Making The Most Of Pre-Season

I often get asked how I set up for pre-season and make the best of the time available. Pre-season is one of the most important times at the club because if you get this right you can start the season in the right frame of mind and hit the ground running. The majority of my success on FM is down to how I approach pre-season as I believe I set up the best I possibly can for me and my club and the style I play. So why is it important? Well let me show you how I approach it and then you can see why.

I break preseason down to;

  • Morale/Friendlies
  • Fitness
  • Tactic/Player Familiarity
  • Team Cohesion

The above is what I class as really important and are all the things that will make the biggest difference over the season especially at the beginning.

Morale and Friendlies

Having players with high morale is always a bonus and it’s a really good idea to get it as high as possible straight away. To achieve this as soon as possible what I do is make sure any friendlies I play are against extremely weaker opposition. The reasons behind this is I want the team to score a lot of goals. I don’t see the point in playing hard friendlies and risking affecting a player’s morale.

I like to set up very easy friendlies against very weak sides. This means my team should win them easily and winning builds morale, so if I can beat a non league or amateur side 10-0 then this is what I’ll do. I want to ease the players into the new season while building confidence. I don’t see the point of playing against sides who I might lose against and lose morale, so rather I’d focus on building this up during preseason.

You can play more tricky opposition if you like but for me, the personal preference is to make pre-season as easy as possible.

The amount of friendlies I play is squad size dependant, the smaller the squad the less games you can play. In smaller squads I find that around five friendly games is enough to get everyone up to speed and match fit in those games. For bigger squads I might need double the amount of games or at the very least seven plus. It’s hard to give game time to lots of players, especially at the start of a new saved game.

When I start in Brazil the first pre-season isn’t very long at all yet my squad size is massive. I have around 30+ players in the first team now obviously I don’t need this many players so I’ll cut the squad size down. But even after doing that I’m still left with a big squad because of the youth’s I promote. So one of the ways to combat the lack of time I have, is to schedule friendly matches for the reserve and under 20 sides too. This way I can make people available who aren’t playing in the first team matches and still get them match fit. You can also do this approach if you have smaller squads I guess. But I find it a really effective tool for the bigger squads. I try to schedule the games for the reserves and under 20’s the day after my first team’s games.

In some cases I even take control of these teams just for preseason so I can dictate who does and doesn’t get game time. It just depends how hand on and in-depth I want to be.


Every player at the club must be match fit before the season starts. If not then you’ll find they tire more quickly and increase the risk of picking up injuries or little niggles from games. I can do without this so I ensure everyone is fit all the time. By getting everyone match fit it means you can throw them into the first team should you suffer injuries/suspensions early on in the season and don’t have to worry that they aren’t fit. It also becomes easier to maintain fitness throughout the season if everyone is fit at the start. If not you’re already playing catch up.

This fits in with the morale and friendly section above and playing easy opposition, as it means who plays in the game and in what positions doesn’t really matter. The results are secondary really but because I play weak teams, it’s highly likely we still win by a big amount. It also means I don’t have to play players in their natural positions. It’s purely about giving players playtime so they can build match sharpness. The only way to make this rise is by playing games, so if players don’t play it doesn’t build.

I’d say that building match fitness (or sharpness now it’s called) if likely to be the biggest factor of pre-season and the whole point of it. I try my best now to waste it and when the first game of the season arrives every single player should be around 95%+ for match fitness, if not then I’ve wasted pre-season and not made the best of it.

Tactic Familiarity

Probably the second most important thing to concentrate on for me. The sooner everything is fluid the better because it means your tactic will play better and the players are used to every aspect of it. You can get tactic familiarity fluid before the start of the first game of the season if you play properly. Depending on your players in the squad already and those you bring it, will determine how long it takes to make this rise. Since FM17 tactic familiarity has been linked to the player and this year for FM18, we saw it taken to the next level and now it’s all about the individual, everything is now linked to the player. I’ve seen people post saying they set general training focus to tactics to get familiarity levels up however that doesn’t actually work despite the misleading name. What you have to do is set the match training focus to tactics. This is what gets tactic/player familiarity up.

If you are one of the lucky clubs who gets to go to training camps then while these are on you gain tactic/player familiarity/fitness a lot quicker.

To build tactics familiarity the best you can you need to ensure you have;

  • Set up friendlies. The amount depends on how many new players are in the squad, how low the familiarity bars are on the player’s profile. And how many new players you bring in.
  • Do not allow rest before or after a game.
  • Signing new players will reduce tactic familiarity, so the more signings you make the longer time you need to become fluid in all areas. Unless you sign players who are already familiar with the style and shape you already play. This makes things a lot easier and the transition from the old team to your side is a lot smoother.
  • You must set the scheduling bar in the training section all the way to the left so it’s set on 50%. The end of the bar is 50% and not the middle like some assume.
  • When you’ve set up the friendlies check on the training calendar to make sure you have a training day before each game. If not cancel the game because it’s pointless.
  • Changing team instructions also makes familiarity go slower. So make sure you decide on your tactical shape and the team instructions you’ll use sooner rather than later.
  • The more tactics you learn at once the longer it’ll take

If all this criteria is met and you’ve done it correctly then you should have almost full tactical familiarity. In the first season though it can be hard to achieve in some leagues due to the dates of when the game starts. It’s much easier to achieve from the 2nd season onward.

Team Cohesion

If I’ve promoted players from my youth/reserves team into the first team or bought any new players then I focus on this heavily as the general focus to help players settle quickly into the team and gel. It helps them settle into the team quickly and get an understanding. This is vital because it helps with language barriers if you have foreign players who might not understand the language of the country you play in and his team mates.I tend to focus on team cohesion for the entire of pre-season if I’ve bought any new players. If not, then I’ll likely just keep it on balanced.

This is how I basically approach pre-season and handle it. These are definitely the most important aspects that I try to focus on to give me the best possible start. Match fitness and tactic familiarity are a big part of the game so these two areas are the most important factors of my season.

If you have any questions feel free to ask 🙂

13 thoughts on “Making The Most Of Pre-Season”

  1. Hi! Great read again with lots of insight! So, no fitness training on pre-season?
    Balance (except newcomers are in) is the general training. In what intensity?
    You keep it on Balanced for the entrire season after that?

  2. Great article and very helpful !!!
    2 Questions though:
    1) do you train only 1 tactic per save or do you use more than 1 depending on opponent, injuries etc…

    2) How important is it to have good coaches and what traits do you look for in a coach? I think I may have seen you indicate that you might be touching on this in the future I can’t remember do to the massive amounts of articles and info you provide. You are truly dedicated to helping others come to a better understanding of how to play football !

    1. 1. I only ever use the same tactic. I don’t have sets as it doesn’t suit how I play.

      2. Coaches are very important. You need to look for ones who have high motivation, high determination and high discline. Then they need a decent rating for the catergory they’ll be coaching.

  3. Cleon, just to clarify, you only train one tactic? I’m assuming you simply alter that tactic if you want to change your style of play? Thanks for the help, giving your 4-2-3-1 deep a go with bayern soon. trying to think of ways to get lewandowski involved, maybe using him as a CF instead of DLF. Really enjoying all of your articles, keep up the great work!

    1. Depends on the tactic I’m using and the context of what is happening in the game. I never defend a lead though ever. I carry on playing how I normally do.

  4. I think most will fill the 3 tactic slots with say a defend tactic maybe 451 then a standard 442 and attacking 4231. Am I right in thinking this is a mistake if you want familiarity? Rarther you should have a 442 say and adjust to the match situation? Cheers.

  5. Hi Cleon,

    You say:
    “When you’ve set up the friendlies check on the training calendar to make sure you have a training day before each game. If not cancel the game because it’s pointless.”

    By “Training Day” do you mean the General Training? IE if my general training is on Balanced, there would be a day of Balanced before the match?

    Also, for me, the far left is “Less match Training” in which case there would be no match training by the look of it.


    1. Some skins it’s still on the right but on the default one, SI changed it to the left for some strange reason. So choose the option that has MORE match training.

      As for the training days, you can see on the calendar by the colour codes on the day if there is training before a match or not.

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