One thing I’ve never tried on a Football Manager game, of any variety, is to be, for lack of a better word, a commentator or reporter. Granted, these are not natural features of the games, but there is a way to make it happen. You can be a manager who never manages a team, and instead watches the matches as an impartial fan, so to speak.
This is the experiment that begins now. As the most recent FM game I have is FM21, we shall see just how differently things pan out. I won’t be taking charge of any clubs or national sides. I will be a pundit, a reporter, a commentator, and I will offer my views as though I am a reporter.
We start in the 2020/21 season. From this point forward, consider me a football pundit, reporting on the action, the results, the controversies, and the people and teams who might define the season ahead.
Few can deny that the manner in which Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side won the Premier League title was nothing short of incredible. Among their feats, the Reds won 18 consecutive matches, and went unbeaten for 27 consecutive games, to win the title at a canter, finishing 18 points clear of 2nd-placed Manchester City. It seems unlikely that a similar series of events will transpire, who who should be seen as the contenders, who might surprise, and who is for the drop?
The smart money is on Liverpool and Manchester City once again vying for the title. Whilst City had some shocking results last season, they have generally been the team to beat, and Pep Guardiola has considerable experience with the sharp end of fierce league title fights. It seems highly unlikely they will endure another season of relative mediocrity, they are simply too good for that. Klopp’s Liverpool will take tremendous heart from their first league title in 30 years, as well as the club’s first title of the Premier League era. Both squads have king-makers in their line-ups, including the brilliant Kevin De Bruyne for Manchester City, and the sublime Mohamed Salah for Liverpool. It is difficult to call, but if forced to, I believe Manchester City will have the edge. Guardiola will not allow his team to fail again.
Might another side breach the title race? What of Manchester United, who qualified for the Champions League, alongside Chelsea? Manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will have hopes that he can build upon last season’s campaign, and grant Man Utd the chance to do better. Much will depend upon whether he can extract the best from Paul Pogba, whilst Thomas Tuchel of Chelsea will be looking to youthful stars like Mason Mount and Reece James to offer hope.
What of the Premier’s traditional ‘big’ sides? Mikel Arteta will face pressure to improve upon a somewhat mediocre campaign for Arsenal, somewhat balanced by their FA Cup triumph. Jose Mourinho took Tottenham to 6th, two places above the Gunners, and like Arsenal, will have Europa League football ahead of them, but whether or not either North London club can move upwards is hard to say.
What’s more likely is that Leicester City, who finished an impressive 5th, may struggle to repeat another challenge for Champions League football. Likewise Wolverhampton Wanderers, who managed a very impressive 7th, may find it difficult to finish quite so high in the standings.
At the other end, it is hard to imagine Aston Villa coming so perilously close to the drop for a second season, and manager Dean Smith will be keen to keep talisman Jack Grealish at the club, as they seek some upward momentum. With Grealish’s stock rising, it may be very hard to keep him. Much has been made of Leeds United, and their long-overdue return to the top flight: can the legendary Marcelo Bielsa successfully balance attacking instinct with defensive acumen? We shall see how it all pans out…