking at the “meets x of 12” results. It doesn’t take long to get a result. At “match 11 of 12”, we are presented with Collins Abdul:
He’s a player I know well. I signed him for Rapid Wien 9 years ago and developed him for 2 seasons before selling on to Sochaux. To be honest, I’m more than a little surprised he hasn’t moved to a bigger club because he looks like a very handy player to me and comes with the added bonus of having the “does not dive into tackles” PPM which I find very useful for the covering DM role (fairly sure I taught him that at Rapid).
His only attribute outwith the full 12 out of 12 from the filter above is influence – at 12 as opposed to the 15 we’ d stipulated but I can easily live with that. Whether I’d be able to live with his price-tag, likely to be upwards of £20m, is another matter.
As I said above, though, we need to have a look at options before deciding on a target so I tweaked the search parameters a little. Some examples of the changes I made:
- removing the requirement for the player to be comfortable at DMC
- removing the age filter
- removing the “specialisation” attributes – i.e. influence and determination
- nudging high attributes down 1 each and adding a maximum age filter – young players will be able to gain the additional attribute point(s) through development
- having a brief look at players with one standout attribute, e.g. passing 20.
Amongst the likes of Gerard Piqué, what I came up with has interested me enough to consider actually buying one of these players!
Frenchman Gauthier is probably one of the most promising DMC’s in the game and would cost me a transfer fee and wage bill to match – I reckon £30m and £60k per week. I could afford that, just, but I have no interest in making that sort of big signing. I’m much more inclined to look to a cheaper player I can develop. Like…
Baird is a little out of “left field”, or rather “right back” (sorry), but he’s the sort of option I might go for. His attributes are very good for the role and he’d just need a little re-training to fulfil the DM role. With his ability, albeit limited, to perform other roles already I have a little hint that his versatility attribute, the hidden control of his ability to learn a new position, might be high.
Unfortunately, he’s already in England and therefore has a hugely inflated price tag and wage. I’m out.
Albano is another compromising option and the one that interested me the most. He has a “£2.5m release clause and my scouts reckon he’d ask for a wage of no more than £8.75k a week. Very reasonable.
So I decided to re-scout him which is always my first action when considering a concrete move for a player. That report came back with something that has put me right off:
Inconsistency is a pet peeve of mine and something which I try to avoid. You tend to find it in younger players and they tend to improve over time but, with Albano already 21, it’s putting me off.
Shame really as he has a good personality and I think he would have made a solid squad member, although certainly not regular first team material.
I think, if it came down to it and I needed a first team option (remembering that I don’t actually need to sign a player just now), I’d go for this lad:
Available for around £10m and within my wage structure, he’s well developed enough to step right into the first team and still has a bit of potential left to give me either future profit or enough seasons to justify the high outlay.
I really like his passing ability whilst I wrote above about how I have a personal “obsession” with first touch and technique for the DLP role. His pace might put me off for another position but I don’t think that it is an absolute necessity in this case. His anticipation and positioning should get him to the right places early enough that he doesn’t need the pace.
His agility, on the other hand, would concern me and would be the target of some specific training should I sign him.
And then it comes to the actual transfer negotiations and the contract…
But I think I’ve written more than enough and I’m sure you’re all very bored of reading my waffle.
I hope that there is something in here that interests you or something you haven’t considered or, even better, something you can transfer into your own game. If not, my apologies for wasting your time!
As always, thank you for reading. It is greatly appreciated and I look forward to any comments or questions you may have.