Today, FIFA 14 is released to the masses. Adults and children throughout the world will be taking day’s off work to get their first taste of the new version – which is basically the same as previous versions with just a few tweaks. Most of them, having just completed GTAV would have just spent £50 on the game and it is this that they will play until Football Manager is out in October.
Over the years, football games have become more influential in the lives of football fans. No longer do they just watch a game on a Saturday, play themselves on a Sunday, and train mid-week, they now spend every woken day playing the simulators. Writing down squads whilst they are supposed to be listening to the teacher. Researching wonder kids during work hours. And spending hours day dreaming on what they are going to do when they get home.
Whilst games such as FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer, Champions Manager and Football Manager are brilliant – I own a PS3 with just 1 game (or 2, now the new FIFA is out) they also cause my a lot of frustration. Often these games form the opinion of fans when talking about players.
Fans have begun to genuinely build an opinion on a player based on how they perform in a game. Take young players for example. Despite having never seen a young player perform, manager simulators such as Football Manager and Championship Manager will create an opinion for a fan.
Ganso, for example, was massively hyped up last summer. Barely anyone had seen him play. Not many people watch Brazilian football, and he only has 8 caps for Brazil. Very few could genuinely sit and say they thought he would be a good addition to the Arsenal side. Yet many did and many were getting excited over him. Odd.
But not odd when you then remember he has been a star on Football Manager for a few years. People built their opinion on him based on a computer game. They wanted us to spend £20 million+ on a player based on a computer game. It is ludicrous. And now? He is playing for Santos and a big money move to Europe looks unlikely. Football Manager certainly warps the opinion of players.
FIFA also does the same. Anyone who has played the game knows pace is king. If you do not have pace, you will struggle at the game. I believe this is one reason why Per Mertesacker is massively underrated. He is not a FIFA player due to his low pace rating. What FIFA has not got built in properly is how a player reads a game.
If you ever watch Per in real life, you will see he is one of the worlds best defenders. A brilliant reader of the game, he dominates forwards, no matter how quick they are. Pace means nothing if you can not dribble past a defender. And Mertesacker is extremely hard to get past. He will either intercept the pass, or stick out one of his big legs to win the ball. And he does it with ease.
Yes, if a player does get past him, he struggles, but every centre back in the world struggles when they are the wrong side of an attacker.
The problem here is people have built their opinion of Mertesacker based on his FIFA profile. They play with the likes of Kaboul or David Luiz, who are quicker and therefore more suited to the game. They then rate these two as better than Mertesacker, even though they are not.
They base this opinion on a game, not on what they see. Anyone who watch’s these 3 guys on a regular basis will recognise that Per Mertesacker is far superior to the other two.
People also rate Kyle Walker above Bacary Sagna. Again, because Walker is based on the game with brilliant pace. What the game does not show is his positioning is awful and he can not read the game.
The games also change how fan’s think a club is run. They make scouting seem easy. They make signing players seem easy. They make selling players seem easy. “Why can’t we just fax all clubs about Bendtner, offer them a free transfer with a 50% sell on clause” people ask. Well transfers are harder than that.
A game does not take into consideration personal relationships. Families. Wives. A game does not distinguish between playing in Spain, living on a hillside just outside Madrid, and living within the Arctic Circle in Russia. It makes the world of football seem easy. And it is not that easy.
When thinking about football. About players. About how the game works. People need to use their own eyes. Watch players play. Learn how football clubs and transfers work. Not base all their opinions on a game.
Judge players on what you see during games the highlights, or what you read about in reliable papers / magazines. Stop judging players on how good they are on computer games, or YouTube highlights (another frustration!)