Football Manager 2008 – Thoughts on the Demo

Cup Confidence and why I’m not convinced

Written by Dennis.

Today I downloaded the Football Manager 2008 demo. As you might expect, I took control of the club I support, Arsenal, and tried to get to know some of the newly introduced features in the game. All’s good until I discover I’m expected to reach the semi-finals of the FA Cup. What?!

I’m not saying it’s something Arsenal aren’t capable of. It’s just, if I was a real life gaffer I wouldn’t expect to be told this. Maybe a ‘we would like you to do well in the cups you’re entered’ would suffice, you know, but being told to reach a specific round of a cup competition just isn’t right for a whole bunch of reasons. In trying to be as realistic as possible SI have added something unnecessary and if you think about it, unrealistic also.

Knockout competitions are a completely different cup of tea to the league. You can bow out of a cup so easily. The opposition you face are random. So while one season you might do a Millwall and get an easy run to the final, on another you might be forced to do battle with the league champions in the opening round. In the league injuries are less of an excuse simply because a league is spanned out over a number of games. Injuries might cost you the odd game or two but are rarely to be blamed for a seasonal failure. Now let’s say you have an injury crisis on your hands meaning your best players are all out for a couple of weeks, miss the cup game and you’re knocked out as a result. As I say, it’s quite easy to bow out knockout style.

Let’s face it, it doesn’t take much, so much so that a lot of the time the best team competing might not necessarily win. Few consider the Champion’s League to decide the best team in Europe and I’m among them. I get the impression however that if you are on paper the strongest side in a cup you might be expected to win it and none of the above will be taken into account. It is after all but a small part of a bigger feature in the game and I can’t see that the greatest deal of thought will be put into it.

That’s not a criticism per se, all I’m saying is it might be seen as a small feature which shouldn’t be that complicated and that’s where I’m worried, because it is complicated and for something as small as cup expectations, a lot needs to be taken into account, too much for it to be necessary. That serves to back up my initial worries – if SI realized how much they’d have to think about this feature, would they have even included it? I think not.

In regard to league position expectations (which aren’t specific anyway unless being league champions is the demand) some of the same intelligence is needed but less so, even then. Because it’s, as I’ve explained, so easy to be knocked out in a cup, there has to be more importance given to factors that could’ve counted in you being beaten. For the most part, that’s injuries and opposition. But that it’s a knockout competition and that all it takes to go out is one or more games should be considered also. You might just suffer a bad performance on the day.

How will they affect your position as manager I wonder? Cup success is something after all that’s rarely taken much into account. I’m not against the very occasional overly ambitious chairman demanding glory at every level but that doesn’t happen too often – even Abramavich doesn’t want Champion’s League success every season, though it’s something he wants to add to the Chelsea trophy cabinet long term. But say Arsenal had a bad day at the races and were doing well in the league but lost out at an early stage in all the cups it were entered? In real life, it would be disappointing but not a good enough reason to sack somebody. I wonder how expectations would fare if I was the best club in the world, for instance. Might I be expected to win all and if so, what would be the consequences for slipping up in but one of these areas?

I’m not completely against the idea of cups affecting your safety, though their role should be small. If you have a bad season in the league, say, you can make up for this by doing well in the cups. I like that idea, that’s cool.

To round up then, I’m only speculating. To make a full judgment would require that I experiment extensively, something I can’t do yet because the demo only lasts for half a season. Another time maybe I’ll do a part two. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the problems I’ve talked about popped up, that SI might underestimate the importance of such a small addition, effectively a part of a bigger addition. A suggestion would be to tone it down because cup expectations are very rarely placed on a manager. However, to assess and then reassess expectations before and after each cup game wouldn’t be too bad a thought, while taking into account the factors I’ve mentioned.

Just one of many reasons while I might wait until Christmas to get my copy so that potential problems like this (and some won’t merely be potential) are ironed out by that period in a patch. Be sure to tune in for more grievances I have with the demo at a later date.

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