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De Kaaskoppen

nestor on 06 November, 2018

"From wonderkids to world-class" with that small statement Sports Interactive launched the release of the latest version of the Football Manager with a lovely trailer, maybe even one of the best from the last few years. But wonderkids aren’t just something for trailers, my goal is to have a fair amount of them in my squad during my FM19 career and enjoy them as long as I can.

Introduction

Actually, I had lots of thoughts how I should announce my new save. Many ideas on what I could write about. But in the end, I decided the club doesn't need any huge introduction. But where am I heading? If you’re following me on Twitter or Slack, you’ll probably know that I'm going to manage the Dutch club AZ Alkmaar. Why?

AZ Alkmaar

The Netherlands were always going to be a top choice for me on FM19, besides going to Portugal/Belgium and build up a smaller club over there. As I didn't have a club what club to pick, I did as my favorite Dutch Vincent Guzman (check out his, Week-of-Guz Posts about potential clubs to go with in FM, if you haven't yet!) about what club to manager. He did come up with two choices: Almere City and AZ Alkmaar. Almere City would have been a very interesting choice too, especially their background as they're created by the city council. In the end I decided to go with Alkmaar and opted for the easier route. One reason for that is that I wanted to stop downloading tactics, like I did in the past, and start developing one tactics.

So, what kind of club is AZ Alkmaar and what is my plan with them?

AZ Alkmaar or (just AZ) is football club playing in the top division from the cities of Alkmaar and the Zaanstreek. They've managed to win the Eredivisie twice, in 1980–81 and 2008–09. Just 10y ago. The plan is to be up top in a few years again.

AZ is known for developing youth players, a big majority in their first team has been coming through the academy and due to that they've lots of young players in the squad. In the end I don't plan do it much difference. Buy players cheap and young (until they're 21), develop them and then sell them for big money.

AZ Alkmaar Shirt

First Season

But now, let us head right to our first season performance. The board expectation was a qualification for the Europe League, so I was planning to do that without needing to go over the European Places Playoff. In the Dutch Eredivisie teams that finish between 4-7 will play a playoff to determine who's going to qualify as second team over the league for the small continental competition.

We had some easier game to start season until we had to play the big favorite Ajax, so I did hope to have a good start. And we did, actually we've won every single league before travelling to the Joann Cruyff Arena. In an intense game we managed to secure 0-0 draw in that game. What a result! A lot of wins and a draws vs Utrecht and a 3-3 (after a 0-2 lead after 25mins for us) away at PSV, saw us starting the 2nd part of the season as leaders. The tactical system was actually doing really good, especially the crosses from Wingback Svensson were lovely.

Run

And it didn't stop in the year 2019. After a win at home vs Ajax at I knew nobody could actually compete with us for the title:

Run

All proper long term planning, was destroyed by this amazing season, no small steps. going big 😂

Conquering Europe with a Spreadsheet

While starting to read the book "Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game“ earlier this year I was inspired a bit to use more statistics in managing a club in FM19. I mean there's so many ways to do it, like planning squad. Especially the part where scouting is quite subjective, what more detailed statistics could change. But more on that later...

Squad planning

As I've mentioned above, one of the parts I want to control using a Spreadsheet is the management of the first team squad. Personally, I'm not much into having a huge first team squad, as I can see less problems with it like:

  • Less unhappy players
  • No development gets stiffed due to lack of game time
  • Better chances for youth players to sneak some first team minutes
  • More individualization on training

So that's why I defined a squad size of 25 for the first team squad. Huh 25? The plan is to aim for the European competitions every year, so we’ll have quite some weeks with 3 games each. Some rotation will be inevitable to not risk injuries too much, so I plan to have at least two players per position that and that leaves us with 22 players. Additionally, I'll decided to add a buffer of 3 players, one for each area of the team (defense, midfield and attack) to be able to handle injuries and bans.

This data could be extended to use contract information and squad status. With that information wage bands for the squad could actually be calculated but that's for another day.

Squad Planning Overview

But in the Screenshot of the "Squad Planning Overview", that you can spot above, I'm not only controlling the size of the squad and assign the right squad numbers. I do also track the strength of the current squad, so I'll be able to tell how the first team's quality has developed over the years. I used the AAR Ratings as well to see how much a certain player has developed over the last year, so I can spot players of have reached their full potential and have been languished over the last 12 month. With more frequent exports of the data I could track the progress of a player much more and see what actually triggered their progress.

What do I do with players out of scope?

Having just a squad of 25 players, will see some players not making the cut. As I see competitive game time at the right important for the developement of my youth players highly important, they won't just stay in the reserve team, where they'd may be too good. Luckily the reserve team plays in 2nd division which allows some good high level of competitive game time. But in case someone is still not good enough for the first team, I plan to set up some affiliate clubs to loan them players. Until that I'll just loan them to random club, but focus that they are seen as first team member over there.

What does AAR stand for?

To calculate a player current ability I decided to use Average Attribute Rating that is being generated by using a group of important attributes. Currently I use only the default attributes that are marked as important on the player attribute screen. But obviously not every attribute should be weighted as strong, so I decided that important attributes will be multiplied by factor 5, and normal attributes with factor 3.

The calculation uses the SUMPRODUCT function in Excel that can multiply matrices with each other. It may look complicated but it just uses uses a weighting matrix that defines how important a certain attribute is:

Settings for Average Attribute Rating

So for example if I want to calculate the rating of a player that should play as central defender, all the goalkeeping attributes will be multiplied by zero (which gives us zero), but Bravery, Anticipation and Aggression will be multiplied by 1

One of the best thing about this Attribute-Matrix is that it gives the possible to easily adapt the calculations to use some custom (fibra like) policy, or just want to have a squad with high Pace/Acceleration ratings. Obviously, It works especially good if you're not changing your player roles too much:

Club Analysis

Another great thing is, that you can quickly analyze every player that is at the club and you can detect some hidden gems in your reserve or youth squad. Another Use Case would be to track the development of the promising wonderkids in the youth academy, or it will so easy to decide which player(s) will be promoted after one of the first team players has been sold.

How to export the actual data

Exporting data regarding players in FM is actual quite easy: Just create a custom view in the Squad (or Scout View) with all the Attributes you want to have exported. Then just hit Ctrl + P and select the proper file type (I always select Web Page, as it can be imported easily into Excel)

ISAK?! 😳😍

On the last row in the table above, you can see that Alexander Isak is already a part of the club. His contract hasn't been renewed by Dortmund, so I was trying to get him on a Bosman deal since January. In the beginning he didn't want to sign, but after a third attempt in March I could finalize the deal! Alexander Isak

After a few games in to the 2nd season Isak has been developing lovely:

 Isak

Listo. I've finished my introductional post of my FM19 save with AZ Alkmaar, I hope you've enjoyed it, any feedback and sharing's welcome as always! You can find me on Twitter as NestorFM_ or on the FMSlack in the #nestorfm channel.

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