Football Manager 2021: Five things we learned about FM21 after playing the Beta

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Ahead of the release of Football Manager 2021 for PC, Mac and Mobile on November 24, players are now able to access a Beta version of the game.

As long as you have pre-purchased the game from a SEGA approved digital retailer, you will get access to this FM21 Beta, which is fully playable and includes the online modes Create-A-Club and Online Career Mode with cross-compatibility between Epic and Steam. Also, any progress made in Career Mode can be carried forward when your game updates on full release on Tuesday November 24.

As this is a Beta and not the full game, players may run into some bugs and glitches which their developers will be working to fix before full release, but even still, the Beta gives us a great idea of what fans can expect from FM21.

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Here are five things we learned from playing the Football Manager 2021 Beta.

Covid-19 will have a big impact on your virtual 2020/21 season

Although Covid-19 will NOT be included as an illness in FM21, you will still see the real-life pandemic have a significant impact on your virtual 2020/21 season in a variety of ways.

First of all, if you start a new save in the Premier League (English Premier Division in-game), your first season will start later to reflect the changes to the league in real-life. You will have eight start date options, which are;

  • Early 2020/21 Pre-Season (27/7/2020)
  • Late 2020/21 Pre-Season (10/8/2020)

  • Start of 2020/21 Season (24/8/2020)

  • Early 2020/21 Premier Division Pre-Season (10/8/2020)

  • Late 2020/21 Premier Division Pre-Season (24/8/2020)

  • Start of 2020/21 Premier Division Season (7/9/2020)

  • First Matches of 2020/21 Champions Cup (19/10/2020)

  • First Matches of 2020/21 Euro Cup (14/9/2020)

As you can see above, all start dates are later than in previous editions of Football Manager. But, the start dates will revert to normal in your second season in-game.

And it's the same story for transfer windows. The virtual transfer windows will start by matching their current real life counterparts, but will revert to normal in your second season.

Talking of transfers, you will notice a significant impact on the transfer market in your first season, with club finances inevitably in a worse state than you would normally expect when you start a new save. Sports Interactive have rewritten chunks of their transfer system to ensure that while superstars and wonderkids will retain their value, FM21 will see more ‘loan to buy’ offers, the value of mid-range players dropping and clubs in real financial trouble trying to move players on a more regular basis.

However, as money comes back into the game over time, the transfer system will adapt and eventually return to some sense of normal, or whatever that means!

Football Manager 2021 will also use substitution rules as they are in real life for season one, but will revert to ‘the old normal’ in season two, unless the competition in question has already indicated that the plan is to adopt the new rule for the long term.

But some things will stay the 'same', with fans included in stadiums throughout even in season one and teams lining up in their usual manner before a game.

You have more data at your disposal than ever before

You will have more data and analysis at your fingertips in FM21, largely in part due to the addition of xG or ‘expected goals’ within the new game.

xG has become more widely used throughout football in recent years, but Sports Interactive actually created their very own xG system for FM21, with help from the guys over at SciSports, football data intelligence specialists.

This new xG system is tailor-made to work with the FM match engine, which claims to go beyond what current expected goals models are capable of in real life.

xG is included in FM21

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For example, their model considers the shooting player’s distance from goal and the angle and speed of their shot to determine xG, accounting for the position of the other players on the pitch relative to the shooting player too.

In your career mode save, you will be able to see in detail xG in both the half-time review and full-time summary, with the xG match story showcasing how each team’s xG has fluctuated over the course of the game. You can also view xG shot maps for both teams that show each shot’s xG rating. Post-match, xG will be included in the analysis you receive from your data team.

Your recruitment team are much more helpful

A new addition to FM21 are 3D Recruitment Meetings, which are attended by your club’s top decision makers, Director of Football, Chairman, and Chief Scout etc, to collaborate on scouting needs and assignments.

In this meeting, your virtual scouts will recommend positions to focus on in the upcoming transfer windows, using factors such as retirements, expiring contracts and weak areas of the squad to recommend areas that could need attention.

FM21's new 3D Recruitment Meeting

For example in the screenshot above, you'll see that the scouts are recommending to look at the striking position, due to Troy Deeney's contract expiring at Watford. You can then look at your scouts’ recommendations and edit the recruitment plan.

Your scouts will present you with some options for the upcoming window based on the conversations previously, you can then set new assignments, using attributes or filters to make sure your scouts are looking at players who will be relevant to you.

Recruitment Meetings occur around a month before a window starts, both pre- and mid-season, there is also a catch up meeting the week before the window closes.

Player interaction is more detailed

The way that you virtually interact with players and the media has had a huge overall in FM21, with the addition of Gestures, allowing you to add body language to what you're saying, which make for more varied results and more control over conversations.

In press conferences, you are able to physically demonstrate how you feel about certain questions or play it cool and give nothing away. If you’re the sort of manager who tends to respond with a ‘no comment’ then you can now show your frustration when journalists repeatedly ask you for an answer.

And it's the same for the media too, with journalists having their own body language and gestures. In connection with the new Press Atmosphere feature, you'll be able to gauge how each press conference is going.

When going into face-to-face conversations with your players, they can now bring in a third party, such as their agent or your Director of Football, which adds yet more variation to conversations and sometimes, makes them much more difficult for you!

The big moments are more memorable

In previous Football Manager games, when you've had a good season, you may get an email or two about awards and so on, but mostly it's all about planning for next season.

However, if you've had an impressive campaign in FM21, you'll definitely know about it. The guys and girls at Sports Interactive have added an End of the Season Review feature, which will take you out of your inbox and into a full season review where you’ll browse through the highs and lows of the campaign.

Here, not only will you get to revisit games but you’ll see your year in snapshot – reviewing your best XI, transfer business and significant results.

A very nice touch in what is shaping up to be yet another impressive Football Manager gaming title.

FM21 will be released on November 24, 2020 on the Epic Games Store and Steam on PC and Mac. Ahead of the game's launch, Sports Interactive has also provided a small indication of what fans can expect from FM21.

As always, players can get early access to FM21 on PC and Mac, for anyone who pre-purchases from a SEGA approved digital retailer, with players able to access a BETA version of FM21.

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It has also been confirmed that FM will return to the Xbox platform for the first time since 2007, with FM21 Xbox Edition releasing on December 1 for Xbox One and the forthcoming next generation of Xbox consoles, Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X, and you pay just once to play across the Xbox ecosystem.

The Xbox version of FM21 is a specifically tailored version of the game, modelled on the popular Touch series,that has been fully customised for optimal performance with the Xbox controller.

It has also been confirmed that Football Manager Touch (on Epic, Steam, Nintendo Switch™ iOS and Android) and Football Manager Mobile (on iOS and Android) are coming soon.

Football Manager (FM) is the world’s leading football management simulation title. With more than 50 countries to manage in and a database of over 800,000 players and staff it offers an incredibly detailed and immersive experience.

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