Football Manager 2020 is hitting the shelves in a matter of days - but until now, little has been known about how much of an upgrade we can expect to see.
That's until a blog post landed a couple days ago - revealing a host of match engine improvements, from informed attacking runs to new marking code.
This will come as a welcome surprise to the FM community, who have been crying out for a more authentic experience for what seems like an eternity.
The FM team have watched and analysed hundreds of matches over the course of the development cycle and drawn on their own coaching experience as well as the expertise of their contacts within the football industry.
PERFECT MATCH: The game engine has been significantly tweaked
This has been done with the purpose of fine-tuning attacking movement and ensuring variety in attacking play.
Players now make more intelligent and realistic off-the-ball runs during attacking phases of play (which are contextualised to their position and player roles).
For example, you might see a deep-lying forward looking to drop deep and receive the ball or get into a position that will cause the opposition a headache.
The type of movement that a player makes is entirely contextual, too.
Some players will choose to come for the ball and offer support against a high press whereas others may try to overlap in the centre of the pitch against a compressed midfield unit.
You’ll even notice some strikers who will initially move offside then check back onside as the ball is played. Class.
Wide players will look to make more outside-to-in runs if the situation allows, particularly if you select the Inverted Winger role that is now available for both the AMR and AML positions.
Better decision making
Decision-making in the final third has improved as a result of the changes to attacking movement as well.
NET GAINS: Decision-making in the final third has been improved
In particular, players will now look to shift the ball onto their stronger foot for a shot or cross, meaning they will give the defender less of a chance to get a block or tackle in.
The changes to attacking movement are also influenced by your own instructions; the directness and tempo of both teams determines what type of off-the-ball runs and attacking moves are made by the players.
The team have also worked extensively on improving the defensive side of the game.
Defenders are now able to make more intelligent decisions to track the more advanced attacking runs.
They will make quick and clever decisions on whether to stick with a player, move towards the ball or look for an off-the-ball runner.
As with the decision-making around attacking movement, this is all situational and varies depending on position and player role.
New marking code
As part of the overhaul to the defensive positioning mechanics in FM20, the entirety of the marking code in the game has been rewritten.
As a result, you’ll notice defenders are more aware of the players and space around them and are more adept at identifying threats.
Defenders also read the game better, making more context-based decisions as a result (especially when you’re being counter-attacked).
For example, you’ll see defensive players that are more willing to make tactical fouls during counter-attacking phases to avoid being caught out during the transition.
All of this comes together to deliver a more authentic football experience.
There are a range of new animations and AI enhancements that make ‘keepers behave more authentically than ever before.
For instance, you’ll find that goalkeepers now parry the ball in a more natural way and will look to turn the ball around the post more often as opposed to parrying the ball back out into the penalty area.
This is alongside a whole range of new save and catching animations that will ensure that keepers react more realistically to the action.
There are even new animations for when a keeper realises he’s not going to be able to make a save.
During open play, goalkeepers will be more reactive with where they position themselves and adjust the angle and area of the goal that they cover depending on the situation that they’re facing.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON: GK animations are on point this year
One area where this improved positioning is particularly noticeable is during set-pieces and, as a result, you’ll notice fewer instances of goal-line technology being used from free-kicks in competitions that use that technology.
Goalkeepers will be more astute with their distribution from goal-kicks and will look for the most sensible distribution option depending on your tactical setup.
We’ve also added in the new rule for defenders being allowed within the penalty area from goal-kicks and the various new distribution options available because of this.
KICK START: Goal kicks have been revamped this year
Well, you can check out our other FM20 piece here, where we focus on every single new feature coming to the game