Football Manager substitutions guide: The art of timing

This guide will give you some tips on how and when to use your substitutions to maximise your chances of succeeding in Football Manager.

Jose Mourinho is well known for bucking convention when making his substitutions, sometimes even making his first change before half time. This guide will show you how to make as much of your changes as the Special One does.

I’ve played Football Manager for a long time now. And I can tell you one thing: substitutions make a great difference in the latest Football Manager releases. Figuring out who and when to substitute is key, so let’s find out how you should do it.

Who to sub

You don’t always have to make substitutions during the match. You’ll be surprised about how some of your tired players can still find resources to impress late in the game.

Mental attributes such as Concentration, Flair or Determination mostly influence late moments of a game. Consider subbing the following:

  • booked players which are often shown yellow cards; you should use the Calm Down touchline talk whenever one of your players gets booked, but this might not be enough to stop him from getting a second, especially if he’s the aggressive type;
  • tired players which are very susceptible to making mistakes; especially defenders who are lacking key mental attributes such as Concentration, Composure, Decision and Determination;
  • players that are either very nervous or uninterested; team talks or touchline talks can help these issues, but not always. unambitious players tend to feel nervous all the time. Low Determination is usually an indicator of this.
  • key members of the squad who will be starting next match; but don’t do it solely with this in mind – first measure the threat posed by the opposition and the options you have available.
  • players which pick up a slight injury; by bringing them off quickly you can reduce the intensity of their potential injury.
  • and last but not least, players with low morale; this is undoubtedly the most decisive factor towards your team’s performance.

Off-topic: This is probably the weirdest yet most intelligent sub ever:

The 2nd keeper decides to intervene whilst warming up behind goal. Clever, wasn’t he?

Who to bring on and timing it well

We’ve learned who to take off the pitch, so now we need to understand who to bring on and when to do it.

When the game fate isn’t decided, consider bringing on:

  • players with better morale than the ones brought off; the condition isn’t anywhere as important as morale is in FM15. If you can’t find anyone with better morale on the bench, wait a bit and don’t rush! Morale can sometimes improve quickly, either after a goal or even after a few minutes of good play;
  • defenders with better mental attributes, especially when trying to contain; slow and tired defenders which can easily lead to late goals being conceded on counter-attacks; and remember, the opposition also makes substitutions;
  • more experienced players, if you can see someone underperforming and feeling very nervous, after your attempts of taking pressure of him failed.

When the game’s fate is pretty much decided, give a chance to:

  • youths; senior match experience is one of the most important factors in player development;
  • newly transferred players, in order to help them get integrated without having to face difficult situations at first;
  • those who are complaining about lack of first-team football, even if their morale is not very good, as they might start getting over their slight concern;
  • unfit players, to regain match fitness and motivation.


Avoid bringing on individuals with poor morale at all cost. I’d even recommend using players on awkward positions as long as they have a much better morale. Whatever you do, don’t gamble by picking inadequate subs when you aren’t yet sure of obtaining the desired result.

Timing is essential but the skill comes with experience. You must always look to improve your squad’s morale, before, during and after a match.

Another tip I have for you is to avoid making 3 substitutions at once. Can’t really explain why, but I’ve found that most of the times it won’t have a positive effect.

Finally, consider downloading our Football Manager eBooks if you want to master the game.

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