Football Manager 2011 recently jumped back to number one in the PC charts a staggering 8 months after release. Paying testament to the longevity of the Sports Interactive series not only from one title to the other but the titles themselves which will rarely seem outdated quickly.
What makes us keep playing these games for so long? What makes the series so popular over the long-term? One of the many area in which it can boast key attributes is within it’s flexibility, allowing the gamer to choose how they want to play the game within a framework. Different levels, depth of approaches and teams each bring it’s own unique scenario and challenges can be found from Barcelona to Icheon United to Southport.
I am now in my mid 20’s and have grown up playing the each of the SI Games titles since 2009. Thats a lot of game time to commit to one thing, hell if I would have committed so much effort and time to my degree I may be a Dr now, but without changing things up a bit, challenging myself with new objectives it could have been a tiresome task to load up FM2012. Understanding and implementing the moneyball concept has been my latest enriching task.
UEFA financial fair play rules set to take affect this year is creating a footballing world where to compete you have to live within your means and get more bang for your buck. Moneyball has become the vogue word as if it is now the right and only way to play. Liverpool are the highest profile name to be adopting this approach at the moment, but you will also seem such concepts feature in the strategies of Celtic, Udinese and Lyon.
Moneyball a book originally written by Michael Lewis based on the approach of Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane who gained his playing advantage by exploiting player drafts, bringing in players based on the study of sabermetics and doing away with the traditional scouting techniques.
John W Henry’s has made use of such techniques at his own baseball side and now is learning how he can introduce and adapt this for Liverpool. I have been really interested in this way of playing and it has added something different to my games. So I thought I would introduce you to some basics of the approach to begin with.
1. Plug the Gaps
“Imagine that you’re a cost-conscious consumer who finds himself starving and without food in the middle of nowhere, with just one shop – and it sells overpriced food. You have the money, so do you choose to go hungry, or pay to fill the void? (in this case, in your stomach).” Quote from Tomkins Times
Arsenal have been that cost conscious consumer as of late who seems to want to starve (itself from silverware)
Many people mistake moneyball for getting players as on the cheap. Moneyball is not about this but about exploiting the market and playing it well. Before you can start implementing any of the other tactics you have to sort out your first team first and make sure that it is a competitive force. Using your resources effectively.
Since the new owners arrived, Liverpool have spent a massive £105m on players. But near £60m has already been recouped from player sales with more players soon to leave. The team now looks a much improved squad as a whole and not just by splashing alot of money on one player, the average age has dropped and many of these players will keep their value for along longer. Take the Torres deal for example. Out went a injury prone player whose stats suggest is running out of steam, not surprising after years of none stop competitions for £50m. In came two younger players, whose numbers suggest are on the up.
Spend the money to get your team to the place where the resources will allow you, work to build a competitive base before moving on to other aspects of the side.
For those working on a tighter budget think about how you can exploit the market. Strikers are always more expensive then goalkeepers. Two stats that suggest a successful team are percentage of shots on target and number of saves made. Buying a decent defense and goalkeeper on with a small budget could be worth more then splashing all your cash on a star striker, and if you do find someone that will hit the target. Look at Peter Odemwingie, £1m and has one of the best % rates on target then any other striker in the league.
Once you have got your side together you can risk you time on using the rest of your resources to find those bargain players who will go on to make a profit.
2. Invest in Your Scouting Network
To exploit the transfer market, you need to know the products within the market. This is where your scouting network comes in, constantly scouring the leagues for young talent that you can bring into your side. Talent that you can bring in for a good price with potential re-sale prices.
My own scouting network is geared towards spotting the best talent as it emerges, scouts with knowledge in a particular country will be my eyes in that country. I will scout the major leagues for knowledge of the best players and scouts in the youth competitions to pick to grab the young players early, for cheaper and potential re-sale values are massive.
Investing the time and effort in to doing this correctly can help compensate for what is at the moment a terrible system of bringing youth in from academies in which you have little control of. Completing your own recruitment from around the world will bring a lot of benefits and start to build up your sides moneyball success.
3. Develop your players
Developing players yourself is always going to be the cheapest way to find success. Look at Everton who consistently hit a top 10 without the cash resources of the clubs around them. Rooney, Rodwell, Vaughan and Osman have all been key parts to Everton’s success.
Paying close attention inside your club and creating a clear route from Under 18 team to First team can be a powerful thing. You can build that team that will replace the next or sell for a profit.
Bringing in the best coaches, putting together training schedules that will develop players in the correct way and putting together that scouting network can be a very rewarding activity when your own generations come through. It can often be too easy in Football Manager just to splash the cash on buying the best player in the game and running with it and ignoring the youth team you have at your disposal.
4. Every player has a price
Would this be a moneyball discussion without mentioning Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski’s book Soccernomics? Well no! The most interesting and widely quoted of their 12 rules to the transfer market. Two I would like to point out though here are, ‘make sure you have a replacement for your best players’ and ‘every player has a price’.
You have got your scouting network bringing those players of the future, but to make sure that you are going to be able to bring a player to come into the first team if/when needed. That means then you can take that unbeatable offer that comes in for your star striker. You want to make a profit, you want to create a sustainable side that spends less then it makes. The profits you make on building up players will be a big part of this.
The whole strategic approach is not to make money but to ‘Football Manage’, it is to be successful on the pitch. The two go hand in hand, success should offer bigger profits, bigger profits should offer bigger success. So it is important to invest and improve your first team as much as possible before you look to concentrate on other areas of your squad.
Lyon’s business strategy is to win the Champions League in the next few years, because it is the next step in their commercial gains. Liverpool are investing heavily to get back into the Champions League because that is where the money is to take the club forward and back on track.
But most of all what the moneyball approach is is a holistic approach that should encompass all parts of the Football Management and for that reason should be embraced in creating a gaming experience which is much more enjoyable and exploits the game itself to it’s full potential.