The English Premier League season is roughly a third of the way through, which gives us a good feel for the clubs involved this year. And while career mode didn’t deliver on EA’s promises, there’s still some fun to be had with the mode. In this article, we’ll take a look at three clubs, all offering unique challenges to your managerial skills.
Challenge Level – Hard
With the 17th lowest starting EPL budget ($30 million) you’re in for a real challenge in Year 1 when it comes to making splashes in the transfer market. A “High” brand exposure, given the strong following and massive stadium (St. James’ Park – 53K capacity), means that if you do find some players with attractive marketing appeal, you can capitalize off shirt sales and bring in some extra revenue. You can then possibly use those funds for future transfer acquisitions.
In true Mike Ashley form, the only “High” objectives you will face are related to money: brand exposure and financial. Simply put, build a winner and advance far in the domestic cups (League/FA Cups) and that will help to bring in some extra cash. With your actual “Success” objectives “Low”, you can afford to drop points while you learn your squad and tailor your tactics to the player strengths or vice versa.
Simply put, you shouldn’t worry about getting sacked at Newcastle as staying out of the relegation battle will ensure that you continue to bring in funds, which will keep the board off your back.
In real life, Newcastle employs a very defensive approach in their base 5-4-1 formation. Tactically flexible, the 5-4-1 with advanced wingbacks can offer good width with speedster DeAndre Yedlin (RWB) and the solid on loan LWB Jetro Willems down the flanks. On defense, you have three middle-of-the-pack center backs with Jamaal Lascelles (78 OVR) being the standout of the group.
Between the posts, Martin Dubravka is one of the more underrated keepers in the league and should provide stability at that position for a few years given his age (30).
If there’s one area you immediately want to address, it’s the midfield. The Longstaff brothers have potential but are the biggest weaklings in the starting eleven. They should be rotation players until they either improve through training or rotational minutes.
In attack, Newcastle boasts a rarity in Joelinton, a physically strong player brought in to replace Salomon Rondon. Out wide, Miguel Almiron and his strong work rate (high attacking/defending), and Allan Saint-Maximin (more on him shortly) offer pace and good dribbling as they cut in on their stronger foots.
Without question, the player who will make opponents most afraid is Allan Saint-Maximin. Brought in this summer from OGC Nice, Maximin’s real career on Tyneside got to off a slow start as he was riddled by injuries. However, in FIFA, he can hit the ground running. With top notch physical traits (93 acceleration/agility/sprint speed), Allan is also an adept dribbler (5-star skill moves) so funneling the attack to his side should be the main focus of your attacking strategy.
If there’s a weak point to his game, it’s his end product. 67 finishing and 66 crossing means that you’ll want to focus some of your training sessions on improving this area. On his best day, he’s Crystal Palace’s Wilfried Zaha, capable of single-handedly carrying an attack. During his worst days, he’s ex-Arsenal scapegoat Gervinho, doing all the right things up until the final ball where it all falls apart.
Challenge Level – Medium
Clocking in with the third largest budget available, Chelsea is an interesting club to start with in career mode. The Chelsea brand took a bit of a hit when Eden Hazard transferred to Real Madrid, but incoming transfer Christian Pulisic is the face of American soccer — who also represents a burgeoning market.
Under a transfer ban in real life until at the very least January (pending an appeal), you could choose to splash some of that 100 million-plus on the youth or place restrictions on yourself until next year. 100 million is nothing to sneeze at, and if you’re so inclined, bringing in a splash signing like Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho could help to increase your brand while also helping you out on the pitch.
Managing Chelsea is like walking around with a rear-view mirror on your shoulder. Many prominent managers have tried and failed, and with a glimpse at the objectives above, it’s no secret that if things go wrong you’ll be relocating your family very quickly. A top four finish, a place in the Champions League semi-final, and a deep run in the FA Cup are much easier said than done. In order to do accomplish this, you’re flirting with a treble run.
The primary focus should always be a top four finish as that helps to set the transfer budget next year, all the while helping to attract high-end footballers to West London. The FA Cup has most likely lost some of its luster over the years, and with fixtures coming fast and frequent in the EPL, it’s often seen as an avenue to play some youngsters, which Chelsea can certainly do.
There’s no shortage of talent and potential for the Blues as they mix a cocktail of young promise with experienced veterans such as Willian, Azpilicueta, and N’golo Kante. Losing Eden Hazard leaves a huge gap on the left side of the attack, but with Captain America (Christian Pulisic) and Callum Hudson-Odoi, there’s two young talents that could potentially develop into world-class players.
Up top is where most of the pressure exists and Chelsea’s new #9, Tammy Abraham, is next in line to try and break the curse of the Chelsea #9. Behind him, super-sub Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud are waiting in the wings in case Tammy flounders under the pressure.
The midfield is arguably the strongest area for Chelsea with all-world N’Golo Kante capable of playing every match due to his high stamina (97). Paired with either Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic, Chelsea has some seasoned players in the midfield. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, the wild card, is recovering in real life from an Achilles injury but brings a Pogba-like physical presence to the middle of the park.
Slightly advanced from the midfield are youngster Mason Mount and the mercurial Ross Barkley. If Chelsea needs goals from the midfield, it’s most likely going to come from these two. While Barkley is more ready to contribute in FIFA 20, it’s probably best to train up Mount in a Lampard-like role and move on from Barkley because he could still fetch a decent return (roughly $15-20 million).
Behind the midfield, you’ll need to ask yourself some real questions, first and foremost at left back. Marcos Alonso (81 OVR) is excellent at going forward and has a good free kick on him (86 free kick accuracy), but his lack of pace (68 acceleration/65 sprint speed) means that most of his excellent attacking traits could turn against you as he’s too slow to get back and defend.
Centrally, Kurt Zouma, Antonio Rudiger, Tomori, and Andreas Christensen are all solid (74-83 OVR range) but not the world class defenders Blues fans are used to when John Terry was captaining the side. On the right side, Cesar Azpilicueta is starting to show signs of age. While he’s excellent defensively, going forward he’s not as comfortable in attack as evidenced by his 62 positioning rating — albeit he still does have a decent cross (81) on him.
Between the posts you’re good as Kepa is a very solid keeper who’s still improving.
With Chelsea, you’ll really have to dedicate some time in training. While the youngsters will improve with minutes, further improvements targeting weak areas can see their growth accelerated.
If there’s one player on Chelsea who could walk onto any side in the world, it’s N’Golo Kante. He’s not going to improve much for you, but he’s also not going to rapidly decline. Capable of playing deep, on the right side of a midfield three or in a double-pivot (two man midfield), Kante is a tackling machine (91 standing tackle) with 90 aggression, 92 interceptions and a high defensive work rate. Basically, he’s going to cover a lot of ground for you and play in every match due to his aforementioned stamina stat. Better with the ball at his feet than he’s given credit for (79 dribbling, 86 short passing), Kante won’t hurt you in attack as he’ll actually allow you to pair him with more attack-minded players since he can cover for them defensively.
Challenge Level – Medium
With a middle of the pack starting budget (9th out of 20 clubs), you’ll have the flexibility to spend in key areas (perhaps keeper), or perhaps pocket the cash and wait until it accumulates so you can afford top talent. Brand exposure is set at a nice “Medium” so you’re not pressured into making splash signings while still capitalizing off their remarkable 2015-16 title winning season.
Leicester’s team objectives are manager friendly. With modest goals such as a run to the final 16 in the FA Cup, a finish in the top 7 by Year 2 (Europa League spot) and finishing mid-table in the Premier League, you’re not under too much pressure. In a nutshell, a top 7 finish, which is very achievable given the talent (more on this to come) sees you hit on two objectives. While you might not be able to replicate the kind of start they’ve had in real life (currently sitting second), you should easily best mid-table clubs like West Ham while having a leg up on the likes of Everton and Wolves — two clubs with slightly more cash but not the young talent that Leicester possesses.
Speaking of that young talent, there’s plenty to be had for the Foxes as they blend young standouts with veteran presences who have experienced Premier League highs. It starts in attack for Leicester. While they’ve never really found a capable backup, striker Jamie Vardy is still one of the quicker players (86/88 acceleration/sprint speed) and is adept at making back-shoulder runs. Out wide, former Newcastle man Ayoze Perez is paired with youngsters Harvey Barnes and Demarai Gray. This gives you a good blend of realized potential (Perez) with two players who could develop into really quality players (Gray and Barnes).
If they’re not able to provide service, it falls to Leicester’s #10, James Maddison, and midfielder Youri Tielemans, two players who Leicester might not be able to hold onto for much longer in real life. However, if they’re locked down contractually in FIFA 20, they could be the spear of your attack for many seasons to come. Behind those two is a Kante-like player in Wilfred Ndidi. He is similar to Kante due to his excellent defensive attributes (84 defensive awareness, 85 standing tackle). Unlike Kante, Ndidi is a little stronger (74 strength) and boasts a 6-foot frame. Nampalys Mendy and the young and aggressive Hamza Choudhury provide depth, with veteran Marc Albrighton also available at a variety of positions (RM/LM/RW) if called upon.
Behind the midfield, the Foxes have a great mix of experience (Jonny Evans/Wes Morgan) and youth (Ben Chilwell/Caglar Soyuncu). LB Ben Chilwell is the prize of the group and should develop into a stud left back (85 potential) — he should also hold down the spot for England for years to come. Caglar’s name is a mouthful but he’s an emerging talent at center back. Strong (79 strength) and aggressive (86), he’s only going to improve. If you can manage to get his pace up some, he should be a low-cost rock on defense. Not to be outshone by Chilwell, RB Ricardo Pereira is about as good an attacking RB as you can get. Boasting a high stacking work rate, Ricardo’s got 79 crossing and 82 dribbling at his disposal while also putting in a shift defensively with 81 interceptions and 84 standing tackle. Good speed (86 sprint speed) and 87 stamina mean that he can run up and down your right wing all game.
Jamie Vardy might grab the headlines with his penchant to score against the big clubs, but it’s the dynamic duo of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans that butter the bread. Technically gifted at 22, Tielemans has been on the scene for a while — at least with those hip to Football Manager — but it was last year when he put his talent on full display at Leicester. 81 long passing and ball control, 85 curve and a 5-star weak foot mean that he’s only some targeted training in the finishing department (73) away from being courted by the best of the best in Europe.
Not to be outdone, James Maddison also burst onto the scene last year and is the #10 that you would love to employ in your starting eleven. Good with the ball at his feet (80 dribbling/82 ball control), Maddison is creative enough (4-star skill moves/85 agility) to supply service to any #9.
Holding onto these two will be difficult as you really have to be savvy in the contract department (release clause) to swing it. But if you can keep them, and eventually replace the 32-year-old Vardy, you should be ready to knock on the top four’s doorstep.
While the fortunes of Leicester and Chelsea look to be promising, managing at Newcastle is the toughest challenge of the three. Chelsea, with its larger bank roll, is probably the easiest to take to the top. However, without much-needed ratings boosts for their younger players, you’ll have to sell off some dead weight (Pedro, Barkley, etc.) and bring in high-end talent. Leicester might offer the most fun of the lot, with lower expectations and comparable talent to Chelsea without the standouts like Kepa and Kante.
Despite career mode’s flaws, who are you starting your career mode with?