FM15: Southampton, scouting and stats

Taking over a team at dead last is always going to be tricky, and so it proved early on. I expected to avoid relegation with ease, but it went down to the final day where any of four teams could’ve finished in the dreaded relegation zone, whilst Stoke and Sunderland had already sealed their own fate in 19th & 20th.

We were able to comfortably beat Crystal Palace at St. Mary’s, and end up in a much undeserved 15th place finish. Having spent only three weeks of the season outside of the relegation zone, there’s lots of work to do to ensure we’re able to finish top half next year, as the board expect.

The Tactic

The base shape is similar to a 4-4-2, but with the attacking impetus coming from wide players, I’ve dropped the CMs back to DM to make us even more defensively solid. This also seems to (although perhaps it’s my own confirmation bias) give the Wide Playmaker more space to drift into. When playing a flat 4-4-2, I was finding the WP wouldn’t drift inside much. Now he does.

There are changes made to the player roles on a game-to-game basis. The WP and Winger roles (and therefore the IWB and CWB roles behind them — they should always pair up so one provides width and one cuts inside) change dependent on personnel available and the opposition we’re playing.

Until recently I’ve simply used a Full Back – Support instead of an IWB. Those who’ve tried the new role seem to think it’s not working in that it doesn’t attack like a central midfielder, as per the role description. So all I’m expecting is that they cut inside when the ball is at their feet.

Personnel and upgrades

Eder Alvarez Balanta and Gabriel Barbosa (as incredibly uncreative as those signings are) were the two first teamers I brought in during the January window. Very good value for the pair, and both solved serious issues the team had.

During the off-season, I’ll be looking to upgrade the team further with; GK, RCB, LB, RM, (ST). The coffers should be nicely boosted once on-loan Ramirez and Osvaldo are sold permanently.

The Scouting Process

Those of you who followed my updates from FM14, particularly my Hungarian save, will know that I’m fairly interested by stats in FM. So to find the following video (thanks to @Shrewnaldo for the link) really did pique my interest:

I previously input all the stats onto Excel manually. So to find this method opened up a whole heap of new possibilities; the first thing I thought of was to create my own FM player radars. For those unfamiliar with this, go to the Twitter page of @mixedknuts, and flick through his photos. You’ll get the jist.

So I collated the data from the top three European leagues; England, Spain & Germany. For each recorded stat, as per Ted’s method, I would find the 95th percentile and 5th percentile. This presented some interesting results:

(values illustrated are the 50th percentile for each value)

Things to note:
– Because they are not recorded in FM, the stats ‘Dispossessed’ and ‘Throughballs’ were removed from Ted’s radars. I instead added Average Rating.
– Most of the stats produced fairly similar results to Ted’s equivalent values, which is promising. The most different were Key Passes, which suggests a difference in the subjective definition of the term, and Passing Success %, with FM’s attackers having on average a much lower than their real life counterparts. Interceptions+Tackles was also slightly higher for FM, which makes sense given the lowered pass success rate. This perhaps points to the reason direct play is a success in this ME? Just a thought. There also seemed to be far more dribbles in-game, but this is also a pretty subjective term (what constitutes a ‘successful’ dribble?).

The idea is to utilise the database I have compiled as a scouting tool. My selection process for buying players (currently only AMs and FWs, as this is the only radar type I have completed thus far) is now as follows:

1. Eyes
2. Stats
3. Scouts
.. in no particular order.

Between the three of these, I have all angles covered. With the new fog of war style scouting system, it’s slightly more difficult to guarantee the right signings; particularly when regens roam the earth.

What the stats sub-category does do:
– Show me how each player played
– How they played in relation to other potential transfer options
– Allow me to compare Southampton players’ performances to potential transfer options

What this method doesn’t do:
– Illustrate the likelihood of repeatability
– Add any sort of context

This is where myself and the scouts come in.

If this sort of thing floats your boat, I’ve created the radars for some of the best forwards in Europe.

Ronaldo
Messi
Suarez
Aguero
Costa
Ibrahimovic

Case Study: Right Midfielder

With such little attacking impetus from the central midfielders, it’s vital the wingers make an impact in the attacking third. But given we operate under a counter attacking style of play, they need to contribute defensively too.

Currently the options we’ll be taking forward are Sadio Mane, Dusan Tadic and James Ward-Prowse. Mane plays exclusively as a winger, exclusively on the left. JWP plays exclusively on the right, and as a WP or winger. Tadic can play in either role on either side, handy. However, the Serbian is slightly better on the left, and drifting inside from there proves slightly more effective.

We’re therefore looking for a star right midfielder who can play primarily as a wide playmaker, but also as a winger. Whilst the left flank will be a question of rotating Tadic & Mane depending on the context, the right flank could do with a star player able to make an impact in close games — JWP isn’t quite ready for this.

For the new man, I already have a few prime candidates for the role in mind. The 10-man shortlist is as follows:

Joel Campbell (W/WP-A)
Roberto Firmino (W/WP-A)
Kevin Volland (WM/WP-S/A)
Jordy Clasie (WP/WM-S/A)
Adam Lallana (WP/W-A/S)
Ioannis Fetfatzidis (WP/W-A)
Markus Henriksen (WP-S/A)
Jack Grealish (W/WP-A)
Hiroshi Kiyotake (WP/W-A/S)
Adel Taarabt (W/WP-A)

My assistant manager tells me Volland, Clasie and Taarabt are the unattainables. It may well be the case that they don’t want to sign for us, but I’ve previously signed players that my assistant manager said were unrealistic so I’ll give it a go.

I’m immediately happy to dismiss the following players from consideration;

Jordy Clasie: whilst 7 finishing may not be much of an issue for a winger in a standard 4-4-2, it is here. Has a number of excellent attributes, and would be perfect should I ever move from a DLP to a Roaming Playmaker in the centre of midfield.

Kevin Volland: despite being a fantastic player, Volland is almost the perfect jigsaw piece for a top side. What he isn’t is a star player for a team looking to break into the elite. With his best attributes being work rate, determination, natural fitness, stamina, etc., he’s just not the guy we’re looking for.

Jack Grealish: the kid has wonderful potential, but so does Ward-Prowse. What we need is players able to make an impact right away.

The others all have handy attributes so move on to the scouting phase with the following list.

Joel Campbell
Roberto Firmino
Adam Lallana
Ioannis Fetfatzidis
Markus Henriksen
Hiroshi Kiyotake
Adel Taarabt

At this point, I’m able to remove Firmino. Whilst he looks a handy option, the ~30m fee required to bag him is out of our price range; as are his ~90k wage requirements. For similar reasons, we discount Adam Lallana, leaving five.

Now that we’ve got a smaller number of players to analyse, it’s easier to compare their player radars. Because Henriksen played his football as a deep midfielder, as well as playing in a different country, I’ve decided the adapting process may take too long and he’s been excluded, leaving us with the final four.

Campbell:

Likely transfer cost: £4m
Likely wage cost: £35k p/w

Fetfatzidis:

Likely transfer cost: £3.5m
Likely wage cost: £24k p/w

Kiyotake:

Likely transfer cost: £6m
Likely wage cost: £25k p/w

Taarabt:

Likely transfer cost: £14m
Likely wage cost: £50k p/w

Seeing these stats made it clear to me that Kiyotake wasn’t the guy. Whilst I think it’s hilarious that he’s essentially a rent-an-assist man, he’s not the right fit; we need far more than that from a midfielder.

This is something of a cop out given I’ve spent the whole article narrowing it down, but I’m more than happy with any of the final three. Taarabt is too expensive to bring in on transfer, but a loan is a distinct possibility. His key pass stats were beyond belief incredible.. with 2.75 per game, the next closest competitor in all of Europe was Ross Barkley, with 1.83. The difficulty is that Taraabt doesn’t score goals, and it puts more pressure on the strikers and other wide midfielder. But if we can get him in on loan, his creativity would be very useful. All this with an average rating of only 6.89. That’s why I’m not really a fan.

Of the other two, I plumped for Campbell, merely because Fetfatzidis is a defensive disaster. In a strict system such as ours, we need some element of defensive responsibility and the Greek isn’t able to supply that. Unfortunately he also doesn’t score enough goals to be a forward in a 4-3-3 system, and therefore I don’t really know where he fits.

But Campbell has everything, and the room to grow. Goals, dribbles, key passes, defensive contribution, speaks English and is accustomed to the league, has a large amount of international experience at only 23. He can play any system or any role and has lots of room to grow and turn into the key to the team.

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2 comments

  1. Shrewnaldo

    Really enjoyed that Ed, and some nice use of the data export to make the spider diagrams. I’ll definitely be nicking your template.

    Surprised you went for Taarabt, though. The high number of shots coupled with the low non-penalty goals would have had me worried. I assume he has the “shoots from distance” PPM? Campbell looked like the shout to me but I think he’s gone elsewhere now?

    What’s the plan now then? Loan market?

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