To build and maintain a successful squad there are various factors to consider. Most importantly, you should ensure that your squad has sufficient depth in each position. Having versatile players can be particularly helpful for this purpose, while it can also provide you with useful tactical alternatives. Furthermore, to ensure continued future success it is advisable to focus on youth development and improving the personality of your squad.
Read The 90 Minute Manager to learn about how football managers create a team.
You should have at least two players for each position used in your main formation who are good enough to play in your senior squad's starting line-up. In addition, further cover in each position is advisable and should ideally come from versatile players who also serve as first choice or backup in a different position and young players in the latter stages of their development.
This will provide you with sufficient cover for injuries and suspensions, and will also allow you to rotate your squad. The benefits of squad rotation are discussed in the Preparing for the Match guide.
The Squad Depth section of your Team Report, accessed from your squad's Report screen, will display your assistant manager’s opinion of who are the best three players in each position. You can also select another coach from the drop-down list to view his opinion.
At bigger clubs with good youth systems it is also beneficial to have at least two players for every position in your under 18 squad. This ensures that there are always new players coming through in each position, while in addition it helps to ensure that their is sufficient cover while youth players are out on loan.
Each player at your club is given a squad status that tells you, other clubs and the player himself what his importance to your club is. Initially, this is set when agreeing the player's contract, but you can also change it at any point on the Transfer Status section of his Transfer screen.
The higher a player's squad status is the more you will need to play him to keep him happy. However, a player may become unhappy if his squad status is lowered.
On your Squad screen you can view the squad status for each player by selecting the Contract view. You can then order by the Squad Status column to see the current pecking order of your players.
The available squad statuses, from highest to lowest, are:
Indispensible to the club - key player
Important first team player - first team
Used in squad rotational system - rotation
Backup to the first team - backup
Hot prospect for the future - hot prospect
Decent young player - youngster
Not needed by the club - not needed
It is important to have a suitable squad structure with only so many players given each squad status. This will ensure that it is possible to give each player match time that is appropriate for his status. An advisable approach would be to have approximately four to five key players and six to seven first team who together essentially make up your strongest team and who, as individuals, should feature regularly over the course of a season. You can then have up to approximately eleven further players with statuses of rotation, backup and hot prospect who can be played more occasionally as a part of squad rotation. This gives a total of up to about 22 players in your senior squad, roughly two for each position.
Those surplus players providing further cover can be placed in your under 21 squad with squad statuses of backup, hot prospect and youngster. As suggested above, these players should ideally be mostly young developing players and, if you do not believe that they will be needed for senior squad matches, then they can be made available for loan and offered to other clubs to get first team experience.
If any of these players are at or close to their full potential and are not needed as cover then they can be given a squad status of not needed and then transfer listed and offered to clubs.
It is particularly beneficial to have players in your squad who can play well in more than one position or more than one tactical role.
The positions a player can play in along with his familiarity with each are shown on the Information section of his Overview screen.
Having players who can play well in more than one position can be particularly useful in helping increase your squad’s depth while reducing spending on transfer fees and wages, while it can give you more flexibility when making changes and substitutions during a match. It can also give your attack more variety and make it more difficult for the opposition to defend against if you are able to instruct your wide attackers to swap positions.
As well as signing versatile players you can use new position training to increase position familiarity for players already in your squad.
Your primary focus should be on having players who can play in the role and duty combinations that you wish to use in your regular tactics. However, it can be beneficial to also have players who can play well in alternative roles. This will provide you with options for altering your tactics when playing against different types of opposition and will also allow you the flexibility to change your tactics if they are not working.
For example, you may want to use a physical striker in the target man role against defensive teams that stay deep, but use a quicker striker against more attacking opposition in an attempt to get behind their defence on the counter attack.
Players who develop together at your club are likely to form good relationships with each other, as well as with you, your coaching staff and the club itself. This will lead to better squad harmony and team cohesion off the pitch, and therefore better morale and so better performances in matches. In addition, team cohesion on the pitch will be less disrupted by new senior players being regularly brought into the squad, resulting in a further boost to performances.
Financially, it will enable you to build a squad at a lower cost as you will be signing players before they increase their reputations and require larger transfer fees. Furthermore, even if some of the players you develop do not become good enough to earn a place in your senior squad you will generally be able to make a profit from their sale. Ultimately, you may even be able to make a net profit on transfers each season by spending less than you receive.
Once a senior player has reached, or recently passed, his natural peak he can, in most cases, still be sold at a decent price and replaced by a younger player who has been developed at your club. However, you should try to retain a decent number of older players in your squad in order to benefit from both their experience on the pitch and also their contribution to tutoring younger squad members.
Developing young players is discussed in detail in the Player Development guide.
Your squad personality description is shown in the General section of your club's Information screen. This is based on your players' ratings in the Professionalism, Ambition and Loyalty personality attributes and the Determination attribute, with the most dominant being used for the description.
It is important to try to build a squad of players with positive personalities. Such players will display a better attitude both on and off the pitch, while they can also be particularly useful as tutors for younger players by passing on some of their positive traits.
In particular, it is highly beneficial to have players with good Professionalism in your squad. Such players make the best tutors, since improving the Professionalism of younger players will help them to develop faster in the future and also profit from the other benefits of Professionalism.
Players with good Determination are also beneficial to have in your squad, as are those with good Ambition. However, if you are managing a smaller club and are concerned that ambitious players will want to leave, then players with good Loyalty may be preferable.
Furthermore, building a squad of players with similar personalities will help squad harmony as your players will be more likely to develop good relationships while conflicts between players will be less likely. This will result in better morale and therefore better performances on the pitch.
Personalities are discussed in more detail in the Player Personalities guide.