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The concepts of Current and Potential Ability

We’ve all been there. The young gun with a 5 star Potential Ability (PA) who came through your youth intake only a few seasons ago appears to be reaching his potential already. At 21 years of age his PA has declined to a mere three stars and according to your Assistant Manager, that’s where his Current Ability (CA) lies as well. The player who was going to bring you a future Champions League trophy appears to hit the ceiling of his potential even before becoming a first team regular. Both puzzling and disappointing. What happened to the wonderkid talent? Where did things go wrong? This posts attempts to explain a few of the mechanics around the CA and PA concept, but first a bit of rambling!

Mystery hunting along the FM trail

I’ve been blogging about my Football Manager saves for about two years now and I’ve enjoyed most of it. I’ve loved the interactivity that this amazing community offers and I’ve found my niche both when it comes to blogging and playing the game. I love a good youth project to the extent that pretty much any save I start end up being all about youth development. Stories and context are important to me, they offer the backdrop that makes me keep my love going for a save in the long run. For each new series I’ve done another thing has become more and more clear and after branching out into writing on the SI Games forum and even trying a bit of Twitch streaming it’s now crystal clear. I’m not only a nerdy roleplaying type of FM20 player, with my Santos FC shirt on and my Excel spreadsheet open on my second screen. I’m also a mystery hunter!

Youth development with a specific aim

Now you might be wondering where the hell this is going, but I ask you to be patient for just a little longer, I’m trying to present a bit of context! It’s important to me, remember? I’m not the Indiana Jones type mystery hunter with a hat and whip, chasing Nazis and falling into pits of snakes. No, I’m the opposite. I love to sit in my chair, digging deeper and deeper into my Excel spreadsheet, trying to uncover the mysteries of Football Manager. And that’s how I’ve treated my last series “Santástico”, like a mystery waiting to be uncovered! I’m digging deeper and deeper into the quest of maximising youth development in a very specific way as I try to create a player good enough to be compared to Neymar and eventually even Pélé! This means that I’m trying to create a youth player as good as possible, which is basically what everyone does I guess, but I’m also trying to create a player with a very specific skill set. By trying to maximise the five skills that constitute my Ginga Rating; Dribbling, Technique, Flair, Acceleration and Agility, I’m getting as close as possible to a new Neymar or Pélé. A truly Brazilian player in both mind and body with exceptional speed and technique coupled with the unique ability of making the impossible look easy.

To assist me on this quest to find the next Neymar/Pélé, I’ve had my faithful companion beside me to guide me along the way. My Santos FC spreadsheet contains as much data about all my players as you could possibly imagine, both to help me keep track of the actual development of the individual players, but also to help me analyse what’s working and what isn’t. And once in a while also present a little mystery to dive deep into and uncover.

And this is where we reach the actual topic of this blog post, the concept of current and potential ability. Obvious to some, but a bit of mystery to others!

If you are reading this, you are most likely a Football Manager player. And if you play the game, I guess that you are at least familiar with the concept of current ability (CA) and potential ability (PA). It’s the game’s way of telling you how good a player is at the moment and also how good he has the potential to become. Both CA and PA range between 1 and 200, but they are displayed as stars in-game. Golden stars for fairly certain information, with the addition of black stars for information that is more uncertain. For example one of your scouts return with a report of a South American youth prospect, displaying his CA as 1 golden and 1 black star and his PA as 2 golden and 3 black stars. This means that his Perceived Current Ability (PCA) lies somewhere between 1 and 2 stars and his Perceived Potential Ability (PPA) is somewhere between 2 and 5 stars. You are intrigued by the prospect of a 5 star potential player to the point where you send out your scout for a new report. This time he returns with more information, decreasing the fog of war effect, showing the CA as 1 golden and half a black star and the PA as 2.5 gold stars and 1 black star. With the added information the new PCA is therefore 1-1.5 stars and the PPA 2.5-3.5 stars. So, what do I mean by Perceived current and potential ability?

PCA and PPA

The reason I introduced the PCA and PPA as additions to the CA and PA is quite simple. The visual display of the star ratings you get from scouts, coaches and your assistant manager in-game are not true and accurate representations of the actual CA and PA. They are merely an opinion by that person, based on a number of factors. The factors that influence the star rating are:

  • How good your staff member is at judging a player’s ability and potential, ie his JPA and JPP attributes. The higher the attributes are, the more accurate the prediction.
  • How good the players in your squad are. The better your best players are, the lower the rest of your players’ star ratings will be, since they are compared to your best player.
  • How high your club and competition reputations are. The higher the reputation is, the lower the star ratings.

This means that if you manage a team in the 10th tier in England you could have a squad filled with players with five star PCAs and PPAs, simply because the club and competition reputations are very low, combined with the fact that your best player is probably useless. The current staff members will most likely have low values in JPA and JPP as well, further increasing the uncertainty. If you were to move all these player into the squad of FC Barcelona, their new star ratings would most likely decrease from five to half a star each. Now that they are compared to players of a much higher standard in a club and league of a completely different stature, they are now considered more or less worthless. I think you get it, but just to be sure let’s reverse this example and look at Messi in Barcelona, a player with a five star PCA and PPA in his current environment. If we moved him from Barcelona to our club in the English 10th tier he’d still have a PCA and PPA of 5 stars, of course. Even a coach with 1 in JPA and JPP would be able to identify that Messi was a standout player compared to the other players in the squad and the rest of the league. By adding him to the squad, the PCA and PPA of all other players would decrease dramatically though, which really isn’t that strange. If you would have Messi running around in training, all other players would fade in comparison. Your best striker who scored 25 goals last year and was considered your best player before the arrival of Messi will now have a hard time looking like a 5 star prospect next to Messi.

So, now that I’ve explained how the star rating is merely a visual presentation of a perceived opinion showing you PCA and PPA instead of actual CA and PA, let’s look behind the scenes!

Actual CA and PA

The actual Current and Potential Ability values are dynamic but absolute values between 1 and 200. Hard values without any uncertainty. The CA is a representation of a players current quality, no matter the environment, and the PA shows you how good a player can become. Messi’s CA and PA will be the same, no matter if he plays for Barcelona or your 10th tier pub team.

Notice that I wrote above that the PA shows you how good a player CAN become. It doesn’t show you how good your player WILL become, since that depends on a lot of factors. Going in-depth into these factors would require a blog post of it’s own (at least), but training and match experience are two factors that increase a player’s CA towards his PA.

Attribute contribution to Current Ability

The CA value is determined by a player’s attributes. By spending hours upon hours mystery hunting in the FM20 editor (ie mindlessly manually changing one individual attribute value after another to determine their effect on CA) I’ve come to a few conclusions regarding attributes and CA. Not all of them count towards the CA and their contribution differ based on position.

Let’s start by using an image to explain this. Think of PA as a storage space and CA as boxes. The PA value will determine how big your storage space is and your position will determine how much space different CA boxes take up of this storage space. The size of these boxes are correlated to how important the content of that box is to your position, ie how much the individual attribute contribute to CA value. For example, a box containing 1 attribute point of “Tackling” will come in a bigger box to a central defender’s storage space than to that of an attacker, and therefore taking up more CA towards PA.

Below I’ve created a visual presentation of the different attributes’ contribution to CA, with a 5 representing the attributes with the biggest contribution towards CA, while a 0 means that the attribute has no contribution whatsoever towards CA.

Even though you might struggle to read this table, you can at least see that the different attributes’ contribution towards CA are very varied, both compared to each other, but also depending on position. If we break it down into each position the following attributes raise CA the most, ie they come in the biggest CA boxes to your PA storage space:
DL/R: Decisions, Acceleration, Agility
DC: Marking, Decisions, Positioning
WBL/R: Acceleration, Pace, Stamina
DM: Tackling, Decisions, Acceleration and Agility
ML/R: Crossing, Acceleration, Agility and Pace
MC: First Touch, Passing, Decisions and Acceleration
AML/R: Acceleration, Pace and Stamina
AMC: First Touch, Technique, Acceleration and Pace
STC: Finishing, Acceleration plus a bunch of attributes in third place

There are some obvious trends when dividing the positions into defensive/offensive or wide/central, for example Tackling takes up a lot of space for defensive positions while First Touch costs a lot of CA for an offensive player. Acceleration and Pace are “big boxes” for wide players, while Vision takes up more PA/storage space for MC/AMCs than for any other position.

Generally speaking Decisions along with the physical attributes Acceleration, Agility, Pace and Stamina take up a lot of CA/PA for all positions. However, the player’s technical, mental and physical attributes are not all that matters.

The difference between being one- and two-footed

To the right in the table you have “R/L foot” with three columns in green. These represent the CA contribution depending on how good a player’s weaker foot is. Being two-footed takes up a considerable amount of PA, compared to a player with a low weaker foot value.

I’ve known that two-footed players have reduced attributes compared to one-footed ones, but I haven’t given it that much thought. After spending time in the editor playing around with values and going in-depth looking at each attribute’s contribution to the CA total, it looks like the difference is actually HUGE!

If we use my Gilberto as an example:

He has “Right Only” as preferred foot, which means that his left foot attribute is at a 7 at most. If I create a new player in the editor based on all that I know about Gilberto I end up with a Current Ability of 155 if I make his left foot attribute a 1. If I make it a 7, the highest value that the left foot can have with “Right Only” as Preferred Foot, the CA becomes 164. If I make the left foot attribute 14, which is the highest number that the left foot can have with “Right” as Preferred Foot, the CA becomes 172. With 20 in both right and left foot (any value 15-20 returns “Either” as Preferred Foot) the CA rises to 179. That’s a 24 point CA difference between the weakest possible and strongest possible left foot. Changing ALL of the Ginga Skills that are counted towards CA (Flair doesn’t) to 20 would only raise Gilberto’s CA by 11 points. So what I’m saying is that a lot of the CA towards a player’s PA could be “eaten up” by being two footed, hindering a player’s development in the skills you are looking to develop.

On the other hand Aggression, Determination, Flair, Off the Ball and Natural Fitness don’t raise the CA at all, which might come as a bit of a surprise to you. This makes these attributes basically “free” if you consider CA cost towards PA, which means that they can all be 20, without taking up any PA “storage space”.

I hope you find this piece of information useful enough to come in handy both when scouting for players and creating player development plans! Using your PA storage space wisely may even help you create the next world class player!

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