Football Manager 2018 is released on Friday – and after two weeks of playing the Beta version of the game we can safely say it is better than ever.
Though its increased tactical specialisation can be off-putting to more casual users, there is a level of detail to the latest incarnation of the Sports Interactive series that makes it simply unrivalled in simulating the highs and lows of club management.
There are dozens of small tweaks to gameplay that users can discover for themselves, but here are three of our favourite new features:
1) Squad Dynamics adds new realism
The biggest change in Football Manager 2018 is the introduction of Squad Dynamics, which details the relationships between your players and how they feel about your management style.
This section, displayed prominently on the sidebar to make clear its importance in the game, is divided into subsections: ‘Hierarchy’ details which players have more sway in the dressing room, ‘Social Groups’ states how the players choose to spend their time, and ‘Happiness’ gives a clear picture of each individual’s enjoyment under your management.
Together, these three characteristics make the game feel significantly more realistic than ever before.
For example, how you choose to handle your player’s complaints, and how hands-on you choose to be with them, will depend on their hierarchical status; you must be cautious around established players but can be tougher towards those still finding their feet.
For the first time, it really feels like you are managing a group of people with different needs.
It also makes keeping your squad happy quite a bit harder. Three years into my West Ham United career and challenging for the title, my players think I am doing a “fine, if unspectacular” job – reflecting my inability to get one of my “team leaders” (the highest group under ‘Hierarchy’) to buy into the club’s methods.
Juggling the desires of players is a hugely important role in football management. FM18 has finally put the psychology of social groups centre stage.
— Compare.bet (@compare_bet) November 10, 2017
2) Tactics overhaul hands you greater creative freedom
The tactics home page is better laid out this year, while assistants give more detail.
In the past, creating formations and experimenting with the various roles in each position has been trial and error, largely because it is difficult to know whether your ideas will chime with the match engine’s interpretation.
This problem has been solved in FM18 thanks to some in-depth advice from the formation screen. Green lines between players tell you about their relationship with their team-mates, while each zone of the pitch is coloured in a shade of green or red to indicate the strength of your team shape. The days of experimenting with a striker-less 3-4-1-2-0, only to find there is a bizarre hole that the AI duly exploits, are over.
The result of this is easy tactical shifts between matches and midgame, allowing you to manage with Guardiola-esque flexibility.
The addition of a Mezzala (false eight) and inverted wing-backs also means you can play in the half-spaces a lot more, meaning players don’t bunch in channels and instead spread more evenly across the pitch.
3) New Medical Centre helps prevent injury crises
Another completely overhauled feature is player injuries. Instead of simply hiring top-rated physios and sports scientists (who didn’t seem to do much in FM17), this year you can view a detailed account of who is prone to injury and who is currently at high risk.
The factors used to determine this risk include: personal injury history, how frequently they are playing, the intensity of training, and your match tactics.
You can now view the ‘intensity’ of your tactics on the main tactics page via a sliding bar. Things like tempo, pressing, and mentality all impact the intensity; too high and you will get more injuries.
Sports scientists compile the ‘Medical Centre’ report, which means their rating now has a greater impact on your team. If you keep on top of these reports, you’ll find yourself rotating the squad far more frequently than in previous versions of the game.
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