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Upon joining a new club the first thing you should do is assess your team and obtain a good understanding of the players that you have in your squad. This will enable you to create a tactic that suits the strengths and weaknesses of your players and therefore gets the best performances and results from your team. It will also help you later when scheduling training and building your squad.

1. Your Team's Overall Ability

Firstly, you need to ascertain the overall ability of your team relative to the other teams in your division.

The easiest way to do this is to look at the media prediction on the General tab on the Club screen. This shows you where the media expects your team to finish at the end of the season, although it does not take into account signings made by each club after the predictions were made at the start of pre-season, or any possible future signings.

You can then undertake a slightly more detailed analysis by looking at the Comparison tab on the Team Report screen. On the different tabs here you will see how the player attributes of players in your senior squad compare against those of other teams in your division.

Knowing the overall ability of your team will help you to choose an appropriate team mentality, as will be discussed later in the Mentality guide, while knowing how your team compares against other teams in different attributes will help you to choose a suitable tactical style, which will be discussed in the Choosing a Tactical Style guide.

2. Your Players

Next, you can begin to look in more detail at the individual players in your squad. You should assess all of the players in your senior squad, but your main focus can be on a select few players who are likely to be the most important to your team; your key players.

To easily gain an idea of which players these are, you can go to the Players tab on the Squad screen and select the Reports view, or alternatively you can go to the Squad Depth tab. The former view enables a quicker assessment as it allows you to order your players by ability as well as showing you each player's best playing position.

2.1. Ability Star Ratings

You will see ability star ratings for each of your players as determined by one of your coaches (your assistant manager if you are on the Players screen and have an assistant employed). At this stage you are only concerned with the star ratings for current ability in a given playing position, rather than potential ability or current ability in a role. (Player roles will be discussed later in the Roles & Duties guide).

Current ability star ratings for each player in his best playing position are shown in the ability column on the Players tab, and current ability star ratings for various players in each playing position are shown on the Overview and By Position sections of the Squad Depth tab.

The current ability star ratings are based largely on each player's attribute ratings. They are given on a scale that takes into account the overall ability of your squad, so whatever club you manage, a player with 4 to 5 gold stars is likely to be one of your key players and a player with 2.5 to 3.5 gold stars is also likely to be good enough to be considered for a part in your tactical plans.

However, the accuracy of these ratings is dependent on your coach's Judging Player Ability staff attribute and his Knowledge of Club Players backroom advice bar, which can be viewed on the Profile and Information sections of his Overview tab (you will need to go to the Staff screen where you can select his name). You may want to sign an assistant who can judge ability better, but he will need time to build up his knowledge of your players. If a different member of your coaching staff has a higher Judging Player Ability attribute then you can look at his star ratings for your players by selecting the coach when on the Squad Depth tab or when on each individual player’s Coach Report on the player's Reports tab.

Current ability and ability star ratings are explained in more detail in the Player Ability and Performance guide.

2.2. Positional Abilities

You will also want to establish which playing positions your players can play in, since many players can perform well in more than just their one best playing position that is shown on the Reports view on the Players screen.

Each player has a positional ability for each available playing position on the pitch. A player's positional ability in a particular playing position indicates how comfortable he is in that playing position. It is not determined by his attributes, but is instead a separate quality that affects how well he performs when selected in the playing position. This is why players can have different ability star ratings in different playing positions, as shown on the Squad Depth tab and on each player's Coach Report - they are the ability star ratings adjusted according to positional ability.

A player's positional abilities are shown by coloured circles on the Information section of his Overview tab, while his positional ability in the position in which he is currently selected is shown by a coloured strip underneath his name on the formation diagram on the Tactics Overview screen. The possible positional ability descriptions, along with their associated colours, in order from best to worst are:

  • Natural - bright green
  • Accomplished - green
  • Competent - yellow-green
  • Unconvincing - yellow
  • Awkward - orange
  • Ineffectual - red (not shown on a player's Information screen)

The better a player's positional ability in a position, the better his decision making will be when he is selected in that playing position. In addition, a player's performance in a central playing position may be affected by his preferred side, which can be seen by hovering over the playing position on his Information screen.

In general, you will want your players to be at least competent in any playing position that they regularly play in. However, it is advisable to try to select players in playing positions where they are either natural or accomplished, unless your team selection is severely restricted or you have a good tactical reason for using players out of position.

2.3. Assessing Each Player in Detail

Current ability star ratings, even those adjusted for positional abilities and even when given by high quality coaches, are only an indication of how well a player will perform and they do not take into account all of the factors that affect player performance. Furthermore, they do not tell you how a player could be used effectively as part of a tactic. Therefore, it is necessary to assess your players in more detail.

In particular you should look at a player's attribute ratings and preferred moves. Although a player's attributes are taken into account in his current ability star rating, it is still important to look at them in order to assess his strengths and weaknesses in different individual attributes, as well as in different related combinations of attributes, which are referred to in this guide as abilities. A player's preferred moves, on the other hand, affect his individual playing style (the way he plays) and so may influence how you choose to use him.

The Attribute Combinations guide will help you understand the different abilities of a player from his attributes, while preferred moves are explained in the Player Preferred Moves guide.

A player's attribute ratings are shown on the Profile and Attributes sections of his Overview tab. His preferred moves, if he has any, are shown on the Information section of his Overview tab.

In addition, you may be able to view information about a player's hidden attributes among the pros and cons on the Coach Report section of his Reports tab.

Hidden attributes are explained at the end of the Player Attributes guide.

2.3.1. Roles & Duties

Ultimately, you will set roles and duties for each player to instruct how they should play, but for now it is sufficient to simply form a general idea of what each player's responsibilities will be in your overall tactic. Nevertheless, when doing this you may be tempted to consider the suggested best roles and duties of each player as shown on the Reports view of the Players screen, and also the role suitability indicators on each player's Information and Coach Report screens. However, these are calculated simply by averaging the ratings of key attributes for each role, meaning that they do not effectively assess abilities, while they also do not take into account preferred moves. As such, it is advisable to assess suitable roles for each player yourself.

There will be detailed advice given later in the Roles & Duties guide on how to assign appropriate roles and duties to your players.

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