It is important to prepare your players effectively during pre-season so that they can achieve high match performance levels as soon as the new season starts and also cope physically with the demands of the season ahead.
During the close-season your players will go on holiday and so will not undertake any training or play any matches, except for any who go away on international duty. This presents the following issues upon their return to your club:
Your players will have suffered drops in attributes, will have low levels of condition and will be lacking in match fitness - it is therefore particularly important to prepare your players physically for the start of the new season by building up their physical attributes and match fitness, in addition to improving their condition. This will help to reduce the likelihood of jadedness and injuries occuring during the season, and will allow you to maintain high match fitness levels throughout the season more easily.
Tactic familiarity will have fallen, especially if you have signed a lot of new players - it is therefore advisable to increase tactic familiarity quickly to help your team to start the season well.
Team cohesion will have fallen, especially if you have signed a lot of new players - it is therefore advisable to increase team cohesion quickly to help your team to start the season well.
Morale may generally not be at high levels - it is therefore beneficial to try to achieve high levels of morale among your players to help your team to start the season well.
These issues can be resolved using training and friendly matches.
1. Pre-Season Training
1.1. General Training
At the start of pre-season it is advisable to use general training to build up your player's physical attributes.
This is done by setting the main focus of general training to Fitness. You can also afford to set the intensity level to Very High, in order to make this training more effective, if you schedule a high amount of match preparation training and do not set any individual training as suggested below, as this will ensure that the individual workload for each player remains reasonable. The intensive fitness training should ideally take place until your players have gained high levels of match fitness.
Following this, you can then use general training to increase team cohesion more quickly if necessary by setting the main focus to Team Cohesion and leaving the intensity level as Very High.
Once you are happy that team cohesion, as described on your assistant's Team Talk Feedback screen, has reached a high level, you can change general training to your normal setup as discussed in the General Training guide.
1.2. Match Preparation Training
During pre-season it is recommended that you use match preparation training to increase tactic familiarity more quickly.
This can be achieved in part by setting the main focus of match preparation training to Match Tactics and scheduling more match preparation training. In particular, it is advisable to move the scheduling slider to the far left to schedule 50% match preparation training. This will both increase the rate at which tactic familiarity is gained and help to offset the heavier workload caused by more intensive general training.
To further increase the rate at which tactic familiarity is gained it is also advisable to only load one tactic on the Tactics Overview screen, meaning that your squad will only prepare that one tactic. This should be your main tactic that you expect to use for the majority of the time during matches.
You should try to avoid making too many changes to your team instructions outside of matches during pre-season as such changes can reduce tactic familiarity levels and so increase the time it takes your squad to learn your main tactic. Any such changes should be made and tested during friendly matches and then only incorporated into your main tactic after a match if you are sure that you want to make the changes permanently.
You should also ensure that you have assigned a coach to the tactics training category on the Coaches tab of the Training screen as this is the coach that will work with your squad on tactic familiarity.
When tactic familiarity levels are described as fluid in each component for your main tactic you can set up one or two alternative tactics to be prepared. When familiarity levels for these tactics have also become fluid (assuming that you wish to use alternative tactics) you can reduce the amount of time scheduled for match preparation training to as little as 10% to maintain familiarity levels, as discussed in the Match Preparation Training guide. You may also want to change the main focus to Teamwork in order to increase team cohesion more quickly if this is still necessary.
Since the Defensive Positioning, Attacking Movement, Defending Set Pieces and Attacking Set Pieces focuses improve performances in the next match only they are not particularly useful during pre-season. Although increasing morale through good performances and results is advantageous, the effect on morale from friendlies is less than from competitive matches and it is more important to ensure that tactic familiairity is gained in time for the new season, which in turn can help lead to increased morale as a result of good early performances.
1.3. Rest Days
It is recommended not to allow any rest days for your squad during pre-season as these will reduce the amount of time available for general training and match preparation training, and therefore will reduce the amount of work undertaken on improving physical attributes, increasing tactic familiarity and increasing team cohesion.
1.4. Individual Training
During pre-season it is advisable to avoid setting any individual training so that your players are not overworked.
1.5. Training Camps
Your board may allow you to send your squad on a training camp during pre-season. During a training camp your players will gain tactic familiarity and match fitness more quickly than normal. In addition, your club may benefit from an increase in reputation, and therefore future revenue, from playing abroad.
2. Pre-Season Friendlies
Playing friendly matches will allow your players to gain match fitness, increase tactic familiarity during the match preparation training before each friendly and, if they perform well, increase morale.
In particular, in order to increase tactic familiarity at a quick rate, it is advisable to arrange to play approximately two friendlies per week for the whole of pre-season. The more friendlies you arrange the more your pre-season preparation will concentrate on match preparation training, and therefore on increasing tactic familiarity as opposed to increasing fitness attributes and team cohesion. However, you will need to ensure that there is at least one free day available between each friendly as otherwise there will be no time for match preparation training before the match. Furthermore, it is advisable to ensure that there is an average of at least two free days between each friendly in order to ensure a reasonable amount of time is spent on both general training and match preparation training.
In order to allow condition to improve and to build up match fitness for each player in your squad you should use squad rotation for these matches. With approximately two matches per week you should be able to give each player enough match time to gain a high level of match fitness before the start of the season.
The opposition teams you choose to play in your friendlies should depend on whether you want to focus on financial gain for your club or increasing your players' morale. If you manage a team in a lower reputation league division or if your club has poor finances then you may want to choose to play the teams that make your club the most profit, as explained below. Otherwise, you may want to choose to play lower quality teams so that your team can win each friendly more easily, resulting in higher morale.
A friendly can be requested from the Senior Fixtures tab on the Schedule screen by clicking the Arrange Friendly button above the list of fixtures. You can then select a date and various other options for the friendly. Appearance fees are shown in brackets alongside each team's name on the Opposition drop-down menu. For a home friendly you will pay the appearance fee but receive the estimated income shown in the Comments panel (which you can view after you have selected the team). The difference between these figures is therefore the estimated profit that your club will make from the friendly. For an away friendly you will receive the appearance fee but receive no further income.
3. Length of Pre-Season
At the end of each season you will be given a chance to decide the length of the following pre-season. This will determine when your players return to training after the close-season.
3.1. Longer Pre-Season
A longer pre-season (say 6 or 7 weeks) will allow you to arrange more friendlies and train your players for longer. Also, since your players will spend less time on holiday, it will reduce the effects of the issues listed at the start of this guide. However, a shorter holiday time will mean that the jadedness levels of your players have less time to fall before they return to training. As such, you may find that some players become jaded earlier in the season.
The main advantage of a longer pre-season is that you will be able to achieve high tactic familiarity and team cohesion more easily before the new season starts due to the extra friendlies and training. It can also help player development as it will allow more training of attributes to take place (after you have finished using the Team Cohesion focus to increase team cohesion), while in addition your club can earn more profits from friendlies.
You will need to be prepared to manage any jadedness issues that occur at a later date, as explained in the Player Fitness guide. However, if you rotate your squad well throughout the season (as well as during pre-season) then you can reduce the likelihood of jadedness occuring.
Therefore, a longer pre-season can be a good option if you have a large squad as this will allow you to rotate your team more easily and so manage fitness more effectively. Furthermore, it can be especially useful if you plan to make a lot of new signings or test new tactics and will therefore need your players to spend more time working on tactic familiarity and team cohesion, while it can also be useful if you simply want to place a greater emphasis on player development.
3.2. Shorter Pre-Season
A shorter pre-season (say 4 or 5 weeks) will reduce the likelihood of jadedness issues occuring but will also allow less time for increasing tactic familiarity and team cohesion, developing attributes and earning profits from friendlies.
However, if you manage pre-season effectively then even four weeks is enough time to build up match fitness levels and give your players sufficient fitness training, as well as to achieve high morale if you arrange easy friendlies.
Therefore, a shorter pre-season can be a good option if you have a small squad and so cannot rotate your team as easily. It can also be useful if you are more concerned about match performances than player development, especially if you do not plan to make a lot of new signings or test new tactics.