Friendlies: The Tactical Playground

Friendlies seem to be an inconvenience for many football fans. Games during the pre-season that no one cares about. But what if I told you that friendlies could be the most important part of your Football Manager career? Would that make you more willing not to ask your assistant manager to take control of your next set of friendly games while you wheel and deal in the transfer market? We take a look at how friendlies can be used to give you the advantage in the coming season.

Preparing for the season

Friendlies ensure that your side is ready for the season ahead. A summer without football can make your squad unprepared for competitive games. Unable to keep hold of the ball, lack sharpness in finishing and tire before a game is over. Vitally important it is to have a good pre-season warm up but it also has other advantages then a simple run out.

With the summer being a time for most of your major transfer activity, new players will need time to gel with the rest of your side, time to get comfortable playing in your system.  It can take around 15 games before a player is fully integrated into the team, friendlies can allow this integration to happen much quicker, preparing new players for the first games of the league season.

The tactical playground

Friendlies are a chance to get to know your squad, the new players and how you are going to deal with those departures that you had to reluctantly give up on. Currently, I am using my own friendlies to test out how new signing Rio Mavuba is going to fit into my Spurs side, I knew I needed an extra defensive midfielder to win the ball in the middle of the park, but how exactly is he to fit into the side as a whole, this will be discovered with little risk of losing points or competitions. Often I find it hard to risk young players when I am chasing points in the league. Again, friendlies will show me the players who may surprise and the future of the club.

Mistakes can and should be made; but you must learn from mistakes. Analyse what is happening on the pitch, without making major changes too quickly. Set up your side, nice and simple to start with, using small changes and tweaks. Making too many changes, could work amazingly well, but how are you meant to know what you actually did right to get good results? So use small changes to help you analyse what works and what doesn’t. Don’t be afraid to experiment, if you don’t know what a particular player role does? Then try it in this safe mode for a better understand and bettering your skills.

Variety: The spice of life

I am a believer of playing Football Manager yourself and not delegating all responsibilities to the assistant. Arranging games against a variety of sides during pre-season can have several advantages. First of all, for small clubs, playing sides much better then yourself can bring much needed finances into the team, help financial stability, friendlies profitability are a big reason why ‘arrange a friendly’ clauses in transfers can be of value to a selling team. You may even show some steel and have a chance to test out those defensive tactics.

Playing smaller sides, just before the start of the new season, can breed confidence into your side. You might only be playing Home Farm FC, but beating them 10-0 is a fantastic boost, making for a happy squad. Going into a new season, your squad will be up for it! There is no surprise that Liverpool’s season has gone from bad to worse, unable to create chances, making many mistakes and unable to see games out. Morale has a big part to play in Football Manager, so it can be a big advantage to help start a season strongly.

Facing sides that are of a similar standard can have the best tactical importance. You want to be able to better these sides as you have the players good enough to mount a challenge. Further, it will give you an indication of how strong your side is relative to the rest of the league. Playing around here will give you a better understanding of how they will fair in your league. Although it must not be forgotten that these are friendlies and won’t have the added difficulty that competitive games will have. So use these games to give you a better idea of your squad and tactics, but always be aware that these are just tools to prepare you.

Having a full arsenal of tactics and options that have been tried and tested in friendlies can increase your ability to change games and form helping you better adapt to different situations along the way. Unlike Rafael Benitez current Liverpool side.

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