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The Problem With Football Manager 2021’s Features


So you all have likely seen my rating for FM21 and it was a B+ on the match engine. But, I think there is a significant talking point in how the strategy of the game has otherwise really not changed. There is a reason Football Manager 21 feels so familiar, because the core strategy of the game outside of the match engine is very, very similar. It’s a trend that carries over from last year’s game with the Development Center, a feature that reorganizes information in a better way, but the new features don’t add to it.

I still think this is a good Football Manager edition with the massive improvements to the match engine. I just always want to strive to help the game and create awareness about what makes a game like FM successful every year. I used to buy the game once every three years because the strategy of the game didn’t change enough from year to year. If SI can make one or two big strategy improvements to Football Manager every year then I think this game will be unstoppable. Nice.

Much Love,
FM Senpai


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  1. Michael Butrico says

    When they released the features I was shocked as well and had the same impression, but don't you think that having the players making smarter decisions allows you to create better tactics? In fm20 i felt like the midfield was useless, no point in having amazing midfielders other than playmakers. I feel like the midfielders being smarter and wingers and strikers as well changes the strategy, especially now that mental stats are more important it changes your signings

  2. Luke Bigmore says

    I'm gonna post this while I remember. Club is in administration. So I cannot reject any bids for any of my players, the decision goes over my head. Squad then gets pissed off at me, saying selling player x is a bad decision. Except it wasn't my decision, it was taken out of my hands. I reckon they do stuff like this just to wind me up… 🙄

  3. phd_angel says

    I disagree that strategy needs to be changed every year. This already happens when SI recalibrates "broken" formations every edition, so we are always having to guess how formations and player positions will be performing slightly differently (but often with a big impact). Yes, there are some silly details and additions (gestures and icons), but the optics and match engine are much improved, and maybe Zealand was a bit too harsh in this video…

  4. Stephen Castine says

    1,000th like baby!

  5. Stef Boulanger says

    Bring back LMA Manager, that's all I have to say

  6. Temujan Radari says

    @Zealand – Is there anyway to improve relationship with staff? My players, other managers and Journalists love me, but my Assistant Manager who saw the team promoted together alongside a great cup run has a relationship status of None and ditches us on edge of promotion to go manage a non-league side despite being offered a lucrative new contract.

  7. Temujan Radari says

    If SI fixed the match engine to stop calling people offside from throw-ins it is worth my money, especially since adopting the Zealand-ball approach to throw-ins!

  8. sonlc says

    Bit of a random question dude but where did you buy that sweater?

  9. Primm says

    I'm not unhappy but I'm not excited this year. I won't be preordering next year.

  10. Thomas Schroedl says

    You forgot to mention Xg, which I think is a feature that can impact how you play, or at least interpret the effectiveness of your tactics and player performance. The match engine changes are much more than a "touch up". However, I feel we should have gotten this engine in FM 20. Having said that, I'm still a huge fan of FM21 and blown away SI could give us what they did given current real life challenges.

  11. Helter Skelter says

    Been playing since championship manager 99. I stopped buying fm every year, about 6 years ago.
    For a full prized game, the amount they add yearly just isnt enough to justify buying it.
    I get it every 2-3 years, since there are no online components to the game, there isnt the incentive that other sport games have.

  12. Aiatola Komening says

    I just need a decent 3d engine and an option to not have to talk to the press/players/staff… (all that useless bla bla bla that you are forced to do)

  13. ICESPUR says

    I feel like fm21 has been dumbed down this year.a messy ui..smiley faces and hearts makes me think it's been made for the kids on xboxs and Nintendo switches.the constant endless meetings and press conferences.are just boring after a while.and are pointless to me and get delegated to the assistant.

  14. Alex Simpson says

    I’ve brought the last 17 football managers, and played each one for over 700 hours. Each the games gets better. They haven’t changed how you play the game much since FM05. Biggest issue I feel the game is too easy now.

  15. Tiago Rebocho says

    100% agree Zealand !!!!!!!!!!

  16. MelonHead1848 says

    I feel dropping a game during the pandemic is a gold mine for game developers it allows them a scapegoat so they can be half ass with new games. Cash grabs will little to no repercussions

  17. Lord Syzab says

    Match engine is better than fm 20, but match day experience is worse, overwhelming amount of options in press conference and talks, it feels, every other litte feature is bad or worse. Tactics screen without player familiarity in the role its hidden somewhere else. This year skin is horrible, i cant play the game more than 1 hour without rage quitting, it just feels bad to see so much purple, they didnt even give us another option skin which they always do. While in a Match the score board is some kind of weird abbreviation of the teams names. The excuse of creating game while in a pandemic is stupid, since they had enough time to change stuff which was ok in Fm 20 just to for the sake of change, which look way worse in Fm 21.. I bought the game and i hate it, match engine better than fm 20 but overall experience besides match engine is way better in Fm 20 or any other..

  18. Ram Jian says

    Your'e wrong about the gestures- they are not the same as the 'emotions' on fm20…Miles Jacobson talked about it in the live video

  19. Kyle LaRont says

    I put in 400-500 hours every year. The features that were added this year are worth the price for me.

  20. LestatGaming says

    All I heard was "eyebrows eyebrows eyebrows…"

  21. Demuus Rex says

    I sure would like some idiot-proofing in the game,because : Me.
    For example: if I make my last sub with 10 minutes to go, to replace an injured player and the lag in my drop-n-drag causes me to replace the WRONG player,don't let me do it. I spent ten minutes playing with an injured player AND a sub who was playing in an unfamiliar position. That would never really happen.
    Also, allowing one of your starting XI to play in an under 23 1 day before a league match would never happen, either.
    Ditto, subbing players with similar names ,but different positions.
    I actually WANT the game to feel familiar, so that isn't a problem for me.
    I DO kinda hate the press conferences, because in most OTHER computer games where you are give a choice of responses, EACH response is appropriate under a particular set of circumstances. In THIS game, however, i generally make the same responses each time.
    Its to the point that I don't read the questions; just the answers.
    And does the write-in option even WORK? If so….HOW?

  22. Matthew Davis says

    It feels like the new match engine makes all previous football manager games seem block like and stagnant. If the main issue here is a lack of conceptual strategy I don't mind. The match engine seems so much better, I am starting to doubt anything I learned watching the match engine in previous football manager editions.

  23. Vincent Mascarello says

    The match engine is so much better that all other features are just heavy. So much more variance and exciting gameplay that it makes FM 21 a huge improvement IMO.

  24. phil hems says

    There is so much of the game that hasn't changed in 10 years, look at set pieces for instance but they are happy to change all the stuff most players skip and will continue to although as you said it hasn't really changed. As for it feeling familiar, what did you expect? Every year it's just a reskin and don't fool yourself that is because of covid, so what was the reason last year or the year before???? They also love to remove something you want from the game just to put it back in a year or two later like being able to train crossing for example. I'm still playing 2019 and will wait to see if the match engine really has improved before thinking about buying this years reskin

  25. FM_Jellico says

    I have a player who's been shown one yellow card in the first half. During the halftime talk, after the pep talk, I want to tell him to calm down so he doesn't get another booking. Is there a way to do this in less than 15 clicks of the mouse?

  26. SilenceISloud says

    Honest question Zealand would you buy fm21 if you wasn't making content so had no need to?

  27. Tate Rosenhagen says

    You have to gain .1 more subscribers than stop

  28. Tim Manzella says

    Thanks for this, I totally agree. And I would add to that another problem: They keep making changes in the name of realism that essentially make the game worse if immersion is not your number one concern. No more widgets during the match but instead a "tablet" that doesn't offer the same information and isn't always visible / can't be put where ever you want to put it would be my main example for this.

  29. Craig Buckland says

    The most basic thing we demand from version to version is a significant update to the database, and I don't feel that has happened. The player attributes look way too similar to last year's even on players who improved massively in the past 12 months

  30. Henrik Frederiksen says

    They are still sooooo far away from making the conversations/ press things immersive…. that i makes my ears bleed,they are still so stupid…..but less stupid than b4…

  31. Paul Kemp says

    I agree, and I wonder at SI's approach to feature development. For regular FM20 players it needed variety in the content more than updated visuals, I don't really care how the players are arranged around the screen at my half time team talk (and the new arrangement is worse as I need to scan the screen rather than an easier to read list), I wanted a change to the same 6 options we had before. I've just had a post match press conference where two questions were asked and then a journalist calls immediately afterwards with a question about the game we just played, it gets very bitty at times trying to just get to the next game.

  32. Jack Killick says

    Does the game have to fundamentally change every year?

  33. Lee Harding says

    One problem Zealand. There is zero competition…. With no competition comes compliancy. SIGAMES can 'tweak' the game slightly and they know 100k people will buy it regardless. Its just FM2020 with some added unnecessary features. Answering media questions is the same as last year painful……….

  34. Shawn Gillogly says

    While I've said I agree that most of this year's changes are "Flavor" rather than Core. I'm going to pose a counter-argument.

    1) First of all, the core strategy of FM hasn't changed for years. Since the morale system was 1st introduced. Team spirit is the most important thing in FM. More than tactics (as gutting as it is for this tactical geek to admit). More than raw talent, even. Those other things will help build team spirit. But 11 guys pulling in the same direction will beat 11 talented individuals on a pitch 4 times out of 5. Is this unrealistic? Difficult to say. There are plenty of instances of less talented teams beating more touted ones through chemistry and guts. Is that confirmation bias, or fact? Wage bill still is a common predictor of squad success, IRL. At all levels. To be fair, that's typically true in FM still too.

    2) The better question is: "Should the core strategy of Football Manager change"? The rules of the game haven't changed. The challenges of being a Football Manager are the same this year as last (leaving aside the Virus that Shall Not Be Named). If the problem hasn't changed, why should the answers? Should your style of managing have to change every year to adapt to code? If so, why?

    3) Tactics from FM21 are similar to last year. But not nearly as foolproof. Watch Lullujo get spanked 8-0 by Liverpool. I got spanked by Ronaldo and "Zebre" 3-0 as Ajax in the CL. Gegenpressing the opposition is not a "win button" anymore. Through balls and balls over the top happen at a higher rate than FM20. A pressing team is going to have to determine where the opponent is likely to launch those attacks from, and stifle them. Or back off the press. Or watch the opposing striker walk in on goal. Again. And Again. And Again. This is not a bad thing. The Press should be a tactic that produces fewer total chances against. But those chances will be of higher quality.

    4) Last year's ME was inferior in the quality of game produced. And the ME is always the top feature of the game.

    5) xG is a much better means of tracking the overall quality a team has produced in attack (or permitted in defense) than Clear Cut/Half Chances were. And that's before we get into the inconsistencies those used in counting "chances." The increased Data in the game this year does, IMHO, represent a significant feature. The ability to analyze scouted players based on their underlying stats is significant. The shift from tones to gestures is pretty much a flavor change. But it's a better flavor. More realistic. The shift from numbers to symbols I'm meh about. But if it makes the game more accessible on other platforms, so be it. On the whole, as I see it, the Data Analytics side does represent a significant step forward in the game. And combined w/ a better ME (much better, IMHO), that means a game that justifies purchase. And I think you've been a tad harsh on it.

  35. Machi Dankert says

    Fifa players seeing how Zealand says FM21 looks to fm20 strategically: first time?

  36. Mallrat says

    FM is just like fifa. each new game has some tweaks and the occasional new feature but it's basically an updated squad list. I don't buy the game every year, I tend to skip a year or two just so any changes they make will have been improved by the time I buy the game again

  37. Pipo MA says

    Good to see a video that is critical but in a detailed and educational way.

  38. Lamak Haim says

    Now I can’t unsee it

  39. Legend 11 says

    I love the new match engine but I do not like the displays in the match engine. No matter what resolution of zoom in or zoom out I can't display all the stats and info that I have in previous games. Also the heart thing instead of % for fitness is bad especially when your colour blind. I am enjoying a save from FM20 more than FM21 itself. The whole match screen thing is spoiling FM21 for me 😩

  40. Jamie Aubrey says

    Yeah I had to turn off press conferences, I kept getting asked the same questions over and over

    Your club has become a fortress
    You club has the best defense
    Your club's attacking is amazing

  41. James Byron says

    The problem FM faces is the same Fifa does, they can't add amazing new features every year. If SI or EA released an "ultimate" version of the game with every feature we want, there will be no more reason for us to buy or for them to work on a new version of the game, thus making them lose a lot of money. I'm pretty sure both of these companies know what they have to do to make the game close to perfect and I'm pretty sure they'll do that in the next 10-15 years even tho they could just do it for next year, but they know we will buy every new version with shitty tiny "features" 'cause we have no other option.

  42. Emrinho says

    The new things in the game are not significant at all.
    I wish they would have added a few things for the tactical instructions.
    I dont like that we can see just a few things when we are in the game.
    No live table, analytics screen just in the half-time and in general there are very few informations you can get during a match.
    The new match engine is a nice thing, but lets be honest: we never started playing FM bc we liked the match engine or the graphics.
    (Sorry if i have grammar mistakes, english isnt my first language)

  43. Robee Rob says

    I'm buying the game every second year because then I can experience more changes, so after FNM19 I'm looking forward to play with this one, though there are no major changes…

  44. Corey Key says

    I love the features, I love the depth. But the truth is that you can completely ignore them and still have overachieving success. Makes the game easy.

  45. Deckstar Deluxe says

    The most commonly suggested improvement I've seen to FM 20 was the match engine to be fair and they've worked on that. The XG thing is a movement towards the data analyst side of things as well. I think it's a decent effort but it's a game that's had what maybe 20-25 versions of it over the years, it's hard to come up with something ground breaking. I'd personally love to see a way to compete against other players such as a monthly challenge, leaderboards with rewards in tiers to how well you do. Not an FM live thing, but something you can do in your own time but still test yourself against other players. Maybe a more fluffed out version of the scenarios that were in it once upon a time.

  46. Skully says

    I don't get this view that during a pandemic year a developer can bring out a game that is sub par and that's okay. Is this a charity? Do they have to bring out a new game every year? Is this a psuedo subscription service? Do I get paid full wages for doing half my job? No I dont. So why does SI? Why do they get a "pandemic" license to bring out a sub par game?

    Why don't SI go to subscription? We pay 5 USD (or equiv) per month and get a game they regularly update. Because that's basically what's happening now. Damn sports games get my goat with their annual releases and barely a major patch as an improvement. SI aren't too bad, but we got EA and Nacon as well.

  47. Trikki Nikki says

    I really dig the immersion and the experience. The little interactions just make things feel more fluid and like I'm actually interacting instead of just playing a game.

    Also I asked you this on twitter but my account got suspended, is there such thing as too high morale?

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