People seemed interested last year, so I am previewing how Leeds United look on this year’s edition of Football Manager.
There have been many years as Leeds fans where we have thought we knew better than the manager and this game gave us a chance to prove it (ok, not really). This year it is different, Leeds have one of the most respected managers on the planet and it is instead more a chance to see if we mere mortals can replicate the style of Marcelo Bielsa with Leeds.
The game will be fully released on Friday 2nd November, I pre-ordered the game and have the beta so can give an early preview of the squad. Things may change a little in the full game, but the changes are normally to fix bugs rather than to alter anyone’s abilities in the game.
Leeds squad much like last year looks pretty solid. Not many players below 3 stars which is usually pretty solid for the league you are in. The only players below that level are young players who will improve (and Eunan O’Kane who will probably be injured with his unfortunate broken leg on the full release). The standouts at 4 stars are Samu Saiz, Pablo Hernandez, and Kemar Roofe - although star ratings are based on the “opinion” of the in-game version of Carlos Cobreran who only has 10/20 on judging player ability, with 15/20 on judging player potential.
Goalkeepers - Leeds have two solid goalkeepers without either being standout in the Championship. Jamal Blackman is the better of the two in the game, as is shown by the graph below. However, it isn’t by much and BPF’s mental stats are a little better. Both goalkeepers will be fine as first choice. However, if you don’t play Blackman I would expect Chelsea or Blackman himself to want his loan cut short in January. I’ll probably play BPF because I would rather develop a young Leeds player than a young Chelsea player.
Right Back - Leeds have one of the best right-backs in the league in Luke Ayling. Likes to get forward in the game and has good defensive stats and well as decent pace, crossing, and dribbling. Easily a Premier League in the game and it wouldn’t shock me if lots of clubs are interested in trying to sign him in-game.
Ayling is backed up by Gaetano Berardi, who is pretty solid at both right-back and left-back in the game. However, the second best right-back at the club is Lewie Coyle and when he is back from his loan in the first January of the game he could be a really good option. Other than being a bit weaker in the air, and not having quite as strong mental stats, he almost a clone of Ayling. In the game (not in real life), it could be worth selling Ayling if a big fee is offered because of how good Coyle looks.
Left Back - Barry Douglas is nearly as good as Ayling defensively and even better going forward. His set-pieces are excellent too. As good as any left-back you are going to get in the Championship.
Berardi is a good back up for this position as well as at right-back. Tom Pearce has been massively improved this year compared to last year and can definitely do a job if Douglas is injured/suspended.
Centre-Back - Before the season most fans thought Leeds looked short for central defenders and this is true in the game. The difference between the game and real life is that neither of Berardi or Kalvin Phillips are able to play well at centre back and that does leave Leeds short of options.
Both Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper look good in the game and they are a fine starting pair but you will probably need to sign a CB if you want to get promoted in the first season.
If you want to try and do it without signing anyone in the first transfer window then your best back-up option is probably Aapo Halme, as Halme looks to have some potential in the game. Followed by Conor Shaughnessy, who looks like a better CM than CB in the game.
Central Midfield - Last year Leeds had a lot of options in this area. This year is no different. To play in a defensive role Leeds have two leading options in Adam Forshaw and Kalvin Phillips. I would say Phillips look slightly better but there is very little between them.
Moving into a more standard midfield role, Phillips and Forshaw still look good but Mateusz Klich and Lewis Baker are also very good options in a CM role. Personally, Klich looks to have been really improved this year and looks like the outstanding choice for the more orthodox CM role. His finishing (14) and Long Shots (16) look to have been improved so if you are going to try and use him in “The Bielsa Way” he looks the best bet.
Finally part of the central midfielders are the Attacking midfielders/number 10 style players. Unsurprising Samu Saiz stands out a mile for this role. Fantastic technical ability. Good flair, good vision. No better option for me in that role. Although Pablo Hernandez and Izzy Brown are both also very good options to play there.
Wingers - Some crossover with the number 10 position as Pablo Hernandez is the strongest option on the right side. He is technically great (particularly for the championship) and although he lacks pace he can be used more as a wide playmaker using the physical abilities of Ayling/Coyle/Berardi to overlap.
On the left side it would appear Sports Interactive have a higher opinion of Ezgjan Alioski than a lot of Leeds fans. Alioski was really good on last year’s game and is the same again this year.
Jack Harrison is of a very similar level to Alioski however and may play better for you. Leeds have a lot of options out wide though as Stuart Dallas is solid on both sides and Izzy Brown, Lewis Baker, Samu Saiz, Kemar Roofe, Tyler Roberts and Patrick Bamford can all hold their own out there.
Strikers - Kemar Roofe and Patrick Bamford are both very good Championship strikers on the game. Much like in real life this season however, I give the edge to Kemar Roofe. Roofe has slightly better Pace, Acceleration and Off the Ball, and both have 14 for finishing.
That is not to say Bamford looks poor. He looks a real threat too and if you are planning on using a two striker formation they could be a great partnership. Tyler Roberts is already in the first team squad and is an able back-up as striker.
PLAYERS OUT ON LOAN
Lewie Coyle is a real stand out as mentioned earlier. He is the only player out on loan that I think will make a difference to the squad when he gets back.
The best of the rest are: Yosuke Ideguchi, who looks like he could do a job in the Championship on the game if Leeds didn’t already have so many good CMs.
Mallik Wilks, he has a lot of similarities to Roofe but isn’t up to the level of the Championship yet. Loan ends in January so if you have injuries he could be useful. If not, another loan is probably the best bet.
Paudie O’Connor, similar level to Aapo Halme and would be an ok backup if he was available.
Jay-Roy Grot, who looks ok but with finishing of 9 I wouldn’t expect to do a great deal.
Laurens De Bock, Pawel Cibicki and Vernon Anita aren’t bad either but won’t get near the team.
UNDER 23 SQUAD
A lot of Leeds young players are already in the first team squad. Tyler Roberts, BPF, and Tom Pearce all look good. Outside the squad there are some players who look like they could become something with the right training and development.
I have already mentioned that Aapo Halme looks ok but the two stand out players in the u23 are Kun Temenuzhkov and Jamie Shackleton.
Temenuzhkov could be turned into Premier League striker on the last game and looks to be of a similar level again this season. Shackleton wasn’t anything on last years game but his improvement in real life hasn’t gone unnoticed.
UNDER 18 SQUAD
As you would expect from their level in the real world, Ryan Edmondson and Jack Clarke are the stand out players in the under 18s at the start of the game. Neither should really be in the under 18s at all to be honest. Ryan Edmondson has stats that suggest he could play in League One already.
The one to be excited about in the game appears to be Jack Clarke. 5 star potential with strong stats in many key areas. More of a striker than the winger he looks to be in real life. Could be used as a backup for the first team already and doing so will probably help his development so it could well be worth the time.
Much like last year - Leeds look like a strong squad and I think the play-offs are a fair target without signing a single player. Add a centre-back, and one more quality winger and I think this squad can get automatic promotion in the game.