There are games that come out that give you the feeling of “just one more go” or time passes so quick you check the time and it’s 3:00 am. Football Manager 2021 is the epitome of the game that gives you both because it’s brilliant! I’ll never be a football manager or even a coach, but this game gives me the chance to do that with a vast amount of depth. I can also manage the club of my heart (if you were wondering which club that is, that would be Liverpool!). I have certainly had a good few seasons since starting…
Like many sports games, we get a new iteration each year, in some cases the improvements are minor and not worth moving over to the latest one. However, occasionally there will be a year where it all clicks into place and all the instalments with minor upgrades click together and it feels like a big change. This was football managers year, I have played since the 2012 edition and Football Manager 2021 has been the best one for me. As it’s a management game, you can control everything if you wish or delegate to your many staff members. The game gives you access to control every tiny detail possible. I generally let my assistant handle the training, however I occasionally intervene if I want to ensure a youth player learns a certain position. This gives you flexibility to fill in positions you need either immediately, or in the future if you’re managing a club short of funds. The training system in itself has large depth with you getting full analysis of their performance, areas to improve, or if the work load is simply too much. For example, if it’s too much and they’re also playing most matches, it can lead to an increased injury risk so you do have to balance it and avoid burnout so to speak.
As this is football, you of course want trophies! I personally want to win them in style so I opt for a gengenpress style tactic. Tactics are key and the game gives you every ability to tweak this how you want, which ever you choose. You also have to ensure it works with the players at your disposal. You can choose what position each player will play and the role within that position. For example, do you want your left side attacker on the wing to hug the line and cross the ball in, or to play more like an inside forward? The choice is yours. This is just a small glimpse of what you can change, there are loads of different options when picking the positioning. And not only that, you can see the positives and negatives from recent matches and if the results aren’t going your way, it offers some insight into what you could change. You will need to tweak tactics at times and within matches directly to counter attack the opposition. Due to this, it’s always wise to have at least two go-to tactics your players are familiar with. This is also rated so you can ensure the players know what they’re doing. One complaint for football manager in recent years has been the match engine itself. After a total of 1 day and 14 hours worth of playtime in Football Manager 2021, I haven’t had any issues, which is certainly an improvement! During a match, you can also shout new instructions to your players or change a player’s position like you would in the sport itself. This is with the usual options of substitutes, etc., and as this can all be done on the fly, you have full control of how quick the match plays out. As the match is happening, players will tire and may perform badly in parts so you have to be on point to react to this. After all, you’re the manager here. You will also have the option to choose and change in the game how aggressive you play. Do you want to go all out attack or play it safe and opt for the counter? This combined with the control you have makes for genuine football moments of magic or despair… depending on the result.
As we know from the news coverage, one big part of football is money and the transfer sagas that come with it. You can control this yourself or hand it over to a member of your team, but I always opt for control. You will also need to balance the clubs books, so this means handling transfers, wages or contracts of players along with the staff. This can be time consuming, but it’s fun. This aspect also has a crazy amount of detail like previous years, from agent fees, bonuses paid out, the wage itself, signing on fee, contract length and more. In some cases, you might be trying to sign a player and you won’t find an agreement with them directly, even if the club itself is willing to sell. As an example, Dortmund agreed to sell Sancho to me for £90m, but the player himself wouldn’t budge past his £300k wage demands, so I walked. This is where your scouting network is key. The better scouts you have and the wider reach you have can make a huge difference as you may get a player as good for a lot less. When you’re playing multiple seasons, this is also ideal as you want the up and coming young players early. As it’s all about management, you can only manage based on how good your data is. Each player has their own individual stats and information. Take the likes of Fabinho, he is rated highly and can play in multiple positions. This comes in very handy as the stats can change along with a players form, so it’s always worth keeping an eye on this. You also can choose to handle the media like any manager would. This can be a bit tiresome but luckily like everything else, you can delegate it if you want. You’re given set option of how you can answer the media’s question, and for the most part they fit but after a few seasons they don’t really change, so its easy to keep them sweet or if you hate the media just be a douche.
If it’s not clear by now, everything can be managed by you in Football Manager 2021 at all levels of the club. You can be as hands off or on as you like. I’ve won a few titles now, but I don’t see my game time reducing anytime soon. As I’m starting to build a new team for the years to come, I want my clubs dominance to continue. The latest entry by Sports Interactive is a massive hit! I’m going to lose some more sleep now, so I shall leave you with the below video as it sums up the feeling when you win a title. #Hendoshuffle
Football Manager 2021 by Sports Interactive and published by Sega is available now on PC, Series X|S, iOS, Switch and Xbox One for around £20, and is also currently on Game Pass.