Starting with a friend’s copy of CM97/98 and signing Herman Gaviria and Fabian Estay every time, no matter who I managed, turned into a football management obsession lasting twenty plus years and counting.
The incredible development of football analysis and the rise of (brilliant) YouTube accounts like Tifo Football in recent years, led me to consider adopting a specific footballing philosophy and tactical strategy depending on which team I managed in a save.
Could it be Sarri-ball? Simeone’s aggressive counter? Gegenpress? The idea of choosing my own philosophy and sticking to it when considering who to buy and who to sell also increased my immersion in multiple saves. I think that nothing is more satisfying than building a legacy at a football club with a trademark tactical style.
Now that Football Manager as a game includes these terms of reference and some neat descriptions, I thought there must be a way to get a clearer picture of just how well your players or targets would fit into your system.
So my Football Philosophy Index was born.
What is it?
Those who are not avid FM fans have often dubbed it ‘spreadsheet manager,’ an unkind nod to the vast amount of attributes and statistics in the game.
It gave me a thought though, which in itself is a dangerous event. What if FM actually allowed me to harness the data in a way that helped me better analyse my squad and transfer targets to fit my system?
For the rest of this article, I’ll refer to my current save as Catania in Serie C in Italy as an example.
When it comes to tactical systems, there are many like it, but this one is mine.
Tactically, Italy is generally well known for its narrow, defensively rigid Catenaccio systems. What we haven’t seen though (correct me if I’m wrong) is someone adopt this defensively solid and narrow idea, but with the Pep-esque philosophy of ‘take the ball, pass the ball,’ so I thought I’d try it. Having picked a bold 5-2-3 (or is it 4-1-2-3? Or even 2-3-2-2-1? Who really knows?!), I set about defining the tactic in closer detail, before moving on to look at personnel. Will it work? If it doesn’t, I’ll blame VAR.
Catania showing how a Pep-esque system might work on the pitch. With a llama at left-back.
The idea of this system is to remain very central and compact on the pitch, valuing keeping the ball from the opposition at all costs.
All four of the wide players cut inside to support the centre of the park. When the wingbacks cut inside to support the central midfield, the two Mezzalas can push forward to become a ‘front five’ with the inside forwards and number 9. The half-back becomes a third centre half and you have an even split of five players playing in triangles at both ends of the pitch. That’s the idea anyway.
The next part is entirely down to your system and which attributes you feel would best fit what you are tactically trying to achieve. For me, I figured out (decided) that the most important elements of offensive and defensive play in my system would be:
Offensive = First touch, passing, agility, balance, anticipation, composure, decisions, vision
Defensive = Strength, jumping, marking, tackling, first touch, passing, anticipation, composure, decisions, positioning
These attributes form the basis of my Football Philosophy Index, for this team.
If my forward players (the two Mezzalas, both Inside Forwards and the lone striker) can play a short passing system where technically they can move the ball quickly and accurately (first touch and passing), comfortably and calmly keep the ball, but move it forward when the timing is right (anticipation, composure, decisions, vision) and physically twist and turn in tight spaces given how narrow our system is (agility, balance) then usually eye-catching high attributes for dribbling, work rate, acceleration and the likes, are secondary to what I really need. How many times have you spent your entire budget on a player with that sweet, sweet 17 pace and 16 finishing, only to find that he’s like a lost dog when you’re not playing direct, aggressive counter-attacking 442, because he has the tactical awareness of Mamadou Sakho?
The logic for my defensive players (centre-backs, defensive midfielder and the inverted wingbacks) was that if they can primarily be traditionally good defenders (strength, jumping, marking and tackling) then the other attributes that are important for my forward players are key here too. Basically I’d prefer someone with jumping and tackling 12, if it meant they could anticipate situations and play composed short passes into the midfield over someone with jumping and tackling in the 15+ bracket who is mentally weaker.
How do I make my own Philosophy Index?
An underrated feature on FM is the ability to export any page of data onto Excel, where anyone with a basic knowledge of spreadsheets can have lots of fun ranking their players and fulfilling their dream of creating their own Philosophy Index*.
*Admittedly very few have ever dreamt of this, if anyone.
Firstly, on your squad page, select an attributes view that best displays some of the attributes you consider key to your system. For me, I started with Mental, but your philosophy might be to build a team of tall, strong and quick players, so starting with the Physical attributes view would definitely be quicker.
Then right click on the headings and insert columns for any of the missing key attributes you are looking for, and you are half-way there.
Once you have all your lovely and most important attributes on your squad screen, hit the FM button in the top right and Print Screen. Make sure you print as a ‘web page,’ because for some reason, Microsoft Excel loves a good webpage.
Next, open this file in Excel and add new columns to the right of all the rows of attribute numbers, these are where your magic numbers will appear.
For me, I have two columns, one for the ‘Offensive Philosophy Value’ and another for ‘Defensive Philosophy Value.’
As mentioned earlier, what I then need is for a value (out of 20) to appear in these columns telling me just how suitable each player is in terms of how they best fit my system. Bear in mind that this will only analyse the attributes you’ve picked as key. For all the usual fun stuff, like making sure he’s not injury prone or dreads playing big matches (which is the kiss of death on any scout report in my opinion!) keep doing it however you like to do it with scouting inside FM.
The next bit will only make sense if you have at least a wee bit of experience using Excel.
For the Offensive Philosophy Value column, you want the sum of the relevant attributes for each player divided by how many of them there are.
So for my offensive philosophy, I decided earlier that first touch, passing, agility, balance, anticipation, composure, decision and vision were key. Remember that? Of course you do, if you’ve made it this far in this article you’ve got a memory for specifics like Mike from Suits.
In the column, I therefore need the formula =SUM(value 1, value 2, value 3, value 4, value 5, value 6, value 7, value 8)/8
This then gives me a value, which is quite literally adding the key offensive attribute values for this player together, dividing them by how many of them there are, and giving me a number out of 20.
If you drag down from the bottom right of this cell to the bottom of your list of players after putting in the first formula, it will calculate this value for all of your players. That is a free Excel life hack you can impress your friends, co-workers, family and pets with.
Repeat for the key defensive attributes and you have two magic values for each player, how best (out of 20) they fit your footballing philosophy!
You can then jazz it up with some Conditional Formatting. I set it so that values 12+ show in yellow but values less than 10 show in bold “sell this useless player” red, a paint shade coming soon to Dulux colour charts.*
For me, my Catania spreadsheet tells me that other than Andrea Esposito, who has a “defensive PV” score of 13.5, I don’t really have any other defensive players that fit my system that well. There are a lot of players with an 11 point something rating, so maybe all is not lost.
What it also tells me is that my main striker Davis Curiale is decent for my system (bang on 12), my other two number 9s (Fran Brodic, 10.5 and Michele Camuti, 6.0) are far from suitable. So this is somewhere I’ll focus on recruiting for, in the upcoming January window.
Zoom in on the image and you should be able to see full detail.
So now we know how suitable (or not) our current crop of employees are at kicking a bag of air across the grass in a way that makes my virtual, dugout-dwelling alter-ego weak at the knees.
The next step is to take this concept and apply it to players that you may wish to buy to replace your team of duds (Michele Camuti, I am looking at you mate).
All you have to do is create the exact same list of attributes you made on your squad screen, on the Player Search screen instead. Due to Football Manager not allowing you to import custom views created on one screen onto another (because reasons), you need to do it manually. Select an attribute view, right click and add any missing attributes from your outrageous football philosophy. Again, once you have your list of potential targets on screen, print screen as web page, open in Excel, add your Philosophy Value column(s) and woosh, you are now analysing the transfer market, with available players ranked from most suitable to most useless, specifically in relation to which attributes you have decided are important to how you wish for your team to play.
For me, as the Catania manager with no money, Samed Yesil and Gaetano Monachello are looking like fine additions to bolster my strike force. Time to get a scout report on both I think and see how best to choose between them!
Zoom in on the image (again) and you should be able to see full detail.
So now you know.
There is no guarantee that players with a higher Philosophy Index value are better footballers who will bring you more success, but if you love analysing the game to try and find round pins for round holes, are wholeheartedly set in your team in your save playing in a particular fashion, or just love Alt-Tabbing between FM and Excel for hours instead of actually playing the game, this just might help.
Thanks for reading.