I bloody well love Football Manager, always have and probably always will. So yes it’s hard for me to give a totally impartial view on the iconic game, but before we get into the mud let me say this, any fans of the series are going to love FM21 while new users to the title with a little bit of time will also come to love it. This years edition is for me a complete and utter triumph with lots of tiny tweaks and changes that make the all important subtle differences to improve an already excellent game.While Fifa continue to churn out shite every September, Football Manager always manages to do just about enough to keep users excited. While on the face of it, you may think it’s just another FM experience, but it’s not trust me.
The True Timekiller
Geniunely Football Manager has always been a way to kill 100’s of hours without realising, until it’s time to don the suit for the F.A Cup Final……we’ve all done it don’t lie. Anyway every single aspect of your team can be customised, a bit daunting for new gamers if I’m honest, but with a little time you will get to grips with it. It really helps that the tutorial is built into the day to day of your job so you can learn on the go.
Football Manager’s database is so bloody mental that real life scouting networks use their database to get an idea of players stats or general knowlegde on a players ability. They are so detailed I have managed to find the University of Limerick soccer team with a bit of work. This year they move beyond the stats and add in some much needed aid with emotion and communication. In the past those press conferences have bee fairly annoying with most of us clicking the “send assistant” button to save a couple of minutes. However this year, the questions you get asked are more diverse than ever before, you have control over your own body language.. so things like thumping the deck or throwing your arms in the air and supposably this all makes minor changes to players morale or attitude towards you. But personally I’ve not seen that to be the case but it does make the press work a bit more fun.
Managing the dressing room
Speaking of body language and how it affects your players, these elements are dotted throughout the game and it won’t take you long to figure out how different players react to your team meetings or one to one chats. Press conferences don’t seem to make much odds which makes sense but chucking a pot of tea at your star striker might just be a quick way to alienate a player. Becks and Fergie comes to mind. Be careful when learning this because pissing of a big name and it can take a long time to get them back around, I tested on big Alexandar Mitrovic leaving my Fulham’s best hope of Premier League survival having a full on strop until I could sell and replace him in the January sales to get my season back on track.
What I did find difficult initially was understanding player condition, gone is the standard % meter which was easy enough to read but this is now done by a colour changing icon which makes things a little more complicated. Playing players whose condition is dropping is a recipe for disaster and most of us made a habit in times gone that a sub would be made once a player hits about 70-75% condition, but then again a real player doesn’t work off a condition % so it does make things more realistic. That means getting clever with tactics.
With that pesky condition monitor in play, the amount of ball teams play, competitions etc you have to get the balance of your squad and tactics on point to keep players happy, fit and winning. Basically be a football manager. That means you will probably be rotating squads more than you would in the past and needing a big squad to perform on all fronts, if your idea is to be top of the pile.
You can also set up mutiple tactics and playing styles, so for example my Premier Team plays on the counter with a high press. Hence Gegen-press with a 3-5-2 formation, doing a Barca and using tika take in a base 4-3-3 aint gonna cut it unless you have the players to do so. That’s why I also have the direct route style in a 4-2-3-1 with pacy as hell lads playing off a target man and then a possession based 3-4-3 in games where I expect to dominate the ball. This is because FM 21 using some serious AI and trying to go toe to toe with my Fulham team versus City simple won’t cut it, much like in real life.
Who actually buys Football Manager for the in game graphics? Nobody, because they are really not very good. Having said that this year the UI feels a lot better, the match day layout is clean, to the point and gives all the information you need to see prior to kick off and most importantly the 3D match engine gets a big upgrade.
This new clean UI, helps you understand and manage the improbably amount of data you have to handle and this year there is more of that then ever with metrics like expected goals making their first appearance. Basically stats that have become more prevalent in football analysis and sporting understanding have all had to be incorporated, which would be a challenge to include in the previous interfaces so these small changes make a big difference when it comes to delving into the data.
Scouting & Buying
We all love playing Football Manager to be able to sit in the pub see a player pop up on the screen, just so we can share that we signed them a year ago and they were either brilliant or rubbish, thus deciding your opinion on them for the remainder of their career. Scouting the world for the next big thing, finding them and then seeing their real life counterpart succeed is a slightly sad badge of honour that we all claim mercilessly. Freddy Adu, Carlos Fierro, Kouma Babacar, Fabio Paim, Anthony Vander Borre all being heroes of titles past…although probably bad examples since their careers were muck but go back further and picking up Vincent Kompany for under a mil before his City days is a triumph if you ask me.
Players are also harder to convince to join, with pesky agents getting in the way which means getting your scouting on point is going to be a big part of the game. You can arrange weekly meetings and have your Director of Football analyse the squad for weak points or even suggest potential signings. You can pump money into your academy in the hope of growing a home grown hero. It means dealing with your staff feels a bit more realistic and puts the onus on you to make the right decisions with the information they are sharing. Best of luck.
The Goosed Verdict
Let’s face if, fans of FM are going to love this years title but honestly if you have been thinking of getting back into the game after a few year hiatus and think 2020 is the right year to have a bit of time to kill then get on it. FM 21 is a proper winner and the subtle upgrades are more than enough to keep you on your toes.
I believe that year on year this bunch gets slightly closer to realistic simulator and while game graphics have always been secondary to the day to day management these have also gotten a big big upgrade. This year with the much deeper player interactions, the added variations of communication with players and staff is another step in the direction in making us all feel like real footy manager, be it more Warnock than Klopp but sure.
There is one main negative and that’s the social fee, but then again do most of us ever look at that? Anyway for under €50 this is a game that you can spend over 1,000 hours of gameplay before you realise just how much time you have put into the game. Now if you excuse me I’ve a Fulham team to try get to the Europa League!