The Introduction | Scouting & Transfers
This got a bit long, so I’d advise you fetch a warm beverage and to put your feet up, and if you haven’t already, take a look at my approach to scouting which covers in a lot of detail how I set everything up. I still scout the same way as always, but I’ll be going over the requirements for the types of players that we’re looking for at Rennais.
Selling players is only bad when you can’t adequately replace them.
As always, on my manager profile, I’ve set my player and youngster knowledge attribute values to 1. This means I will see the minimum attributes for each player I’m searching for. Only when they’re fully scouted will I get a full picture, which is just the way I like it.
Our scouting department is pretty small when compared to larger clubs around Europe. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot have one of the best scouting systems in world football.
At Stade Rennais, we want to be one of the first in line for the top prospects around the globe. This being players between 16-18 years of age as they are more likely to sign for us and their transfer fees will be cheaper. However, we cannot use up our budget on youth prospects who we might never see develop and realise their potential, so scouting is key to ensure we’re only picking up talented youngsters where we’re confident in their potential.
What kind of player do we want to sign?
You should always try to ask yourself this before you start scouting. How do you know what to look for if you know know what you want?
We have our default tactical system, so we know the roles and types of player we want (I’ll go over that in the next post after this), so we need to know the requirements for every position from the goalkeeper to the striker. Every player needs to have a default set of attributes: be determined, work hard and be a team player. These key requirements shouldn’t really be relaxed. We might possibly relax one should a superb player becomes available, for example, a highly technical player who plays out wide might not necessarily have a high level of teamwork, which we might be able to overlook if we think his output will warrant us relaxing that.
I won’t go through all 11 positions on the pitch with each individual requirement, but ultimately, we’re looking for a certain playing style with each role:
- Goalkeepers: shot-stoppers
- Centre backs: leaders
- Full-backs: technical players
- Defensive midfielders: leaders
- Central Midfielders: technical players
- Wingers: creative players
- Striker: creative players
Using these templates, we can get each cog in the wheel that is our tactical philosophy functioning as we’d expect. When scouting I will use the short term focus of a month rotating each position above for the roles that I use in my system.
Circling back to my opening post, there are two types of players we will be looking for, so here’s a deeper dive into that.
Young players we can develop for the future
- Locally sourced talent. These players are the players in the surrounding areas. These players develop through the youth system as newgens. To have a better chance of scouting and signing the best before they come through the academy and into the under 18s, we need to have the best youth recruitment we can have. This is where we will be focussing first.
- French talent. These players, between 15-16 years old will be signed, more than likely, from the lower leagues in France. It is unlikely that we will be able to convince players to sign for us from the French First Division for a relatively reasonable fee. So we will scout the lower leagues for young players we can develop at Centre d’entraînement Henri-Guérin.
- European talent. These players, between 16-20, will be underdeveloped, but carry great potential. We will be scouting in regions that other clubs might not venture to in order to try to pick up the top players from unknown towns and villages across Europe.
- World talent. Unfortunately, due to transfer rules, we cannot sign any non-EU players until they’re 18 years old. So these players might come at a bit more of a premium than the above, but it will also mean we can scout and monitor their development for longer, so the risk should be smaller. If we can identify players from the ages of 16+ and keep an eye on them, we can be more sure about a transfer when the time comes.
Ready-made players for the first team
- Under 23s. It is built into the fabric of our club, that we sign younger players, and those who are 23 and under will likely be lower risk and more value in the long run. They will be at a point in their development when you can see the type of player they are and where they will fit into the system. These players will be signed from all over the world, I’m not precious about their nationality, but we have a four-player limit of non-EU players (currently at one)
- Any age. I’ll be trying to limit the number of players we sign over 23 but I won’t have a hard and fast rule that says if the right players are available we won’t sign them. If someone comes on the market at a reasonable price and is an upgrade on what we have then we will look to make these signings.
I will be taking responsibility for scouting. I will set assignments for the scouting department to pick up, this is to ensure we only pick up players who fit the system. There are two ways I will be doing this.
Short term focus
As I alluded to earlier, the short term focus will allow me to search for players who fit a particular player role. This will give the scouting team a focus on a role that we’re short on in order to ensure I have some recommendations at the end of the season.
As mentioned in a previous post, we’re short on a goalkeeper, wing-backs on either side and a defensive midfielder. So notwithstanding any players sales, this is where I will be concentrating initially.
We will also set up a general focus for the scouts to look for players who fit the system. Below is an example of an assignment I have created.
This will mean we get players for all positions within our tactic scouted, which should hopefully give us a good number of players to look at coming to the end of the season.
USING STATISTICAL ANALYSIS
Something I have alluded to previously is how I intend to try and use some statistical analysis to make more informed transfers.
Back in October, James and I started talking about our potential FM20 saves. This discussion deviated onto the subject of using stats from the game to make more informed transfer decisions. Typically, a Football Manager (in-game) would make signings based on player attributes. They’re big and shiny and when they’re all high it’s easy to target the best players.
However, not all of us rely on attributes. And this is where the project was born.
When comparing two players in-game you would normally just base it on their attributes, right? It’s the easiest way to get a view on how good a player is. However, it is not as simple as just looking at each attribute in isolation, for example, looking at finishing alone won’t tell you how good a striker is. His ability to get into scoring positions and then put the ball into the back of the net relies on a few attributes, e.g., finishing, composure, anticipation, off the ball etc.
So by looking at stats, I can make some assumptions that players who are scoring regularly or creating a high number of chances for their teammates have the right combination of attributes to do a job I need them to do.
Identifying our range
So one of the first jobs I’ll do at the end of the season is to filter out unrealistic transfer targets to reduce the number of players returned to me. I don’t want to have players in my results who, quite frankly, I cannot afford or who are no interested in joining me.
I’ll set their interest level to slightly interested and export the results.
The reason I add the league is that there seems to be a limit of around 200-300 players you can export. I will usually export each league that I have loaded so I have all the player data I need.
Highlighting the top performers
Once I’ve imported all of this into Google Sheets (I have to use Google Sheets because the online compute power is a lot better than Excel on my mac and I churn through a lot of calculations!) I can then start sifting through the data.
First I will check to have an eyeball over the top performers per role. Generally, if I see the same name popping up a couple of times I will check out that player to see what he looked like, for example, Ferdy Druijf is the top striker for shots on target ratio and goals per 90.
I have also built in the ability to adjust tackles (PAdj Tck/90) and interceptions (PAdj Int/90) by possession numbers. Which is a little complex, but it helps elevate some players who may not get the recognition they deserve because of the team they play for. For an in-depth read, check out this: https://statsbomb.com/2014/06/introducing-possession-adjusted-player-stats/
Essentially, players who play for teams who control high amounts of possession don’t have the opportunity to make as many interceptions and tackles as someone who plays for a team who always defend. So the tackles and interceptions are adjusted to cater for the amount of time their team does or doesn’t have the ball.
For the geeks, the equation is: Tackles * 2/(1 + e^(-0.1*(x-50))), x/50 where x is the possession value.
Take Jérôme Onguéné of FC Red Bull Salzburg, he made 2.1 interceptions per 90 minutes, despite his team having the ball for nearly 60% of the time, so his number is adjusted up to 2.99 to reflect that. I think this adds a bit of realism.
I’ll then work out the average score across all important metrics for each role to score and sort players, those with a higher score, theoretically, perform better statistically. I don’t use all metrics here, because I don’t really care about goal involvement for centre-backs, for example. What I do care about is interceptions and tackles per 90 minutes, tackle success rate, headers, headers success rate, passing accuracy, and key passes.
Nikola Maksimovic was the top-performing centre-back, and if I was in the market for one, he would be someone I would be scouting. As it turns out, he’s a pretty good centre-back.
Finally, because I somewhat care that the players are fit for the roles I want them to perform in, I will adjust the above filter to look at players whose best role is that of the position I want them to fill, e.g., if I needed a wing-back who was best suited to the defend duty, I could drill down further and see that Patrick Farkas and Anderson were two of the top performers.
Using the above, I can quickly identify the top-performing players who a) I can actually afford and b) who would be interested in coming to play for Stade Rannais. Importantly, they’re within the age range we’re looking for.
Once I’ve identified my targets I will usually have a quick comparison with my own squad to make sure they’re performing better than the players I already have in these positions if I’m looking for a replacement.
During my test save to make sure all of this actually worked, you can see that Ferdy Druijf outperformed my top striker by some distance. If I was in the market for a striker, he would be close to the top of the list.
Don’t forget to scout!
When all is said and done, I still rely heavily on my scout reports for players. I will only be using this as a first step to identifying any players that my scouts might not have picked up on during the season.
I will compare all the players we’re in the market for to try and make a more informed decision. That’s not to say that I will only use this approach, because signing potential won’t need any statistical comparisons, but where first-team players are required, this will certainly help me.
Finally, I have a few smaller charts to look at the top 20 players in a number of metrics, like shots on target vs the number of shots taken. I view this as important since you can expect that players who score a lot of goals must take a lot of shots and if those shots are on target, there’s a good chance they’re going to score.
That being said, I cannot see the quality of the shot, e.g., they could all be from outside the box, but again, this isn’t a tool to replace scouting, it is a tool to highlight outstanding performers.
So, I’ve identified top performing players, we’ve scouted them, how will I go about signing them?
So without going into too much detail, the above should give you a good indication of the ways I will be scouting and the types of players I am looking for. The following is how I will then go about making player signings.
Director of Football – Sabino Aguad
I managed to convince Sabino Aguad to join us from Club Universidad de Chile, where the 59-year-old Chilean had been working as a scout.
In my opinion, he was massively underutilised there. He has all the right attributes to be a brilliant Director of Football for us, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what he can do to help us reach the next level.
He has a lot of work to do for us. This is how I see our working relationship going.
Making player signings
I will control the scouting assignments, as I know where I want the scouts to be looking and what types of players I want. At the end of the season, I will collate all scout reports and sort the players into their respective positions.
I will export all player data from these scouted players, along with all other players around the world up to the maximum value we can realistically pay for players, e.g., around €20m.
Once I’ve compared these players and made a choice on who my top priorities are, I’ll then give my wish list to him to make the deals happen. To keep things organised, I group the transfer targets list by position and sort the players in order of priority.
Once a player from the list is signed, no further signings are made for that position, and he moves on to the next position.
Essentially, once I’ve found the players I want and given my list to Sabino, I go on my summer holidays while he works tirelessly to make the deals happen. I have no further involvement at this point.
Dealing with player contracts
He will also be responsible for the renewal of player contracts. As and when I decide on which players I wish to keep, and which ones I wish to sell, I will be asking Sabino to negotiate all renewals for me.
I don’t want any part in this, to be honest, it’s not my business. I’ll let him know who I want to keep and if he can get the players to agree to stay, then fantastic. If not, well, that’s just the way it goes.
As above, if I decide that a player no longer has a future at the club, It’ll be up to Sabino to find the player a new club and deal with the offers. I don’t want to get too involved here, so the less I have to do the better.
There really isn’t much more to it than that. Most of the work is taken out of my hands and dealt with by my staff. I’ll set the scouting focuses, but these will generally run themselves with my Director of Football attending the scouting meetings and only bringing to me the players he feels we should take a closer look at.
We’ll look at tactics next, which should finish off nicely the start of my save.
As always, you can get in touch with me in the comments below, via twitter @fmfutbolmanager, or my slack channel #fmFutbolManager — if you’re not a part of the Football Manager Slack community, then you can join here!
Until next time, à tout à l’heure.