Football Manager is sort of like a religion to me, I’ve played the series from SI Games right back to the championship manager series when I started playing around the 97/98 season. Every year since I have played the game, and then in 2005 we were introduced to the Football Manager series.

I have every game in the series either on disk or digitally on steam. I have a big passion for football and these games help scratch the management sim itch each year.

Needless to say that playing this series from the beginning, keeping faith and purchasing every year, I’ve seen the series grow into something fantastic. There have been years where there hasn’t been big changes, more under the hood type of thing to enhance the experience, and other years where there have been massive changes.

But where does Football Manager 19 sit? Well, I am going to start off by saying that this is one the best and most impressive in the series history. I have a feeling that this version is going to smash the 500/600+ hours I average on previous titles.

When starting the game up, the new purple colours and refresh on the logo hit you first and it is a beautiful thing to see. Purple being my favourite colour, it gets a massive thumbs up from me.

But then when you delve into the game, you can notice the different straight away, now, I don’t have the world’s most powerful laptop and each year I always think that my laptop won’t run the game. It doesn’t have dedicated graphics and all the razzle dazzle that gaming PCs/Laptops have, so every year I can play Football Manager, it makes me happy.

The theme is the first thing that you notice when loading the game up, and the game over the years have stuck with the options down the right and the usual header for search and drop down/continue button. The theme looks clean cut, it looks tidy and even though the design is the same, the team have done an excellent job at keeping the look fresh, but familiar. Why change something if it isn’t broken?

One of the major changes in this year’s game is the tactics. You still have the options to create your own and put your own stamp on the team, however, if this is an area that you struggle to perfect and get right from previous games then fear not. There are now pre-defined tactics that you can click and use for yourself. Fancy trying to get your team playing with a Tiki-Taka approach? No problem, want to dominate possession and break your opponent down, again, no problem. There are several different styles of the play with.

For my Barcelona team I obviously went with a Tiki-Taka approach, trying to get some sexy passing and movements going to break opponents down. The same cannot be said about my Middlesbrough team, I wasn’t going to play Tiki Taka with them, I don’t think I would have the flair and players available to pull it off. Instead, I went with a more dominant approach and tried to hold up the ball, pass it about and break down my opponent. This actually seemed to work well for my Boro team as I remain unbeaten in the league and dumped Fulham out of the Carabao cup 4-1 at the Riverside. Something that I really didn’t expect as in my cup games I’ve been changing at least 8 players to keep my team fresh in both league and cup.

I have to admit this new way of getting tactics ready for your team is spot on for me. It’s quick and easy and I can get a style sorted for my team before the first friendly match in preseason, which then allows for the team to work on the familiarity during preseason, which I also found helps, instead of playing game by game and tweaking to get it right. On previous games I found that my team was never ready at the start of the season, mainly because I was busy trying to get things balanced, but with the way the system works now, I found that I had little to no tweaking to do of the tactics, so the players familiarity was pretty much 90% by the start of the season, which I think has helped stave off a slow start.

Training is another element that has had a makeover this year and there is a nice little tutorial type run through to help you get used to the changes, this is the same for the above tactics as well.
I love the 3D match engine, ever since it was introduced a few years ago, it has bred new life into matches. I actually want to watch the highlights in my game instead of watching dots run around a game kicking another dot and not really have a clue what’s going on. There looks to be further improvements with the match engine this year, I have noticed that even on my laptop that the matches play out smoother, the passing feels crisper and I generally enjoy sitting and watching the matches unfold.

That’s not to say the engine is perfect, after all it’s an interpretation of what the system has deemed the result to be. There are times when I’ve seen the opposition score and the keeper or defenders have stood there and let it happen when it would have been easier just to tackle, or the keeper would have been able to get to the ball trickling over the line.

It’s these bits that get to me, because of the grand scheme of things, yes, the system had already decided that would be a goal, however its visual representation isn’t matching the efforts that should be made.

One example. Darren Randolph conceded a goal, which on any other day he would have saved if he dived to the floor, the ball was a foot, maybe two at most away from him and easily within reach, but he stood there and let it roll in. I know that it was going to be a goal anyway but it would have been nice if Randolph hadn’t just stood there and the game showed him making some kind of effort.

Another new addition to Football Manager 19 is the inclusion of VAR. Video assisted Referee was introduced into the Spanish La Liga this season and it has been brought into matches in game.

There have been a couple of incidents from penalty claims to whether goals should stand that I have seen in my Barcelona matches, and one of the good things about it is that it doesn’t seem to be overused, I’ve only seen it being used on a handful of decisions, and it is a nice inclusion into the game, especially when a penalty shout gets checked and goes your way.

I have noticed something with players this year, that was a little prominent in previous iterations and that’s the interactions with players. I’ve noticed that there are some players who can become very sensitive very quickly and demand the world or they want to leave.

Example, several players had come to me individually to say they weren’t happy about being left out of the tour squad. Now, I had only just started the game, gone through the starter bits by having a meeting with the chairman and doing all that stuff. I hadn’t been given the option to pick a tour squad and now half my players were unhappy that they weren’t in the squad…. Ermmm. OK. Cool.

Now, I tried to defuse the situation by saying something along the lines of “I’m sorry for leaving you out, it was a mistake” – Because it was the only sensible option I could select. One or two players pretty much lost their rag and said I had handled it badly and they were going to make life difficult for me… Errrr wha?! Not the best start to the season. Luckily, I could chill the players out and once the season started everyone was cool, but wow. Talk about diving into the deep end, especially when I had no option to select a team and only pressed continue for the first time.

The one thing that impresses me with the Football Manager series and especially Football Manager 19 is the depth that goes into the games. The tactics, making sure that you’re tactics are right for the upcoming game by reviewing the reports that are sent through by scouts. Training, making sure that the team’s training is balanced with individual needs.

Keeping the dressing room atmosphere happy, while also keeping the board happy by making sure you stick to the clubs philosophies and expectations. Add into this, transfers both in and out of the club, contract talks, dealing with the media, the amount of depth is phenomenal and it is one thing that keeps me coming back. A lot of people might find it over whelming with the amount that you can do, however you can always delegate some of the tasks out to your backroom staff.

An absolutely brilliant game that any football fan would love!