Every year there are several skins released for Football Manager to improve the user interface in different ways. Some focus solely on aesthetics, some on adding quality of life features, and some on making as much data available as possible. Some manage to do all of this, and more. 

Personally I feel that the level of skins available has really increased in the last couple of years, and two of the main players in that have been fellow View From The Touchline writer Ben and his Statman skin, and YouTube sensation Mustermann FM with his Mustermann Iconic skin.

Both have managed to push the limits of what an FM skin can do, to the point where using either skin feels like playing a completely different game. In this post I will explain how the use of a revolutionary skin has affected the way I play Football Manager, from how I approach areas of the game to tactical decision making. 

My weapon of choice this year has been the excellent Mustermann Iconic skin, but download links for both skins will be at the bottom of the post.

Too Particular

I’ve always been fairly guilty of over-reliance on attributes and star ratings, whether that be in terms of recruitment or squad selection. Any major weakness in a player’s game is looked upon as a cardinal sin, and makes a player completely untrustworthy, no matter what their strengths. With Mustermann Iconic showing attributes as a range rather than a number, I’ve taken to looking at a player based on the profile they offer, rather than individual strengths and differences.

Due to this, and the fact that Tokyo Verdy aren’t exactly flush with cash, I’ve been more willing to give opportunities to fringe players that in other saves I’d have pushed out of the door almost immediately. 

There are no better examples of this than Koki Morita and Daiki Fukazawa, who were both at the club way back at the start of the save. 

In my season one summary, I wrote this:

We will also sometimes use a more conservative role instead of the Segundo Volante, but this is only out of necessity as we lack quality at DM and so if our starters are unavailable I’d prefer our current replacements to just focus on providing defensive stability.

This was written entirely with Koki Morita in mind, as at the start of the save he was a 2* current ability player who’s attributes underwhelmed. My original plan was to play Kazuya Miyahara, a full-back, as the Segundo Volante as he is a more talented player. However, I had to re-think this when injuries meant that Miyahara had to sit as the deepest member of our midfield. Morita was entrusted to play as the Segundo Volante, and I was rewarded with five goals and five assists in 19(11) league appearances, at a rating of 7.02. By putting trust in a player I had deemed not talented enough based on attributes, I had a more balanced midfield and an impressive output. 

I think it speaks volumes about his ability that once we won promotion and Morita was allowed to leave, he joined Thespakusatsu Gunma in J3 and hasn’t started more than nine games in a campaign for them.

This, though, pales in comparison to Daiki Fukazawa, the mainstay of this save.

In season one I decided almost straight away that Daiki wasn’t a great full-back, and would only serve as a back-up to our regular right-back. In fact, he only started six games, but due to his homegrown status was a regular on the bench and made an astonishing 26 appearances as a sub. However, his performances were solid, and rather than discarding him when we won promotion, he actually went on to establish himself as our first choice right-back, at a level higher than the one I had deemed him not good enough for.

His game time fluctuated over the next couple of seasons, but he was always at worst a key substitute, despite by now only being a 1.5* current ability player – the sort of player I would usually get rid of without a second thought. It was only in the last season, where we signed a right-back of genuine quality, that his game time really diminished, but his role had by this time taken on such prominence that he is the club captain and a player I would miss dearly were we to lose him.

Although you can still see from a player’s profile the weaknesses they have, not being able to see exactly to what extent has meant that I’ve kept players around due to their strengths, and looked at them as a person instead of a set of numbers. Dynamics are such a huge part of Football Manager and keeping around experienced and well-liked players who won’t complain about limited game time is something I’ve been poor at over the years but will definitely take into more consideration going forwards.

Recruitment

I’m a big believer in playing Football Manager in the way that you want to play it. One of the most divisive choices is whether to have attribute masking on or off, but honestly I tend to make that decision save to save, mostly dependent on how much time I’m willing to commit to it.

I’m also fairly slack when it comes to scouting for the most part. Unless I decide recruitment is an area I really want to focus on in a save, I tend to be happy with some minimal scouting to back-up my gut feeling about a player. 

Mustermann Iconic does a great job of reminding me how much of a gamble that is, while also making it clear and obvious just how much is known about a player at any given time. 

As well as doing my own scouting in Asia, I’ve made a habit throughout the save of picking up the best foreign talent I can attract, often offered to me by their agents. I’ll talk a little about a couple of these signings shortly, but to show an example of this in action, meet Natanael.

Natanael is a right-back from Brazil with a market value of £7.2m. A quick glimpse of his profile makes him look like a world-class full-back, far too good to be coming to play in Japan. However, as we only have Minimal Knowledge of him, the attributes shown are the highest range he could possibly be in. In a numerical skin, I’d also be able to see the lowest that attribute could be which would give me a rough idea how good he is, but here I have no idea. He could genuinely be this good, or he could just excel in a couple of these areas; the point is, unless we’re brave (or stupid) enough to take a chance on it, we need to scout him further before we can make an informed bid.

Even with Reasonable Knowledge, it’s clear to see that rushing into a bid for Natanael would have been a mistake. He’s still a very good full-back, but all but one of those alluring yellow circles are gone. We have learned more about Natanel though, in the way of traits and some extra pros and cons.

Now that Natanael is fully scouted with Extensive Knowledge, his attribute make-up is almost identical, with only his corners changing. However it’s important at this point to remember that we still don’t know for sure – all of the brightest green circles could be 15’s or they could all be 11’s, or anywhere in between. 

The contrast between the first and last screenshot shows just how important thorough scouting of players is to make informed decisions, and that’s without delving into the wealth of data that Mustermann Iconic brings front and centre. 

As mentioned, I have gambled on a couple of signings throughout the save. The most notable are Vasilije Adžić and Oscar Bobb, who were both high reputation, full international attacking players for Montenegro and Norway respectively who I knew would be snapped up quickly by a bigger club if we didn’t pounce first. In this instance the gamble felt relatively small; I was confident that they would still be amongst our better players even if some of the shown attributes dipped, and most importantly they were bound to attract interest from Saudi before long, meaning a profit could be made even if they underperformed. This proved to ring especially true for Bobb, who only managed to play five games for Verdy before picking up a serious injury and then moving to Saudi.

Youth Development

We all love bringing through youth players, whether they be signings or from intakes. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing somebody that you’ve invested time and effort into take that step into senior football for the first time. 

Often several young players will be at a very similar level of ability, and when it comes to handing out that precious first-team call up it can be tough to decide who truly deserves it. Do you give it to the player who’s best right now, or the player who shows the most promise?

I’ve often agonised over every single attribute when deciding which of two young players should get a spot on the bench, but now that I can’t analyse what could be minute differences I’ve decided to go a new way and give it to the player showing the most progress.

Of course, the progress tab has always been available, but it’s taken the masking of other information for me to rethink the way that I approach this type of decision making.

As progress can be viewed for a period of time as small as the past month, it gives a good view of who is deserving at the time, meaning I haven’t always given repeated opportunities to the same player. 

In season three Junma Nishihata was given a few opportunities for some minutes up front as he looked a promising player and had progressed well. As performances weren’t great, I then offered the same opportunity to Akinori Shimizu who had also been progressing well, and again he didn’t pull up any trees. 

Fast forward to the start of season four and I felt we needed a young, homegrown forward to be in and around the squad to help with depth. In the past, I’d have sat and compared the ability of Nishihata and Shimizu, and considered which I wanted to give the place to. However, with last season’s underwhelming performances in mind, I decided to instead give the opportunity to the young player who was at the time making the most progress, Hiroyuki Nakamura. 

I was rewarded by an incredibly impressive debut campaign, with nine goals and two assists in 9(18) appearances, and Nakamura has been a first-team member ever since, while Nishihata and Shimizu have been reduced to loan spells in J2 to aid their development.

Archetypes

Probably my favourite addition to the game via Mustermann Iconic, archetypes give a quick, concise view of the play style of any given player based on their metrics for the current season.

I won’t cover each in detail here, but there are a couple of different ways that I use archetypes.

Transfer Targets

Using a combination of the available pizza charts and any highlighted archetypes allows me to get a more complete picture of the type of player I’m targeting than just looking at attributes would. 

A good example of this is Daichi Takeda, a player my scouts identified back in season four (spoilers, I never signed him). 

Takeda is a young central defender who has the ‘spreader’ archetype, described as:

The cultured modern defender, comfortable with the ball at his feet and adept at making progressive passes.

This is supported by his pizza chart, where he sits in the 95th percentile for passes completed and the 99th percentile for progressive passes per 90.

This gives the impression of a technically adept defender who is comfortable on the ball, but what makes this interesting is when we take his possession related attributes into account.

His passing and first touch both sit in the lowest attribute range (1-5), with his technique only slightly higher (6-10). This would suggest to me that he is being asked to perform a role outside of his comfort zone due to the tactical system he’s currently being deployed in. However, purely in terms of his passing game he’s performing exceptionally given the technical limitations in his game, and it shows that a player doesn’t have to be perfect at everything to perform a certain role. 

If I was looking for a ‘spreader’ and had been offered Takeda on a skin that shows attributes, I would have gotten as far as seeing his poor passing and touch and immediately discounted him. However, with the extra information made readily available and the archetype to reinforce the message, I’ve been able to see that he is a player more capable than his attributes suggest.

Tactical Decisions

I don’t rely on a huge amount of opposition instructions, instead preferring to tweak what we do to adjust to other teams. However, being able to identify at a glance who might be the major threats has given the confidence to just add in a couple of extra instructions to keep players quiet. 

A match against Sagan Tosu provides a fascinating example. Sagan Tosu set up in a 4-2-3-1 with two DM’s, So Kawahara and Riku Yamada. The information that we are immediately presented with on the opposition instructions screen is that both are having excellent seasons with average ratings a touch above a 7, and that So Kawahara is Sagan Tosu’s leading assist maker this season. 

In previous saves on other skins where I’ve tried to make an effort to utilise opposition instructions I’d now look at each player’s attributes, and try to second guess the roles they may be given by their AI manager. With the use of archetypes, I can make my decisions more secure in the knowledge that I have an indicator of what each player has been doing all season.

We have an interesting dilemma; both Kawahara and Yamada are ‘quarterbacks’, while Yamada is also shown as a ‘box crasher’.

The descriptions of both are as follows: 

Quarterback: The heartbeat in build-up play, regularly involved in possession and excels at progressing the ball and making key passes.

Box Crasher: A midfielder in name only; outstanding at getting into the area and forcing shooting opportunities.

Both are excellent on the ball but Kawahara is definitely the busier passer of the two, and Yamada’s goal scoring metrics are excellent, which suggests to me that Kawahara will likely play as a Deep-Lying Playmaker and Yamada as a Segundo Volante. This also correlates to the archetypes I often see in my own players in these roles. 

With this in mind, I’ll be looking to trigger the press on Kawahara to restrict his time on the ball; I’ll also ask the number 10 to man mark him. This will increase his defensive contribution by targeting a key opponent, but as he’ll be marking the deepest midfielder it will also allow him to stay high up the pitch where he can be effective in transition. 

I’m going to instruct the side to mark Yamada tightly, but also stick one of my defensive midfielders on him as a man marking mission. This leaves two of my three midfielder players going man to man, but I’m comfortable with this because if we can keep these two key players quiet then I’m confident we’ve won the midfield battle. As my midfield pivot currently consists of a DLP(S) and a DM(D) I’ll ask the DLP to do the man marking, as this way if he is caught out further up the pitch it leaves us slightly less vulnerable in transition with our most defensively minded midfielder still our deepest.

The other major archetype that I look out for is the ‘overlapper’ – a full-back who will bomb on and try to get crosses in. In this instance I tend to instruct our players to show that full-back inside. It’s important to note here that I’m not looking to show them to their weaker foot, I’ll show a left-back onto their right foot and a right-back onto their left foot even if that is their stronger foot, as it plays into the way we look to defend. We look to funnel teams inside and stop crosses anyway, so these instructions just reinforce that.

It’s Not Just Me…

I’ve used Mustermann Iconic exclusively since its release, and this save has been entirely with obscured attributes having used Ben’s Statman skin for season one. In that time, friend and fellow blogger Cameron FM has had to listen to me bleat on about how much I enjoy this new way of playing Football Manager, and eventually I convinced him to also take the plunge. So it only felt fitting to get Cameron’s views on how the skin has affected his interaction with the game.


Thanks Adam, for a world of pain and enjoyment. 

Attributes is the way that we have always operated in the world of Football Manager; signings were based purely on their 18 finishing and composure combination, or their ability to boss the midfield with their determination, tackling, natural fitness & passing. It seemed so alien to me to abandon that notion and sign players based on pure stats and data. But then again, that is how clubs operate in the real world, so why should I not replicate that?

I was made aware of Mustermann’s Iconic skin at the end of the FM23 cycle and was petrified of the idea of moving away from my beloved coach ratings and attributes. And whilst the skin does not remove the element of attributes entirely – just the numerical appearance – it is still the feeling of uncertainty that presides. The concern of being sacked every other save through poor recruitment always lingered at the back of my thoughts, and it was just not something I could get behind. 

Adam made the bold decision to play the entirety of his Tokyo Verdy save using Mustermann Iconic, and after listening to him for months on the enjoyment, I decided to take the plunge, and utilise the skin for the remainder of my Servette save.

My first big concern coming into the skin – what does it all actually mean? Well thankfully, there are plenty of resources available on social media and YouTube to dive into this, but Mustermann FM has also included a help icon within the charts to explain what it all actually means. 

With a better understanding, I could actually refer to the charts and make decisions on each player based on the role I am looking to deploy – there is no point in recruiting a winger with low attacking outputs, if I am expecting my wide players to be attacking minded. 

And then comes the greatest feeling – watching a signing completely pay off.

Like Adam, I was made aware of young Brazilian full-back Natanael during my first season at Servette – this was after Coritiba’s relegation was confirmed and his £2.5M release clause was active. At the time I only had young Théo Magnin and Bendegúz Bolla, on loan from Wolves, at my disposal. Reluctant to pay a significant amount to Bolla for his loan deal, I elected to sign Natanael on a whim, and terminate the Hungarian’s loan deal.

During my second season at Servette, Natnael became not only one of our key defenders, but one of our best players through his high level performances on a consistent basis. This eventually brought interest his way and there was no way we could fight off advances from Nice – who eventually matched his release clause and he was on the off.

Sourcing a replacement based on the above metrics was always going to be tough, never mind during January where teams are not wanting to let go off their prized assets if possible.

Thankfully our rotational option, Théo Magnin, was consistently performing also, just not at the higher standard Natanael had set. With that in mind, I had to dive into the market, and find myself a replacement using the two defenders’ outputs as a benchmark.

As expected, it was going to be difficult to find a player that had similar percentiles as the aforementioned duo, but we had to look at the bigger picture. My Servette side were very attack-minded and looked to win the ball back high up the park; not every team will play in this manner, so it was worth considering players that perhaps competed with 50-75% of the metrics instead of them all.

Yvann Maçon stood out to me as the perfect replacement for Natanael; his xA was lower, but this will be down to the team he was playing within but his xG means that he carried a final third threat, much like Magnin. Whilst his headers, tackles won and pressures attempted are lower than his respective comparatives, I knew that with our style of play we would see increases in these areas. Finally, he was a lot more secure on the ball during his 17 appearances with ASSE than Natanael and Magnin are, but with my Servette side playing attacking and more aggressive football, I would expect to see a reduction here.

Maçon made 21 appearances after making the move to Geneva and chipped in with a solitary goal and 5 assists; Magnin appeared a further 11 times and grabbed an additional 3 assists. That signing alone filled the void that was left by a crucial player and helped the team to secure a successive Swiss league title. That transfer was sheer enjoyment; as someone that was heavily reliant on numerical values to play the game, I am delighted to have finally converted into a style of play that requires constant scrutiny. Constant questioning. Constant reviewing. Recruitment drives are now a whole lot more challenging and enjoyable. Tactical decisions are valued a lot more. This is the realism you have been searching for when it comes to Football Manager.


Cameron is currently writing about his Rosenborg save over on the FM Boot Room, you can check it out here!

If you haven’t tried Mustermann Iconic or Statman yet, I would highly recommend playing at least one season with it. Even if you don’t want to commit to hiding attributes full-time, it will give you a new appreciation of viewing a player for the whole picture of their strengths and weaknesses, rather than just as a set of numbers.

Both the Mustermann Iconic and Statman skins can be downloaded from the Sports Interactive forums by clicking the buttons below.

Until next time…

Author

  • adam_otbfm

    Adam, known in the Football Manager (FM) realm as @adam_otbfm, is a fervent gamer and content creator. With a penchant for football simulations, Adam delves into the intricacies of FM, sharing his findings on his blog "On the Break." His creative ventures include replicating football legends like Kaka in the virtual pitch, showcasing a blend of nostalgia and modern gameplay. Adam's musings extend to social platforms like Twitter, where he actively engages with the FM community, sharing his gaming journey with @SJK_Seinajoki. His insightful content and avid participation enrich the FM community, making him a valued member in this virtual football world.

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4 thoughts on “Tokyo Verdy – Changing The Way I Play

  1. Hi,
    Nice post. The thing me is I’m scared of going attribute less. Perhaps I’m too reliant on them.
    My thing is: as you pictured Natanael above, some of his attributes, let’s take first touch for instance could either be 11 or 15, for me this is a huge difference! I would class 11 as around League 2 level in England, 15 is Premier league level in England! So even when fully scouted I don’t know what kind of level this player is at. My scouts will guide me of course but I want to be able to make that judgement for myself, as well as using the scout report. I would find this difficult around player acquisition as when comparing 2 players you like, how do you differentiate who is better at what? I guess that’s the point, you use in-game statistics but this can be clouded by team style, role, opposition, game state, team mentality, player instructions etc. I do look at in game stats but I just for myself want to know who as the better first touch etc. How do you cope with this yourself? What adjustments have you made for this?

    1. Hi James, thank you!

      It is a big leap to suddenly not know exactly how good every player is at everything, but there is plenty in the game to point you in the right direction.

      There’s a lot of context that can be taken from the pizza chart. If we look at your example of Natanael’s first touch, I may not know whether his attribute is 11 or 15, but if his pizza chart shows that he has a high percentile for possession lost (ie he doesn’t lose the ball often per game) then this is a strong indicator that his touch is good enough to help him look after the ball. Within the post I mentioned a centre-back who’s maximum possible passing attribute was 5, but he was making over 80 passes per game at a 93% success rate for his side, so knowing attributes doesn’t necessarily give a full picture of what a player can do.

      You are right, how the AI teams use players will affect how their stats look, but if I like the look of a player and have concerns about their ability to perform a role in my side then that’s where I’ll take a look at the attribute ranges to see whether I think they could adapt their game for me. Ultimately a lot of it comes down to gut feeling. and experience. I definitely haven’t gotten every transfer right in this save!

      In terms of screens you can look at to help evaluate players, the biggest one is the comparison screen. It will give a player a rating out of 5 circles for attributes grouped by their training group, so doesn’t give definite attributes but will help to give an idea. Another one is only useful for players in your team, but the Progress tab in training shows the attributes graph without the numbers, so you can see which attributes from within the same colour banding are higher.

  2. Hello Adam,

    This is so interesting. I love the idea of the Mustermann skin. I’ve been looking at it for a while, but I haven’t been able to jump in. My biggest hang-up is starting a new save with no stats, training rating, etc available to evaluate that I don’t know anything about.

    1. Hi Charlie,

      It can be quite intense at the start, I actually did the first season of this save with the Statman skin, which is also very data heavy but at the time showed the attributes in smaller increments than Mustermann Iconic does. If you want to try the skin but are concerned about jumping in then I’d recommend doing maybe just a season with the side you support so that you’re already familiar with the players. Or alternatively Statman now has a numerical version so that you can still see all the extra data Ben has added but also have the attributes available.

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