Moneyball in Football Manager 2019: III

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Before we kick off with the 3rd update of this save, I just want to say thank you very much to everyone that has plugged, promoted, liked or read these updates so far. I’ve had a fantastic response to the save so far, and this is the most successful this blog has been – in terms of views – since my beloved Bayer Leverkusen save back on FM15. Anyway, back to Moneyball – in case you’ve missed this save so far, here are the first and second updates. In the last update, I covered the first half of the season, which had gone very well, with us five points clear of Celtic at the top of the league, into the Knockout Round of the Europa League against Hoffenheim. We had also made some classic Moneyball transfers, bringing in 4 complete unknowns, whilst moving out those who had statistically proven that they weren’t good enough to play for Rangers.

The conditions or rules that I’ve applied to my save come largely from the concepts outlined in Moneyball, but also from the excellent football economy books Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, and The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally. If you need a reminder, below are the rules I’m using – this is the last time I will post these in the actual article, from now on they will be added as a link:

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Moneyball in Football Manager 2019: II

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Right, time for part two of Moneyball in Football Manager 2019. For any of you just catching up with this save now, in Part 1 we outlined what my theory behind Moneyball is, the rules I’ll be following throughout this save, and who I’ll actually be playing as, Glasgow Rangers. As I said in the last update, I selected Rangers because I feel given their tentative financial position, they’re an ideal option to test out pure Moneyball with, and see whether I can utilise this concept to not only topple Celtic at the top of the SPL, but return Rangers to European football and competing at a continental level.

If you remember, the conditions that I’ve applied to my save come largely from the concepts outlined in Moneyball by Michael Lewis, but also from the excellent football economy books Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, and The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally. If you need a reminder, below are the rules I’m using:

  1. Players are undervalued for a range of biased reasons such as age, personality, appearance. None of these matter. All that matters is production on the field, which can be analysed through statistics.
  2. Several countries are overvalued in the market, such as England, Holland and Brazil and there is better value for money off the beaten track.
  3. Wage spend correlates to success far more than transfer expense.
  4. Prioritise identifying and improving your weak spots in transfer windows. This is the best way to improve your team.
  5. Strikers cost more than they should and can be poor value for money.
  6. Ensure that all potential signings are thoroughly scouted – the wisdom of crowds – before their statistics can be analysed. 
  7. Don’t buy players who performed well solely at international competitions. These are a perfect example of ‘small sample size’, where stats have no true value to them as they can’t be trusted to be replicated. 
  8. Long term, producing your own players and developing through the academy is more cost effective. 
  9. Football is won by scoring more goals than the opposition – like baseball is won by scoring more runs – and therefore attacking stats must be a main focus.
  10. Some of the best value can be found in identifying players who are no longer wanted by their clubs, and are likely to vastly undervalue them.

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Moneyball in Football Manager 2019: I

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Right, it’s time for a new save on the blog, and it’s time for a save concept that I’ve been wanting to do for several editions of Football Manager now, Moneyball. Moneyball as a concept has been done several times on editions of FM by other content creators – most notably by the excellent Alex Stewart in his brilliant Bristol City series on The Set Pieces – but with all due respect to those content creators, I somewhat disagree with their interpretations of the Moneyball model and how it’s been utilised in their saves. My beliefs around what Moneyball is, and how it can be implemented come largely from the utterly brilliant Michael Lewis book ‘Moneyball’ which I’ve studied in depth. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend that you do. The film of the same name is also well worth a watch for pure entertainment value.

The book covers the 2002 season of the Major League Baseball team, the Oakland Athletics. The book centres around the Athletics’ – or A’s – GM Billy Beane, and his use of data driven analytics to create a team that could compete for the World Series despite a far lower wage budget than the New York Yankees. I’ve also read plenty of articles around the topic, and there are aspects that I’ll use from other writing focused on footballing economics, such as Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski, and The Numbers Game by Chris Anderson and David Sally – hence why a couple of my guidelines below are similar to Alex Stewart’s, because I agreed with a large amount of them. From the books and other articles I’ve read about Moneyball, here are the key concepts I’ll be working around in this save:

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Navigating the Winter Transfer Window on Football Manager

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 16.04.04Ok, so we’re back again. I said in the last post that I would update this save every time I thought something major happened that was worth discussing, and it already has. I’ve often said that I think one of my strengths on Football Manager is my ability to quickly build a very strong squad that can compete on a domestic and continental level. Obviously, this is somewhat easier for me having played FM for such a long time, I largely know the players who are good buys every year – although I do try to mix up the players that I sign on each version of the game.

This article will cover the winter transfer window in my first season with Arsenal. The winter transfer window is always a banana skin for your season, because one missed step can quickly turn a positive season into a negative one, so you need to be aware of how things are going before making any rash decisions. As you saw in the last update, my Arsenal currently sit top of the table as a result of the switch to the 4-4-2 system, and by the time we had reached the transfer window, we had extended our lead at the the top of the table to around 9 points following a 4-0 drubbing of Liverpool – with Lacazette scoring all four – even with Mkhitaryan and Özil injured. The main thing about being that far clear at the top, is that I can afford to be relatively aggressive with the moves I make, knowing I have a buffer down to what became Manchester United in 2nd.

There are two key objectives you can use the winter window for. These are:

  • Preparing your squad for the second half of the season, and filling in any gaps you may have.
  • Preparing your squad for the seasons to come – a.k.a. youth.

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My New 4-4-2 System on FM19

Screen Shot 2018-12-27 at 16.04.04First things first, I need to apologise regarding the regularity of the updates on the return of One Man’s Journey. I started the save with the full intention of making it my main save for Football Manager 2019, but work has since got in my way over the last month and a half or so, and I’ve really been unable to devote much – if any – time to playing Football Manager. As a result the save has largely remained untouched – halfway through season one. I’m struggling to find time to play a save that is so time intensive – a quick look at the sheer amount of links and images I need for one update will show you – so for now, I’m going to shelve the save.

However, what I have been able to continue is my beta save with Arsenal and that will form the basis of what I’m going to discuss in this article. If you remember, I wrote about the original system I was using with Arsenal as my first piece for FM19, and the system itself was a 4-3-1-2 that formed a diamond. This system had taken us to 3rd in the League after 7 games, two points behind leaders Liverpool and one behind surprise early runners Burnley. However, I’ve since moved away from that system, and the new system – along with a few other features – will be what I’ll discuss in this article.

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One Man’s Journey Across the Alps: I

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Right, after my post outlining what I was doing on the FM19 beta, it’s time to properly get started. As you can probably tell from the title of this article, and possibly from my Twitter if you’ve been following (@JLAspey), I’m bringing back a concept that I first began on FM17, which I called One Man’s Journey. If you’ve been following my writing and this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know that I rarely like to play Football Manager in obvious leagues, and I always try to play the game in a different way. One Man’s Journey on FM17 was my journey through France managing as Julien Girard, and it was one of the most enjoyable saves I’ve ever had on Football Manager. The concept was simple, it was a journeyman save, but focused on just one country, in that instance, France.

But now I’m taking the concept to another level with this year’s edition of the save. After a year away from it I’ve been able to come up with what I think will be an even more immersive version of the save, both for me and for you as readers. As this article’s title slightly gives away, this year I’m going on One Man’s Journey Across the Alps. That means that the countries we’re going to be in are Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, France and Switzerland. As on FM17, this game will be played realistically, and our manager’s beliefs and attitudes will evolve as he is impacted by the world around him. To add extra lower leagues for the above countries, I’ve again used claasen’s files, available on the SI forums. Here are the leagues I’ve selected as available.

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Here is our manager for this year’s edition of the save, Austrian Johannes Leitner. Johannes was born in Vienna, and had a moderately good professional career, playing as a left back and left wing back, but never making it higher than the Erste Liga and retired at 35 after realising that his playing days were over and his future lay in coaching. Johannes only has one truly favoured club, Austria Salzburg, the club his father supports, and the club that Johannes supports as a result despite growing up in Vienna (Johannes and his father would travel to watch them whenever they could). Because of his support for Austria Salzburg, Johannes also has a deep disdain for Red Bull Salzburg and Red Bull in general, seeing them as taking the identity away from football clubs. Tactically, these are Johannes’ main beliefs:

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My Setup for FM19

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Well, FM19’s beta is here, so I thought I would do a quick article which will outline what I’ve been doing so far tactically. I’ve been playing my beta save with Arsenal – who are always fun on Football Manager – a team who I’ve played with before on previous editions of FM. They’re usually a very good beta team as well if you want to figure out what works on the latest edition of the game, and what you’re going to use tactically because they have a large amount of players in various positions. Before I start as well, I’ll say that so far I really, really like this year’s game, and some of the changes that have been made are very good, and there are some – like training – that I’m still looking forward to diving into. Bravo SI, bravo.

Of course, on this year’s version Arsenal are slightly weaker than in years past. They no longer have Alexis Sanchez, who was a vital plater for me back when I played as Arsenal on FM17, but they do still have Mesut Özil, and also possess relative new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who I’m very much looking forward to using. There’s also Lucas Torreira, a fantastic new midfielder that Arsenal have signed. All in all, once again, Arsenal look really fun to use on FM.

Spoilers: I’m very tempted to just make this my permanent save, because it’s been so enjoyable so far.

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