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Squad Structure - Player Depth


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Hopefully this is the right forum?

Playing in different leagues can present some management problems for squad depth, i.e how many players you need. Not a huge problem if you have a reserve team. For leagues over Europe, such as Serie A, Bundesliga, Lique 1 and La Liga, where as you dont have dedicated reserve league, what sort of squad depth (Number of Players), player types. I find this really challenging to quick enough quality for League matches and especially if you are involved in CL or UEFA Cup matches.

I currently have with my Wolfsburg team a squad of 23, with a match day team of 17.

Formation 4 1 2 1 2

Goal Keepers - 2

Full Backs - 4 - 2 each side

Central Defenders - 3 - 1 youth Cover Player

DMC - 2

Central Midfield - 4

AMC - 2

Forwards - 3

Versatile Squad Players AMC/MC/DMC - 2 cover players

Would welcome comments.

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Not having a reserve league doesn't bother me much. So long as you have a reserves team, it doesn't really matter whether there's a league. You can just arrange reserves friendlies: sure this is a bit annoying to have to do, but has the advantage that you can arrange what day you want them on, which is very useful for trying to get someone back to fitness but not so tired they can't also make a sub appearance for the next senior match.

I'm not sure what I'd do in countries like Spain that don't even have a reserve team available though. I solve that problem by not playing in those countries. ;)

As for how many players you need, it depends a lot on your number of fixtures and how versatile/injury prone your players are. I've made do with 16 quality players in the lower leagues: a 4-1-2-2-1 sort of formation with 2 GK, 5 defenders, 4 midfielders, 3 wingers and 2 strikers, with some of the players able to play other positions in a pinch (eg the left winger could play left back). I filled the bench with players on cheap youth contracts if any of these guys got hurt. Paper thin sure, but when you're on a small budget it's sometimes better to invest the money you have into a small number of players and hope they stay healthy!

However when you've got continental competition I think you pretty much have to have at least one backup for each of your starters, you really do need someone to rotate in on each position on the pitch when you're playing twice a week every week. From there it comes down to personal philosophy I think. I know a lot of people like to have different sorts of players in their squad so they can put a different look out there, but personally I try to get my players who will play a position to be pretty similar and play the same way (ie have same sort of attributes, teach them the same PPMs). Ideally they'll also be at about the same level of ability so that I can just rotate them without being too bothered which one plays which matches. That way everyone stays happy and you don't really need to rely on using the reserves to keep players fit (although they can still be useful for bringing players back from injury).

So at top level for a 4-1-2-2-1 I'd probably be looking at ~25 players: 2x GK, 5x FB, 4x CB, 7x DM/MC, 7x AM/ST. 2 for each position, plus a little extra in the fullbacks and midfielders (since they run the most, nice to have a spare so you can do a full rotation from game to game even if one is injured) and forwards (strikers get injured more in my experience).

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This thread goes over my current squad.

It's slightly heavier than I usually carry due to holding on to some oldies to tutor and hopefully coach. I have U18's below that but they are not relied upon ever, a couple will normally get a couple of games but that is only to rest 1st team players, if I needed the 1st teamers then I'd use them.

Depends on how many games you play too. 2 games a week I'd normally carry between 22-25 players but you could easily get away with less if you were only playing domestic games, particularly if you've got strong youths to pad out the squad.

It would also depend on the versatility of the squad. Players who play multiple positions can be brilliant to help gain balance to a squad and stop the need for loads and loads of players. I don't think there's any strict rules to squad composition and it'll always be in flux as players age, players leave, players come etc etc.

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I like having a relatively small core + up and coming youth.

Playing a 4-3-3 / 4-5-1

Matchday:

2 x GK

3 x DC (right footed, left footed, either)

DR + DL + DR/L

2 x DM

3 x PM (1 x DPM, 1 x APM, 1 that can do both)

5 x IF/ST (3 x IF, 2 x ST if not fit for both roles)

On top of this I like to rely on promising youth, possibly having at least good:

1 x GK

1 x DC

1 x DR/L

1 x DM/DPM

1 x IF/ST

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As ever, it depends. You need to first figure out what kind of squad you depth you require. If you are in the EPL, then you are playing two domestic cup competitions and the league. How important are each of these competitions to you? If you are a relegation candidate then the only thing you really care about is the league, at least until you are safe. If you are flirting with European places then a cup-run becomes more important. If you are challenging for the title and in the champions league, then you need quality understudies, not just warm bodies.

Signing rotation players is an art form in itself. You need to find the right mix of personality and talent. It's no use buying an excellent backup inside forward if he has been transfer listed for wanting first team football. You probably can't promise him that, and he's expecting a step up by moving to you, so won't be cheap. It can be better to sign a slightly flawed player with high key attributes, even if you know that he is only going to play 20 games a season against the league fodder and dead-rubber matches - especially if he is professional enough and of low enough reputation to be happy in this role.

Perhaps 3 keepers and 20 outfielders is enough, perhaps it is too few, perhaps it is too many. If you have players that can play in numerous different positions, their versatility can be invaluable in keeping the squad down to a more manageable number of players. They will play more games, be happier generally and cost you less overall.

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Signing rotation players is an art form in itself. You need to find the right mix of personality and talent. It's no use buying an excellent backup inside forward if he has been transfer listed for wanting first team football. You probably can't promise him that, and he's expecting a step up by moving to you, so won't be cheap. It can be better to sign a slightly flawed player with high key attributes, even if you know that he is only going to play 20 games a season against the league fodder and dead-rubber matches - especially if he is professional enough and of low enough reputation to be happy in this role.

In my experience so long as the 20 games are spread out it's enough to keep players happy that they're playing first team football, so I'd sign the first guy in that scenario. Wanting first team football doesn't mean you need to play them every game, just they need to see the pitch a couple of times a month it seems. And even if for some reason you leave him out for a while and he gets upset, start him 3 games in a row then go back to the couple a month and he'll usually be happy.

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I just finished a season... I had at 23 players who each made at least 10 appearances, 21 of those had at least 10 starts. Could I get by with less? Probably, but as a rule of thumb it seems about like the right squad size... I also had 10 more players who made at least 1 first team appearance, but those players were mostly u-18s who played almost exclusively in cups and off the bench.

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I tend to find on most of my saves that if I stay at one club longterm on a save that my squad development follows a certain pattern. Over the first 4 to 6 seasons my first team squad gets larger every year as I buy in more players and tinker with formations and playing style. After that it starts to contract as I sell on players who are no longer quite good enough, or release players past their best and I have a core squad of regulars who I've found to be consistent and less injury prone.

I'm in November 2018 on my Swansea save and I have 30 players in the first team squad, but of that there's 4 or 5 who are basically young talents that are being given a taste of 1st team action now and again whilst being available for the reserves (the most talented of the 18/19 year olds pretty much). I have a reasonably clear first 11 playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, though there's 2 players currently vying for one of the MC slots. Then the 7 fairly regular subs, and out of those the 6 outfield players will all get into double figures for appearances.

One thing I've noticed on this Swansea save is I've probably bought in more players who can play in more than one position than I've done in the past. Of the 4 strikers in the squad, 3 can also play at AMC, most of the wide players can play either flank and I've got several defenders capable of pushing up into midfield if need be.

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Some good responses.

The problem I am finding with my current save (2017) is that those players whom I want to develop at my club, separate from the players whom I loan out, is getting enough game time in them. Currently I am arranging a number of friendlies to increase match time.

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Some good responses.

The problem I am finding with my current save (2017) is that those players whom I want to develop at my club, separate from the players whom I loan out, is getting enough game time in them. Currently I am arranging a number of friendlies to increase match time.

You shouldn't be arranging friendlies, if you can't find them enough competitive action then they need to go on loan. You've got too many in your squad or haven't got your squad rotation quite where it should be (or, the player isn't good enough and you're worried about fielding him).

The only time friendlies are ok are in pre-season or in some leagues where you have a long lay-off period mid-season. It's also fine to arrange a Reserve season if there isn't a league but I wouldn't recommend having players sat in your reserves. Reserves should be guys in the 1st team who haven't seen much action (either not selected or injured) and youngsters.

There's an SFraser thread (I'm pretty sure its this one) that goes through his squad composition. Another good read.

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Must admit i can be quite anal about my squad depth - I always tend to go with 22 players (2 for each position) plus a 3rd keeper. I dont tend to go with players who can cover multiple positions on purpose (although if someone happens to have that then grand...)

The trick i find is balancing giving your backups and youths enough game time v the risk of losing a match because you compromised the quality of your starting eleven.

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I don't think if I should start a new thread but I think its relevant here. Will youth players (U/21) still develop at League 2 club who has very primitive training and youth facilities? Is it worth bothering with getting 2 star youngsters who the scout thinks they have 4 or 5 star potential, if I am planning on giving them a few match time? Will they still develop to their potential?

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You shouldn't be arranging friendlies, if you can't find them enough competitive action then they need to go on loan. You've got too many in your squad or haven't got your squad rotation quite where it should be (or, the player isn't good enough and you're worried about fielding him).

The only time friendlies are ok are in pre-season or in some leagues where you have a long lay-off period mid-season. It's also fine to arrange a Reserve season if there isn't a league but I wouldn't recommend having players sat in your reserves. Reserves should be guys in the 1st team who haven't seen much action (either not selected or injured) and youngsters.

There's an SFraser thread (I'm pretty sure its this one) that goes through his squad composition. Another good read.

I currently have 10 players out on loan, mostly aged between 19 & 20. These players are just on the cusp of pushing into my 1st team squad, but need regular football to improve for which I cannot give them yet. The balance of my squad I am rotating, not nearly enough, with the younger of the players starting to hit 7-10 games starting.

I will check out Sfrasers thread. Thanks.

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You also have to be ruthless when letting players go so that your squad doesn't get bloated. A tight squad forces 100% of the improvement into one guy rather than spreading out 50% each on 2 guys (or worse).

As an example I've got 3 good DM's, all will hit 21 by the end of the season, all are having good loan seasons but should probably be incorporated into my squad next season. I can take 1. 2 at a push but probably just 1. And I've got a 25 year old top notch DM in my transfer sights. Somethings got to give. I don't know what yet but I know it won't be easy.

Remember as well that some players can cope with less games but still improve. This is really difficult to get right and even harder to predict but it's worth remembering.

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i like to have

1 gk

3 dl/dr

3 dc

2 dm (anchor man types)

3 mc's (2 dlp's that can go into amc if needed, a more rounded one who will sub on to close down a game or attack more)

4 amr/l (2 each, normally an IF and a winger)

2 amc (a passer and a dribbler(who can play on a wing)

2 or 3 strikers (poacher, adv fwd and maybe a target man)

I try to have a youth backup for all of the positions and where i don't i'll have a rotation player.

And my second keeper is always out on loan.

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