Partners, spouses, friends, et al., whose significant others are fanatics of the FIFA franchise, will recognise October as the month of the year that their time spent together experiences a dramatic decrease, as game after game takes up a hefty portion of their other half’s day. But for those whose close acquaintances are devotees of the Football Manager series, the above FIFA based scenario is laughable in its tameness – some of the more invested managers are known to spend days holed up, as the battle for promotion from the Vanarama National League intensifies, while the search for the next Freddy Adu, Tijani Babangida or Cherno Samba off the talent conveyor belt is never-ending. The City had access to the beta version of Football Manager 2019 to bring you this preview before the game is officially released on November 2nd.
The most immediately noticeable change is the interface – or rather the colour. While most of the menus and page layout remain the same, the predominant colour of this year’s edition is purple. But it’s not as overbearing as it seems on initial viewing and is in fact quite easy on the eye as a background colour that players will be looking at for a considerable amount of time.
Seasoned veterans of Football Manager have been calling for a change to the stagnant training section that has been ever-present for almost a decade. Sports Interactive has listened, evident from the massive overhaul that this section has undergone. Gone are the five focus options available to set for the week’s training schedule – now managers see the weekly schedule broken into three sections per day, all of which can be filled with a number of training options. It is a massive and impressive change to the game, one that has been much needed over the previous editions.
Managers can fill their training schedules with over 45 exercises from sections including match preparation, attacking, defending, tactical, set pieces and physical. The impact of each exercise varies on the selection – attacking drills see most of the impact on attributes weighted towards the forward players, and vice-versa for defensive and goalkeeping drills. Players now train in goalkeeping, defensive and attacking units – managers are free to include the cream of the crop from their youth squads in first team squad’s training units, while youth players can be grouped together with a senior player in mentoring groups for the first time.
These are truly fundamental changes to training in Football Manager and may seem like a lot to get your head around at first. There is an in-game guide to the new system which veterans and newcomers to the series are recommended to look at. There are also pre-set schedules that can be set as your team training and edited as you wish – from schedules to getting players fit in pre-season, to different tactical styles and scenarios, such as big match preparation and dealing with fixture congestion.
Football Manager 2019 also sees a huge overhaul to the tactics section – another very welcome addition to the series that veteran managers have been requesting for a while now. When creating tactics, managers now have the option to select a style of play – including, but not limited to, ‘control possession’, ‘gegenpress’, ‘tiki-taka’, ‘fluid counter-attack’ and ‘park the bus’, all of which can be fully tweaked and customised to your personal preferences.
Tactics are then further broken down into three sections – ‘in possession’, ‘in transition’ and ‘out of possession’. This inclusion really opens the game up to the more tactically minded managers, allowing total control over every aspect of their team’s tactical style and philosophy. The most eye-catching of these sections is the newly-included ‘in transition’ phase. Here managers can decide what their team looks to do when they have both won and lost possession – allowing your team to gallop forward in a Jurgen Klopp inspired blitz after turning over possession, or instead choose a more measured response by keeping the shape of the team along with possession of the ball.
In terms of the more aesthetically based new features, a fully licensed Bundesliga is included in the series for the first time, with all club badges, kits and player faces present. The Bundesliga is one of the leagues in the new Football Manager which showcases the inclusion of VAR (Video Assistant Referees) for the first time. Referees will stop play in the game if a contentious decision occurs, while the use of VAR will dominate post-match interviews and press conferences. Goal-line technology is also included in the game, so dodgy refereeing decisions preventing your team for gaining a vital three points should be a thing of the past.
While no Football Manager player has ever purchased the game for its graphical capabilities, the match engine in the 2019 edition is the best the series has had to offer. Over 500 new player animations for headers, shots, tackles, and celebrations and changes to stadium models give the matches a fresh and vibrant feel.
Having quickly played through half a season for the purpose of this preview, it must be said that Football Manager 2019 is one of the most complete Beta versions of the game released, which is a great sign for the game’s full release on November 2nd. Matches are playing out with little in the way of obvious bugs, while processing, loading and saving times are noticeably faster than last year’s game. The last few years of Football Manager have seen steady if not spectacular changes and improvements – this year’s game is the polar opposite: there are complete overhauls to fundamental sections of the game. But the changes are much needed and, most importantly, brilliantly implemented, giving an updated and fresh feel to what looks like the most complete edition of the series yet.