Lower League Management 101: developing your team

Lower League Management 101: developing your team

Managing a lower league team in FIFA 18 is never easy, but it’s one of the most rewarding paths you can take in career mode. Bringing a team up from low-ranking minnows to world champions is the ultimate achievement in FIFA 18, one requiring grit, guile and determination.

Lower League Management 101 is my comprehensive guide to making it as a lower league manager in FIFA 18. I’ll take you through every step on the journey, from picking the right team and scouting great prospects to making shrewd transfers and what to focus on along the way. By the end of it, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to be a successful manager at lower levels.

Catch up on part 1: picking the right team, part 2: how to scout on a budget and part 3: transfer market tips and tricks.

In part 4, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about developing your team as you rise through the ranks. Whether you’ve gained your first promotion or have made it into the top division, this guide will give you the help you need to grow your team and keep achieving success.

To train or not to train?

Back in FIFA 16, EA introduced training to career mode. It was a way to develop your players in the way you wanted, by giving them extra training in shooting, for example, or dribbling. You had five training slots to fill up each week, each with a range of different exercises. It was a nod to the career modes of the past, where you could allocate stat growth to your players, albeit in a more immersive way.

Training was not without its controversies, though, as people quickly discovered you could ‘overtrain’ your players by focusing too much on growing their technical stats. Although your players’ OVRs would improve, it would be at the expense of their physical stats, which would stagnate. As such, training gained a (somewhat unfair) reputation as a risky mini-game that should be avoided.

Since then, EA has tweaked training so that you’re less likely to end up stunting your players’ physical growth. However, it’s still possible – if you give all five slots to one player every single week, you could end up overtraining him. If, however, you spread the load among your players, you should be absolutely fine. I’d recommend limiting each player to two sessions per week to be safe.

Lower League Management 101: developing your team

It’s better to spread the load in training than to overtrain one player

When it comes to the drills, you have the option of playing them yourself or simulating them. Personally, I usually sim them. The harder the drill, the more experience your player gets, but the hard drills can be genuinely difficult, and you can only retry drills a certain number of times before you fail them. Simming the drills avoids the potential frustration of failing these exercises and missing out on stat growth.

Of course, you may have more patience than me. If you feel confident, playing the drills removes the randomness of simming them.

There’s one more thing you need to bear in mind when it comes to training – what do you do with goalkeepers? Physical stats are much less important for these players than they are for outfielders, so it’s less important if those stats get stunted in favour of lots of technical stat growth. In that case, you can give your goalkeepers a lot of training sessions each week and, as long as they have high potential, they should grow rapidly.

However, that does mean that their jumping and reactions may get stunted (as these are physical stats), which can be important for goalkeepers. Still, I think there is some confusion over the difference between reactions and reflexes for keepers. A goalkeeper’s reactions determine how fast he reacts to a loose ball that drops near him. His reflexes determine how fast he can put out a hand to block a close-range shot. In most cases, reflexes are more important. But if you’re worried about his reactions and jumping not growing, limit him to two sessions each week as you would with your outfield players.

Giving your players game time

Training is all well and good, but giving your players game time is just as important – if not more so.

It can be hard to integrate your promising youth players into your starting lineup, especially if your first 11 have better starting OVRs. The problem is compounded if you’re in a relegation scrap – as often happens just after you get promoted – where you may feel you can’t afford to mess around with inexperienced players.

Still, game time can be hugely beneficial for your players’ growth. If you have a lot of high potential players, they’ll grow very quickly, and the experience they gain from playing first team matches will help them become regular first team players themselves much sooner.

Lower League Management 101: developing your team

Make sure you give your promising players plenty of game time throughout the season

The best way to balance improving your youth players with maintaining a quality starting lineup is to introduce your young players gradually. Don’t fill your starting 11 with low-OVR youth players unless you’re playing a really easy opposition team. Instead, add in one or two and surround them with high OVR players. That way, if they make a mistake, you can rely on your high quality players nearby to rectify the problem.

You should try to give your youth players at least 10 first team games a season. Cup games or matches against lower-rated opposition are great times to play them, as is the end of the season (provided you have nothing to lose by that point).

Don’t get promoted too early

While the goal of any lower league manager is to reach – and win – the top division, you should be wary of achieving success too rapidly. Remember Derby County’s Premier League season in 2007/08? That was a classic example of a team getting promoted to the top flight before they were truly ready. In the end, they only managed one win all season and picked up a mere 11 points. That is the kind of situation we want to avoid in FIFA 18.

It therefore might be a good idea to take your time in getting promoted. FIFA’s boards are not known for their generosity, after all, so if you do get rapidly promoted and need to invest, you may struggle to do so.

Lower League Management 101: developing your team

Win the league before you’re ready and you might struggle in your next season

Furthermore, FIFA has a problem of inflating board expectations. For example, let’s say you get promoted from League Two to League One. In your first season in League One the board wants you to avoid relegation, but you have a lucky season and finish mid-table. The next season you’re likely to get a board objective of finishing mid-table (or perhaps even challenging for promotion), even if you don’t have the budget or players to support that kind of expectation.

If, on the other hand, you manage to meet the board expectations without massively overachieving, you stand a better chance of their objectives not spiralling out of control. That in turn gives you more time to properly develop your youth players and achieve promotion when you know you’re ready.

Transfer bargains

Want more? Read my guide on transfer market tips and tricks in FIFA 18

If you do get promoted, improving your squad in the most cost-effective way possible should be a real priority. Even with the most generous board in the world, it’s likely you’ll still be outspent by most of the other clubs in your new division.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t grab yourself a good bargain. One of the best ways of doing this is by snapping up free transfers. This is where you can approach an opposition player whose contract is expiring at the end of the season, offer them a contract and they’ll join you at the start of the next season. However, they have to be 23 or older at the time you approach them, and you have to approach them in January (while you can make offers to buy players outside of the transfer windows, you can’t do it with free transfers).

The best way to take advantage of this is to task at least one of your scouts with searching for players who are first team quality and whose contracts have between 0 years and 1 year left on them. It might be a good idea to have scouts doing this in several different regions, just to make sure you don’t miss out on players who would be a good fit for your team.

Lower League Management 101: developing your team

Once you’ve found a player with an expiring contract that you want to buy, add them to your shortlist and approach them in January

Make sure you do this right at the start of a new season. The reason for this is that you don’t want to find a player with an expiring contract, only to discover that another team has beaten you to it and offered him a contract when January rolls around. The earlier you get started, the better your chances of getting there first. So when you find a player that you like the look of, add them to your shortlist and make sure you offer them a contract at the first opportunity.

Another good way to get cheap players who can bolster your squad is by keeping an eye out for transfer-listed players. Teams generally want to offload these players as quickly as possible, so are willing to accept a much lower fee than they normally would. That allows you to get access to players who would normally be out of reach for you. Just watch out for the wages of transfer-listed players, especially if they’re currently at a much bigger club than you.

Finally, if you got promoted, look out for teams that went the other way and got relegated from the division you’ve just ascended to. Now that you’re in a higher division than them, their players may be more willing to relocate to you in order to continue playing football at a high level.

What about you?

That wraps up part 4 of my Lower League Management 101 guide. Don’t forget to read my other guides in this series, including how to pick a good team to manage, how to scout on a tight budget and all the best transfer market tips and tricks. If there’s anything else you want me to cover, just let me know in the comments.

Do you have any tips for developing a team in FIFA 18? Is there anything you always do to make sure you’re successful as you move up the divisions? Make sure you share your thoughts and any tips you have in the comments below!

Comments 1

  1. Thanks Alex, yet again another in depth look at how to build a decent team. I tend to focus on bringing through youth players rather than buying players in, and whilst this is a good, cost effective, way of managing the team whilst still meeting your objectives there is a downside. I usually pick whatever teams have the objective of avoiding a finish at the bottom of the league (normally Accrington fits the bill) and then purchasing 2 scouts (3+3 stars if I can afford it) that should find you a reasonable amount of young players with high enough potential, and thru game time and training these players will easily surpass the players that were originally in your squad. However, after your first season the board objectives for the league tend to excessive. I’ve had it on occasions where I’ve finished 19th in my first season and the 2nd season objective is to win the league, and thereafter every season (providing you meet the objectives) is the same.

    Keep up the good work. I always look forward to your updates and quite often gleem some new strategies from them. Thanks.

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