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Before each match your players will take part in match preparation training, during which they will work on gaining tactic familiarity. You can also instruct them to work on a specific area of performance for the next match or on building team cohesion by selecting a main focus.

The proportion of team training time that your squad will spend on match preparation training is determined by your team training scheduling.

For details on setting match preparation training for your reserve and youth squads see the Youth Training guide.

An analysis of how to set up match preparation training in pre-season is provided in the Pre-Season Preparation guide.

1. Tactic Familiarity

Tactic familiarity refers to your squad's understanding of a tactic. The higher this is the better your team will perform when using that tactic. During match preparation training your players will gain tactic familiarity in each of the tactics that you have set up on the Tactics Overview screen.

You can prepare up to three tactics in this way, while you can also save any number of tactics for future use. Saved tactics can be accessed by selecting Manage Tactics from the Tactic drop-down but they will not be prepared unless loaded.

The overall level of tactic familiarity as it stands for the currently selected tactic is shown in a bar above the formation panel on the Tactics Overview screen. Clicking the information icon next to this bar will display the eight different components of tactic familiarity and the familiarity level for each. These are formation, mentality, passing style (distance of passing), creative freedom, closing down, marking, tempo and width. The familiarity levels for each component can range from 1% (awkward) to 100% (fluid) and together they make up the overall tactic familiarity level.

The tactical instructions related to each component are explained in the Tactics guide.

However, the more tactics there are that are being prepared the slower tactic familiarity for each tactic will increase. Therefore, if your squad does not yet have a fairly high familiarity level with any tactic then it is advisable to only have your intended main tactic loaded so that familiarity in this tactic will be gained more quickly. This can be the case after you have made a lot of new signings in a short space of time, while tactic familiarity will also be low when your players have returned to training at the start of pre-season.

Any alternative tactics that you wish to prepare can be loaded when you are happy that familiarity with your main tactic has reached a sufficiently high level. Specifically, it is recommended that you wait until tactic familiarity is described as fluid for all components. Likewise, it is advisable to use the Match Tactics focus and to schedule more match preparation training when building up tactic familiarity as discussed below.

Whenever you make a change to your team instructions that alters a tactical instruction related to one of the components of tactic familiarity, the familiarity level for that component will be reduced (unless that particular tactical setting has already been prepared as part of one of your other tactics). Changing your formation will affect the formation familiarity level, changing your mentality will affect the mentality, tempo and width familiarity levels, changing your team shape will affect the creative freedom familiarity level and various specific team instructions will also affect related familiarity levels. For example, the More Direct Passing instruction will affect the passing familiarity level and also, to a lesser extent, the tempo and width familiarity levels. On the other hand, some instructions, such as Work Ball Into Box (which affects shooting), will not affect any of the tactic familiarity components.

The Specific Team Instructions guide provides details of what tactical changes are made by each of these instructions.

It is therefore recommended not to make too many adjustments to your team instructions outside of matches so as not to adversely affect tactic familiarity, especially during periods when tactic familiarity is still being built up. You can still make changes to team instructions during a match without affecting tactic preparation however, since the ammended tactic will not be worked on in match preparation training unless it is saved at the time and then loaded in one of the three tactics slots after the match.

The coach that you assign to the tactics training category on the Coaches tab of the Training screen will work with your squad on tactic familiarity. Therefore, in order to increase tactic familiarity quickly it is important to ensure that you have assigned a coach to this training category.

1.1. Preparing Alternative Tactics

It is advisable to prepare two alternative tactics in addition to your main tactic to enable you to make tactical changes as appropriate before and during matches without team performance being adversely affected too much by poor tactic familiarity. Ideally, at least one of these tactics should use team instructions that are different to those used in your main tactic and at least one should use a different formation. Together, they should incorporate the most common tactical changes you make during matches.

The simplest way to do this is to prepare three tactics that you believe will each be useful in different situations, perhaps based on three different tactical styles.

Useful tactical approaches against different types of opposition and in different match scenarios are discussed in the Tactical Planning and During the Match guides.

However, since each of the eight components of tactic familiarity are learned independently, rather than the tactic being prepared as a whole, it is not necessary for both, or even one, of your alternative tactics to be a tactic that you actually plan to use in matches. As such, you may prefer to use contrasting team instructions in each of your alternative tactics as this will prepare a wider range of tactical alternatives that can independently be called upon when desired, even if you are unlikely to use all of the instructions that you select in a particular prepared tactic at the same time.

For example, you could prepare one alternative tactic with a more defensive mentality, shorter passing, narrower width, a higher tempo and less creative freedom, and another with a more attacking mentality, more direct passing, wider width, a lower tempo and more creative freedom.

2. Main Focus

The match training focus that you select from the Main Focus drop-down determines what your players will work on in addition to tactic preparation before each match. An alternative focus to be used instead of the main focus can be set for the match preparation training that takes place before any particular match in the next three weeks using the relevant drop-down on the training calendar.

Match training focuses do not affect the time spent on match preparation training or general training, and they do not affect training workloads.

The focuses and their effects are as follows:

  • Match Tactics - Your players will spend extra time preparing your loaded tactics and so tactic familiarity will increase more quickly. The effect of this focus is cumulative as it will cause tactic familiarity to increase until it reaches 100%. It is recommended that you use this as you main, and ideally only, focus when tactic familiarity levels are not yet fluid for your main tactic, while it can also be useful when building up tactic familiarity for your alternative tactics.
  • Teamwork - Your players will spend time improving their team cohesion on the pitch and so team cohesion will improve more quickly. The effect of this focus is cumulative as it will cause team cohesion to increase until it reaches its highest possible level. It can be useful when team cohesion has not yet reached a high level as explained below.
  • Defensive Positioning - Your players will work on defensive positioning for the next match and so will be able to defend more effectively. The effect of this focus is temporary as it will only last for the duration of the match concerned.
  • Attacking Movement - Your players will work on attacking movement for the next match and so will be able to attack more effectively. The effect of this focus is temporary as it will only last for the duration of the match concerned.
  • Defending Set Pieces - Your players will work on defending set pieces for the next match and so will be able to defend corners and free kicks more effectively. The effect of this focus is temporary as it will only last for the duration of the match concerned.
  • Attacking Set Pieces - Your players will work on attacking set pieces for the next match and so will be able to take more effective corners and free kicks. The effect of this focus is temporary as it will only last for the duration of the match concerned.

All of these focuses provide short-term benefits only and do not contribute towards the long-term aim of player development. However, the benefits of the Match Tactics and Teamwork focuses are longer lasting as their effects are cumulative.

Details of how to choose an appropriate temporary focus to use before matches against different types of opposition teams are provided in the Preparing for the Match guide.

2.1. The Teamwork Focus

The Teamwork focus can be a very useful focus to use if your squad does not yet have a high level of team cohesion. As with tactic familiarity, this may be the case after you have made new signings or when your players have returned to training at the start of pre-season. Although, if tactic familiarity also needs improving then it is advisable to prioritise this and use the Match Tactics focus first. The other focuses can be used mainly for more important matches, if at all, while team cohesion is being built up by selecting alternative focuses for such matches on the training calendar.

However, Teamwork is a less useful focus to use once team cohesion has reached a high level and will have no effect if team cohesion is already at its highest level.

Team cohesion is explained in more detail in the Player Morale & Relationships guide.

3. Scheduling

You can set the proportion of team training time that your squad will spend on match preparation training using the slider on the Scheduling panel. This has five settings, varying from 50% of time being spent on match preparation training (and 50% on general training) when the slider is positioned to the far left, to 0% of time on match preparation training (and 100% on general training) when the slider is positioned to the far right.

The training calendar gives a visual indication of how much time will be spent on each type of team training. However, this does not display the exact allocation of time. Training days are split between both general training and match preparation training even if this is not shown on the calendar.

The more time you schedule for match preparation training the more quickly tactic familiarity will be gained. Therefore, it is advisable to increase the amount of match preparation training when tactic familiarity levels are not yet fluid.

When tactic familiarity levels are described as fluid in each component for all of your tactics (assuming that you wish to use alternative tactics) the amount of match preparation training can be reduced so as not to to take time away from general training unnecessarily. Setting the slider to 10% match training (4 notches from the left on the slider) should generally be sufficient to maintain tactic familiarity levels while also allowing your team to prepare a focus for the next match, as long as you do not alter your team instructions outside of matches. If you do not believe that you need to prepare a focus to boost performance in the next match or to increase team cohesion any further then you may want to temporarily schedule 0% match preparation training. This will allow you to maximise general training time for a short period until you need to increase tactic familiarity levels again.

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