When they’re not playing a match, on holiday or away with the international team, if called up, your players will be training at your club’s training facilities, working on becoming better players. However, whether they improve or not, and whether your team has a solid understanding of your tactics, very much depends on how you, the manager, sets up your training schedule, whether that be for the team as a whole, individual players or assigning coaches to specific categories. Training is often an undervalued tool on Football Manager, but I can’t stress the importance of spending time to adjust your training schedule to really maximise the potential of your players and get the best out of them.
On that note, we felt it necessary to devise a guide on how best to train your players to achieve the best you can possibly get from your team.
If you navigate to the ‘training’ tab of the left handsome options toolbar, you’ll see three categories for training at the top of your screen: team, individual and coaches.
Your players will spend most of their time training as a team, which is led by your coaches and split between general training and match preparation. From here, you can adjust the general intensity of training, the focus of this training, the focus of your match preparation and how much time you spend on match preparation or general training with the slider in the middle of the screen.
On top of that, you can assign individual training to players who you feel need improvement in certain areas. For instance, you can assign a new position to work on, a preferred move to learn and increased work on a specific attribute that may be lagging behind the rest. Keep note of how much training you assign to each player, however, as too heavy a workload will cause them to become unhappy.
On this screen, you can adjust the allocation of your coaching resources, moving them around from one category to another. Make sure you keep note of how heavy their individual workloads are, however. Having too few coaches on one category creates a ‘very heavy’ workload and the players won’t be getting the attention they need. Either reshuffle your resources, taking a coach from a category in which the workload is ‘very light’ or signing a new coach altogether.
This screen also shows which coaches are best at training what. So use the information given to you on the right side of the screen when you select a certain coach to find out their best category and best attributes.
Additionally, the ‘overview’ tab provides a good general understanding of how well your training is working out. It shows you, in pie chart format, how much time you spend on one category of general training, allowing you to make adjustments if you feel your squad is spending too much time on one area, to the neglect of another.
It also highlights your squad fitness levels, who’s match fit, tired, lacking match fitness or just injured. You can also see your squad happiness, whether they’re content with their workload or feel you’re giving them too much work. Ensure that you check this screen, too, for notable training performances as this may influence who you want in your starting line-up. If a player is training well, it could indicate that they’re likely to put in a good performance in your next match.
For team training, time is split between general training, in which players focus on specific attributes, such as defending, attacking, ball control or fitness, and match preparation, which aids players’ understanding of your tactics and allows them to focus on individual match improvements, like defensive positions, attacking movement and teamwork. How much time is spent on one area can be adjusted with the slider at the top. Make sure to check any advice from the assistant manager; if he feels you don’t have enough tactics being trained, he will recommend one for you or he will let you know that you’re working your players too hard, for instance.
What do the categories mean?
- Balanced: no changes are made to the basic training schedule.
- Fitness: Focusses on work rate, acceleration, pace, agility, balance, jumping reach, strength, stamina and natural fitness. This is important for preseason.
- Tactical: Focusses on anticipation, composure, decision-making, concentration and teamwork.
- Ball control: Weighting is given to flair, technique, first touch, dribbling and heading.
- Defending: Increases the focus on defensive aspects, like marking, tackling and positioning.
- Attacking: Focusses on crossing, finishing, long shots, passing, vision and off the ball movement.
- Team cohesion: Decreases the focus on attributes as such, and focusses on improving how well your team work together. This, too, is important for preseason.
Not distracted by a busy fixture list, preseason is the time for consistently intense training as there’s plenty of recovery time between friendlies, so it allows you to get your squad ready for the new season.
In the past, I’ve found that the best way to organise your preseason training is to set the intensity to ‘high’ or ‘very high,’ setting the focus to ‘fitness’ for at least a month and then, depending on the amount of new signings you’ve made, ‘team cohesion’ for the next few weeks to ensure your players have a good understanding of one another. Moreover, tactical familiarity always starts low, so adjust the slider so that there’s ‘more match training’ and the main focus of this training is ‘match tactics.’ Once familiarity increases, adjust this to areas you feel need the most work. If you’re scoring a lot of goals, but conceding too many in friendlies, set it to ‘defensive positioning.’ Not scoring enough set pieces? Set the focus to ‘attacking set pieces’ and so on.
As I’ve said, there’s plenty of time for recovery in preseason, so there’s no need to allow your players to have a rest before matches. You can give them a rest day after matches, but experiment by turning this off and see if it impacts their recovery time at all. If not, turn it off to ensure you have the most time you can to train.
During the season
Once the regular season gets underway, however, these settings will need to change. It’s important to asses the level of fitness in your squad as it will allow you to make an informed decision on the intensity of your training. I’ve found that with fit squads, ‘high’ intensity works fine, minimising the risk of training injuries and not working your players too hard. A team lower in the top-flight or in the second division or below might be best suited to an ‘average’ intensity. Again, make sure you monitor your squad’s training happiness levels to ensure you’re not stepping on too many toes with your instructions.
This is where you’ll have to pay close attention to your performances. I’ve found that setting general training to ‘balanced’ as the season begins is effective, but from them in it’ll take constant adjustment, sometimes weekly, to get the best from your players.
- If you’re conceding too many goals, adjust general training to ‘defending.’
- Having a goal-drought up front? Set general training to ‘attacking.’
- If your passing accuracy is poor, focussing on ‘ball control’ training would be a good idea.
- If your players are caught out of position too often, setting the focus to ‘tactical’ will help them understand in what positions they need to be and at what times.
The key is to monitor your performances to notice where you go wrong in games and then adjust training accordingly. There’s no fixed solution, it depends on the players you have at your disposal, so it’s important to use this purely as a guide, rather than the be all and end all of how to train your team.
NOTE: General training is focussed primarily on improving the long-term attributes of your players and effects aren’t necessarily immediate. If you’re looking for a short-term fix, then use the match preparation categories. These have immediate benefits on your team, but only in the upcoming fixture for which you are training. See where you went wrong in the previous match and use match preparation to ensure those mistakes don’t happen again.
In addition to general training, you can use individual training to focus your player on a certain attribute, a role in his position, learning a new move or even a new position entirely. Please be aware that this increases their general workload, so don’t go overboard to ensure that your players are kept happy! This is also a good opportunity to use you assistant manager and backroom staff. You can ask them to compile fortnightly advice reports, which will include tips on which players need to individually focus on what.
Unless there’s something specific you require the player to work on, I find that a good way of using individual training is to set each player’s focus to the role that they play in the team. For instance, my central defenders are training as ‘ball-playing defenders,’ my wingers as ‘inside forwards,’ strikers as ‘complete forwards’ and so on. This is because they will then focus on all the attributes necessary for that role, allowing them to improve them simultaneously. Progress is slower, but it’s more complete over longer periods of time.
Moreover, there are some attributes that won’t get covered in the general training categories, but you can ask your players to focus on these through individual training. These include; corners, penalties, free kicks, long throws and leadership. There are some attributes, however, that cannot be training entirely, such as determination, aggression and bravery. These are attributes that players either have or don’t.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Football Manager page.