Oxford United – Succession planning and identifying areas for improvement

One of the tasks that I enjoy doing during pre-season is working out where the holes in my squad may lie and what I can do to improve the squad.

Once the task of renewing staff contracts and speaking (or begging) to the Board for club improvements are done, it is time to take a look at the squad to enable you to plan properly for the forthcoming season. I use this tool for each position and then delve deeper into the stats for the full season. Combining both allows you to judge exactly where you are strong and also where

This can be done a number of ways, but I always start by looking at the Squad > Squad Depth > By Position screen:

Oxford United_ Squad Depth By Position

I talked about the type of player that I search for in an earlier post which included the physical but more importantly the mental attributes that I require. I also have a problem with spending significant amounts on players over 25 because of their lack of resale value. The above image for the M (C) position reflects this – most of the players have Potential Ability higher than their Current Ability.

For this position I’m looking at, I’m well covered but the legendary Dewulf doesn’t always play here but when he does, it tends to be as a  CM(A). Gribbin and Stolic are also creative players whereas Acar tends to play at DM as a Half Back. Van Dommelen is being trained as the understudy to Acar, although he has made grumbling noises about lack of first team football.

Steven van Dommelen_ Overview ProfileFurkan Acar_ Overview Profile-2

So I’m well covered in central midfield – I also have Paul Murray out on loan who is a defensive midfielder, as well as Jan Koubek who is another creative option.

The next step is to review the stats for the previous season. Let’s focus on those that I use to assess performance for midfielders:

This is a custom view that I created for attacking and central midfielders  – I have another custom view for defenders and defensive midfielders.

There are many stats available but I find that custom views are a great way of focusing on exactly what you should be looking at. I include minutes because this allows you to focus on those who’ve made a significant contribution over the season.

Key Passes – these are passes that lead to an Assist or a Shot on Goal. Absolutely the number one stat for your creative midfielders.

Passes Completed % – Self explanatory but shows how accurate a player’s passing is

Cross Completion – important to assess the impact of wide players

Assists (and per 90) – per 90 I find more useful because it is a fairer comparison. How much is each player contributing to my attacks?

Shots (and per 90) – for AM and strikers

Goals (and per 90) – a good way to compare the ultimate metric.

Looking at the above image which is ranked by Key Passes, it shows why Dewulf is so important to the side. Johansson, Gribbin, Stolic and Jankovic (my CMs and wide players) also perform well for this metric.

However Jankovic is on loan. So although I was well covered at CM, I had work to do in the AMR position:

Oxford United_ Squad Depth By Position-2

Of course Dewulf can play anywhere but I prefer to keep him centrally.  With Jankovic not returning next season, I only had van der Struis in this position. I had been scouring the market for years looking for a permanent solution to this. I finally arrived at what I hope is a great solution:

Danny Laratta_ Overview Profile

I love his work rate, stamina, pace and bravery. He came at a very reasonable £7.5m and covers a position that I’ve had trouble filling with a permanent signing.


Another reason why Succession Planning is so important is to get players on board that you trust so that a first-choice player suffers an injury, your form doesn’t suffer as a result.

Unfortunately this happened to me when this guy got injured – a fantastic South Korean CB:

Yoon Yoon_ Overview Profile

My results took a turn for the worse when he got injured – look at the start I’d made before he got injured in late December:

Oxford United_  Senior Fixtures-2

You could argue that I didn’t do my job properly – the defensive cover I had in place wasn’t good enough. Let’s also look at his stats for the season:

Oxford United_ Players Players-5

The table is ranked by Tackles Completed % – for my money the most important for a defender. Yoon Yoon did make the most mistakes leading to goal, but his tackle % of 92% is very impressive, but you would expect this for someone with a 19 Tacking attribute. He is only 5″11 however, not ideal for a CB. I spent around £30m on Jonah Hodgkinson and again his quality came through with the same tackle completion ratio as Yoon.

So that’s my theory on Succession Planning – repeat the same exercise for every position on the pitch and remember that the tar ratings are not absolute values – they are relative to the strength of your squad. It’s impossible to have many five star players in your ranks.

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