Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge this is weird.
It’s been over eight years since I last touched a FIFA game, way before the fancy gameplay additions and Ultimate Team transformed the series as we know it.
But seeing as so many of you enjoyed the Football Manager simulations I cooked up, I decided to end my exile to try something similar with the latest edition of FIFA.
Unfortunately, that is a game that relies a lot more on player input so I will actually have to put myself on the line as opposed to laughing at the computer’s fancy theatrics.
To make sure that I shake off the rust, I decided to mess around a bit before I got going – according to Origin, I spent 54 hours on this task over the last two weeks. So yeah, I’m back in the saddle. Thanks for that, guys.
As a first experiment, I’ll stretch the concept of ‘team chemistry’ as far as possible by fielding a team made up of eleven goalkeepers.
I expect resolute defending, wonderful synergies, powerful performances. Almost a dirty dozen of goalies straight from the Championship, all English, all strong, all wonderful, ready to run up and at’ em, then fookin’ cross it in.
Some would call them diamonds in the rough: I think they are simply just rough, period. I also toss in a Brazilian manager to get that all-important joga bonito in the mix. There is no way we can lose with such a powerful combination.
We’re up against a team with no chemistry and no manager, a bunch of unrelated bronze players and a completely random special Roberto Firmino up top. I make a note to tackle him as hard and as often as possible.
We immediately lead a promising attack on the right flank, but the ensuing counter-attack quickly reminds me of the Gatekeepers’ limitations as the Liverpool player glides past four of them and then barely misses the target.
Over and over again, I lose possession in the final third and watch helplessly as they sprint away with the ball. We even concede in the 12th minute, but the referee correctly deems it offside. A sigh of relief. But a temporary one.
It’s like a metronome: back and forth, back and forth again, neither side capable of stopping the other from their forays into the penalty areas.
Somehow the score remains level: my players are incapable of scoring – basically by design – while my opponent seems to hit everything but the target, rattling the post, missing by inches, as if the combined aura of eleven goalkeepers somehow created a forcefield around our goal.
Then, out of nowhere, my opponent messes up a tackle, and my keeper-striker bravely falls over as he sends the ball flying, giving us an unexpected lead after 30 minutes of action.
1-0 to the good guys. All we have to do now is defend. We should be good at that, but we really aren’t, honestly.
The team does a decent job at keeping possession for the next 10 minutes, but the first half still ends with a few scares as Firmino goes rampant once more and shoots over the bar in a clear goalscoring opportunity.
Somehow, against all odds, we take a lead to the interval. Tired, completely out of depth and position, this brave collection of keepers get ready to return to the fray with a single task: protect the lead we’ve accrued so far.
It only takes them four minutes to concede from a corner.
I’m not going to lie: this is probably as emotionally invested as I’ve ever been in a game of FIFA. I really, really wanted to win this, but at this point, I honestly would have also been very happy with a draw as well.
Snatching away anything with an all-keeper line-up would have made my day, and even though the scores were even, I took solace in the fact that it came from a set-piece.
A few minutes later, my opponent made a substitution, and I wanted to follow suit as some of my keepers were running extremely low on stamina after a few practice games they had against the AI.
What is this idiotic and completely arbitrary limitation?! Did FIFA not expect shenanigans such as this?
Just why is this not allowed? Especially considering I was allowed to field this team in the first place. I can’t even push up my in-goal keeper to substitute him because that also constitutes changing an outfield player for a goalie.
Batten down the hatches, everyone: it’s up to you to hold the fort, there are no reinforcements in sight.
Again, the same story: we get forward, almost score from a corner, almost concede from a counter, I almost have a heart attack.
The minutes are slowly crawling forward as I make desperate tackle after desperate tackle. My players are running on fumes, no longer having the stamina to gallop down along the touchline when I try to attack.
Patient possession-keeping becomes the name of the game as my opponent, clearly getting more and more frustrated, starts to throw non-stop sliding tackles around. Yellow cards, free kicks: we can waste all the time in the world.
He has three more clear-cut chances to score, but the force-field holds. The clock reads 88:31. It is our goal-kick. I change the formation to 5-3-2 and push the keepers with any remaining stamina to the back-line. I’ve done what I can. One of the eleven keepers kicks the ball upfield.
Then, the heartbreak.
We lose the ball and Firmino finally finds a way through. The referee almost immediately blows for full-time after that, leaving my hapless, exhausted collection of gatekeepers on the floor.
We had more possession and more shots on target – let’s not talk about the other metrics, please. But it wasn’t to be. They gave it their all, but the lessons are clear: we need a more potent striking force if we want to be able to compete with the savage opponents out in the wild. It also wouldn’t hurt if I could actually make substitutions.
Enter the Gatecrashers. Where 11 goalies failed, just as many strikers shall succeed.
With full fitness and better playing skills, and greater synergies available, I’m actually fairly confident about my chances. As long as I can keep them away from goal, I should have an easier time scoring myself.
Yeah, that might prove difficult. I’m facing a pumped-up squad with player cards I haven’t even seen before, including a 91-point blue Pirlo with a fancy border and two black cards with other Juventus players in defense, bringing my opposition up to a rating of 79 with maximum chemistry.
Let’s just say that this isn’t the easiest challenge in my FIFA adventures.
It only takes me five minutes to create a clear-cut chance, but Alex Sandro can only hit the post. And I don’t even have the time to celebrate the positive opening period before we concede a corner and a goal from it.
It was a nasty header, and as much as I would want to do so, I can’t blame my makeshift goalkeeper for this one. No worries: time to fight back with the ultimate strike force at my disposal.
Easier said than done, as it turns out. The controls feel surprisingly clumsy, as if the attackers were not good at anything but putting the ball in the net.
Passes are misplaced, crosses are woefully off target, simple interceptions and clearances are fluffed. It’s a mess.
A second goal arrives half an hour later, and I’m not the one who scores it: Pirlo whirls in a rocket from outside the box.
We’re down by two at half-time and I failed to even register another shot since the promising chance at the beginning of the game.
I already play three at the back: who else could I possibly push up? I re-jig the team and try to claw my way back into the match.
It’s a slog, an extended midfield brawl that doesn’t lead to anything. We don’t go out with a bang, instead we concede a third with seven minutes to go.
It’s an appalling performance, and probably the complete opposite of the all-keeper line-up’s outing. In retrospect, I certainly played in a more cavalier fashion, but that doesn’t excuse the total and absolute failure up front.
I guess the lesson from all this is that if you want to go all-out with your FUT build, go with eleven keepers instead. They will keep you on your toes.
As for me, I suppose it’s time to spend another fifty hours on practice so I can actually win a game the next time we do one of these…
By Luci Kelemen
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Remember when Aston Villa were top at Christmas?
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From being at Man Utd to working in a factory…
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Featuring three ex-Milan strikers.
Robert Snodgrass is a throwback. In a good way.