So, you’ve won the title. You’ve worked hard, dragged your team up the leagues, and finally won the national title. How do you keep it? This article aims to help you with your Title Defense.
First things first: the assumptions. This article is assuming the title you are defending is that of the top division. In most cases, winning the division in a lower division prevents you from retaining your title, as you get promoted. There are exceptions, of course: lower leagues like the Spanish Segunda B, or Italian Serie C, can see teams not promoted after winning their division, because of the playoff system they use. That situation will be different from the title defense, though, in that there is unlikely to be much prize money.
Assuming, then, that you’ve won that national title: Welcome! Congratulations! It’s a real achievement to win the top division in a nation. Now let’s look at how you win the next one. I want to lay out five principles for your title defense.
Principle 1: Always Be Upgrading
This principle is based on the idea that your opponents will inevitably do whatever they can to improve their teams. They’ll be buying players, maybe changing managers, promoting youth. So when you look to improve your team, don’t think small. Think big. For a title defense, instead of buying backups, Always Be Upgrading.
What this means is, when you’re searching for players to improve your team, don’t look for players who are less able than what you have. Yes, yes, improving your depth, blah blah blah, but here’s the thing. You can improve your depth by adding at the top just as easily as adding at the bottom, and it means your team gets better, rather than more solid. Identify the spots in your team where depth is a problem, and improve them from the top.
Principle 1 also applies to staff. When your staff contracts run out is a good time to consider whether they’re good enough to deserve a new contract. If you think you can find a better, then put that advert up (or do a staff search, if you’re so inclined) and start hiring. Be ruthless. You’ve got a title to defend, and you need every resource on your side.
Why does this apply specifically to a title defense? Well, it doesn’t. It’s good advice any time, but remember, your opponents will be upgrading, all of them. So you don’t need to keep ahead of 2 or 3 rivals, you’ve got to watch out for a dozen or more. Don’t let them steal a march on you by hiring staff that would have improved your team.
Principle 2: Be Realistic
Here, what I’m referring to is that you should optimize your tactic to your upgraded team. When you do so, optimize to the team you have, not the team you wish you had. Better to optimize your tactic (which has had a season’s tinkering applied to it, remember) early in the pre-season, so you can train on it better. Leaving it until later because you think you’ll be able to sign better players later on is penny-wise and pound-foolish. You want as long as possible for the team to adjust to whatever you’ve done to the tactic.
Start training your players from the beginning of pre-season on the optimized tactic. As you improve the team, revise the tactic to fit your new players by using the Personalized Instruction feature. If you don’t know how to do that, see my video 5 Tabs You May Not Know About.
Principle 3: Purchasing Power is Real Power
Be prepared to use all your transfer and wage budget. Ask for more. You just won the title, you should be able to bug your board into giving you more of one or the other. Take a moment to upgrade something – training facilities, or your stadium, or whatever. The board love you, and you’re about as flush with cash as you’re likely to be (pending continental football!).
This is how you pay for those upgraded players you bought earlier. You won the league – that usually means you get more prize money than anyone else. If you do, use it. It’s one of the few carry-over advantages from one season to the next, and it’s really important that you find a way to leverage that spending power into playing power. If your league isn’t one that spends a lot of money domestically, maybe you can bring in a talented and tasty foreigner.
Principle 4: Believe in Youth
Scour your youth team for prospects who are ready to make the jump to the first team, even on the fringes. If you can rely on them for a game or two, use them to help you rotate your squad, so you don’t run out of gas/petrol at the end of the season. Make sure they play regularly in their junior team, but don’t hesitate to use them in your senior side. It’s good for their development to get at least occasional competitive football (if your B team isn’t in a competitive league). And it will help solidify your team from a depth perspective, for your title defense.
In fact, it’s possible to win with kids. I know the aphorism, and I’m sorry to say, at least on Football Manager, he’s wrong. You can win a title with 20-year-olds. They need to be very good, and mentally and physically strong, but it can be done. It is better if you can sprinkle in a little grey hair as well, maybe find a well-preserved 27-year-old or something, but if you don’t, you can still win with kids. The main concern is that you don’t want to do it with a thin squad. You need squad depth to win with youth players, because they’re not used to the rigours of a fifty-game top division season (with Cup run and continental football). They will start to sputter around game 30 of a 38-game season.
So that’s my outline for how to prep for your title defense. To sum up, prepare to use everything you have available to improve your team, and defend that title!
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- FM21 Guides: Newgen Guide for Countries and Clubs