As is always the case in Football Manager, the first day at a new club can be absolutely crucial. It’s the time where we get our house in order, and make changes to the fundamentals of how the club operates in order to improve. It’s a long and often tedious process, but done properly can set the club up for long-term success and all of the glory that comes with it. There are a lot of things I need to do before I hit that big shiny continue button, and not one of them has anything to do with the players or tactics!
A club is absolutely nothing without its staff. Stories are often heard about devoted groundskeepers or reception staff that have remained a constant while managers and players come and go. We of course can’t go that in-depth in the game, but it doesn’t make it any less crucial to make sure we have the right people around us, both to inform my decisions but also to improve our players. It would be short sighted and detrimental to remove the existing team of staff, they all have knowledge of the club that I do not and for the most part are all well established in their roles having been here for a few years.
Assistant Manager Kosuke Kashiwagi will be a crucial go-between for myself and the players. He has only been promoted into the role of Assistant Manager this year but has 4 years of experience at the club, having been a coach since 2019.
Head of Youth Development Shun Tabata has been in her role since 2018 and has a desirable preferred formation and a Balanced playing mentality which suits my more pragmatic approach. Thanks to the glorious Statman skin I can see at a glance that she is excellent at developing youth players, although her ability to motivate can be limiting.
Fitness Coach Wataru Itô seems to be a bit of a jack of all trades, proficient in roles as varied as Loan Manager and Sports Scientist, but is currently employed as a fitness coach, something he’s done at various clubs since 2007. I have no reason to doubt his ability at present, although based on what I can see I’d never give him a different role at the club. Should the injuries pile up though, questions may have to be asked.
Although safe for now, Noriaki Yokota may find himself one of the first out the door. A Goalkeeping Coach at the club since 2018, first at Under 18 level and then the senior squad, Noriaki had a very mediocre playing career lasting 8 seasons, yielding only 31 appearances at Japanese Football League (fourth tier) level and ending in 2004. Although he’s also had Under 18 and senior coaching experience at Júbilo Iwata and Machida Zelvia, I’m not convinced he has the skill set or experience to help us progress long-term.
Of course, we’re a little light on bodies, with three positions available to fill which I will aim to do with competent general coaches. With Yoshi being a former international goalkeeper, his attributes have been set in a way that will support Noriaki Yokota in the short-term, meaning all three new hires can focus on improving our outfield unit.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – HIRE COACHING STAFF ✅
Oh boy, our first major problem. Iori Takayanagi has been our Director of Football since 2020 but has been noted as not being great at negotiating deals – possibly the reason that several talented Verdy youngsters have moved on. Despite having literally no other recruitment staff in place currently, I’m not happy to make do with a sub-par negotiator when we’re trying to get things in order.
With the first transfer window disabled deals would be impossible right now anyway, but it’s important to get scouts hired so they can be out creating a pool of potential future targets.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – REPLACE DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL ✅
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – HIRE SCOUTS AND RECRUITMENT ANALYST ✅
Inexplicably, we find ourselves in a situation where we have four Sports Scientists when we are only supposed to have one. Whoever allowed this to happen from the previous regime has a lot to answer for, particularly as Ayumu Goto and Kento Ishii in particular are not up to the level required. They’re gone, I’ll let Shoya Naka and Mitsuo Kurita fight it out for the sole role at the club for now, but we need to hire some Physios as soon as we can.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – HIRE PHYSIOS ✅
Once the Senior Squad staff are hired, I will delegate responsibilities accordingly and task them with correctly staffing our Reserves and Under 18’s squads. As a fun tidbit, we currently have a Reserves squad with no staff, and an Under 18 squad with no players but a manager, three coaches and three sport scientists! 🤯
An area that I intend to be more hands on with again this year is Training, both in terms of team training schedules and individual focuses to allow players to improve. Back on Football Manager 2022 with FC Volendam I implemented my take on Tactical Periodisation, using Team Training to give an overarching curriculum, and Individual Training to hone each player’s biggest strengths to make them as effective as possible. I’ll attempt to take this approach again this year, and will probably do a full post on it at some point, but for now I’ll give a brief overview.
The idea for Team Training is to produce schedules that will rotate, in order to work on short, medium and long-term goals.
The weekly aim will be to ensure that the most intensive days are far enough away from match days to allow sufficient conditioning, while also giving intense enough training to encourage development.
I’ll create four schedules that include the same number of sessions per unit, but will use different sessions in order to train different attributes. By rotating these, we will cover most if not all trainable attributes each month while ensuring that the balance between goalkeeping, defending and attacking units is maintained.
At the end of each season I’ll review our progress, taking particular note if any one unit has seen overall higher or lower development over the course of the year. Of course the nature of the individuals will play a part and therefore it won’t be black and white, but if there is a clear deficiency in the training for one unit, then tweaks will be made to try to balance things out or even focus more on that unit for a year to catch them up.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – CREATE TRAINING SCHEDULES ✅
Much like with FC Volendam, I will be using a different approach to individual training for defensive and attacking players. The first step for every player is to set their Player/Role/Duty training. I don’t necessarily train the role they’re playing within our current system, but I will use a role in their position (or the position I wish to retrain them to) that trains the most attributes (ie. Complete Wing-Back, Box to Box Midfielder, Complete Forward). I do this to make players the most well-rounded players that I can. Then comes the additional focus, which is where the process splits based on position. For defensive players, I will set an additional focus that provides extra work on their biggest weaknesses. This will reduce the chance of them making mistakes and becoming a liability. For attacking players, I’m not interested in creating a dime a dozen, well rounded players. I want to hone in on the strengths that my match winners already have and take them to the next level. If I can produce a winger with elite dribbling rather than just good dribbling, they’re going to be unplayable for most of the defenders they’ll face, and also be more desirable to big clubs with deep pockets.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – ADD INDIVIDUAL TRAINING FOR EVERY PLAYER ✅
Then we get into the smaller mechanics of training; setting up the rest screen to make sure tired players aren’t overworked, adjusting the units to ensure players are taking an active part in the right sessions, and adjusting the coaches assignments (once staff are in place correctly) to spread the workload and ensure the highest possible output. I’m also a big believer in the benefits of praising and criticising training performances, this isn’t something to implement on day one, but something worth mentioning.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – SET WORKLOADS BASED ON FITNESS LEVEL ✅
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – ADJUST UNITS ✅
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – ADJUST COACHING ASSIGNMENTS ✅
As mentioned in the staffing section above, recruitment is a no go right off the bat. We have no scouts at the club to be able to find players, and even if we did, the first transfer window is closed so we wouldn’t be able to make signings anyway. However, one small piece of admin that can be done early on, is creating the shortlists that will be used throughout the save. A full post explaining the recruitment process will be coming at some point, probably in season two when I can put it into practice, but for now I will tease it by revealing the four shortlists I will use.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – CREATE SHORTLISTS ✅
I’m not here to educate anybody on how to set up an effective pre-season as it’s something I’m notoriously bad at. For anybody who wants a full education, this post from Dan will translate well from Football Manager 2023. I am however going to change a couple of things that are set by default, the first of which is going to be the initial pre-season schedule.
As my training schedules for the season will focus more on technical work than physical, I’m happy to work the squad hard for 4 weeks in an attempt to get them into the best shape possible. From there, I’ll ensure that sporadic fitness sessions are put in to maintain our fitness throughout the year. The generic pre-season training schedules aren’t great so they will need some tweaking, mostly to add in match preparation and recovery sessions, but I’ll also be putting in some extra-curricular sessions to try and sharply increase our tactical familiarity.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – TWEAK PRE-SEASON TRAINING SCHEDULES ✅
After that comes the matter of our pre-season friendlies.
These have of course been arranged for me, but they definitely aren’t optimal for what I would like to achieve. Sadly, the inter-squad friendly is a non-negotiable and has to be played. If I could, I’d be scrapping it; we don’t have enough depth to properly field two sides, and I don’t feel I’ll learn much from playing against weaker players in the exact same tactic as I am. It will however provide some sharpness, so I guess there’s that.
The Yokohama game can be cancelled but I’m actually going to keep it. It’s a testimonial for the legend that is Kazuyoshi Miura which I feel needs to be upheld, but it’s also on a Saturday which fits well with our league schedule. I’ll also keep the Suwon Bluewings friendly as it’s also on a Saturday and will offer a good test.
The Vissel Kobe and Kashima Antlers games will be cancelled though. I’ll see those boys in the J1 League! The erratic gaps between games is not only annoying, it negatively impacts our ability to recover whilst also putting in the work to improve our fitness. Also, in a time of upheaval for the club with a new manager and changes to the staffing, four friendlies where we would be considered the outsiders is not likely to do much for our morale, team cohesion or tactical familiarity. I’ll replace the Vissel Kobe and Kashima Antlers friendlies with two games against inferior opposition, both to be played on a Saturday, in order for us to hopefully score a few goals and get a bit of confidence before the season starts. This will give two winnable games (three if you include the inter-squad game) and two more difficult challenges, which I think gives a good balance of being able to see how the tactic shapes up in different game states.
ADDED TO CHECKLIST – REARRANGE TWO PRE-SEASON FRIENDLIES ✅
That’s a busier day than I usually have in my actual job! I’ve covered quite a lot here, and if you’ve made it this far then more power to you! For your benefit (and mine, I intended to do these things as I wrote, but it rather got away from me) I’ll round this post out with the full checklist of everything I plan to do before I assess the squad or hit the continue button.
HIRE COACHING STAFF ✅
REPLACE DIRECTOR OF FOOTBALL ✅
HIRE SCOUTS AND RECRUITMENT ANALYST ✅
HIRE PHYSIOS ✅
CREATE TRAINING SCHEDULES ✅
ADD INDIVIDUAL TRAINING FOR EVERY PLAYER ✅
SET WORKLOADS BASED ON FITNESS LEVEL ✅
ADJUST UNITS ✅
ADJUST COACHING ASSIGNMENTS ✅
CREATE SHORTLISTS ✅
TWEAK PRE-SEASON TRAINING SCHEDULES ✅
REARRANGE TWO PRE-SEASON FRIENDLIES ✅