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Why You're Wrong About Training in FM23

A different perspective to training in Football Manager that will change the way you approach training in-game. Thoroughly tested in FM23.

By on Jun 17, 2023   10492 views   5 comments
Football Manager Guides - Why You're Wrong About Training in FM23
Erik Ten Hag once said that when you provide options for your goalkeeper, it's easy to build up from the back. But to do this, you have to practice patterns of play to create these options.

Many of you have probably seen the video of the Manchester United manager implementing the passing and movement training he taught at Ajax on his new team early in the season.

While the first few games of the season did show the impact of these training sessions, there is no doubt now that these sequences of play features more in Manchester United’s game.

Believe it or not, there is a lesson in there that carries spectacularly into Football Manager.

Most avid FM gamers tend to treat training with one goal in mind: improve attributes. However, in this iteration of the game, training has a far more impact than merely improving attributes.

Training in FM 23 improves tactical systems and how players on the team interpret those systems.

This article is designed to guide you through my journey of three years in a recent save with Arsenal. The experiment will not only show you something different but also how to do the same. In your own way of course.

In The Beginning

When I designed my starting formation, I approached it with the intention of recreating Mikel Arteta's Arsenal tactical ideas. I played the 4231 using an AMCR (the game calls it a 424 AMCR).

After long hours of watching videos that analyze the way they played including using Sofa score to note the average positions, this was the final look in my first season.

Note: This is not the original squad. The squad originally consisted of the cast you find once the game begins

Like Arteta, I wanted possession but I also wanted to dominate games. So, to test the validity of the tactics, I used the in-game editor to speed up the familiarity and team cohesion.

First two games of the season, it looked good. I dominated possession but we were not patient in attacking areas. It was fine, we had control and scored goals. But then came Brighton.

My God, it was a masterclass from AI De Zerbi. The way I envisioned my plays was exactly how they played. They knocked me around, bypassed my press, dominated possession, momentum, and more.

I saved the game on a different save file and replayed it again. The style of play was the same. It was beautiful to watch. I thought I could disrupt their play, stop them from building from the back but it was nigh impossible.

This was the first time I started to rethink everything.

By virtue of quality and attributes, my Arsenal team should be on top. Granted we were away, but the domination was difficult to swallow. I had to find out why.

I replayed the game again and this time, I conceded possession, and won the game by two goals. Despite the scoreline, It was still a lucky win.

It's almost impressive how SI interpreted De Zerbi's ball that I had to rely on the only way real life PL teams have resulted when playing Brighton.

I thought to myself, "how do I get my boys to do that?"

More Than Meet The Eyes

How do teams come with plays irrespective of their tactics? They do it on the training ground. You may think FM is just a simulation but to be honest, this iteration is ridiculously close to real life.

This experiment has changed how I approach every aspect in the game. I think "what would real life managers do?"

First thing I did was add general possession into my training schedule. It helped for a while but I slowly began to lack penetration.

There are lots of things we think are important to train on but there's little space to do all of them. So, I took a different approach.

I looked at my tactical instruction in and out of possession, as well as during transitions and thought constant practice and familiarity of the style of play should grow muscle memory on my players.

Manchester City are often credited as being a robotic team. But they've worked all the kinks in training and thus know where to be and when to be during various phases of play.

It turned out, it was the right idea, the execution, though, was poor. Tactical familiarity should indeed be scrapped as soon as players finally understand them. That much I gathered and agreed with.

The next step was building patterns of play. To build muscle memory, you need to repeat the same routines over and over again. This was where my journey to creating my "perfect" training schedule began.

Over the course of three years, I have built my specific possession-based training schedule.

You do not need to have multiple formations on FM23 to win games. It helps but you don't need them.
One tactic and one training schedule split to fit the days you have games and days that you don't, is all you need.

Also, you don't necessarily need eleven quality players to become a formidable possession-based side in the game.

Brighton proved that much to me and over the course of this experiment, I have done the same while absolutely thumping Man City every time we played every season.

In real life, when a system is good, even quality teams have difficulty trying to stop them. Again, Brighton under De Zerbi.

Final interpretation of Arteta’s tactics at Arsenal in my third season

I have witnessed a progression unlike any other, especially in my third season.

Among the top 6 teams in the PL I have only struggled against Liverpool away, even though I still won that game.

The other team I've struggled with was Manchester United away, which is a derby. I won by 4 goals to one. By struggle, I mean they had better or closer xG to mine.

Opposition Instruction played a significant part in getting the victories as currently, both these teams now rely on sitting deep and going on the counter against my team. That's how far we've come.

the two CCC against United came at the dying embers of the game and took their xG higher than mine

Other factors, especially Opposition Instruction, contributed to the success of the above and other defensive stats

Better patterns of play results in excellent buildup and chance creation. Better patterns come from consistently training to create it. The games ensure your team continue to create new ones.

How To Use Training The Right Way

The first step to take is deciding what style of football you want to play. I love control, so I go with possession.

Side note here, if you decide to bring in players, find players with high ratings on teamwork and work rate but mostly teamwork.
Read what the tooltips say about that attribute and then imagine what a team with high levels of teamwork can do. You're welcome.

After deciding what type of play you want, think of the tenets of that style of play.

I want to control games, move the opposition around, and not force the issue going forward. This means my players need to create patterns of play to play out of defense, keep the ball, distribute it, and be patient in the attack.

If we lose the ball, we want to recover it immediately but SENSIBLY (this is a different story though), and press from the front.

With all this, our training schedule after tactical familiarity will have
  • Ball distribution
  • Ball retention
  • Play from the back
  • Attacking Patient
  • Transition press
  • Defending from the front
  • Defending engaged.
Seven specific work to be addressed in training.

What’s key is that these sessions complement my tactical instructions. It makes no sense to put in the work training to patiently probe your opponent but your tactical instructions are to play at a high tempo and a more direct game.

Your players have not trained to play that way and thus, may not create the right pattern of play to suit that instruction. Starting to make sense?

Even when they do, it will be a reliance on individualism or on occasions where they actually do what they’ve practiced in training rather than consistent beautiful team plays.

I postulate that this is why it feels like players are not following your instruction and also why the game advises against drastic in-game tactical changes.

However, this is where it gets tricky. Which of these holds priority? You cannot fit all of these sessions to the degree of training in each that you need, into one schedule.

You have to prioritize especially on days where you have games. Based on my philosophy and style of play, the patterns we need have to do with keeping the ball. If I have enough of it, I'll do less defending.

Below is how I dealt with this dilemma.

I needed my players to put in more work in these areas than in most as they facilitate me keeping the ball a lot more. However, I didn’t want it to just be possession for possession sake.

That said, KEEPING THE BALL COMES FIRST. If there isn’t a way in, I wanted them to recycle play. This is the reason for the time wasting tactical instruction from the start. I have a story on that but that is for another day.

It took a while to get there. Even though this is a relatively new schedule, there were similarities to the ones I had since the beginning of the save. Constantly doing this has become a tenet of the club and now, this is what our plays look like.

Before you go on about injuries, there is a way to train this much and not get overwhelmed with injuries. I will get to that in another article.

Ignore Your First Season

There are a few reasons why you should not pay attention to whether your players' attributes are improving especially in your first season.

For one, the game takes its time to show growth. Yes, there are indicators but the massive difference starts taking shape at the latter end of the season.

Secondly, your players will take their time buying into your plans and style of play. I believe this is one of the reasons for the manager's support bar (a meaning behind the hidden meaning so to speak).

When players trust you, they buy into your training, tactics, and philosophy but this takes time. Success on the pitch from things practiced in training also helps. Proof of this appears during training reports on fridays.

If you practiced set pieces in training during the week before a game and score from one during the game, the next training report will have a note by the bottom right corner talking about how focusing on that resulted in a goal.

While this is restricted to set pieces (so far, I have noticed), it stands within reason that the same could be said among the players after each game.

Just like in real life, the players may not mention it but the glee that what they do in training is reflected on the pitch and in results, reinforces their desire to work more for the manager.

It is also why sticking with the same fundamental sessions every season is beneficial.

The pictures above show how far my players have come to trust the process. At the moment not all members of the team feels this way as they were new intakes.

Multiple Tactics and Training

The “in-thing” most gamer of FM do now is creating two tactics; a main formation and a complementary control or defensive formation. The idea is to improve game management during the game, either to hold onto a lead or go gung-ho.

Personally, I don’t do this because of the impact on the pattern of plays but that’s not to say it's a terrible idea. I am just here to open your eyes to new perspectives.

However, my fret with this has to do with the work put into it. It’s easier to say this is just a game, no need to complicate things.

But, the truth is, Football Manager has transcended just being a simulation of the real thing. It has reached a point where scouts in real life use the game to find hidden gems and managers try out tactical ideas (unless you’re Pep Guardiola).

Even the modern interpretation of football using roles and duties was first explored in FM. I could be wrong about that last part but unlikely.

If you don't think so, why do your regular tips and tricks used in previous iterations falter in FM 23? Especially since the last update?

So, no, FM is not just a game. Thus, you need to treat it as such.

When it comes to using multiple formations, you have to pay more attention to training especially if both formations are drastically different in shape and tactical instruction.
Like I said before, there’s no point preparing for the next game and practicing plays in a formation you would not use. The game knows this and thus, has the indicator for ‘Primary trained tactics’.

This is vital especially for gamers that create tactics based on opponent weaknesses as you get to train on your preferred formation for the game. Your team can still get the result you desire either way as all tactics will receive a modicum of attention.

However, more attention would be given to those with the ‘Primary Trained tactic’ ticked. While you may get the result, the full effect of the tactics would be lacking in-game.

If you think match preparation training has any real effect on gameday, you’re sorely mistaken.

Clicking the drop-down menu of the new tactics will show the option to activate it as a primary trained tactic.

If you choose to go this route, it means you’ll have to fix the contradictions regarding position/roles/duties in individual training and tactical instruction in your sessions.

This enhances the knowledge of your players in playing the roles that define the tactics alongside the instructions for that tactics.

This is why training a role and duty is better than training the position as the star-rating system on the tactic screen for roles and duties is an indicator of the players ability to play that role and not a measure of his position in the hierarchy of players capable of playing the role.

That is indicated on the squad depth screen and scouting report.

This confirms that the star-rating system in the TACTICS screen is not an indicator of the hierarchical strength in the role among players but rather the players individual ability for that role.

Compare this and the final interpretation of Arteta’s Arsenal tactics. The roles and duties are represented here.

Final Thoughts

Sticking to your philosophy and not making drastic changes to your style of play every now and then, especially after a defeat, shows your players that there is a plan and it brings them calm. Practice makes perfect.

When you consistently do the same thing over and over again, it becomes natural and it is reflected eventually in what you do. This is what training does even in the real world.

Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal took three years for a definite change in the style of play and training was a huge part of that. Their sequences and patterns of play is no fluke because they’ve gone over it every single day in training.

Now, it's become part of their identity. Same for De Zerbi, Pep Guardiola, and Erik Ten Hag, and you could do the same with the ideas in this article.

I’d love to hear your stories too.

Sheldonalphaone's avatar
About Sheldonalphaone

Hi, I'm Chidubem Eze. A writer and soon-to-be content creator. You can also find me on Reddit (Sheldonalphaone), Discord (Michael Buikem #0106) and Epic Games (Max Heckles).

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Discussion: Why You're Wrong About Training in FM23

5 comments have been posted so far.

  • young-reezy's avatar
    Awesome work! Really brings another dynamic to training I never thought of. Definitely interested in a breakdown of the tactic. Especially the PPMs and Opposition Instructions. Looking forward to it!
  • Sheldonalphaone's avatar
    Alright. I will get to work on that. I'm currently working on an article on MITIGATING mid-season slump/tight fixtures list. Once that's done, I'd work on getting the tactics out.
  • pruessi's avatar
    Sure I would be interested in both. Tactic with player instructions and for sure the PPMs needed in each position as well.
  • Sheldonalphaone's avatar
    Thank you, I appreciate the feedback. I am still figuring out what the aesthetics of the videos would look like with my current restrictions. But, I will let you know when I'm fully running.

    About the tactics, I did not publish it. It requires specific PPMs to get the interpretation right. It is a tactical recreation. I use the editor for that. Now, some people would call that cheating, and they may be right. But I interpret some of the PPMs as a sort of advanced tactical instruction.

    But if you do need it, I will work on publishing it.
  • pruessi's avatar
    Great article! can't wait to see you on YouTube, twitch or similar! Please let me know when you are set up!

    Did you publish your tactics? I would love to try this tactic of yours with the right player instructions and set pieces.
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