• The two most popular football simulation games – FIFA and Football Manager, offer very contrasting experiences to football fans. And yet you will find that there is plenty to learn from one game that can be applied to the other, and vice versa. Despite the current trend of simulating real life matches, you’re not going to get real-life champions League odds from simulating matches on FIFA or Football Manager – what you WILL get though, is a greater tactical understanding of the game and how to apply that in real life situations as well as in other football games.

    Let’s look at what you can learn from Football Manager and FIFA and apply to the other game’s playing experience.

    Tactical Development

    After a couple of years of playing Football Manager and FIFA side by side, I realised that my Football Manager teams tended to play with the same tactics – i.e. during match simulation they would occupy similar positions on the pitch, make the same kind of passes and move the same way off the ball) as I would be playing on FIFA.

    Success in fine-tuning my strategies in Football Manager had a knock-on effect in shaping the way I played on FIFA. There are quite a few intangibles – tempo, passing speed, passing strategy, wing play, off the ball movement – essentially your over-arching tactical setup – that you can perfect on Football Manager and then start using (to considerable success) on FIFA.

    Squad Development

    FIFA is no where near as intense in player and squad management as Football Manager is, so invariably there are more lessons to be learned on that side of the game in FM. For example, what you learn from youth development, recruitment and player training in FM prepares you very nicely to quickly master those aspects in FIFA and maximise squad development in a very short time (something that takes a lot longer on FM).

    Adapting Strategies

    On the flip side, there is one obvious thing that FIFA does better – simulation – and that has helped me develop my FM strategies in certain specific ways. What you learn from FIFA in defensive positioning, pressing, movement with the ball, shooting and dead-ball situations is again valuable in shaping your FM strategies, especially how you can adapt your team’ tactical approach based on the opposition’s strengths and weaknesses.

    FIFA 12 v FM 12

    Which is the better game? It’s a tough question to answer as both games offer different challenges and fulfill different requirements for football fans. And as we’ve seen above, there is a learning overlap between the two games that can improve your skills and playing experiences.

    But if you want to know which game improves your actual football skills, the answer is simple – playing FIFA 12 may help you understand how to defend or time your pass better, and playing Football Manager 12 may give you more insights into how to manage a football team – but you’re kidding yourself if you think either will improve your actual playing or management skills. Let’s just enjoy the games for what they – an ever-improving and extremely enjoyable simulation.

    The author, Ahmed Bilal, writes on the football blog Soccerlens.com.

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