Football Manager is so authentic these days that dozens of real clubs use it as a scouting tool. However we can’t expect every club – or every manager – to maximise a squad's potential over a season.
The 2017/18 campaign’s biggest underachievers somehow defied Sports Interactive’s carefully analysed data by failing to live up to the in-game stats of their players. This presents a golden opportunity for FM18 players to fire up a new game and prove they can do better than last season’s underperforming managers.
Newly relegated teams are often among the favourites to secure promotion from the Championship or at least mount a play-off push. Yet even the late Paul the Octopus couldn’t have predicted just how disastrous Sunderland’s first season back in the second tier would be.
FM18 had the Black Cats on target for a 13th-place finish, but with the potential to challenge for the top six under the right manager. In real life, neither Simon Grayson nor Chris Coleman fitted that bill since Sunderland finished bottom of the division and suffered back-to-back relegations as a result.
They should fare better under your guidance on the game since there’s a solid midfield full of Premier League experience to build a squad around. Former Everton trio Darron Gibson, Jack Rodwell and Aiden McGeady are more than capable of making an impact in the Championship, while Lamine Koné is one of the division’s top defenders.
Reinforcements are needed up front, however. Ashley Fletcher is pretty much your only option in that department – and his backup may have to come in the shape of other loan stars, since than £2m transfer kitty won’t go very far.
Like Sunderland, Hull were tipped to challenge for an immediate return to the top flight last term, and FM18 had a top-six target for the Tigers. Things didn’t work out for them under former Russia head coach Leonid Slutsky and they spent much of the campaign threatening to equal Sunderland’s unwanted record of two relegations in as many seasons.
Slutsky’s replacement Nigel Adkins fared better and guided Hull to eventual safety, though Football Manager players should have no problem bettering their 18th-place finish. You’ll inherit a balanced squad full of players with the potential to shine at Championship level, including the pacey Polish winger Kamil Grosicki and reliable veteran defender Michael Dawson.
There’s a solid foundation to build on and Hull’s transfer budget of £3m is adequate for bringing in at least one new face. Things don’t look too bad out there on the pitch, though your backroom staff could use a shakeup as there’s room for more experience and pedigree among their ranks.
Easily one of the biggest shocks European football produced last season, Twente’s relegation from the Dutch Eredivisie came just eight years after they won the league title under former England boss and umbrella enthusiast Steve McClaren.
Although Twente haven’t snagged any more against-the-odds silverware in recent seasons, the bookmakers had them down for at least a mid-table finish in 2017/18. FM18 accurately reflected that with similar board expectations and a predicted ninth place in the final standings.
Even with a meagre transfer kitty of £240K, this is doable since the club has an embarrassment of riches in the centre of the park. Moroccan international Oussama Assaidi failed to light up Dutch football last season, but he can do a job for you on either wing, while Adam Maher has the potential to rack up plenty of assists and chip in with a few goals from an advanced midfield position.
With their current squad, Twente are an ideal team for the fan-favourite 4-2-3-1 formation, with Moroccan veteran Mounir El Hamdaoui spearheading the attack. There’s a solid youth setup at your disposal too, and this is where you can mine the gems that will turn the club into potential title contenders within a few seasons.
Chesterfield made history in 2017/18, but not for any of the right reasons. When Morecambe held Cambridge to a goalless draw in late April, the Spireites were relegated to non-league for the first time since they rejoined the Football League way back in 1921.
Underwhelming doesn’t quite cut it, since FM18 had them set for a League Two finish more in line with the fans’ expectations. Chesterfield were touted as mid-table material, with the game predicting a 13th-place finish. This is more than achievable, since the club has a wealth of options to fill its central positions, giving you a solid spine to build around. Could you even go above and beyond expectations and make a push for the top seven?
After all, Kristian Dennis has a nose for goal and youngster Joe Rowley boasts the kind of ability you rarely find in an 18-year-old at fourth-tier level. A £50k transfer budget doesn’t give you much scope to add to that setup, but with a recruitment drive to beef up your scouting and medical teams, Chesterfield can be competitive in League Two.
Toulouse’s 14-year stay in Ligue 1 came under serious threat this season when they were sucked into a relegation play-off thanks to their 18th-place finish in the standings. A 3-0 victory over AC Ajaccio in the first leg of said play-off means there’s a good chance they’ll be playing in the top flight next term, but according to FM18, they have enough quality to have finished well above the dropzone.
The game had them set for a mid-table finish, but with a bright long-term future thanks to the numerous wonderkids on their books, such as Hakim El Mokeddem and Derick Osei.
Yet season two promises to be a tricky one at Toulouse as three of the club’s top players - Giannelli Imbula, Firmin Ndombe Mubele and Max Gradel - are there on loan. Your starting funds of £1.7m won’t bankroll like-for-like replacements, although their presence during the 2017/18 campaign should help you to at least achieve the mid-table finish that the board are targeting.
- How to make a wonderkid in Football Manager 2018
- Football Manager 2018 tactics: what to do – and what to definitely avoid
- The 20 best coaches in Football Manager 2018
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