Player ability refers to how good players are as footballers on and off the pitch.
This guide details the various aspects of player ability on the pitch and player ability off the pitch, while it also covers the dynamics of player ability – how and why player ability changes over time.
The Player Development guide discusses how you can control the dynamics of player ability to improve your players over the course of their careers.
Player Ability on the Pitch
Player ability on the pitch refers to player ability that is apparent during matches.
Each player has a hidden current ability rating out of 200 that largely determines how good he is on the pitch.
A player’s current ability is distributed to the factors of current ability, which are:
- (Weighted) playing attributes– current ability is distributed to the player’s playing attributes on a weighted basis, with the weighting of an attribute depending on its supposed importance for the player’s playing position or positions. The more important an attribute is, the heavier its weighting. In other words, playing attributes ‘use up’ or ‘cost’ current ability and more important attributes ‘use up’ or ‘cost’ more current ability than less important attributes.
- Aggression, Determination, Flair and Natural Fitness, as well as the hidden playing attributes, are zero-weighted for all playing positions (no current ability is distributed to them).
- Eccentricity, Free Kicks, Penalty Taking, Rushing Out, Tendency To Punch and Off The Ball are zero-weighted for goalkeepers (no current ability is distributed to them).
- As an example, Tackling is considered to be more important for centre backs than Finishing and so ‘uses up’ more current ability for centre backs than Finishing does.
- Weaker foot strength – some current ability is also distributed to (or ‘used up’ by) the player’s weaker foot strength. So a player with good weaker foot strength would have less of his current ability left to be distributed to his playing attributes. A player’s weaker foot strength is shown on his Development > Tactics screen.
Perceived Current Ability
Within the game current ability is estimated by coaches and scouts (by using their Judging Player Ability staff attribute) and presented in the form of perceived current ability star ratings in their coach reports and scout reports, as well as on other screens such as the Team Report > Squad Depth screen (and the Squad > Players screen if the Reports view is selected). Your coaches give perceived current ability star ratings for players at your own club, while your scouts give them for players at other clubs as part of their scouting assignments.
For most players, perceived current ability is shown in multiples of half a star, ranging from a single half star for players with the lowest perceived current ability to five full stars for players with the highest perceived current ability.
In most cases these stars are gold. However, young players who would otherwise be given a single half gold star are instead given silver stars, which enables you to compare their perceived current abilities more easily.
Black stars are also used where necessary to represent a coach or scout’s uncertainty regarding a player’s perceived current ability. The more uncertainty there is for a player, the greater the proportion of his star rating that is shown in black. This proportion falls as more knowledge is gained about the player.
It is important to be aware that perceived current ability star ratings, both for your own players and those at other clubs, are shown relative to the perceived current ability of your squad as a whole. So a rating of 2.5 to 3 stars can be considered to be approximately average for your squad, with 3.5 to 5 stars being relatively good and 0.5 to 2 stars being relatively poor.
A player’s perceived current ability star rating may differ between different staff members because of differences in their Judging Player Ability attribute and their knowledge of the player.
In addition, a player’s perceived current ability star rating is likely to change over time, not only as his actual current ability changes, but also as:
- The current ability of your squad as a whole changes – this can occur both as a result of changes in individual players’ current abilities and as a result of transfers. For example, if you sign players to improve your team then current ability star ratings may fall.
- Your coaches or scouts gain more knowledge of the player (or you sign staff that arrive with less knowledge of the player) – coaches gain more knowledge of a player the more time they spend at the same club, while scouts can gain more knowledge of a player by spending more time scouting him.
Therefore, if a player’s perceived current ability star rating decreases it does not necessarily mean that the player has become worse, while if it increases it does not necessarily mean that he has become better.
Coaches always provide up-to-date information on your players but the perceived current ability given by scouts needs to be updated with new scout reports. You can check the date of the latest scout report on the report itself.
Each player also has a hidden potential ability rating out of 200 that acts as a limit for his current ability and typically remains static throughout his career.
Therefore, the potential ability rating that a player has at the start of his career (or at the start the game) is typically the maximum rating that his current ability can reach.
Perceived Potential Ability
Similarly to current ability, potential ability is estimated by coaches and scouts (by using their Judging Player Potential staff attribute) and presented in the form of perceived potential ability star ratings, with your coaches giving perceived potential ability star ratings for players at your own club and your scouts giving them for players at other clubs.
Perceived potential ability is shown relative to perceived current ability and works in a similar manner to perceived current ability in respect to gold, silver and black stars, and the knowledge and attributes (Judging Player Potential in this case) of coaches and scouts.
However, rather than being a direct estimate of his potential ability, a player’s perceived potential ability is based mostly on his age and perceived current ability. For example, an 18 year old player would be considered to have more time left to improve his current ability than a 23 year old teammate and so the gap between his perceived potential ability and his perceived current ability would be greater than that of his teammate.
In addition, a coach or scout typically uses black stars in the perceived potential ability star rating that he gives to a young player even when his knowledge of the player is high, due to the uncertainty regarding the improvement of current ability.
A player’s match performance refers to how well he plays in a match.
The level of a player’s match performance is affected by many more factors than just the factors of current ability. It is therefore important to judge a player by more than just his perceived current ability and perceived potential ability.
The factors that affect the level of a player’s match performance include:
- His weaker foot strength – good weaker foot strength particularly benefits players who make roaming movement, make direct dribbles, play on the opposite side to their strongest foot or cut inside onto their weaker foot, as they are more likely to move into space where they would benefit from using their weaker foot.
- His traits – a player’s traits should ideally be appropriate for his playing attributes and his assigned tactical role. Otherwise, they may have an adverse effect on his match performances.
- His personality attributes – particularly his ratings in the Pressure, Professionalism, Sportsmanship and Temperament personality attributes.
- His fitness – this includes his condition, match fitness, jadedness and any injury he may be carrying.
- His morale.
- Any communication problems he has – a player may struggle to communicate with his teammates if they do not know a common language.
- The languages spoken by a player are shown on his Overview > Information screen under Nationalities.
- Communication problems are included in your assistant’s feedback during a match, which is shown under Advice on the Analysis screen and also on the Assistant’s Feedback widget.
- The effectiveness of your tactics and of his tactical role in particular.
- His positional ability for the playing position he is selected in – a player’s positional ability in a particular playing position is his level of understanding of that playing position. It works by affecting the Decisions attribute (and, therefore, decision making). The lower a player’s positional ability for a playing position, the more his Decisions attribute is adversely affected when he is played in that position.
- A player’s positional abilities are shown as coloured circles on his Development > Tactics screen under Positional Abilities (you can hover over central playing positions to see the player’s preferred side).
- The main positional ability levels in order from best to worst are:
- Natural (bright green).
- Accomplished (green) – the advised minimum level for a player played regularly in the position.
- Competent (yellow-green).
- Unconvincing (yellow)
- Awkward (orange)
- Ineffectual (red or not shown)
- His tactic familiarity and his tactical role suitability, in the context of your playing style – tactic familiarity is learned by your team over time during match preparation training and does not take into account the suitability of playing attributes or player traits. A player’s tactical role suitability is subjective and based on the appropriateness of his playing attributes and traits for your team instructions and his player instructions, as well any hidden instructions set by his role and duty.
- A player’s tactic familiarity and position/role/duty suitability1 are shown on his Development > Tactics screen under Tactical Familiarity. Position/role/duty suitabilities are also shown as coloured circle segments on the Tactics screens.
- A player’s position/role/duty suitability is determined by the suitability of his ratings in the key attributes for the relevant role and duty (as well as left/right foot strength for some wide player roles), adjusted according to his positional ability for the relevant playing position.
- However, a player’s suitability for your team instructions and any manually selected player instructions, which is not taken into account by his position/role/duty suitability, is also important.
Player Ability off the Pitch
Player ability off the pitch refers to player ability that is apparent outside of matches – for example, in training or general conduct.
Factors that determine a player’s ability off the pitch include:
- His personality.
- His Natural Fitness physical attribute.
- His Injury Proneness hidden playing attribute.
The Dynamics of Player Ability
The dynamics of player ability refers to how and why player ability changes over time.
Youth intake can be both internal and external.
Internal Youth Intake
Once a year a club has the opportunity to offer youth contracts to newgen players (new players generated by the game) who have come through the junior squads in its youth system (as junior players). This is the club’s internal youth intake.
Internal youth intake can be the most financially efficient youth intake method in the long term but its effectiveness at bringing in newgen players with good current ability and potential ability depends on the quality of the relevant club facilities (see Club Facilities below) and the club’s nation’s reputation for developing junior players. For example, a Brazilian club with good facilities is much more likely to have newgen players with high current ability and potential ability than a club with good facilities in a low reputation nation.
A nation’s reputation for developing junior players can also affect the average rating distribution of individual playing attributes for the newgen players, as well as their average ratings for the personality attributes. For example, newgen full backs at a Brazilian club are more likely to have good attacking abilities.
In addition, a club’s internal youth intake occasionally brings through exceptional newgens with unusually high current ability (relative to its other newgens).
The abilities of a club’s newgens are influenced by its youth staff members as follows:
- A small number of newgen players in a single internal youth intake may be given similar personalities to the club’s youth staff members, with the remaining newgen players having random personalities.
- The higher rated the youth staff members’ Judging Player Potential and Working With Youngsters staff attributes are, the higher the potential abilities of the club’s exceptional newgens are likely to be.
- The preferences of the youth staff members (shown on their staff profiles), such as their coaching styles, can influence the distribution of individual playing attribute ratings for the club’s exceptional newgens.
The youth staff member who is assigned the responsibility to bring youth players into the club (on the Staff > Responsibilities > Overall screen) has the largest influence on a club’s newgen players. This is usually the Head of Youth Development but the Youth Manager or Director of Football can be selected as an alternative.
External Youth Intake
A club can also look elsewhere for youth players to sign. This is the club’s external youth intake.
External youth intake is more expensive in the long term than internal youth intake as a club may have to pay a compensation fee to sign a youth player who is already contracted to another club.
Despite this, if the development of the youth players who are brought in is successful then external youth intake still enables a club to bring players into its senior squad at a lower cost than if it were to buy already established players.
In addition, external youth intake enables a club to sign players who have good potential ability even if it is currently not able to recruit them internally from its own junior squads.
Furthermore, external youth intake enables a club to target particular types of youth players. For example, a club may target players with particular playing attribute ratings, positional abilities, traits and personalities, which can make player development easier. However, this is not essential as playing attributes, traits, positional abilities and personalities can be all be changed during player development.
The effectiveness of a club’s external youth intake depends on the quality of its scouting and its ability to attract players, the latter being affected by its reputation and wage budget along with other factors.
General Youth Focus
This is therefore typically more expensive than external youth intake but it can still be similarly beneficial if it is carried out effectively.
The benefits of a general youth focus when building a squad are discussed more in the Squad Building guide.
A player’s current ability changes over the course of his career. This is known as player progression.
At any point in time a player’s progression may be positive (current ability increases), negative (current ability decreases) or neutral (current ability remains the same).
Player growth refers to positive player progression – the increase of a player’s current ability towards his potential ability. It is typical for younger players, but is not guaranteed at any age.
The potential ability of a player sets the ‘ceiling’ for his growth. However, it is far from certain that a player will reach his potential ability. How close a player gets to his potential ability depends on how successful his progression is.
Player regression refers to negative player progression – the decrease of a player’s current ability. It is typical for older players but can occur at any age.
Player progression is comprised of two separate components. These are training progression and match progression.
Each player has a hidden progression score, which is a score that gives him a particular chance of achieving a particular level of progression. The higher a player’s progression score is, the more likely he is to achieve a higher level of progression. However, because of the involvement of chance (and because current ability increases can be capped at various points), a high progression score does not guarantee a high level of progression.
A player’s progression score is calculated from various direct factors of player progression.
In addition, there are various indirect factors of player progression that affect the direct factors and so indirectly affect the progression score.
There are separate factors of training progression and of match progression.
A player’s progression score and level of progression are recalculated on a monthly basis (or earlier in some cases, such as if the player signs for a new club).
Factors of Training Progression
The direct factors of training progression are as follows. Indirect factors are listed in sub-bullet points:
- The Determination, Ambition and Professionalism attributes (which all contribute to player personalities) – Determination (a mental attribute), and Ambition and Professionalism (both personality attributes), all contribute equally to the progression score. The higher they are for a player, the higher his progression score is.
- The quality of training – this is determined by the quality of the training facilities (see Club Facilities below) and the quality of the coaches. The better they are at a player’s club, the higher his progression score is.
- Ambition – the higher a player’s Ambition is, the more likely he is to move to a higher reputation club with better training facilities and coaches.
- Player morale – the higher a player’s morale is, the higher his progression score is.
- The factors that affect morale are discussed in the Player Morale & Relationships guide. Most notably, they include player personalities, with positive personalities making man management easier. Player personalities (particularly the Determination, Ambition and Professionalism attributes, as direct factors) are therefore a very important factor of training progression.
- Various other factors – these factors most likely include player fitness (jadedness in particular, while injuries can prevent a player from training).
- Natural Fitness, Stamina and Injury Proneness – the effects of these fitness related attributes are discussed in the Player Fitness guide.
Factors of Match Progression
The direct factors of match progression are as follows. Indirect factors are listed in sub-bullet points:
- Playing time (at an appropriate difficulty level) – the more time a player spends on the pitch at an appropriate difficulty level, the higher his progression score is. An appropriate difficulty level for a player is one that is neither too high nor too low for his current ability (this balances competition reputation and match performances – the other two direct factors). Every minute of playing time counts but a player receives a bonus to his match progression for playing 45 minutes or more in a single match.
- Player fitness – the better a player’s fitness is and the less time he spends injured, the more likely he is to gain playing time.
- Match performances – the better a player’s match performances are, the more likely he is to gain playing time.
- Competition reputation – the higher the reputation of the competitions that a player plays in, the higher his progression score is.
- Ambition – the higher a player’s Ambition is, the more likely he is to sign for a club that competes in higher reputation competitions.
- Match performances – the better a player’s match performances are, the more likely he is to sign for a club that competes in higher reputation competitions.
- Match performances – this is a direct factor as well as an indirect factor. The better a player’s match performances are, the higher his progression score is.
- The factors that affect match performances are discussed above for Match Performance. Notably, they include Determination, Leadership and personality attributes, along with player morale (which is itself affected by player personalities and match performances), making player personalities and player morale important factors of both training progression and match progression.
Shape of Player Progression
The shape of player progression refers to how current ability is distributed to the factors of current ability (discussed above under Current Ability) over time.
A player’s progression is shaped as follows:
- (Weighted) playing attributes
- Training – the more an attribute is focused on by the player during training the more likely it is that current ability is distributed to it. This takes into account intensity and workload settings, so, for example, the higher the individual workload is for a player, the greater the effects of his training on current ability distribution are. Lower rated attributes, if trained, are also more likely to have current ability distributed to them.
- Match experience – attributes (mental attributes in particular) can receive gradual current ability distribution from the player’s general match experience. However, attributes can also change suddenly as a result of particular match events. For example, if a player scores a rare hat-trick then he may improve attributes related to goal-scoring, such as Finishing.
- Weaker foot strength – weaker foot strength generally remains static. However, it can improve if it is specifically developed by the player after he learns the Attempts To Develop Weaker Foot player trait through player trait training.
This shaping of player progression occurs regardless of whether player progression is positive, negative or neutral. Both increases and decreases in current ability are distributed, while existing current ability is ‘redistributed’ in the same manner.
Assuming weaker foot strength remains the same, during player growth (weighted) playing attributes as a whole increase, while during player regression (weighted) playing attributes as a whole decrease.
If a player improves one or more (weighted) playing attributes (for example, those that he focuses on more in training) then he will suffer falls in other (weighted) playing attributes if he does not experience sufficient growth to cover the ‘cost’ of the increased attributes.
Each player experiences his own personal natural progression, which is essentially a series of age ranges that have a significant effect on the extent and shape of his progression throughout the course of his career.
The key age ranges in a player’s natural progression are:
- Youth – before the age of 18 training progression is the most important component of the player’s progression and the quality of training is the most important direct factor. Good training is therefore highly important for players under 18.
- Adulthood – from the age of 18 match progression is the most important component of the player’s progression. Good match experience is therefore highly important for players 18 or over.
- Physical growth – in the early stages of the player’s career his physical attributes are more likely to increase than his technical and mental attributes, affecting the shape of his progression.
- Technical growth – as the player gets older his technical attributes become more likely to increase than his mental and physical attributes, again affecting the shape of his progression.
- Mental growth – in the later stages of the player’s career his mental attributes are more likely to increase than his technical and physical attributes, again affecting the shape of his progression.
- Natural bloom – this is an age range where the player is more likely to experience very good growth. It typically starts during the late teens or early twenties, but can start earlier (for an early bloomer) or later (for a late bloomer).
- However, a late bloomer may lose the faith of his manager before he gets the chance to experience his natural bloom, as perceived potential ability (discussed above) does not account for a later than average natural bloom.
- Similarly, an early bloomer can have a perceived potential ability that is too high.
- Natural stabilisation – this is an age range, which follows the player’s natural bloom, where he is more likely to experience slower growth. It typically starts between the ages of 18 and 24, most often around 21.
- Natural peak – this is an age range, which follows the player’s natural stabilisation, where he is less likely to experience significant growth or regression, although either may still occur, especially over short periods. He is therefore likely to be at or near his highest current ability during this period (although not necessarily near his potential ability). It typically starts in the mid to late twenties. However, a player may reach an early natural peak in his early twenties or a late natural peak in his early thirties.
- Natural decline – this is an age range, which follows the player’s natural peak, where he is more likely to experience regression. It typically starts in the late twenties or early thirties, but can start earlier or later.
- Physical deterioration – this is an age range, which occurs during the player’s natural decline, where his physical attributes are more likely to decrease, affecting the shape of his progression.
Factors of Natural Progression
The ages at which a player experiences his natural bloom, natural stabilisation, natural peak, natural decline and physical deterioration depend on various factors of natural progression, which include his attributes and positional abilities.
Goalkeepers tend to reach their natural peak at a later age than defenders and midfielders, who in turn tend to reach their natural peak at a later age than attackers.
A high Professionalism personality attribute can give a player a later natural decline, while a high Natural Fitness physical attribute can delay and lessen the impact of physical deterioration. Low Professionalism and Natural Fitness can have the opposite effects.
Since injuries can prevent a player from training and gaining match experience, successive or long term injuries to a player who has not yet reached his natural peak can effectively stunt his natural bloom and natural stabilisation, resulting in him reaching a lower current ability during his natural peak. Similarly, for a player who has reached or past his natural peak they can effectively bring forward and exacerbate the effects of his natural decline and physical deterioration.
Changes to Player Traits
A player can learn new traits or unlearn existing traits through:
- Player trait training – this is the most flexible method and enables traits to be both learned and unlearned but some traits cannot be learned or unlearned this way.
- Player tutoring – this is the most efficient method and enables any of the tutor’s traits to be learned but traits cannot be unlearned this way.
However, neither of these methods guarantees that a particular trait will be learned or unlearned.
Changes to Positional Ability
A player can be trained to gain positional ability in a particular playing position through position and role training.
However, a player’s playing time in his trained playing position has an impact on how effective this training is. In particular, to gain natural positional ability in a new playing position a player must typically also be playing in that position at the same time.
Gaining positional ability can have an indirect effect on the shape of player progression because it can cause certain playing attributes to be weighted more heavily in regards to the distribution of current ability, depending on which playing position or positions are learned and which have already been learned.
For example, training an attacker in the centre back playing position can cause attributes such as Tackling, which are more important for centre backs than for attackers, to ‘use up’ more current ability. Therefore, if his current ability does not increase then it will be redistributed slightly between playing attributes. In particular, such a redistribution would be necessary if the player has reached his potential ability or his natural peak (and therefore his maximum current ability).
If a player is close to both his maximum current ability and his maximum number of playing positions then he may ‘forget’ positional ability that he previously had in order to learn a new playing position.
Experience-Based Character Changes
Experience-based character changes are changes in attributes related to the general character of players that occur as a result of general experiences or specific events, both on and off the pitch.
Such specific events include random, simulated non-football events, as well as events that occur visibly within the game such as manager interactions with players.
Attributes that are related to the general character of players include:
- The mental attributes Aggression, Bravery, Determination, Leadership and Work Rate.
Examples of experience-based character changes include:
- Changes to mental attributes such as Aggression, Determination and Work Rate that occur following a warning or fine given by the manager for a poor performance or for being sent off.
- Decreases to Bravery and Determination that occur following a severe injury.
- Increases to Leadership that occur following appointment as Captain or Vice-Captain.
- Changes to Consistency that occur from match experience – a player’s Consistency can increase gradually over time as he gains match experience.
- Changes to Injury Proneness that occur from general experience of injuries – the more injuries a player suffers, the more likely his Injury Proneness is to increase, and vice versa.
- Changes to personality attributes and Determination that occur during player tutoring – improving a player’s personality through tutoring is a particularly effective method of improving his progression.
- Changes to Ambition, Determination, Loyalty and Professionalism that occur as a result of squad personality.
- Changes to attributes that occur following personal achievements – such personal achievements include winning a trophy or signing a high value contract (a big new contract, especially at a young age, can make a player more complacent by decreasing attributes such as Determination, Ambition and Professionalism).
Fluctuating Aspects of Player Ability
Some aspects of player ability fluctuate according to various influencing factors. These aspects include:
- Player fitness.
- Player morale.
- Mental state (presented in the form of body language).
- Tactic familiarity.
- Team cohesion.
The club facilities that are related to player ability are:
- Training facilities – the facilities used for training by players in the senior squad, reserve squad and youth squad.
- Effects – the higher the quality of a club’s training facilities, the higher its quality of training (and, therefore, the higher its players’ progression scores are, as explained above). Higher quality training facilities also reduce the likelihood of training injuries.
- Levels (best to worst) – state of the art, excellent, superb, great, good, average, adequate, below average, basic, poor.
- Board request category – Facilities.
- Youth facilities (best thought of as junior facilities) – the facilities used for training by the hidden players in the junior squads.
- Effects – the higher the quality of a club’s youth facilities, the better the current ability and potential ability of the newgens in its internal youth intake.
- Levels (best to worst) – state of the art, superb, excellent, great, good, average, adequate, below average, basic, poor.
- Board request category – Facilities.
- Youth level (English clubs) – the league level that the under 23 squad and under 18 squad compete in.
- Effects – the higher a club’s youth level, the higher the competition reputation of the league division its under 23 and under 18 squads compete in (and, therefore, the higher the under 23s and under 18s players’ progression scores are, as explained above).
- Levels (best to worst) – 1, 2, 3, 4, 0.
- Board request category – Facilities.
- Junior coaching – the quantity and quality of junior coaches (coaches of the hidden junior players).
- Effects – the higher the quality of a club’s junior coaching, the better the current ability and potential ability of the newgens in its internal youth intake.
- Levels (best to worst) – exceptional, excellent, good, adequate, average, fairly basic, minimal.
- Board request category – Finance.
- Youth recruitment (best thought of as junior recruitment) – the ability to sign hidden junior players of higher quality and living in regions and nations further away.
- Effects – the higher the quality of a club’s youth recruitment, the better the current ability and potential ability of the newgens in its internal youth intake and the greater the geographical range of birthplaces for those newgens.
- Levels (best to worst) – extensive, well established, established, above average, average, fairly basic, basic, limited.
- Board request category – Networking.
You can request facility improvements from your club’s board by selecting Make Board Request under Board Request Status on the Board > Overview screen. The request options for each of the above facilities can be found in the appropriate board request category as detailed above.
However, you may need to be patient and allow your club stature and club finances to improve before your requests are granted. The board’s confidence in both can be seen on the Board > Confidence screen under Summary.