In a year marked by so many changes to our routines as it was in 2020, there are certain things that insist on not changing and one of them is the arrival of Football Manager.

Every year, around this time, a new edition of the management simulator of a best known football club in the world arrives and this year, it was no exception.

Football Manager 2021 is already on the market and Pplware has already had the opportunity to try it.

Tradition is still what it was and as such, Football Manager 2021 is with us for a new era of virtual football.

It is the return of what is considered to be the best club management simulation game ever. And it is not a case for less. Thanks to the constant evolution that the game has received over the years, FM has increasingly achieved a virtual reproduction of the main aspects of what it is like to manage a club.

Indeed, throughout the successive annual releases, Football Manager has shown improvements in all aspects of its simulation. Training, Game Tactics, Players' roles in the field, graphic game simulation system, scouting systems, B and level teams, types of transfers and respective conditions and clauses…

Football Manager is, at the moment, a valiant piece of code and artificial intelligence that manages, in a very good way, to simulate the daily life of a modern football team, inserted in an increasingly volatile international context.

This edition of 2021 appears, therefore, in a very unique moment. If, on the one hand, the series has reached a level so elaborate that it becomes very difficult to launch a new game with strong changes, on the other hand, the Covid pandemic and its impact on the game's development work, it also appears as another piece for the stagnation of the game.

I must confess that, in recent years, this may have been the Football Manager edition that brought the least impactful news to the table.

I obviously don't want to say that the game is bad. Away from me! Because the game remains the best management simulation title for a football club, make no mistake about it.


Philosophy and Long-Term Management

It can be said that since last year's edition, Football Manager has gained a greater vocation for management in the medium / long term. Both in terms of collective objectives, as well as the promises made to players, it is noted that the game is more directed to allow the player to establish his own game philosophy.

From the moment of creating a formation, passing through the style of play (in-depth tiki-taka or Gegenpress, for example), culminating in promises to players and demands from the management, it is necessary to establish an ideology and a game idea and present it it in FM. Success or not, will be measured later, but as the seasons progress, we feel that we are creating something personal, our own game philosophy.

And that also applies when looking at the squad and going to the market. Yes, because although a midfielder is a midfielder, they all have different characteristics and for our game models, we must find the most suitable ones (and that fit the value of our budget, of course).

The whole game points to a long-term experience, as an example of this is the fact that when some seasons pass, remember some of our achievements and occasionally stories about a certain past subject appear.

The end of each season, therefore, gains greater importance with the aftermath of the 9 months that have passed and with the assessment (and celebration) of the objectives achieved. The culmination of an intense and vibrant time is, in this edition, celebrated with a certain type of homage to the best moments and the relationships that have been created, but keeping a look at the future ahead.


Pointing a finger is ugly!

One of the most visible changes in Football Manager 2021, occurs in team conversations or with a player. Previously we had the option of selecting the Voice Tone in our speech, but in this new edition, we have a more visual representation: gestures.

In practice, it is about the inclusion of choosing a gesture to accompany our words. It is an almost direct replacement of Tones of Voice by Gestures.

For example, if we are furious with the team's performance at halftime, we can give a valiant lecture in the dressing room and point the finger at certain players. (I believe there is only one punch left in the tactic board).

Despite being something different and impacting the way other actors react to our words, the idea with which it is left is that there is not much difference. Pointing a finger or speaking Assertively seems to be much the same.


Statistics, statistics and… more statistics

As you may already know, Football Manager is one of the most perfect examples of games that, more than exuberant graphics or a highly engaging story, uses and abuses numbers, data mining and statistics.

Football Manager 2021 maintains the legacy and presents “give and sell” metrics that delight any data analyst.

In relation to last year's game, Sports Interactive added a good deal of new ways to analyze our players and their performances. With particular emphasis on “before”, “during” and “after” the game, the new analyzes allow us to have a much more correct and current idea of ​​the state of the players and the team.

An example: on the day of the game and before going to the pitch, the Data Analyst presents us with a brief analysis where we are shown the most pertinent information to take into account before the start of the game. In addition to more standard information on the 11 we have chosen and respective tactics, we are also presented with the main changes of our team in relation to the previous game and we are also shown the strengths of the opposing players and instructions we have chosen to stop them.

For its part, immediately before the kick-off and already on the field, we are still shown graphically, the starting 11 of each team and the respective tactical positioning. It is a useful inclusion helping to make the last adjustments before the game.

However, there is a new formula added in FM 2021 that will be present almost everywhere: xG. (eXpected Goals or in Portuguese, Expectable Goals)

It is a somewhat complex methodology to understand that tries, in a way, to anticipate the number of goals that a team should have scored, based on the quality of the opportunities created.

However, when combined with the analyzes we received before and during the games, this measure can be used to make changes to the titleholder and ultimately improve our team's performance in the games.


Physical Condition and Agents

Another change immediately visible in the game is that, in the player files, the indicator of Physical Condition and Preparation for Game are different.

Until last year's edition, these indicators were represented in the form of a percentage, from 0-100. Now Sports Interactive has decided to change them to icons with the shape of a heart, which is partially filled (and colored) according to the percentage. Note that the percentage is still there, but the graphical representation is now more graphical, and equally understandable.

The agents also acquired a little more importance in FM 2021. This, therefore, added the opportunity to be able to have a prior conversation with the players' agents so that we can have an idea of ​​their requirements if we start negotiations. It turns out to be a useful option, thus avoiding broken relationships with certain players, when we have no financial availability to sign them.


It is on the pitch that the stubbornness is removed

One of the aspects that has most divided the opinion of the players is the 3D game engine. Some argue that it is a good feature of the game, others would expect something more elaborate and still others think that the "caricas" prevail. Personally, I am in favor of the game engine as it is.

However, it does not mean that it is perfect. Despite being improved, this representation of the game turns out to be more important because, by being cleaner and in greater detail, it allows us to better notice the difference in quality of the teams, or in the execution of the instructions we give.

In any case, SI Games has also made improvements to its graphics engine, and the animations of the players and the public are much more pleasant. Nor could VAR be missing ...

Also the User Interface during the game, received special attention by Sports Interactive. In the course of the game, the interface has been completely revamped and, in my opinion, for the better. With most of the options being placed at the lower end of the screen and with the various tables in real time being displayed on the rest of the screen, the course of the game is cleaner and more organized.

An important detail during the game is the fact that our technical team is giving us real-time feedback on our players and opponents. In addition to their clear usefulness, they even come to us, suggesting some tactical adjustments, such as for example marking a particular opponent player, or preventing him from using the best foot.

The game day in Football Manager 2021 is now much busier. If, on the one hand, as we saw above, we have much more feedback from our assistants in the before, during and after the game, on the other hand, we have greater press activity.

The access tunnel to the pitch remains the stage for the already existing quick questions, but at the end of the games, and depending on the result, there may be more.

As for the surrounding environment of the 4 lines, Sports Interactive has fine tuned both the public and the stadiums and it can be said that viewing the games in 3D is more interesting than ever.


Press Conferences

One aspect of the game that has also raised some questions for players is the media component, and in particular, the press conferences. SI Games realized and, in Football Manager 2021, made some interesting changes.

Press conferences are now presented with reporters available individually at the top of the screen, as if they were in their chairs in the press room. When one of them asks a question, that question appears immediately under their "chair". It is something that is pleasant to see and ends up creating a competent global effect for conferences.

As for the questions, they continue to present themselves with negative, positive and neutral alternatives. Curious, the fact that we can be pressured by the direction of the club to “escape” certain themes…

After the press conferences, or even some conversations with players, the communication director comes to indicate to us how he thinks the meeting / interview went, and which aspects were the most frictionful.


Verdict:

The final conclusion to be drawn from Football Manager 2021 is that this year's edition is a clear improvement from last year's edition. There are quite a few differences and improvements compared to FM 2020, but the truth is that these are not really impacting innovations in gameplay.

Don't get me wrong, as I indicated at the beginning, Football Manager 2021 remains the best game of its kind. This is the most complete football club management simulation you can have for PC (or Xbox).

Football Manager 2021

Pros

  • New Press Conferences
  • Conversation gestures
  • Pre and post game
  • Use of the xG metric
  • Quality of assistant reports

Cons

  • Innovations with little impact

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