Guide to Football
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Preparing efficiently for each match is crucial if you want to achieve good team performances and good results consistently.

You may want to take advantage of match preparation training to improve your team’s performances in certain areas, and talking to the media to gain a psychological advantage over the opposition. Most importantly however, you will need to ensure that you make an appropriate team selection for each match. Each of these basic aspects of match preparation is discussed below.

The Tactical Planning guide discusses how you can start each match with an effective strategy for defeating the opposition.

1. Match Preparation Training Focus

The match preparation training focuses are discussed in the Match Preparation Training guide.

For your team’s match preparation training focus it is generally beneficial to select Match Tactics or Teamwork. However, a few days before a match, particularly if it is an important match, you may want to set an alternative focus in order to improve a particular aspect of your team’s performance during that match. If so, then it is advisable to select a focus based on the opposition or the required result, as follows:

You are facing higher quality opposition or need to avoid defeatDefensive Positioning

You are facing lower quality opposition or need to winAttacking Movement

The opposition poses a particular threat from set piecesDefending Set Pieces

The opposition is poor at defending set piecesAttacking Set Pieces

You can check the opposition team’s record at set pieces by looking at the Goals section of its team report or the Team section of the Stats tab of the division that the team plays in. You can also assess its best set piece takers using the Technical Attributes view on the team's Players tab, while similarly you can look at how its players rate in attributes related to aerial presence and heading ability, such as Heading, Jumping Reach and Strength.

2. Talking to the Media

The day before a match you may be given the opportunity in your inbox to attend a press conference and answer questions from the gathered media regarding the match. You may also be approached by journalists on match day in the stadium itself and asked for tunnel interviews. Good use of such media interaction can help you to keep squad morale high and gain a psychological advantage over the opposition.

If you do not want to attend a press conference or tunnel interview yourself then you can click the Send Assistant button before answering the first question. Alternatively, you can give your assistant the responsibility to attend all press conferences or tunnel interviews on the Responsibilities tab of the Staff screen. However, as explained in the Staff Roles guide, it is advisable to answer the media's questions yourself.

Generally, it is advisable to try to give fairly positive answers, although you should also remain realistic. Such responses, along with good general man management, should help you to maintain good levels of morale and happiness among your players, which in turn will help performances on the pitch.

You may also want to take into account the personalities of your players. In particular, it is important not to be too cautious or pessimistic about your team's chances if many of your players have ambitious personalities. Determined players, on the other hand, may be more willing to try to prove you wrong if you do choose to play down the chances of your team.

More advice on how to manage players with different personalities is provided in the Player Personalities guide.

If being too positive appears to cause your players to become complacent, perhaps because your team is the favourite for a match or is on a good run of form, then this can be dealt with by giving a more demanding pre-match team talk. Such team talks will most likely have a better motivating effect on your players than using a more pessimistic approach in press conferences. On the other hand, if being positive makes some of your players nervous, perhaps because they have a low Pressure personality attribute, then you can use a more relaxing individual team talk on the affected players to take the pressure off them.

More advice on giving team talks is provided in the Team Talks guide.

2.1. Commenting on Opposition Players

In some pre-match press conferences you will be given the opportunity to praise or criticise an opposition player. This may on occasion put the player concerned under the media spotlight and result in him feeling increased pressure and suffering a drop in morale. If so, his performance in the match is likely to suffer.

You may want to target a player with poor morale by using hard tackling opposition instructions.

Commenting on an opposition player is most likely to be effective he has a poor Pressure personality attribute. Such a player may struggle to cope with the expectation after receiving praise in particular, while he may also react similarly badly if he believes that he needs to prove himself following criticism. It can therefore be useful to try to gain clues about this attribute from a player’s personality description. Failing this, if a player has low ratings in the attributes Bravery, Composure and Determination then this can indicate that he has low Pressure.

Details of personality descriptions are given in the Player Personalities guide.

Furthermore, when criticising an opposition player, it is best to pick a player with low Determination. If you criticise a player with good Determination and Pressure then your comments are more likely to instead have the opposite effect of actually motivating him.

Generally, it is much easier to find suitable players to comment on when managing in lower reputation league divisions or facing weaker opposition.

2.2. Comments on Your Own Players

If an opposition manager comments on one of your own players then you can check the Information section of that player’s Overview tab to see if and how he has reacted, while you can also check his morale. If he has reacted badly then you may want to consider leaving him out of your starting line-up or trying to increase his morale, for example, by talking to him about his previous performance or recent form from his Interaction drop-down, or giving him an appropriate individual team talk as explained in the Team Talks guide.

3. Team Selection

You can make your team selection, which consists of your starting line-up and substitutes, at any time before your next match on either the Overview tab of the Tactics screen or the Players tab of the Squad screen. You can also make or alter your selection on the Team Selection screen before the match.

Your primary concern should usually be to select players who are appropriate for the tactics that you wish to use in the match, and therefore who you think give your team the best chance of getting a good result. However, you should also consider squad rotation and good use of substitutes, as discussed below.

Although you may prefer to use the same tactics in each match, and select suitable players accordingly, the Tactical Planning guide discusses how you may want to change or adapt your tactics, and therefore potentially select some players with alternative qualities, against particular opposition. On the Match Preview screen, before confirming your team selection, you can view your scout's opinion of what the opposition's starting line-up will be, which can help you to finalise your tactical plans.

Any player who you do not intend to include in your team selection for your next match but who needs to gain match fitness, or perhaps improve his morale, can be made available for your reserve squad from his Development drop-down menu or by right-clicking his name and selecting the Squad sub-menu. You will need to make sure that any such player is no longer available for the reserves once he is ready to play for your senior squad so that he is able to be rested.

3.1. Squad Rotation

It is advisable to use a squad rotation policy when selecting your team for each match. This involves varying your team selection so that each player is given playing time for your senior squad. The amount of playing time that it is appropriate to give a player depends on his squad status, as explained in the Squad Building guide. However, when rotating your squad you should be careful not to disrupt your team by making too many changes at once.

A good squad rotation policy has the following benefits:

  • Helping to maintain the morale and happiness of your players as a result of each player being given appropriate playing time.
  • Helping to keep your players in good condition throughout the season, since they will be given sufficient rest to recover condition. In particular, it can help to keep your best players in good condition for more important matches.
  • Reducing the likelihood of your players becoming jaded or injured, again due to being given sufficient rest.
  • Helping to keep your backup players match fit, since they will be given more playing time.

A typical squad rotation policy may involve a player being left out of the starting line-up if his condition is not, say, about 92% or higher on the day of a match, although you may prefer to use a different percentage to determine when a player needs to be rested from the starting-line up. You may also want to take account of other factors, such as the importance of the player and the importance of the match. For example, you might want to select a player who could be key to winning an important match even if he has slightly lower condition than desirable.

However, by planning ahead you should usually be able to avoid such situations. This involves looking at your upcoming fixtures and assessing the opposition teams that you will be facing in the near future. For example, you may want to rest some of your better players in matches against weaker opposition, even when they have good condition, in order to keep them fresh for more difficult matches coming up. This also gives you a good opportunity to play some of your developing players in easier matches, as well as players with low match fitness or poor morale.

Similarly, if you have particular tactics planned for a future opponent then you may want to keep a certain player or players fresh for that match who you believe would be suitable for the tactical style or approach that you wish to adopt.

3.2. Substitutes

If possible it is advisable to try to select substitutes such that you will have adequate cover in all positions in case a player has to come off due to injury, tiredness or poor performance. However, you will probably have some players in the starting line-up who have familiarity with other positions and so can potentially move to a different position if needed, in which case your substitutes will not need to provide cover for all positions between them.

In addition, you should consider selecting substitutes who can offer you alternative tactical options should you need them during the match. Some players may be suitable for a particular tactical style that may be useful at some point during the match, but not so suitable for the tactical style that you plan to start the match with. For example, you may want to include a striker with good physical and aerial presense who can come on late in a match and act as a target man for long passes if you desperately need a goal and have not been able to break through the opposition using a planned short passing tactical style.

Similarly, some types of players can be effective as impact players late in the match and so make particularly useful substitutes. In addition to the target man example above when your team is struggling, an attacker with good mobility and attacking movement can cause great problems for a tiring defence, especially on the counter attack when your team is holding on to a result.

It can also be useful to include as substitutes any players who have low match fitness or morale, or who are young, developing players, especially against weaker opposition. If you have built up a commanding lead later in the match it can be an ideal opportunity to give such players some playing time to improve their match fitness or morale, or to gain match experience, without taking a risk by selecting them in your starting line-up.

Finally, if you are fielding a weakened team then it is advisable to include some of your higher quality players on the bench in case they are needed to help your team to get a good result.

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