Laying The Groundwork

One of the things which intrigued me the most about trying to emulate Ajax and their youth development system was the streamlined nature of their youth squads. A lot of the way I have set up is adapted from this document which gives a lot of detail on the Ajax youth system. At each age group, they keep only 16 players – I have adapted the original plan of choosing by right footed and left footed and training across several positions (mainly because i’m not entirely sure FM would accomodate that much multi-position training within the CA/PA system) and instead I will use a first team 11 at each age group, plus 5 substitutes who are the next highest potential within that age group. The idea will be that each player will get a more bespoke training experience, and less pressure will be placed on the coaching staff with less players to work with. Ideally, this will mean a higher quality of coaching, and therefore greater gains in development.

Initially, Sparta have an absolutely unreal amount of Under 19s players, and some of them will be moving up to the B team, however I’m a wonderkid hoarder, so it is hard for me to let go of 24 youth players without giving them a shot at developing (and maybe selling them in the future). With 40 Under 19s and a B team of 18, it’s obvious that streamlining the youth squads will be a couple of seasons of work, however I don’t see the point in releasing a huge number of players at the outset, without being able to decide over at least a few months which players have a future at the club.

In the first team, I am going to aim for a squad size of 25: 2 players per position, plus 3 highly-rated youngsters who rotate in for easier league games and appear in cup matches for the club. Again, the first team squad is initially bloated, so we will be looking to streamline that by selling players throughout the season as it becomes more apparent who has a future and who doesn’t.

Tactically, the plan is to strip everything back, and keep the instructions simple – i’m often guilty of over-complicating tactics, and getting frustrated when I can’t seem to figure out what’s going wrong. The idea here is that the regista will pull strings from deep, with the left winger stretching the defence where possible, and the right winger, attacking mid, and striker all quite fluid and clogging the channels to create chances. The Anchor man will shield the defence, and allow the wingbacks some freedom to go forward and support the attack. I’ve initially set us to play narrow, purely in the belief that this will pull the attack in towards the box and give us some more penetration.

Having settled on our tactical style, I was able to set players’ individual training – at this point, all players will train in their intended role (which all going well, will be the same position throughout all age groups) with individual focuses on mainly physical and mental attributes in the youth groups, depending on their needs. Once a player reaches senior level, I am hoping that we will have put enough work in on their physical and mental growth that we can then focus on fine-tuning their technical attributes and traits where useful.

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