For years I ducked reviewing Football Manager for OS. I did not do this out of fear that Football Manager would suck. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. I knew that Football Manager would suck me in and spit out a sleep-deprived footy control freak that looked down on our console games with utter disgust. Well, a week into Football Manager 2021, and I can say that I’ve found myself daydreaming at work about potentially switching up my base formation while simultaneously contemplating a back-room shuffle. So yeah, there may or may not be an extra cup of coffee in the morning.
Football Manager 2021 Preview
Football Manager brands itself as a “Football Management Simulation” video game and with the 2021 edition, Sports Interactive is back with some tricks up its sleeves. Offering next-level detail with true-to-life management scenarios, Football Manager 2021 gives us more control than ever, all the while introducing an improved Matchday experience while still staying true to itself with its highly immersive level of detail off the pitch.
The entire Matchday experience is a sight to behold. I’ve never been a top-flight manager in real life (shocker I know) but I’d imagine the build up to Matchday to be pretty close to what you see in FM21. There’s a new pre-match tactical meeting where you can make last-minute changes to your tactics or team selection. The backroom staff (which is currently being “re-evaluated” in my save) will now provide you with key analysis and tactical advice. Team sheets being presented before the match is another nice addition, giving you one last chance to tinker with your tactics.
Once the action is underway, the re-designed match user interface (UI) features new broadcast-style elements adding to the atmosphere. Enhanced lighting with better shadowing allows you to see the action on the pitch in a way that you couldn’t have had before. In motion, FM21 boasts much improved and more natural looking animations.
Mid-match, there are new tactical suggestions from your staff available at various times, often dictated by what’s going on during the match. After the match, there’s advanced metrics by the way of a new expected goals (xG) system, allowing you to gauge how clinical you were during the match.
Match Engine AI
FM21 boasts the most intelligent match engine to date. Improvements to player decision making in the engine means that while your players will still be making decisions every quarter of a second, they are now able to change their mind mid-decision if they think a better option is available.
This leads to more nuanced defensive awareness with defenders more attuned to attacking threats and able to pick up and drop marking assignments more quickly. Central play has also been refined with more movement through central areas, a greater of amount of direct passes being attempted in midfield areas, and more interceptions and blocks from defensive players in the center of the pitch.
In the final third, there is now more movement than ever as players look to create space and drag defenders out of position. Oh, and there are more through balls.
Analysis And Stats
It wouldn’t be Football Manager without data reporting, and this year’s version brings an increased amount of reporting through some snazzy new visualizations. Monthly reports produced by a new Performance Analyst mirror the kind of data given to real managers. New graphs and data maps will give you a clear insight into a team’s strengths and weaknesses while a host of new stats like Expected Goals (xG) add a new statistical element to your managerial experience.
Interacting with the media is a vital part of modern management, and in FM21 there new methods of communication overhauling the previous systems to give you more varied interactions when communicating with the players and media. Body language has been introduced this year by way of “gestures” that allow you to express yourself in more nuanced ways by adding impact to your words. Quick chats have also been introduced, giving you the option of short and informative conversations that don’t require a full meeting. Not only are these “Quick Chats” available for in-house staff and players, but they also extend to players currently out on loan as well as media journalists. A cleaner UI during press conferences and team talks ties this all together as you’re able to get your message across in an easier fashion.
Piggybacking off the new interactions, “recruitment meetings” are new for FM21, ensuring that managers and their recruitment themes are on the same page both when it comes to addressing immediate areas for improvement as well as the team’s long-term strategy in the transfer market. Triggering before the transfer window opens, you have the ability to view reports, set assignments, and set out your list of priorities for your scouts and analysts to follow for the impending window. More interaction with players’ agents has been added so that you may gauge interest in their clients to see if they want to join your class.
End Of Season
Managers can relive their season and revel in their success like never before. Fans and the media have increasingly shorter memories in the modern game, but FM21 gives managers the opportunity to celebrate and reflect on their achievements before thoughts turn to next season.
On-pitch celebrations have been totally revamped through improved trophy presentations, including podiums, confetti cannons and that all-important trophy lift. Post-match there will now be more media attention and hype too.
Whether managers are lifting silverware or have narrowly avoided relegation, at the end of each campaign they can enjoy a brand-new season review that presents them with highlights both on and off the pitch.
COVID-19 In FM21
In the midst of a global pandemic, FM21 looks to strike a balance between realism and escapism. While real-life clubs are struggling financially due to the absence of supporters in the stadiums, FM21 looks to replicate this environment with reduced starting budgets. Where this will affect you the most is during transfer negotiations, notably an increase in “loan to buy” options for those middle-rated players. As the fictional world within your FM save returns to normalcy, the dynamic transfer system will adapt and return to its traditional setup.
FM21 will deviate some from it’s simulation roots with fans populating stadiums from the start, but areas such as league schedules will reflect the later start dates due to COVID-19 delays, as well as the five substitution rule being in full effect for the competitions that use it. Fortunately, COVID-19 as an “illness will not be a part of FM21.
Football Manager 21 releases on November 24, and if the beta is any indication, we’re going to be in store for the best release to date.