Jan 27

5 Tips to Realise the Power of Resource Management in the Match Engine


Normally, when people think of resources in Football Manager Live they think of money and players. Perhaps if they give it a bit more thought, though, they think of things like skill points and contract locks; and start to dissect a resource like cash into multiple resources, such as present cash and future cash. However, there are quite literally hundreds of different resources in FML at your disposal, and ultimately, every decision you make is made to gain some resources at the expense of losing others.

I believe the most important skill by far in FML is effective resource management. The ability to manage your resources extremely well (whether done consciously or not) is what really separates those managers who remain at the top for seasons on end from those that rise and fall or never reach there to begin with.

One aspect that I don’t believe I’ve ever heard discussed in FML is resource management within the match engine and competition table. I think certain aspects of resource management many FML managers are aware of in the context of normal tactical decision making, but how many are fully aware of their key significance in their own right? Over the course of a season, the league title can be decided by the narrowest of narrow margins. I should know, I’ve actually won the last 2 seasons of the CFA Premiership in Clough on goal difference. The last of which was a 3-way points tie for first, and 4th place had only 1 point fewer.

We’re at the half way point this season and it looks just as though again. It’s going to be a very close one indeed with 4 teams within a couple of points of each other at the top of the table. When a league title is decided on goal difference, the most seemingly insignificant of events can decide it’s outcome. Your star striker picking up a pointless yellow card early in the season, might mean that later in the season he has accumulated enough yellows to get a suspension and he misses the final league match of the season, which you don’t win and ultimately costs you the league title.

1. Understand the Resources that are Available to you

Firstly, here’s a quick brain dump to have a look at some of the key resources available to you within a match.

A. Goals/Score: The amount of goals scored by your team and by the opposition (the margin in which you are winning or losing by)

B. Time: The amount of time remaining in the match

C. Yellow Cards: The number of yellow cards a player has in a match (obviously this is either 0, 1 or 2 – in which case their match is finished)

D. Players on the pitch: This is both the players being individual resources, as well as the total number of players you have on the pitch being a resource

E. Condition of the players on the pitch: The lower the condition the less they are able to ‘give’ on the pitch as well as having an increased chance of injury

F. Substitutions: The number of substitutions you have remaining

G. Substitutes: The players which you have available on your bench to be able to substitute on

There are a lot of other resources that are less obvious. For example, warnings received by players from the referee, as they will increase the chance of that player picking up a yellow or a red card.

Key Point: Every decision you make within the match engine of FML should be made with the intention of trying to change the way resources are increased/decreased.

2. Understand that all decisions you make are made with resource management in mind

Ultimately, any decision needs to take into consideration the situation at hand and the resources available. Any decision made comes with a risk element in a game that involves chance (which FML does). The resources are all finite and adjust the risk involved accordingly. For example, in relation to time, the more time that is left in a match, the more risk there is involved with any decision that you make. This is because there is more chance that things can change from the state that they were in when you made your decision. Spending your resources when there is lots of time left (for example using all of your substitutions in the first 20 minutes of a match) comes with great risk because there is still 70 minutes left in which the state of play can change. Using all of your substitutions with just a couple minutes of injury time remaining in a match comes with far less risk, because there is very limited time in which the state of play can change.

The margin by which your team is winning or losing by is also a resource. If you are winning by 5 goals you will be much more inclined to preserve your other resources to reduce the possibility of a situation so drastic occurring that it could result in you conceding 5 goals. In such a situation it is not logical to use all of your substitutes early in the match because this will increase the risk of you having less than 11 players on the pitch, which is probably all you need to be able to do to ensure that your team wins.

Some typical decisions you might make are:

You use a ’substitution’ resource and a ’substitute’ resource to

A. increase the chances of changing the ’score’ resource positively

B. take a player off the pitch who has already picked up a ‘yellow card’ resource and therefore increase your chances of preserving your 11 ‘players on the pitch’ resources

C. waste some ‘time’ resource to ensure that you hold onto your 1 goal in front ’score’ resource

D. take a player off the pitch who has a very low ‘condition’ resource to ensure that he doesn’t get injured

Key Point: Reducing the chances of players picking up suspensions or injuries ensures that you have a better chance of having additional ‘player’ resources available to you for future matches.

3. Treat luck as though it were a resource

Chance (Luck) isn’t exactly a resource in the same sense as other resources. Resource based game theory is more about the ability to identify good and bad fortune (luck) and adjust your resource management decisions accordingly. However, I think for the sake of simplicity and making key points, we can think of ‘luck’ as a resource because so many other resources are gained and spent with the impact they will have on your ‘luck’ factored into the decision. If you make a decision that reduces your ‘luck’ (i.e. making all your substitutions at half time), you can also think of this as ’spending’ your ‘luck’ resource. Just the same as if you don’t make any decisions you are in fact ‘preserving’ your ‘luck’ resource.

When you think of ‘luck’ as a resource like this however, it actually becomes two resources. ‘Good luck’ and ‘Bad luck’. For example, if you are 3-0 down at half time, by making drastic changes and spending all 3 of your ’substitution’ resources you are in fact negatively impacting your ‘Bad luck’ resource considerably, as you are quite dramatically increasing the chances of finishing the game with 10 men. However, you are also positively impacting your ‘Good luck’ resource, as the drastic changes you have made will increase the likelihood of the 2nd half playing out considerably different from the first half, and therefore giving your team potentially a better chance of finishing the game with a draw (or win) result. So in simple terms:

Situation: 3-0 down at half time

Spend: 3 ’substitution’ resources, negatively impact ‘bad luck’ resource

Gain: positively impact ‘good luck’ resource

End Result: more chance to win the game, draw the game, and more chance of a humiliating losing score line

If you don’t make the substitutions the End Result would be:

Less chance to win or draw the game, but more chance to lose the game by a respectable margin.

Key Point: Many decisions to spend and preserve resources are made with the impact they will have on ‘luck’ as a key consideration

4. Big Questions are made up from lots of Little Questions

Do I turn down tackling instructions when players get a yellow card?

The answer to this question is situational. As with any other decision, you need to analyse the information at hand and make the best informed decision possible. To help answer this question, the following questions might help you make a better decision: How often does the player get yellow cards? What is the likelihood of him getting a second yellow card and being sent off? What would be the impact of having the player sent off on your position in the match? How much time is remaining in the match? What is your current position in the match, can you afford to have a player taking it easy and not tackling as hard? Are you in a strong commanding position and have the luxury of playing it safe, or are you in a bad position and need to take risks in order to get a result?

Do I substitute off a player when he gets a yellow card?

Yet again the answer to this question is situational, and many of the questions you need to ask yourself are the same as in the above point. Ultimately you need to get into the mindset of thinking of yellow cards, substitutions and players on the pitch as resources. Is it worth spending a ’substitution’ resource to reduce the likelihood of losing a ‘player on the pitch’ resource due to him picking up a second ‘yellow card’ resource? How many ’substitution’ resources will you have left? What if a player (or players) get injured? What if you need to make a tactical substitution? You need to determine what the likelihood of all these events taking place are, and ultimately decide if substituting a player off is ‘worth’ it.

Key Point: If you can break down your choices and decisions into their parts, you have a much better chance to be able to analyse the correctness of that decision

5. Resources are Transferable from Matches to Competitions

When a match is already won, turn down your tackling intensity to avoid unnecessary cards and injuries. Your star striker could pick up an unnecessary yellow card, and then later ends up suspended for the last match of the season after picking up a suspension after reaching 5 yellow cards. However by taking it easy you might concede a goal at the end of the match and ultimately go on to lose the title by a goal difference of 1. Over the course of a season there are many key decisions you might make within matches that are already won or lost, which can ultimately win or lose you competitions.

Consistently making good decisions over a long season does have a positive effect on your teams final points tally in the table. So even when a match is won or lost, do not treat it any less seriously. The decisions made during the closing stages of such matches could end up being the decisions that win or lose you the league, allow you to qualify for a Gold or Silver cup spot, or result in you avoiding relegation.

There are cross overs between resource management within a match that extend to outside of the match. For example, that yellow card that the striker picked up in the match, although it had no bearing on the outcome of the match, did have bearing on a future match and ultimately the league title. Results (points in the league) are also resources, just as goals for and against (goal difference) and yellow cards (and red cards, suspensions and injuries) are. You need to not only be able to evaluate resources in the context of the match, but also in the context of the competition.

Trying to benefit from one resource during a match (i.e. not getting another yellow card, or substituting off a key player to avoid him getting injured) might mean that you win that match by a smaller margin (or lose it by a greater margin). However, if you have a vastly inferior goal difference to the teams around you in the league anyway, this is a ‘resource’ that you can afford to sacrifice to ensure that you have better chance of having other resources available (i.e. players not injured/suspended) for your remaining matches.

Key Point: Once the match is already won (or lost), the rest of the match is about planning for future matches

Hopefully this article has at least some helpful information that is able to provide you with food for thought, so that you can better analyse the decisions that you make, and consequently become a better decision maker. The ultimate key to becoming a better FML player is to be able to fully understand why you make the choices you do, and fully utilise the power of hindsight to understand which choices were good and which choices where not so good (and why). The underlying goal of this thought process is to make better decisions in the future.

As always, please post your comments and I’m happy to answer any questions or take on board suggestions for what people would like to read about in future articles.

Written By Nick Kakoschke
Nick is the infamous Little Badger on the SI forums and manager of the Little Badgers in the Clough game world. A very successful manager in his time on FML he now aims to pass his knowledge on to others.
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