Developing Mental Attributes in Young Players | Wednesday Wisdom
Football is a game of fine margins, with split-second decisions often deciding promotion and relegation, or who wins the title and who finishes second. As said countless times before, history is written by the victors.
This is no different in Football Manager and for this reason it’s vitally important to focus on the attributes of your young players. Ensuring that they are mentally strong, capable of remaining calm under pressure and able to make the right decisions at the right times could be the difference between scintillating success and disappointing defeats. Here, Dan Gear talks us through the key steps for developing the mental attributes of your young stars.
When looking at young players I imagine most focus on the Physical and Technical attributes. I’m the same - I usually glance at Mental attributes but I'd would never back out of buying a young player because these were poor if the rest of their profile looks good. We must remember physical attributes develop earliest, followed by technical then finally mental. In other words, a youth player has time on their side when it comes to developing their mental attributes.
Some words of wisdom from Dan Gear on bolstering the mental fortitude of your latest wonderkids.
Training Mental Attributes
My first decision is deciding the player’s long-term position - the role does not matter so much when developing youngsters, this can be focused on later. The immediate focus is deciding on the position and attribute area I need to work on improving.
This is my newgen Attacking Midfielder.
I have decided that I ultimately want this player to play as an Advanced Playmaker and the game has highlighted the key attributes to play this role. Looking at these stats, it’s his mental ones that need most improvement.
I'm happy with where he is for his physically for the position and the role I’ll eventually want him to fulfil, and while some of his Technical attributes need improving, it's his Mental attributes that I want to focus on. So, in this instance, I put him on an Enganche role training programme as this focuses more on developing the mental attributes than the technical and physical ones. Indeed, concentrating on fewer attributes through role training will likely lead to more individual increases, and the Enganche drills down on just 10 whereas a Shadow Striker programme places emphasis on 16.
Role training isn’t the only way to increase attributes, however.
Specific attributes that often catch my attention are Determination and Leadership, particularly in defenders who need to organise their teammates.
However, Determination can’t be increased via role training but only through mentoring, so I create bespoke mentoring groups, putting the youngster with older, more influential players who have high Determination ratings and good personalities.
Inspired by his teammates, this should help to increase his Determination while Leadership can be boosted by being sent on Leadership Courses - accessed through a player's profile.
Nailing these areas early on in a player's career gives you the time to develop their other areas in these crucial years.
Which attributes should you focus on?
Each position favours a certain group of attributes. For the Attacking Midfielder, you’d focus more on Composure, Decisions, Flair, Off the Ball and Vision. For Defenders, you’d focus more on Anticipation, Concentration, Decisions and Positioning.
But I don’t want to limit myself to these, as I also need to think about what type of player I want to develop. For the old school centre-half, I’d look at adding to their Aggression, Bravery, Determination, Leadership and Work Rate. Conversely, for a Ball Playing Defender, I’d look instead at improving their Composure and Vision.
Developing attributes allows you to mould the youngster into what type of player you want. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and that’s a good thing. While the game lets you know which attributes are needed to play the role, you should also consider the mental make-up of your player.
Throughout the footballing world we have different players playing the same role. We have some wingers who are flair players showboating and performing tricks, whereas others are more industrious, working hard to press defenders and win the ball back.
Whilst in-game their core attributes would be similar, mental attributes will separate those that make it and those that don’t. So, next time you see a young player with poor mental attributes, remember they take longer to develop so don’t be put off signing them. All it takes is a bit of hard work, care and attention. Your squad will be so much for the better for it.