Squad Planning and the Loan Conundrum

The loan market is not something which I have made much use of in past editions of Football Manager. In the lower divisions I have, at times, brought in players from leagues above to help gain promotion. This does lend its own difficulties though with what to do once you get to the next league and your best players refuse to come back for another season. My view also is that I would rather develop one of my own players, than that of another club. The only area of the loan market I have fully exploited before is transfers which take my youth players away from the club to gain minutes. So what to do this year? Americá is a top-level team already and I would prefer to build to the future than have short-term success.

With the Colombian league being at the level it is there is not a great deal of money and a lot of the talent is nurtured in the local teams before moving to bigger and better things. This is partly due to the four foreign player rule which helps to develop Colombian talent and give game time over players from other nations. Many of the players in the league are either young Colombians or older players who have perhaps had their big club move, only to return at the end of their career. This is certainly the case at Americá de Cali. As mentioned in my previous post around half of the first team squad at the start of the 2018 season are approaching 30. This provides its own issues, but there is another obstacle to negotiate as manager.

Americá have nine players, of which eight are first team quality, who are on loan at the start of the 2018 season and they will be at the club for 12 or 18 months. I cannot terminate their contract, except one, who ironically is the most useful to me. So what to do with these players? My first task will be to decide who adds quality, helping to us bring short-term success, and who is blocking youth development. One major consideration is that we will be in continental cometition in the first season, so squad depth would be useful. Factor that into the national league and cup and there are around 26 games until the mid point of the season and the summer break.


Players on loan at Americá de Cali in 2018

I will briefly ouline my plan for each player on loan, and where they will fit into the squad at the start of the 2018 season.

Joseph Cox – 23 – ST – £725/ week – 18 months
Cox is one of two players who will likely impact the starting XI. Cox is the best advanced forward in the club at the start of the game. The first choice striker which is Americà’s one player, Fernando Aristeguieta, is out for two months with a torn hamstring. There are a number of good advanced forwards coming through the youth system so these will take Cox’s place next season. I just felt that the striker position is so key that I need to go with a finished product. It will all come down to results at the end of the day though.
[First Team]

Hadier Borja – 20 – DR – £240/week – 18 months
The young right-back was going to be in my cup squad, however, he is quite similar to youth prospect Hinestoza, as in neither are great at the moment. Due to this fact, I will be playing my own player ahead of Borja.

Danilo Arboleda – 22 – DC – £1,600/week – 12 months
Taking inspiration from Lee (FM Analysis) I ranked the average attributes from the required ones for a central defender and Arboleda ranked quite highly. He is not far behind the elder statesmen of the squad, lacking only in the mental area. This won’t be enough for him to be part of the best XI, but he will be able to slot in should there be an injury crisis.

DC average

Players capable of playing Central Defence sorted by average attributes for the role

Cristian Dájome – 24 – AM/ST – £350/week – 12 months
The versatile frontman will be a direct replacement for Cox in the case of injury or poor form. Dájome is also an excellent wide player so he should feature heavily in the cup games and from the bench as an impact sub. He could be one to make it into the first team as the season progresses.

Larry Vásquez – 26 – DM – £2,700/week – 18 months
Americà are well stocked in the central DM position and that includes some of their most talented prospects. Gustavo Carvajal is the most promising U-19 player and so I will be doing all I can to help him reach his full potential. In the below comparison you can see that in the right areas, young Carvajal is not so far behind the more experienced Vasquez. For the important attributes to the defensive midfielder position, the difference between the two is negligible. Carvajal is a way down on some mental attributes but for Concentration, Decisions, Positioning, and Work Rate, they are almost equals. It is a similar story for the physicals, they are equal in Strength and Stamina, but at nine years his junior and a tenth of the wages, Carvajal ousts Vasquez for game time.

Com DM

Comparison between loan player Vásquez and youth prospect Carvajal

Jefferson Cuero – 29 – ML – £2,700 – 12 months
as with Borja above, Cuero is similar in talent to one of my own, younger players, Balanta. I will be playing Balanta in the first team, ahead of Cuero, but the loan player will be on the bench as a reserve to step in if needed.

Daniel Buitrago – 26 – AM – £1,500 – 18 months
Buitrago can play anywhere from midfield to striker, including the wide areas. Although he does not excel enough in any particular position to be among the best XI, he will be on hand as cover should I need him.
[Back Up]

Yamilson Rivera – 28 – MR – £2,400 – 12 months
The second of two loan players to take a starting place in the first team. Rivera is one of the best players in the club and can play a number of places. I am selecting him at the inside forward place as I hope he can pitch in with some goals. Given his wages and ability, Rivera’s position will be one of the key scouting areas as we will need to find a replacement in 12 months.
[First Team]

Carlos Lizarazo – 26 – AML – £2,300 – 12 months
FM2018’s best player (How I Replaced My Best Player On FM18) Lizarazo has slipped slightly in the pecking order. I imagine he will still be a key player for the season, but I plan that he will have impact mainly from the bench or in the cup games.

Wage bill

As mentioned, one of the key benefits of loaning players in is the ability to have players who are out of the clubs normal reach. Part of this is the financial aspect and it is no different at Americá. The above nine players make up almost half of the weekly wage budget for the club and only two of them are paid less than the highest earning player belonging to Americá. Moving forward this will be something I try to reign in, limiting the number of loan players and investing their wages back to retain my own talent.


Wage Bill at Americá showing that loan players use up almost half the overall budget

Custom View, Training and Selection

After setting the two basic squads up I will not be so rigid with how I pick the team from match to match. I have the outline of a plan, and of course, want to look after my own players first and foremost. There will, however, be opportunity for players to come into favour with good form. I will judge each case on its own merit but a player can come into the first team if they are playing well in recent games, training well, be the next best option or if the player in the first team is out of form.

To judge this I will set a custom view to help me asses their form. The areas included will be: individual training rating, form over the last five games, average rating, morale and condition. I will try to give a balanced preseason to give a fair chance to all, and then judge if any player is not in the right level. It is no exact science though or hard rule as I still want to favour development at the start, it will just be easier to see any obvious flaws.

custom view

Custom view created to better judge the form of players

Selection: I plan to separate the players into four core squads to start with. A First Team, Development team, Hired Guns, and Reserves

The first team will play all league games at the start of the season, this is my main focus as it will be how we are judged by the board. The development squad will rotate into the first team with injuries or if rest is needed. They will be set as the U19 squad in the game so they are also playing each week for the first season in the U19 league. The hired guns will target the early rounds of the cup, giving the first team some needed rest and also making some use of their value while at the club. Finally, the reserves are just that. Players, where I do not see much future or there, are many better options. They will be set in the reserve squad but in Colombia, they have no league so it will be a few friendlies against local reserve teams. These will be called into the other squads in an emergency or if there is some surprising form.

Cup competition

I do not yet know the draw for the domestic cup or the Copa Sudamericana, but these will not be my priority for the first half of the season. The Copa Colombia is a trophy I want to win of course, but primarily I want to set the club up for success in years to come. For an FM player who has not won a major trophy for two editions of the game, I cannot afford to be picky but I believe I can risk taking the group stage easy this time. As for the Copa Sud, from what I have seen there are only a few games before the summer break so I can likely play rotated sides here.


Hired Guns XI – The team which will tackle the cup competitions for the 2018 season features six loanees


From the initial view of the squad and my look into the promising youth coming through, Americà are ideally placed for a defence first philosophy. This comes naturally to me as I have always been quite cautious with FM and if we win 4-2 it is the two conceded which concerns me more than the win. After FM18 and my experiment into anti-football, I intended to become more attacking and have a bit more fun with the game. With this and the current squad in mind, I will aim to set up with a 433 wide formation. The central five players (both central defenders and the midfield) will provide a strong base, while the wide players provide quick breaks and attacking flair.

From the start, the team are outsiders for the title, not in the top four in the league, but just behind and should make the playoffs. I will likely go into games expecting to win more often than not, so I am not so sure a counter-attacking approach will work as well as in the past. I may take some variation on that though, and be cautious and dictate possession but break quickly given the chance.


The First XI – This will be the team for the majority of the league campaign. Only Cox and Rivera are on loan.


For the first six months of the season, I will focus on the league. Winning it, or at least performing well should set me up better to qualify for the Copa Libertadores next season. We play two of the best sides in the division back to back away from home within four days in March. This will be tough on the squad but outside of that, the draw is favourable. We play key sides such as Junior at home, as well as our major rivals Deportivo. These fixtures will be reversed in the second phase.


The opening league fixtures ahead

Time to click continue…

To sum up, it may be an odd way to arrange a squad, but this process has helped me to decide more than just who is on loan. It has helped me to think about bringing through my youth players, how to give them game time, and how to balance the fitness of my senior squad. By targeting the league to begin with, we should be in a better position come the second half of the season when the schedule starts to intensify.

The season has begun well with three wins from four friendlies. I have tried to match the team selection to the opposition, for example, Bogota FC are a second division side so I could well play a similar team in the Copa Colombia, so I used the hired guns. The U-19 development squad also got a run out against local opposition and performed well. The CM attack role is working well with most of the scoring chances coming from there. The plan was to start with the ‘Fluid Counter Attack’ preset tactic, however, I have now adjusted from there to tailor it more to my squad. If anything of note comes from it I will write some more.


Results so far for the season

TL:DR? I don’t really favour loan players and have a think where best to use them throughout their time at the club.

Thanks for reading if you made it this far. Please feel free to like, follow or comment on the post. Maybe we can meet up for a pint sometime if you really want to discuss it more? You probably found this from a tweet so please feel free to follow my account, and also why not check out the @onemoregamepod too and listen to around 45 minutes of FM chat each week.


4 thoughts on “Squad Planning and the Loan Conundrum

  1. Pingback: Getting to Grip with Player Interaction | according to FM

  2. Pingback: 6 Months in Cali | according to FM

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