Football Manager titles often get reviewed after only a few hours of meaningful game-time. You’ll no doubt see the same thing happen over the next couple of months in the mainstream games media. The headline inclusions in Football Manager 2020 will be written about briefly, but little is discussed in the way of longevity and value for money…simply because those guys/girls reviewing are not sure how a title such as Football Manager holds up after 500+ hours.
But our retrospective look at Football Manager 2019 can do that. We’ve both played the game since launch, and although it’s nowhere the levels of some ardent FMers, it should be enough to give an honest and accountable review of 2019’s edition. It’s worth noting too that I am still learning, it was only yesterday (at the time of writing) that Keysi discovered that shirt numbers could be withdrawn with the retirement of a club legend. So we’ll therefore be documenting a FM19 few discoveries.
Lastly, I (Grasshopper) wanted to pay homage to a few creators who have gone out of their way this year to produce stand-out Football Manager content. We are quite blessed with the sheer amount of varied content available, whether it be literature, live streams or video. Although I can’t recommend every bit of content I’ve enjoyed this year, I feel the creators I mention merit recognition in this blog post.
Football Manager 2019 Review
Let’s get straight into it. How does Football Manager 2019 stack up to the previous 14 titles in the Football Manager series? Well, we’ve decided to answer this over three sections: Match Engine, New Features & Overall Gameplay.
Grass - “It’s my view that the match engine is the most important part of any Football Manager game. Get it wrong, and the rest of the game all feels a bit meaningless. For the best part of 2-3 months I think the match engine was poor. The attacking movement in Strikers all seemed a bit ‘samey’, and attacking support roles didn’t function as intended.
Blatant exploits existed in the match engine too, and although I normally I try to stay well clear of them, they were unfortunately easy to encounter this year through set pieces such as corners, free kicks and throw ins.
It caused a little hiatus for me as a creator, only briefly until it was all patched…but enough to cause a break from the game. I think it’s here, at this point in time, where others also found it hard to be attached to Football Manager 2019 too.
But things did improve, the glaring obvious stuff was patched and Football Manager 2019 returned to my life. Earlier than the official patch too, as I opted to use the FM19 Open Beta (an opportunity available to all, but not well publicised).
Now in August 2019, the match engine is solid and although I continue to see a lot of people moaning, I think maybe the perils of the first few months tinted people’s prejudices of FM19 for good. It’s for this reason that my Match Engine review scores: 6/10”.
Keysi - “I'm not sure which video it was, but I remember one of the best-suited sentences about FM19 (in my eyes/ears) when watching a JimG video from his Piacenza save.
He played some league match and he just said: "Oh no, that's a long highlight, we will probably concede."
He was right, he conceded about 5 seconds after it and he was defeated.
I remember this also because of one simple thing. Despite I tried several formations during FM19 with different player roles, I spent the most time with the 4-3-3 formation with a flat central midfield. The most attacking players usually were Inside Forward/Attack on the left side, Winger/Support on the right side and Complete Forward/Support upfront. And it led to the fact the match engine offered me the same things all the time. It's not (probably) the game’s fault, it's my fault because I tend to play very similar football and it doesn't matter if it was with CD Magallanes in the first part of the save or with Arsenal de Sarandí later.
I cannot recall the name of the game from the late '90s of the 20th century, but there was a game with only 5 different playing situations during viewing match so you exactly know what will happen. And FM19 was the same for me.
Every time my right defender got the ball, I knew he will pass it to one CM(S), he will pass it to the winger and inside forward or complete forward will score. If defenders will put the ball out of the box, there will be two central midfielders and one of them will shoot.
I always know when there is a long ball from the opponent and one of my defenders trying to catch the ball at the sideline, he will make two more steps when the ball was stopped, opponents' striker will take the ball and will go alone and scores.
Football Manager became predictable "thanks" to FM19 and there were times when I was pissed off by it despite, I spent more than 1,300 hours with the game. Match Engine review scores: 5/10”
New Features (Tactical Styles & Training)
Grass - "I think FM19 did a good job of providing greater clarity and control for players, and this can be demonstrated with the introduction of Tactical Styles and Training.
Tactical Styles - I always felt the tactical interface was a bit clunky, you only have to go back to FM18 and see all the Team Instructions in the same screen to appreciate that this may have been a turn off for newer players. What we have now are instructions separated for each phase of the game, meaning that both new & veteran players alike can benefit from a cleaner interface, which can benefit the thought process behind tactic building.
However, it's not all top marks for this new feature. Personally, I feel that the style templates used in FM19 contain too many team instructions. I rarely used them in my Orange Is The New Black series as I felt they diluted any particular style that I wanted to play. One workaround is taking a style and then stripping it back a bit, my FM19 article with Guido around hybrid styles could help with this.
Training - Top on the list for a lot of FMers was seeing an improvement to the training modules and FM19 delivered this. FM19 allowed players to customise their programme with 3 sessions a day based on the demands of the season. We can see the impact of what each session will bring to player's attributes, injury risk, overall condition & sharpness.
What I like about this new feature is that a lot of thought and work went in to it, which is surprising because FM features generally only get fleshed out in their 2nd or 3rd years in the game. There is also a lot of real-world thought behind it too, and I noticed this organically after playing season-after-season in FM19. For example, me discovering the importance of getting your pre-season right, ensuring that it's heavy enough for players to last the distance of the whole campaign…especially if you juggle both domestic and continental games.
Despite all of the above, I am unsure if it 'gripped' a lot of players. From looking in on a few discussions, either on FM Slack or on Twitter, it seemed like others found it too complicated. This really highlights the tightrope that Sports Interactive has to tread, finding a new feature that hooks in the majority of players: new and old.
On reflection, I feel FM19 delivered enough sizeable new features to merit the release price of around £30. I score it 7/10".
Keysi - “The new tactical styles and already prepared tactics are nice ideas to find new FM players. I saw some FIFA YouTuber as he uploaded video as he decided to play FM properly after many years, he always received the new edition from SI but didn't play it as it was complicated in comparison with FIFA career mode.
He learned quickly thanks to tactical styles and it was interesting for some time to follow him. But as it was mentioned above by FMG, these styles include too many team instructions in my eyes too. And some of the role combinations are too weird to me as well. But it could be also because I live on my own (tactical) world.
I tried some of these styles during beta version but I didn't like instructions/roles combinations in most of them and rather created my style from the clean slate. But for the new players, it can be helpful. I am not the one who would like to have perfect formations prepared in the game by developers but there is still to work on these styles. Mainly to not confuse players in my eyes.
The new training system is a good starting point. It's probably one of the top 3 things I enjoyed the most in FM19. It's not 100% perfect and some of the sessions have a very small effect but it's 100% better than the old system without any system.
The same applies to mentoring despite it also needs big improvements and tweaks but there were not 17 years old driven/professional newgens after a half-year of tutoring.
I didn't let my assistant create schedules or set the training sessions. I made it all by myself and it was a good change in a combination with individual training focus. I liked to spend some time reading what the exact session means and affects and combine it with others. In the last season of my save, I for example created completely new weekly schedules and they contained mainly technical and physical sessions without prematch sessions. I didn't have enough time to test it but I felt it had a positive effect on our performances in terms of attacking fluidity.
I hope it will be improved in the future.
Grass - "Starting with the positives…I like purple. The colour scheme and default skin were enough to prevent me from downloading a custom one during FM19. Although the interface remains unchanged in FM19 from previous FMs, I appreciate the little tweaks you could now do. Particularly in custom views in the squad screen, the separators make such a difference!
On a critical note, firstly there are things in FM19 that were still sloppy. We know that set pieces could do with a complete overhaul, and I am sure my Czech friend will say the same below with more tactical nuance & insight. Secondly, there are real problems with network saves having divergence…which is unacceptable given that most gamers now expect a robust online experience from game titles.
These two areas could be looked at for future titles, as for some players there are critical experiences. Therefore FM19 isn't a perfect title, but overall gameplay is rather a solid continuation of the previous iterations: 6/10”.
Keysi - “The overall feel from FM19 is affected by many small things and some of the many FM players don't even recognise or they don't even know they are in the game or they don't use them.
Many small things I like to use had some issues. The screen with player stats of the league your teams participate in was constantly resetting in terms of 10 customisable widgets. And when you use the Screen Flow to check specific competitions/stats and you always have to rearrange the widgets, it's annoying and you give up.
I was happy when the sidebar got a customisation option and I was able to make it by my own. Until I realised the sidebar resets every time you have a youth intake so you have to make it again. And things like these were many in the FM19. Every time I set something and I was happy with it, it was reset.
The set pieces are a separate chapter. They were exploited and overpowered when the game was released. It was raised by a lot of people and something was changed BUT. During the course, the game was able to create exploited routines by itself. It was enough to rotate the squad and most routines were changed as the game put two players as takers and AI defence was unable to do the most important thing - defend. In the end, I really don't know why set pieces were in the FM19 as you were able to dominate set pieces stats even with default routines and without any effort to create something.
The most annoying thing to me, to finish this part, was, that despite many these small bugs were raised in the SI Forum many months ago, they are still not fixed. One example of many - SI released the winter transfer window update and some things were fixed. There was also a note that "Fixed issue where player marking edge of area at set piece doesn't always engage ball player who receives it outside area". But my player with the best-required attributes for this role is a statue on the edge of the area.
Despite spending a lot of time with FM19, it was not as enjoyable as previous versions because many things worked even worse than in the past. 5/10.
So, taking the Grass-Keysi scores and averaging it out: Football Manager 2019 scores 6/10. Well done?
Things I learnt in Football Manager 2019
(1) At-a-glance analysis (credit: Grass…by complete accident)
This has probably been in the last few editions of FM, but I shamefully only discovered it this year. Since then, I’ve found it useful at Half-Time when checking the shape of my side and whether the opposition are also putting players in pockets of space that I leave open. Similarly, if I see an opening then it’s something I will consider attacking in the second half.
(2) Distribute To Position (credit: @FMPressure)
I (Grass) did not know this! The FM interface defaults to Area/Position for the Goalkeeper…but you can also select the specific position. Do you have that Ball Playing Defender at CB that you want to launch counter attacks from? Or go long for the Target Man up-front…then this feature is for you.
(3) Sort your contracts out quicker… (credit: Grass…in shame)
Another one from me (Grass), how did I only just encounter this? It will not massively change the way you play, but it’s handy nevertheless…
(4) Secondary sort in FM columns… (credit: @VincentGuzman_)
Say you want to order a list of attributes by a particular attribute, it’s easy…just click on it. But what if you wanted to place important to another attribute in addition? Easy: just hold shift and click on another attribute (once for ascending and twice for descending). Mind blown.
(5) Retiring shirt numbers (credit: Keysi…or Chocobar?)
We found the one very nice addition to the game almost at the end of the FM19 cycle. I had a captain Agustin Chocobar in Arsenal de Sarandí squad and he decided to retire after 14 years with the club. And that was the moment when we found out the "Retire number" option.
It's straight in the mailbox and when you go to Squad/Numbers the retired number is greyed out same as the name of the player.
Recommended content (from Grass)
With Football Manager 2019 came good content. There are too many good pieces to list, but I thought I would give a few shoutouts to the guys that have lasted much of the course with FM19. Producing content for the majority of the FM life cycle is actually harder than it looks, it’s also fairly difficult as a consumer of FM content to trust in creators. But I am reasonably confident that the guys below will be around into 2020 producing words, videos or streams.
It’s hard to promote bloggers without me sounding like I am promoting my mates. Especially ones I have wined and dined with like @FMEadster, who I flew over to Essex back in March 2019 to celebrate the release of Bastardo At War: Russia. Chris is a top, top guy and a wonderful writer too. He has kept his save going all year round and touches on geo-political and historical themes that send me giddy. Are you surprised that a woman vacated her table next to us during our meal? Tales of skirmishes along the Crimean Peninsula & Bastardo’s cocaine trafficking routes were a bit too much for her.
One of the most consistent writers about, perhaps even the most consistent, is FM Samo. The blogs here often delve into Samo’s thought process & decision making and FM19 was another solid year for him in Portugal. What I like is that everything feels realistic in Samo’s saves, if there is club growth it’s not accelerated by exploitive measures. The clubs he manages grow naturally under his stewardship, and I like that.
Imagine being that talented that you can write in another language and hold your own in a debate when a blogger, like me, gives you grief on FM Slack. Keysi Rensie is the man. Like Samo, Keysi’s posts often act as a way of showcasing decisions and approaches to playing Football Manager. I am yet to find a blog posts he publishes that doesn’t engage me and I know he has ‘inspired’ a lot of people to start blogging. His site often hosts and promotes the work from others like Rickie (@blackcaesar_a5) & Mike (@Brazier25), which is great to see.
JimG is an FM YouTuber. You should have heard of him by now. Why? Read on.
Visual content isn’t really my thing, but Jim’s series with Piacenza is phenomenal. You can tell he enjoyed it too, an early adopter of the YouTube Premier…he’s immersed a lot of people into his save by just playing the game and sharing his story. The editing is first class, and as a Blogger I can’t really understand how he does some of the things he does: pure magic. Like a blog though, you can go back and consume it all again and again on his channel. I encourage you to do the same…
Like Jim, Chris is really good on the editing front. What he does differently to most FMYTers is that he makes his videos short and snappy. He often makes his videos to my visual attention span (around 10 mins), probably unintended but massively appreciated by me…because they are brilliant. He has a comedic style but at the same time gives you enough context to keep you engrossed about his save. He’ll be back at University soon and that, quite rightly, will be his focus for a bit. But if he does produce content, go out of your way to watch it…
“I should not like this guy”. “I should not like this guy”. That same phrase goes round my head whenever I watch a JayCee video. Why? Because they are clearly mental. His humour is like my elder brothers’ style, something I have spent 30 odd years ignoring and dismissing, but whatever JayCee has brings me back. Quite rightly he is getting some attention now, and he’s had a really good run over FM19 with producing videos. He is also the cover star of Football Manager 2020, check him out…
I think FM18 (2017/18) was a breakthrough year for FM Streaming, Twitch seemed to be the go-to platform to head to. Perhaps it’s me being detached from streaming over FM19 but it feels like the streaming hype plateaued somewhat. However, if I were to shoutout two FM Streamers…it would be two guys I’ve watched over FM19. First up: Derek/Mozza Plays. Maybe it’s because he plays like a blogger: chilled and relaxing or that he’s just alright. Check the wee lad out.
WARNING: things do take a turn for the worse though when he gets together with JayCee, which is probably the best bit of Non-FM content two FM visual creators have made over 2018/19 …
My Director of Podcast, Dan Gear, managed to coax Darryl Saunders into appearing on ep28 of the GrassNGear podcast back in March. Personally, he came across really well and was a joy to have on. Since then, I’ve dipped in to a few more of his streams and you can see the passion he has for the highs and lows of Football Manager! I’ve labelled him as a streamer here, but like the talented man he is…he also FM Youtubes. I’ve enjoyed his ‘Caen I Kick It?’ series (despite the mispronunciation to form the titular pun):
A lot of the discussions I have been involved in over FM19 has been found on FM Slack. You can join FMSlack via THIS link. Keysi’s channel is #fmrensie but there are many other interesting channels to talk about FM…there is also #fmgrasshopper. Personally, I gain great insights in how others play Football Manager or view Football itself and would encourage anybody willing to give FM Slack a go.
Lastly, I would like to thank Keysi for his opinion and thoughts around FM19. This is my last #FM19 post, and I am glad he agreed to spend it with me looking back at the latest FM title. Děkuji vám :-)
Thanks for reading/sharing & caring.