Recruitment is an enormous part of every major sport, as not having the right resources at your disposal can make or break a club’s season.
In football the whole recruitment process has taken on a growing significance, with fans analysing every rumour and soundbite as they wait to see who their teams bring in. For clubs, meanwhile, it’s also changing as finding those bargains and marginal gains has become more challenging with so much more data now available to scouts and analysts.
To better understand the evolution of recruitment processes across the footballing world, we’ve had extensive conversations with leading Directors of Football, Data Analysts, Scouts and Managers over the last few years. The products of those conversations are in Football Manager 2023, with multiple game areas revamped to make them more realistic and put the emphasis on your recruitment team using their initiative.
As you’ll discover, the changes are all interlinked but they fall into four broad categories: Squad Planner and Experience Matrix, Scouting, Agents, and Recruitment Meetings. Let’s dig into what’s new…
Squad Planner and Experience Matrix
Located below the Squad view on the default sidebar, the Squad Planner will be the focal point for every player this year to assess their squads and build for the future.
Most elite football clubs use planners like this in various guises to visualise the current options at their disposal and how they see things changing in the next couple of seasons.
That’s reflected when you enter the Planner menu in FM23, where you’ll be greeted by a formation graphic from your current tactic and up to three players rated by your Assistant Manager for each set role.
By selecting any of the player and role combinations you’re currently using, the Planner view switches to the individual role. From here, a list will appear on the right showing the current options at your disposal.
You can play around with these lists, removing players that you intend to sell, moving players up and down the list according to your own personal view or adding in players from transfer shortlists that you want to sign. You can also drop in players from your youth teams, ensuring that you don’t block their pathways to the first team as you forecast the makeup of your squad for both the next season and the season after.
You will have the ability to change the tactic you’re viewing as well, so if you’re planning a switch from a 4-3-3 to a 3-5-2, you’ll be able to sell how well equipped you currently are and where you’ll need to dip into the transfer market for reinforcements.
It’s worth noting that the Squad Planner is essentially a safe space; no one will know about any of the changes you make here, so you won’t see the morale of any of your players drop if you only see them as third-choice next season.
The visual nature of the Squad Planner should make it easier for you to discern if you’re lacking depth or resources in a particular area for this season, or in the next two that follow. If you are, you’ll be able to set up a Recruitment Focus (more on those in a bit).
As the Squad Planner is designed to be an integral part of your continued Recruitment strategy, you’ll have prompts to access it from various other in-game areas, including squad registration news items and player reports.
Designed to complement the Squad Planner, the Experience Matrix is a new visualisation that better informs you of your squad makeup through the lens of where each player is in their careers relative to their current experience level.
In the Matrix, players fall into four categories:
- Developing (Young players yet to breakthrough to the first XI at this level)
- Emerging (Young first-team players that still have the scope to improve)
- Peak (Players at the peak of their careers)
- Experienced (Players who are in the final years of their career)
Further to this, in the Squad View of the Matrix, these players are all appropriately colour-coded to indicate whether they’re Important, Squad Depth or Youth.
Having this information available in a more visual way will prove hugely beneficial for your Recruitment this year – for example, it might become apparent that you’ve got no real youth prospects at Left-Back and that seven important players are in the Experienced phase of their careers. As such, you’d probably want to set up a couple of Recruitment Focuses to change the dynamic of your team.
Once you’ve taken stock of your current resources within the Planner and Matrix, you’ll likely need to make some moves in the transfer market. Key to advancing the way you and your backroom team identify players in FM23 is the introduction of Recruitment Focuses.
Recruitment Focuses are a natural evolution of the Assignments available in previous titles presented in a much more accessible way.
To start, you’ll want to choose a position – the role will be preset for you based on your current tactic but you have the option to change this if you want to try something else. From there you’ll be able to set a variety of criteria, from the type of transfer you’re looking for (transfer, loan or a combination of the two) to the player’s proficiency in the specified role, their age, weight, height, potential ability, likeliness of obtaining a work permit and much more. You can also set Focuses to just track specific nations or leagues if you want a broader overview.
Recruitment Focuses can be marked as Top Priority, Standard Priority or Ongoing. Top Priority Recruitment Focuses require three Scouts, while Standard only need one. You can select specific Scouts to fill each job, perhaps because they’ve got extensive knowledge of a certain nation or region, or you can let your backroom team sort that for you. When you’re finished, you’ll be able to name each Recruitment Focus.
Once it’s set, your Scouts will get to work in trying to identify suitable players. You’ll receive monthly (or weekly if you want to change the frequency) updates on the progress of your Recruitment Focuses, with players categorised as Recommended, Near Matches or Ongoing.
Should you sign a player that matches one of your Recruitment Focuses, you will then receive an inbox item suggesting that you mark it as complete. You will also receive information in your regular updates as to whether the search is going well, slowing down or close to exhaustion.
Recruitment Focuses are integrated into several other in-game areas to ensure that you’re always able to quickly set your Scouts to work if a pressing need arises. For example, if you look for a specific player and role via a Player Search, you’ll be prompted to set up a more comprehensive Recruitment Focus to cover this need.
Outside of the Recruitment Focuses, we’ve enhanced several other aspects of Scouting in FM23.
A lot of our scouting logic has been improved, so there’ll be more players fully scouted when you join a club – thereby meaning that you’ll get some instant results for your Recruitment Focuses.
Scouting Meetings are now less frequent, only appearing when either a Recruitment Focus match is identified, your Scouts have got a highly recommended player they want to show you or a Scout Report you requested is ready for delivery.
Based on our conversations with people involved in real-life football, we’ve made changes to the terminology surrounding Scouting Knowledge and Range.
The knowledge level of a player is now not stated but instead you’ll see an explanation of how much scouting has been completed on a player. The stages of scouting are indicated as None, Minimal, Reasonable and Extensive. Extensive lets a manager know the recruitment team have done a full assessment of the player and it’s now up to the manager to decide on the next steps.
Likewise, the terminology surrounding the status of a scouting task has changed. Reports are now classed as Ongoing, Stopped, Completed or Needs Updating. If a report is Ongoing, that means your backroom team are still scouting the player. It’ll show as Completed if they’ve reached Extensive Knowledge, Stopped if the player fell out of the process due to not matching the needs of a Recruitment Focus and Needs Updating if the report was completed a long time ago.
Instead of being called your Scouting Package, the areas covered by your backroom team are now referred to as your Scouting Range. The range section now has a dropdown with two sections – Assignments and Match and Team Analysis.
Within the Assignments section you’ll be able to see the areas where your Scouts are currently working and the regions and nations where their expertise lies.
Match and Team Analysis shows who is assigned to study and profile your next opponents. You’ll also have access to a calendar and search function that will allow you to more easily assign a Scout or set yourself to Attend future fixtures.
Most of these changes are contained with a Scouting menu that’s had a facelift. You won’t see player cards immediately but rather an overview of your current Focuses, your Scouting Coverage, the stats of the Transfer Window and any major player recommendations.
Beyond that you’ll see that the Player Search menu has had a redesign and Transfer History are now much more visual, with diagrams to show spend breakdowns and dropdown menus that allow you to view the activity of other teams, leagues, nations and regions more easily.
As their influence in real-life football is so big and is only continuing to grow, Agents are now involved in more gameplay areas in FM23.
Firstly, the Ask Agent Availability function introduced in FM22 moves forward this year. If you aren’t happy with some of the demands that an Agent initially makes, you’ll be able to contest them with any amendments highlighted in follow-up messages. It’s essentially a way to subtly negotiate parts of a player contract with an agent before even approaching a club for the transfer – just as clubs do in real life.
If you then go on to make an offer for the player, the news item before you enter contract negotiations will show both the player’s interest in a move and their expectations going in. You will be rewarded for speaking to Agents – if you haven’t, your Director of Football will have to take their best guess at what the player will expect.
If you approach an Agent about a certain player but then don’t make an offer, you’ll receive a follow-up news item a week or so later containing their demands to make a deal happen.
On those occasions when a move is a non-starter, you’ll now get more of an explanation of why so that you have a better idea of what success you’ll need to have in order to persuade that player to join your club.
Agents also now have an expanded role for the players in your current squad too. In the Contract dropdown on a player’s profile, you’ll now notice a new ‘Discuss New Contract with Agent’ option. Engaging with the Agent before you speak to the player will show you the player’s interest in a new contract and their projected demands, allowing you to better plan your resources and mitigate any potential unhappiness that might arise through both parties having differing expectations. You will, like with transfer offers, be able to negotiate with the Agent via these conversations.
The option to ‘Offer New Contract’ to a player is now labelled ‘Enter Contract Negotiations’ to more formalise the process. If you haven’t spoken to their Agent before kicking negotiations off, a popup will encourage you to do so for the reasons outlined above.
Should negotiations with a player break down, you won’t now just have to wait a month or so before trying to speak to them. Instead, you’ll now have the option to ‘Resolve Contract Talks with Agent’. By speaking to them and convincing them of your interest, they’ll hopefully be able to speak to their client and revive the conversation – just as they would in real-life.
Be warned though, entering negotiations and then walking away without agreeing a deal will now have a more profound effect, potentially leading to a breakdown between yourself, the player and their agent.
You can also use agents to try and solve a player’s morale issues, with. Now, to reflect the close relationships between agents and players, you can ask a player’s agent to try and smooth any issues out for you. This is in addition to the existing options of asking your captain to speak to a player or speaking to the player directly.
First introduced in FM21, Recruitment Meetings have been significantly revamped in FM23. The core intention of the changes to meetings was to make them more engaging and conversational than previously.
Most clearly, there are now two different types of Recruitment Meeting: Planning and Feedback.
Planning meetings are designed to look ahead to future transfer windows, with your Director of Football, Assistant Manager and Chief Scout in attendance. The pre-meeting inbox item is now more contextual, illustrating your current formation, any transfer-related Club Vision items and the agenda items up for discussion.
The first topic of conversation will typically be your Squad Planner, with you having the opportunity to tweak things and create a Recruitment Focus before submitting a plan in the meeting.
Moving on, the Player Status section will show you any upcoming expiring contracts, broken down by your first-team squad and youth team(s) for better visibility. You will be able to view staff advice here on whether to pursue contract negotiations or not. Further backroom team insights with the Squad Planner in mind will be available in the Staff Suggestions part of the meeting, which covers players that are currently transfer listed or attracting interest.
The meetings will typically end by touching on Recruitment Focuses, with your staff reviewing your active ones and making suggestions of new ones to pursue.
Two new, emergency planning meetings have been added for FM23. Driven by your Squad Planner, you’ll be prompted to engage in one if you have multiple key players out with long-term injuries (particularly in a certain position) or if you’re on a bad run of form and it’s clear you need to add quality.
Feedback meetings are designed to review your previous transfer activity and make some recommendations for your next additions. Indeed, your staff will recommend specific players in this meeting that you won’t necessarily see in the Scouting Centre.
During the meeting you’ll have the ability to review your recent ins and outs in an expanded transfer history section and who you’ve currently got on your transfer and loan lists. As with the planning meetings, these will typically end by focusing on your Recruitment Focuses and the best players that they’ve identified.
Revamped for success
Informed by the processes and strategies undertaken by clubs across the world, you’ll discover thousands of Recruitment tweaks and revamps as you move through your careers that will help you to both better plan your club’s future. It’s time to create a dynasty.
Keep your eyes peeled for more new features across all platforms to be revealed on FMFC and our website in the coming weeks.
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