I’m going public transport, the book remains lying on the bottom of my backpack, I can’t read it, because I have to think hard about selling a poorly playing right defender, or trying to retrain him as a midfielder, because the boy has it in his legs.
I’m waiting at the dentist and I don’t have time to be afraid of drills, instead I’m scared of what will happen when the club gets a tax bill – didn’t I spend a lot of money during the summer transition period? Can I even afford to send a new scout, whom I brought all the way from Germany, to an overpriced intensive Czech course?
Football Manager 2021 is out and it takes all my time again. Because he’s great again.
A few steps away
With the annual sports series, with each new work, one has the feeling that there are terribly few changes compared to last year, so let them look forward to digging it in the future, otherwise they will not see any money from you. Football Manager is not like that. True, it often doesn’t have a dizzying amount of news, but you can get used to the ones it has in a few tens of minutes until they become indispensable.
That’s exactly what 2021 does. According to lead developer Miles Jacobson, the Sports Interactive team was unable to implement all the changes it had dreamed of due to the Covid pandemic, and was forced to postpone some of them until next year, but you wouldn’t know the outcome.
The basis of everything is, of course, again a sophisticated simulation of a noble coaching craft. You will become the manager of one of the thousands of clubs around the world, you will manage absolutely every aspect of its operation from match tactics through player shopping to the training schedule, and either you will succeed and the trophy shelf will grow into a giant almar or end up on the pavement, oblivion and rejection.
As a precaution, I will respond to the classic reminder of all the uninitiated, who saw only a few videos and formed an unshakable negative opinion: “After all, the game is played all by itself and you just watch it!” No, it’s not played alone, no, I don’t watch. “4-3-3, raumdeuter a carillero, hit early crosses” is as experienced a sentence for me as “good day”, damn it, and just try to play 3-5-2 with an advanced playmaker and segundo volante, you amateurs! On the other hand, the game will forgive you a lot of things, even an amateur can start playing it, all you have to do is listen carefully to the advice of a wise assistant. And if you understand football at least a little, just listen to your instincts and it probably won’t turn out badly.
The possibilities of interaction are essentially unlimited and its consequences far-reaching. An ordinary conversation with a journalist, in which you express admiration for a player of a foreign club, can lead to that player starting to demand a transfer so that he can play for someone who really wants him. But, of course, it crunches his current manager, so if you ever want to hire him as an assistant or buy more players from him in the future, get ready for a cool reception.
The most beautiful sport
And then there’s the match engine itself, where you watch closely how well your tactical plans work, and you may be wondering about possible rotation or formation changes. You will definitely not confuse the footage from the match with real football on TV or with the spoiled graphics of the FIFA series, but it is clearer than the sun which player is doing well and which, on the contrary, is committing one reprehensible mine after another.
All the more so because it was the match engineers who lovingly took care of this year’s match, and this is the first significant improvement that will not allow you to look nostalgically at previous years. The development judges are shaving every year on how to put artificial intelligence even more football, how they have added a lot of new animations and so on, but this year it is really visible.
No more dangerous situations for people suffering from a bad heart and irritability, when the wingman ignores a better-placed attacker and senselessly fires a balloon from an angle into the goalkeeper or into the side net. Even the goalkeepers work, and now I shook myself with a slight shock, relatively realistically. And when someone sends a nice call to the net, you feel like jumping out of a chair. In short, it is more like real football.
xG! xG! xG !!!
In addition, a smarter user interface accompanies you throughout the match. Once again, there were minor changes at first glance, but without which I would not be able to live. At the bottom of the screen, you can see an overview of your players, including their fatigue, mark and current mood. When no interesting animator is running, you can examine a plethora of selected statistics that will tell you better than ever how the match is actually developing – and why.
In addition, Football Manager is finally introducing the fashion metric xG, ie expected goals. Basically, it’s a way to find out which team had a better chance, no matter how they finished. Thus, you can be comforted that you should have scored three goals and not one opponent until you lose 1-0 in the Champions League final.
Also great is the new way of displaying the fatigue and match readiness of players, which paradoxically tells you less than before. You’ve seen a specific percentage before – here Benzema is tired at 75%. But now the game will only show you differently colored hearts – you will know if the player is completely fresh, a little tired, completely determined and so on. Which is significantly more realistic, because no percentage of real coaches definitely have it on hand.
Pre- and post-match analyzes are far more detailed and clear. All these different data experts, for whom you pour thousands of euros a week, suddenly seem like an indispensable investment. And that’s also quite a fundamental difference from before.
Friends and mortal enemies
Overall, the new Football Manager is trying to impose a little more personality on its players, trying to convince you that you are not dealing with ones and zeros, but with real people (although many players will unfortunately turn out to be zero).
This effort has paid off in several specific cases. One of them is transfer meetings, where the chairman of the board, the sports director, the main scout, or other employees responsible for buying new players meet at the table. And then they discuss with you who you should buy and what the best candidates are for you to waste ten million euros more for them unnecessarily.
Better are the press conferences, which already needed some change like Jesse Lingard’s new club. And that change has come, though I won’t tell you with a serious face that the interaction with journalists is now somewhat captivating. But at least now the individual writers have a clearly defined personality and you gradually develop a quite understandable and memorable relationship with them.
One Serbian journalist eventually became one of my best friends, asking me very pleasant questions in the press. On the other hand, I don’t understand at all why “Natálie Adamecová” from the Czech Football Gazette decided to hate me to death for whatever reason, and she always stepped into the room preventively angry.
We don’t care about anyone
So I have to praise the changes and I slowly have nothing to criticize, but fortunately Football Manager 2021 waved one red cloth in front of my eyes. And that is the state of Czech football competitions.
This way, it’s not as terrible as the year, two back, when the Czech First League operated under strange, fictional play-off rules, but it’s still not a glory for our people. I still wave my hand at the fact that weaker, semi-professional or amateur clubs are not treated quite faithfully – for example at the Prague Arithma my brother confirmed to me that several players are real, but have poorly set positions or (strange) first names.
But it’s pretty lousy in the second and first leagues. The second, where I started my career, sometimes really pearls. Speaking of first names, one player from Tábor is named Schramhauser Patrik. I said to myself, it’s weird, because it’s Czech, he probably has a lot of creative (and Germanophilic) parents. But the truth is far more prosaic, because Football Manager just changed his name and surname, of course.
This is still funny. It is worse when in Viktorka Žižkov, on whose bench I, unfortunate, found myself for several seasons, there is no left defender or no stopper except for one old Dan Pudil.
I will probably write a separate article about it, because the developers should have been watching such an obvious mistake, they should have realized that a lot of alleged defensive midfielders and wings can normally play in that defense – but none of them found it strange that one of the most famous Czech clubs in history he simply can’t make a competitive line-up unless he immediately brings in a couple of unwanted free agents (thank God young 37 Radu in 37 years).
And even in the first league, it squeaks like nails on the board. Scouting Football Manager is famous and is used as an additional tool by professional football clubs or agencies, but it is all the more important that these experts consider David Zima, obviously one of the league’s most talented young stoppers, as incapable of suitable ice for the second highest competition.
Another mini-fire of distrust is started by an arsonist named “Generated Young Men” (yes, he also had creative parents). Players in the lower floors of the first Czech league (and therefore of course in lower competitions) are so bad that for artificial intelligence, or after all for you, if you start in the basement of the football pyramid, it is more advantageous to build hatched fifteen-year-old children than real players. Czech football has been kicking for many seasons.
For a Czech football fanatic, whose idea of a nice weekend is a rainy loss in Karviná, this is not ideal, but if you do not like so much in our region and you prefer to train in the Premier League, feel free to add one more point to the final score. Because in other respects, thanks to meaningful changes on and off the field, thanks to a better interface, engine and personal relationships, this year it is a hit in the gallows.