If you’re gonna build a title-winning team in FM21, triumph against all the odds when it seems like the whole world is against you, you need to build a proper squad.
You need a midfield enforcer like Big Dom Cummings, ensuring everyone is doing their jobs and lifting morale. You need to keep it tight at the back with someone like Honest Matt Hancock, who will make sure nothing leaks out and that you’ve got adequate protection. And up front, you need the captain, the big blonde bombshell, the guy who will lead from the front and put himself in hospital for the cause, if that’s what it takes.
Actually, you don’t need any of that. You need this…
Determination – lots of it
It’s not dedication that you need if you want to be a record breaker. Roy Castle was talking out of his bugle. If you want beat the best, determination’s what you need. (Apologies to readers under 45 who haven’t got a chuffing clue what this paragraph is all about.)
High (15+) determination is by far and away the characteristic I look for most in players. High determination players won’t only slog through training, boosting their other attributes, they’ll drag your other players up too, correcting bad attitudes.
Of course, technical skills are important too, but if you can get a core of determined players together and build them into team leaders, you’ve got one hand on the trophy.
Traits that fit tactics
Player traits are often overlooked in favour of numbered attributes, but they can make a big difference – especially if you get players with complimentary traits that fit your tactics.
My Jahn Regensburg boys play counter-attacking with five at the back to keep things tight. In front of them is a playmaker with the trait ‘tries to play long balls’ and a pacy forward who ‘tries to beat the offside trap’.
The end result is that when my centre-backs win the ball back, they often feed it short to the playmaker, who pings a ball over the top for the striker to race on to. Unless the opposition have signed Usain Bolt, that normally leaves my striker (finishing 18) with a one-on-one. It has bagged me goals, goals, goals.
Plenty of partnerships
Consistency of selection is critical. You need to have a ‘first team’ in mind and largely use them for the bulk of your league games (I’ll come to strength in depth shortly).
When you play players together often you’ll see little green lines appear between them on the Tactics screen. That means they’ve formed a partnership and that is pay dirt, because they’ll work better together, link up play and get a little morale boost from playing with a regular partner.
When you’ve got four or five of those lovely green lines across your Tactics screen, it’s a thing of beauty. Your boys are in better harmony than a Welsh male voice choir.
Strength in depth
I have an A and a B team in my first-team squad. You might switch players between the two occasionally to account for form or injuries, but generally I have two different teams that I can rotate.
The reason for this is simple: fatigue. If you play the same team across all your league and cup ties, they’re going to be shagged by the end of September. Injuries will pile up, form will crater. If you keep picking different players for every game, your squad won’t form those critical partnerships mentioned above.
The A team should play the bulk of your league games and critical cup ties. The B team handles the rest. The key is getting your B team strong enough to cope with cup/European ties and the weaker teams in your league. That takes time. Roma wasn’t built in a day.
Take it easy in the transfer market. Even if you’ve got a Saudi prince owner who wipes his backside with £50 notes, don’t replace more than three ‘A team’ players in a single window.
You don’t need the best players to win a league, you need the best team. A team with strong partnerships, complimentary traits and a good dollop of determination will take you a long way. Keep chopping and changing those players and you’ll risk losing those bonds. You can read my tips on how to get hold of wonderkids here.