With much of the last year being spent alone in lockdown, I have found myself putting much more time into FIFA 21 than I usually would, getting through a number of years in my career and even dabbling for a little bit in Ultimate Teams. Having spent so much time playing, there are a number of things that I have picked up on that could make the FIFA experience better. Of course, EA don’t generally care too much about the player experience and just wants to make money off game sales and money being spent in UT, so I doubt many of the things on this list will come to fruition even over the next couple of years, as I will be focusing mainly on gameplay and the manager mode career.
All the licences
Now I know this is going to be a hard one due to FIFA not being the only football game, but having licences missing is a real drawback, especially when you get big name teams like Juventus, Roma and the Italian national team under different names and having generic kits. Coming up against one of these teams really takes out some of the immersion, which is a real shame and even worse for people who are fans of those teams.
A couple of seasons into my career mode with Cheltenham Town, I picked up an Italian striker called Sebastiano Esposito, who has gone on to become my star striker. If I were to lose my save and restart career now, he would be unavailable as he has moved to a team in Serie B, which is not included in the game. It seems crazy to me that there is only 1 Italian league and I feel that all the top European leagues need at least their second tier, if not also their third, to allow for players who may be out on loan from big name clubs to lower tiers, while also providing more options for progression in career mode – it’s been great being able to rise up from League 2 to the Premier League as manager of Cheltenham Town.
Further to this, it’s beyond time that the Women’s game was added beyond just the international teams, with the top women’s leagues and competitions being added, so that those who dream of seeing Daniëlle van de Donk score the winner for Arsenal in the Champions League can make it a reality in the game.
Watching Ben Tozer and Cheltenham Town this season has reminded me just how dangerous a player with a giant throw-in can be. Unfortunately, if you try to utilise that in-game when you reach the final third of the pitch, you’re lucky to have any players positioning themselves in the middle of the box.
The usual throw-in system could stay as it is, but with a button you can press to change to a throw deep into the box, which will see whoever has the “long throw” or “giant throw” trait prepare to throw in and players to set up in the box similar to a corner, with he throw either using the current corner dynamic of picking the rough area you’re aiming for and how long you hold the power bar deciding if the throw is looped in or more of a bullet, or instead going for a power cone, where you can choose the rough direction, but more powerful throws will be less accurate.
Just this one simple addition to the game will make it feel more realistic and give more importance to the players with long throws.
Make management jobs more realistic
Let’s be honest, there’s a lot about the manager mode that doesn’t feel realistic. and it could be simple changes that help this. For starters, let’s just use my career as manager of Cheltenham Town. I started with them on a £13,000 contract, and despite 3 promotions in 4 years, my contract has remained the same every year. I’m not saying that I should now be theoretically getting Pep Guardiola money, but I think that these contracts could be more realistic and have a range of salaries dependant on the league, success in previous years and the club’s own financial situation.
Similarly, through all 4 seasons, I have received offers from pretty much every national team in the game. It’s hard to imagine that one of the top 10 nations will come asking me to be their manager when I’ve never managed above Championship level. Even more crazy is the thought that these top national teams would allow someone to manage them on a part-time basis while still managing a club team!
Obviously they would be shorter seasons, but I think that the international management role should become a full-time role, with us choosing to focus on international football rather than club football, as is the case in real life. Similarly, to make managerial opportunities more realistic, I would add a new feature – reputation points – which group and down according to how well you perform as a manager, but higher weightings to more prestigious competitions, with each team having a minimum amount of reputation required before they would consider you.
Imagine for example my Cheltenham Town manager mode. I have taken them from League 2 to the Premier League, with 3 promotions in 4 seasons and some strong cup runs. A decent first season in the Premier League could lead to a team like Everton – who are pushing for European qualification – to offer me a role, but a poor season with them that saw us close to relegation could then leave my reputation at such a point that only the bottom couple of Premier League teams would offer me a contract, leading to me needing a couple of seasons of success in the Championship or fighting at the bottom of the Premier League in order to become an interest to a mid-ranked international team.
Not all managers are the same. We’ve seen for years how Pep Guardiola favours a possession-heavy game, José Mourinho favours a solid defence over a stunning attack, while Eddie Howe provides a more attacking game. Currently in the game, the manager is basically just a unique character you see in some cutscenes, with the team already being set to their usual formation and tactics. But what if the tactics were changed to rely on the manager?
Imagine if each manager came with 3 or 4 preferred formations (which could account for differing personnel between teams) and their own unique tactical set-up. This will lead into my next point, but imagine then if we had Burnley go from Sean Dyche as manager to Pep Guardiola, and you would see the team go from a super-organised defence-first team to a possession-first team. This could be taken even further in career mode with certain managers having certain player types they prefer, for example players with high technical and short passing skills for Guardiola, while a manager who favours route 1 football would be more likely to be in the hunt for a tall and physical striker like Diego Costa than a small but agile striker like Sergio Agüero, while some managers will be more willing to use the Academy and some will prefer to bring in veterans.
Add more of a story to career mode
This would be something relatively simple to do, and would actually be a great culmination of some of the earlier points.
In my career mode, Manchester United are currently 9ᵗʰ in the league with just a handful of matches left, well below the position they should be with the quality of players in their squad, and yet Ole Gunnar Solskjær is still the manager. The only manager who currently moves around is you, despite many players having played for 3 or 4 clubs in the 4 and a half seasons that I’ve played. It doesn’t feel natural.
But how easy would it be for even the managers of all the other teams to have a meter tracking their own safety at a team – and thereby getting sacked if they drop below a certain level – as well as their own reputation meter to see what jobs would be available for them. Let’s take the example above from my career: United’s troubles would lead to Solskjær’s sacking. If our reputation was high enough, we could be offered the role, with our offered salary being affected by a base range for a Premier League team, United’s finances and prestige, and my own reputation meter. If I turned down the offer, or my reputation wasn’t high enough, the AI would pick a manager with suitable reputation from another less/equally prestigious team – let’s assume Sean Dyche has earned enough reputation – and they take over the role, while some managers could spend some time unattached and older managers could choose to retire like players do.
This could then be taken even further by having some players who retire also go into management roles – generally with less prestigious teams initially. We see it all the time in real life, how great would it be to see a player like Jordan Henderson or James Milner become a manager after retiring from playing and working their way to become Liverpool manager later in their career. This could also utilise Ultimate Team having likenesses of retired players to have players who have previously retired (including some who have gone on to become pundits) also appear.
With the men’s and women’s game and international football all combined in one large story, how great would it be to see Steph Houghton finish her playing career, become a manager of a League 2 team, lead them to the Championship before being picked up by a team in the WSL, where a couple of years of strong performances sees her earn a role as a Premier League manager and after a few years there, take over the lead the England Women’s national team to World Cup glory.
Further to this, take out the option to include a financial takeover and just have these happen as random events, with between 4 and 10 happening around the footballing world each season. We saw how the influx of money changed Manchester City, imagine if an AI League 2 team suddenly had a huge financial influx that allowed them to bring in top players and earn back-to back promotions, while you do the same on a shoestring budget, creating a great rivalry over the years.
This could also tie in to the increased story potential, but it seems really odd to me that I have led Cheltenham Town to the Premier League… and yet we still play in a stadium with a capacity below 10,000. Though it does not fall under the manager’s remit, it would make sense to be able to upgrade stadiums as teams move up through the leagues, with the option also available if a team goes on a rapid rise – like in my career mode – to build a new stadium tat is more fitting for where a team finds itself. In order to do this though, teams need to be regularly reaching capacity, which brings me to my final point in this category…
How great would it be to see dynamic crowds?! If we stick to my aforementioned career, my success with Cheltenham Town would surely be leading to capacity crowds week in week out, but Manchester United’s poor season would probably see empty seats in the crowd. Further than this, imagine if Cheltenham took a 0-3 lead over United by the hour mark, how great would it be to see a shot of some United fans leaving early, with shots of the crowd showing more empty seats as the match progresses. Such small touches, and yet it makes everything feel and look more realistic.
More commentary options
I should begin this with an admission: When I play the game, I have it muted and just listen to podcasts. The reason? We have just 1 pair of commentators, so once you have played a few games, it gets boring. While I’m sure that it would involve some time and cost, it would be great to have 3 or 4 commentary pairs, each with a fair degree of unique dialogue. Whether you have these pairs in a rotation, or just randomly selected for each match, that little bit of variety just adds to the whole experience.
Expand the youth development
Youth development took a great step forward in FIFA 21, but it could be taken even further. To properly grow a young prospect once they are promoted from the Academy, they need regular gametime. But imagine that you have a young centre midfield who has the potential to become one of the best players in the game, but is currently a mid-50s overall, while you play with 2 centre mids and already have 3 with overalls in the mid-high 60s. You can’t really justify playing him with any regularity, and a loan probably won’t see him get many more starts either.
But what clubs would do in real life, is have him train with the seniors and play with the u20s. Though we wouldn’t need u20 games to be playable, selecting as much as you can of an u20 matchday squad from youth players in your senior team and also the youth academy (which could be renamed your senior academy), while any empty spots would be hypothetically filled by other members of the academy who are younger and less ready for promotion tot he senior team. Then at the start of each season, the game could create 1 or 2 of these players who would have filled the blank spots and have them be “promoted” to the senior academy, while we can also use the current scouting system to find kids for the senior academy.
Regular selection in these u20s games would allow the players to keep progressing and growing better than if they were an unused substitute, while also making them available if you did want to play them in the occasional senior fixture to test how they are developing.
While I do appreciate the way scouting is at the moment, I have thought of a way that this could be improved. At the moment, the focus of the scouting is fully on attributes, with just a quick mention of their form. I feel that the specific attributes should actually be something that only the best scouts can get. I would suggest Scout Judgement decide what you are able to view in the following way:
1 Star – Already know player’s age, height, weight, position(s), preferred foot, market value, release clause & current wage. Scout to learn player’s OVR and stats (eg appearances, starts, goals, assists, yellow cards, red cards, clean sheets – for current season, previous season, career)
2 Stars and above – Already know player’s age, height, weight, position(s), preferred foot, market value, release clause, current wage, OVR and stats.
2 Stars – Scout to learn work rates, weak foot, skill moves
3 Stars – Scout to learn work rates weak foot, skill moves, physical attributes
4 Stars – Scout to learn work rates weak foot, skill moves, physical attributes, skill attributes
5 Stars – Scout to learn work rates weak foot, skill moves, physical attributes, skill attributes, mental attributes
In doing so, you are getting a real benefit to what information a scout can get you. Even the worst scout would be able to get a player’s overall and stats, so you can get an idea of how well they are doing, but it would take the best scouts for you to see accurately if a player fits your style.
Improved loan system
Usually if you are loaning a player out, it will be a youth player who you want to develop by sending to a team where they can play more regular. However, there is currently little way to validate this.
Taking the loan system deeper could see you coming to an agreement as to how often the player plays, with monthly updates from the club as to how the player is doing to ensure they remain within the terms of the agreement, and allowing us to see how our loaned out player is developing.
What do you think about these suggestions? Is there anything you would add?
Thanks for reading. Until next time…