Your number’s up.

Your number’s up.

Today is my first day in charge of Brda, the media’s favourite to finish bottom of Slovenia’s Second League.

Of the 16 participating clubs, four are fully professional, with the remaining 12, including Brda, semi-pro. I am hoping it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that I can finish above three or four of those fellow semi-professional teams, so that we can establish ourselves as an outfit which isn’t simply there as food for the cannons.

For what it’s worth – very little at this stage – the ten teams in the First League are all professional, meaning that if a part-time club did manage to escape the Second League, they’d do very well not to get obliterated every week. But with pro clubs being the favourites to go up, and pro clubs definitely coming down, it’s a beneficial cycle for those with the fanbase and budget to be able to embrace professionalism.

As I alluded to before, the first thing I want to do is have a look at what I actually have to work with. There’s a not unreasonable £27,000 of transfer cash available to me, and £300-a-week I can make use of in the wagebill – which ain’t bad when the top earner at the club is only on £275. I confess that I don’t really want to use either of those sources of funds unless there are gaping holes in the squad (which, at Brda’s level, there might well be) because I’d sooner try to pick up free transfers, and spend the money on extra coaches to improve them, and extra scouts to find the next set of free agents. I guess we’ll see.

How can you avoid blowing all your transfer budget on dud signings? Original – ebay.co.uk Effects by Lunapic.

So, obviously, I click on one of my players, and try to ascertain his qualities, and I am presented, as you’d expect, with this:

Ciaran Grogan’s visible attributes.

Now, I know I can use the player comparison tool to see how his attributes stack up against another squad member, and I can use the ‘traffic lights’, which tell me he’s decent as a central defender (there’s no difference between CD (De) and CD (St), but he loses half a star as a CD (Co), presumably because his relative lack of pace and anticipation, both of which are ‘Key Attributes’ for the cover role, let him down.)

But I realised there has to be a better way. What if I want to look at, say, all the central defenders in my squad, and ascertain which ones are the best in the defend, stopper, or cover role? What if it turned out that Grogan is actually my best left-back, but only my fourth-best central defender? How does that change my thinking when it comes to spending, or holding onto, my £27,000 transfer budget, and my three hundred quid a week fat in the wagebill? Might there be so many decent central defenders that I can sell one of them, and boost my warchest by another £8,000?

I have tried to do exactly that – give myself a global view of my players’ visible attributes – and the method I have used can be further tweaked. It is possible to amend the calculations so that it takes into account morale, overall physical fitness, match sharpness, and even adds or deducts points based on personality type. For now, though, it is not as complicated as that.

(I don’t know what to think about the idea of making it more complicated. The sheet I am about to show you is based on the numbers which Football Manager presents to me. Even then, there is a single caveat, but in general I am sticking to the things I can see. The less you rely on what’s in front of you, the more you think faster-than-light particles into existence, which you then have to justify.)

Anyway, this is what the output looks like in Excel:

Converting visible player attributes into a single number.

It lists the five most capable players in the squad, based on their visible attributes. I learn that if I want to play two central defenders, one as stopper, and one as cover, that my best two options are the above Grogan (at cover), and Matej Kovacevic (as the stopper), and that there’s very little difference between Grogan and Kovacevic in the stopper role.

No matter what my approach to team selection, formations, and squad-building, I have some insight which I think I can work with. Whether I decide that I am wedded to some sort of 4-4-1-1, which I’ll play regardless of personnel or opposition, or whether I choose a formation based on the strengths of the individual players, the table above helps me on my way.

The observant amongst you will notice the limitation of the model I am using, and it is this: I said above that Grogan loses half-a-star as a covering central defender, when compared to the stopper or defend roles. Yet, on my sheet, he is worse in the defensive role than he is in the covering one.

It’s because I am weighting the ‘Preferable’ attributes as being less important than the ‘Key’ ones, and this is the caveat I referred to. Nobody knows how SI weight these things, or whether they do at all, and so I am moving away from the raw data of what I am actually able to see. (I guess it’s an idea to tweak the ‘preferable’ constant until Grogan becomes worse as the cover than the other two roles, and then check it against the other players in the squad, too.)

Still, it should be a useful tool. I can measure the numerical gap between my third-best central defender and the fourth, and decide whether it’s worth trying to recruit, or whatever else.

So, there we have it – I have generated a single number for each of the players in the squad, and it’s the first weapon I intend to use to keep poor old, semi-professional Brda from dropping into the Slovenian Third League.

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