How I Play #3 – Twelve Saves For Christmas

It’s the Christmas period and with that comes the inevitable rush of people getting the latest edition of Football Manager as a gift. But where to start? With 51 countries available and thousands of teams to choose from (before custom databases), it can be daunting. But don’t worry we’re here to help with another How I Play

A new save is a delicate choice. It’s like choosing your new home or what to name your newborn child. OK, maybe not that extreme but you get the point. It’s pretty f**king important.

So, what do you choose? How do you choose it?

Fortunately, I am here to help. And by help, I mean give you some suggestions for you to ignore. And because it’s Christmas, I’ve done 12 suggestions because originality is overrated.

So, here we go…

1. Braga (Portugal)


Always the bridesmaid but never the bride, Braga have pretty much established themselves as Portugal’s fourth team. They’ve never won the top tier but were runners up in 2010 and reached the Europa League final in 2011. With very few trophies and some solid finances (£2.5 million to spend with a little wiggle room in wages), can you push on and make them the “Big Three” a “Big Four”?

You’ve got the talent in the squad to challenge – loanees Ricardo Horta and Emiliano Velazquez are top notch while midfielders Nikola Vukcevic and Pedro Tiba are a quality pairing. However, you’re stacked with wingers including club icon Alan and your top centre back is out for 3-4 months from the start of the save. Add to that a lack of depth up front and there is some work to do to the squad. You do have some exciting prospects – midfielders Xandas and Gamboa as well as striker Leandro Antunes are the pick of the bunch – and excellent training and youth facilities so a youth focus could be the way to go.

2. Coventry City (England)


From top tier regulars to third tier crisis club – recent times have been tough for Coventry City and that’s being very, very kind. Owners Sisu have almost systematically taken the club apart piece by piece, sending fans away and reducing a club hero to tears. With a rented stadium and no transfer budget with a bit of overspend on the wages, money is tight to say the least. Can you stabilise a club in decline and push them back into the top tier of English football once more, maybe even replicating that famous cup win of 1987?

It’ll certainly be a challenge. The squad is threadbare with just enough quality to keep you mid-table but reinforcements are needed and there’s not many sellable assets. Jordans Turnbull and Willis at centre back are good players but the only ones you have in the first team while you also start the game with four long-term injuries. Youth prospects are also thin on the ground with Jamie Finch and Darragh Leahy the best of an unspectacular bunch. Add in the fact you lose all seven loanees around January time (including probably the best player you have in Chris McCann) and you’ll have to be in firefighting mode all through season one. Survive and you might just be able to push on.

3. Paderborn (Germany)


In 2014/15, Paderborn were lining up in the Bundesliga for the first time ever. In 2016/17, Paderborn are gearing up for a season in the third tier after consecutive relegations. As slumps go, this is pretty major and it’s the ideal opportunity to try and rebuild a club that just two seasons previously were mixing it with Bremen and Mainz rather than their second teams.

There’s money in the bank and decent facilities but don’t expect any money to spend. You definitely have to sell first but you also need all the bodies you can get to start with. Felix Herzenbruch and Lasse Fischer-Riepe are two that you should probably consider shifting if you can. There’s quality in the side though – Tim Sebastian, Marc-Andre Kruska and Christian Strohdiek are good while Lukas Krause was number one in the top tier – but the team is ageing and with squad rules in place, young signings are a must. Look to strengthen up front and at the heart of the defence as you’d be pretty short there. You’re expected to finish top too so the pressure is really on from the start.

4. Marseille (France)


While PSG and Monaco rose thanks to rich owners and Lyon have remained in contention thanks to shrewd purchases, Marseille have stumbled around mid-table in Ligue 1 and almost got themselves into a relegation battle last season. With the likes of Gignac and Ayew leaving and the sale of N’Koudou in the summer, Marseille are finding it hard to hold on to their top stars. Can you rebuild the club into perennial contenders once again?

You’ll certainly have the financial backing to do so. A near £30 million budget dwarfs nearly all of Ligue 1 and with plenty wage budget too, you can add your own touch to a squad that is horribly lacking. Lassana Diarra is by far the best player you permanently have and your entire strike force are loanees. The loanees are good and with Lucas Ocampos due back after the first season and Florian Thauvin joining permanently, you have some flair too. Central midfield is weak while the ageing legs of Rolando, Hubocan, Fanni and Bedimo don’t inspire confidence considering that’s over half of your defensive options. Facilities are excellent and there is plenty of young talent dotted about the club but the first team needs pretty major surgery if you’re to reach the predicted 4th place finish.

5. Guangzhou R&F (China)


We head to Asia now and the money-rich Chinese Super League with Guangzhou R&F (Huangzhou in-game). The second team in Guangzhou, they’ve had to watch as Evergrande carve their reputation as China’s number one club. They are the City to Evergrande’s United. So, can you topple the might of Evergrande to become Guangzhou’s number one side?

Well, you’re certainly up against it from the off. All of your foreign slots are pretty much filled and your star striker Anselmo Ramon is out for six months. Goals are going to be hard to come by with your pretty average Chinese strikers and with little money to spend it’ll be tough replacing Ramon. The real test is developing the best Chinese talent that will be able to best the other sides despite the financial advantages they may have over you.

6. Sunderland (England)


With a greater manager turnover than a poorly run supermarket, Sunderland have somehow managed to be just about good enough to stay in the Premier League for a good five years. With millions spent and little to show for it, can you finally stabilise the club and propel it up the table?

The first issue you’ll find is that you have five or six long-term injuries to pretty important players – Cattermole, Borini, Larsson – and with £12 million you might need to sell to really overhaul the squad in one window. Jermain Defoe is the wrong side of 30 and your best striker so that’s the problem you should prioritise as well as holding onto younger players like Pickford and Watmore. Joel Asoro has potential to be an excellent striker for you if you develop him right but apart from that there are slim pickings in the youth teams so you may have to buy your way to success.

7. FC Wacker Innsbruck (Austria)


Look at that graphic! The history of Wacker Innsbruck is as confusing and as complicated as you already assume it is. Legally, they have never won the Austrian Bundesliga despite the game saying otherwise. In fact, that last title in 2002 came under the stewardship of some German named Joachim Low. The challenge is to get Wacker to the top of Austrian football and muscle out the franchise in Salzburg.

You certainly have a talented enough squad to get up in the first season with some experienced quality campaigners. A striker might be a point of weakness with Pichlmann a bit long in the tooth while you could have a fight to hold onto Simon Pirkl with the likes of Monchengladbach sniffing around. Money is tight though so the old sell to buy trick is an absolute necessity as there’s not really much in the way of spare change in the coffers.

8. Napoli (Italy)


You know the old bridesmaid analogy from the Braga bit? Apropos here. Without the resurgence of Juventus under Antonio Conte, Napoli would have had at least two Serie A titles to their name in the last five years. Despite their continued success, they still lost Gonzalo Higuain in the summer to Juve and are looking to finally make it over the final hurdle and win Serie A. Can you be the one to deliver it?

The squad is certainly stacked with quality all over the park but you are woefully short up front. The likes of Roberto Insigne and Igor Lasicki can be sold to raise more funds for a back-up/partner to Milik. Even if you don’t, you do have over £13 million to play with. However, youth prospects of any quality are sorely lacking so look to improve youth development or just buy your way to glory.

9. America de Cali (Colombia)


A giant of Colombian football, America only just recently managed to get out of the second tier of Colombian football in real life. Your task is to replicate that feat instantly and then build on it.

Finances aren’t massively amazing but there is money there should you need it. And fortunately, you do not. America are blessed with a squad that is clearly too good for this level with good players in the reserves and a couple of tasty looking prospects in the youth team. The only issue may be a lack of depth at the back with five defenders total but that’s up to you if you want to focus on that.

10. CSKA Sofia (Bulgaria)


31 time champions of Bulgaria who were so badly run they dropped into the third tier before essentially taking another club’s top tier licence to return. It’s the wacky world of Bulgarian football where CSKA Sofia used to dominate but are now in full rebuild as they took over from 2011 champions Litex Lovech in the top tier. The question is though – can you topple Ludogorets and their Champions League money?

The main issue instantly is the fact that your two strikers are injured for at least three months. Also, two other key men are out and your best young defender is attracting interest from around Europe. Fortunately, CSKA do have some cash to spend and some young players to plug gaps as well for a squad that is a couple of faces short of being actually not too bad. The problem is competing with Ludogorets.

11. Independiente (Argentina)


It’s been a hard few years for Independiente. Financial hardship and relegation were followed by an instant return and signs of positive recovery. The real issue here is whether or not you can return to your place at the top of the Argentine game?

Financially, Independiente are not blessed with cash and with this being Argentina, vultures from Europe and Mexico are looking at your best players. Former Porto and Atletico winger Cristian Rodriguez adds class but with a few key men over 30 and only a few prospects could really make a huge difference (if they’re not snaffled up by European sides). The chance to blood your own talent is there if you can get your men performing on all fronts right away.

12. Minnesota United (USA)


Wait, isn’t the MLS the only American league you can play by default? Yes it is but don’t worry because Minnesota United join the MLS in 2017. That’s right, you can use them on Football Manager as well as Atlanta so either one is a good choice. I went with Minnesota because they have a snazzy bird badge. Can you hit the ground running or will you flop horribly?

The base of a decent squad is there for Minnesota with Brazilian Ibson providing experience and quality in midfield. Be aware of MLS wage cap and squad restrictions before you start building a dream team here as well as the draft in early 2017. Designated Players are also a big thing in America so just who will you be able to attract and what cost?

So that’s it. 12 saves for Christmas reference. They’re all saves I would personally consider and hell I might even try a couple of them for this blog. If you have your own suggestions then feel free to leave a comment. Even better, let me know if you’ve taken my suggestions and keep me updated with how you get on.




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