It’s been a rough first half to the season at Goodison Park. Everton sit just above the relegation zone, morale is low, and I’ve all but lost the dressing room. Now the board has summoned me to a meeting and has given the task of gaining 10 points in the next five matches or I lose the job. A decision has to be made and the conclusion is to leave Goodison anyway, and try again elsewhere. Notts County comes calling and a similar situation occurs, mainly due to differences in style between the manager and the chairman. The job is lost, a new game is started.
Football Manager 2016 is a culmination of all the best bits that the series is known for put together in one neat package, with easy to navigate menus and a tactics editor that allows you to really experiment with whatever side you have. Then you have the expectation to manage every player’s morale on your team, making sure they feel part of the action or risk them becoming upset and losing them to someone else. In fact in Football Manager 2016 a player’s happiness feels a lot more crucial than before.
Let’s take the ill fated Everton season I had, whose roots could be tracked all the way back to pre-season and John Stones. Chelsea came knocking for him and at the time the offer was rejected. This led to a heated argument with Stones, with him demanding why he was being forced to stay when a bigger club came knocking. At the time Stones was told he was staying put, which led to other players siding with Stones. Eventually Manchester United put in a bid of £24 million and Stones was gone, but the damage was done.
Other players started stating they would like to join bigger clubs if bids were made, but each of them was convinced to stay for at least another season. You’d think this would help get things back on track, and a decent pre-season had Everton as one of the teams to challenge for a spot in Europe. Players were brought into the fold and a nice squad of talented players was built, at least in name.
What can sometimes be forgotten about is the training aspect of Football Manager, though in 2016 this is a lot easier to handle. Just click on the team tab under training and decide what the focus of the week should be. In my first season I didn’t pay attention to this, leading to a lacklustre Everton. Things like Teamwork, Defensive Positioning, and Attacking Movement were all being put under a Balanced training regime. This default setting is okay at first but as the season starts each week a core aspect might have to take focus depending on the opposition. Due to how easy scouting reports are to understand of teams, and the ease of setting training schedules even the least knowledgeable of football can grasp it.
A team is nothing without good players though and scouting out talent is a must. You can assign your scouts to different areas or competitions to find those who will be good for the team. Reading through the reports you can select the different positions they play and how they would stack up against your current squad members. It makes it easier to work out on whether you should purchase a player versus giving someone already at the club a chance and helping them shine. Of course there will be times when you need to dip into the transfer market when it’s open because another club may have poached your star striker.
The bidding system is again simple to do but prepare to negotiate a lot, all while keeping an eye on club finances. An intial fee may feel like a deal, but all those bonuses could add up long term. Even if a successful bid is made the player may not have the inclination to join your team. Each player has their own short and long term goals, and if yours don’t match then they may not see the club as a good fit for them. The club’s Director will also have their own mentalities in how the team should play, and what you as a manager need to do. Go against these core values and you may struggle to request things from the board.
The match engine and layout is very well presented, with a split screen between seeing the on pitch action and the stats being a personal preference. From here you can easily see what players are contributing to the match well, who is making mistakes, and how the tactics are faring. The Prozone analysis tool gives even more depth to exactly how your team is playing in a match, and where changes are needed.
Sitting back and waiting for the end of the match is not advised as almost every moment your assistant manager may have a suggestion, or you’ll see something that needs to change. The matches could be seen as akin to chess in a way where every move you make can be countered by the opposition manager, and vice versa. Even if everything looks right a mistake from a player who is complacent or frustrated could turn into a mistake, or they could be injured.
The injury system has a lot more information with it in 2016. A player may suffer a slight injury in a match, and in previous games you wouldn’t really know what it meant. Now different injury descriptions appear like a cut on the head, or a potential broken finger, and from there you can judge whether a substitution is worth it or not. Some players will suffer more long term injuries and the options are there to send them to specialists for a fee to speed up recovery, or let the club’s medical team sort the issue out over a longer period of time.
If you don’t fancy taking charge of an established club you can now create your own, from the kit to the players themselves. The online portion of Football Manager is good but is best played with a group of friends. A lot of the time I found myself waiting for ages for the game to proceed as other players were still sorting out their own things. The Fantasy Draft mode will likely be popular in friend groups as up to 32 people can create a club and try to draft the best players on a fixed budget.
Football Manager 2016 may not be a huge overhaul over previous titles but the game feels a lot more accessible for anyone to pick up and play. Sports Interactive continues to show why Football Manager is the most dominant of sports management sim. 2016 isn’t a game you can just switch off and leave behind. At moments during the day you’ll be thinking of tactics to use, potential signings to bolster your defence, and who to drop. Most of all you’ll be looking most forward to match day as you wait to see if your preparation is good enough or not. Football Manager 2016 isn’t just a game, it becomes a major part of your life.