SOGG FM

SOGGFM’s A-League Guide for FM21

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Another year of FM has rolled around which means it’s time to take stock of the only professional league in Australia to help you guide your team to glory. In this year’s league guide I’ll look at each side, profile the range of exciting young talent and consistent performers destined to lead you to success as well as give you the lowdown on the league structure and salary cap rules.

League Structure

Of course I’ll start as ever with the league structure which has changed again this year with the addition of a 12th team into the A-league. 

With the effects of Covid-19, the A-League season has been impacted heavily, now running from the end of December until June (in line with the end of the broadcast agreement with Fox Sports). This means you should see a few extra midweek games thrown into the schedule. 

There will be 26 rounds again this season with each team playing everyone at least twice and then some teams a 3rd time (which should be the big games and derbies). 

Once the regular season ends, a premiership winner will be classified (top of the ladder after 26 games) winning themselves a spot in the group stages of the ACL. However Australia runs with a final series that sees the top 6 teams battle for the Championship. The teams that finish 1st and 2nd will have a week off whilst 3rd play 6th and 4th play 5th. The highest placed winner moves on to play 2nd and the lowest placed winner goes on to play 1st in a one legged knockout to make the Grand Final. Again the Grand Final is a one off match with the winners named Champions and earning themselves qualification to the group stage of the ACL (which will go to 2nd place if the champions were also named premiers). 

FFA Cup

The FFA Cup is where all spheres of Australian Football meet. Sunday League sides and state league sides battle it out to make it to the round of 32 at which point the A-league sides meet the most successful teams in the rest of the country. It’s straight knock-out football which has led to some great upsets. Most A-League teams don’t value this trophy too highly, although there is an Asian Champions League Place on offer for the winner.

The majority of this Competition (as well as the group stages of the Asian Champions League) take place in the pre-season, so be careful what start date you pick if you want to lift these trophies. The Final takes place a couple of rounds into the season, so it’s a good incentive to have your team fit and gelling together quickly.

Squad Rules and Salary Cap

One of the unique aspects of the A-League is the need to work under the strict financial guidelines of the Salary Cap, which stays the same for the 2020-21 season. This makes squad choices crucial as there is little room to waste money on players who aren’t contributing to your success. This is combined with a maximum first team squad of 23 players and a foreign players limit of 5. You also need to have a minimum of 3 players under 21 years of age in your squad.

The Salary cap figure for the first season is $62’000 per week, or £34’000. Not a whole lot of room to work with but there are players who can sit outside the cap and allowances that are described below. 

Marquee players outside of the salary cap

Each Team can sign up to 2 Marquee Players. These are better known as Designated Players in Football Manager. These Players do not count towards your salary cap, so you can offer them as much as you can afford. However, the board gets to decide whether or not a player is worthy of a designated player spot and may deny the contract you offer them. Often these contracts are used on foreign players who will add significant quality to the team and have significant financial benefits for the club such as increasing attendances and commercial opportunities.

Some notable Marquee signings in the history of the A-League are Allesandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono, Emille Heskey, Juninho and Dwight Yorke, and more recently has included Allesandro Diamanti, Adam Le Fondre, Gary Hooper and Ola Toivonen. 

There is also one Guest slot for each team, like a designated player, but who can only make 10 appearances, but still sits outside of the cap.

On top of this, you can also sign a Mature Aged rookie (a player from a non-professional Australian team who has never played in the A-League) whose salary is exempt from the cap. However, you are only eligible to sign 1 per season.

There are also 9 scholarship spaces available to each team for under 20’s Australian players. There is a minimum wage in place and the cost of their scholarship up to the minimum wage is also excluded from the cap, which is a great incentive to develop young players.

Now you know a little bit of how the league works it’s time to discuss each of the 12 teams and give you an insight into why you should manage them, who their star players are and who the most promising future stars are. Hopefully this will help you choose which A-League side to start your Football Manager journey with.

Club guides

Adelaide United

Stadium: Coopers Stadium

Capacity: 16,500 (15,000 seated)

Corporate Facilities: average

Training Facilities: average

Youth Facilities: average

Junior coaching: adequate

Youth recruitment: good

Why you should manage

Adelaide United have a proud history, making it to an AFC grand final in 2008 and winning 3 FFA cups, and last season started working towards giving players from South Australia preference. A team where a home-grown youth challenge could really take off. Can you show the rest of Australia how it’s done when it comes to developing young Aussies?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Adelaide United have a couple of good consistent players who keep the club performing in crucial areas. James Troisi is a good no.10 who contributes a lot of key passes and should be a joy to watch in FM21’s newest match engine. In the engine room, Stefan Mauk will provide box to box action and solid passing, dependable as ever. 

Future Stars

The Toure brothers will definitely be worth developing if you find yourself at Adelaide United. Al Hassan Toure, the elder brother, made 12 appearances last season and showed incredible pace, dribbling and X-factor. His younger brother Mohammed Toure also showed himself to be a handful making 9 appearances and wowing supporters nation-wide. Keep an eye out for Pacifique Niyongabire as well, who netted on debut and showed off with an impressive acrobatic celebration. He’ll have pace and trickery and with the right moulding could be a great weapon in your arsenal.

Brisbane Roar

Stadium: Dolphin Stadium

Capacity: 11,000 (10,170 seated)

Corporate Facilities: adequate

Training Facilities: average

Youth Facilities: average

Junior coaching: adequate

Youth recruitment: adequate

Why you should manage

Brisbane Roar were once the most dominant force in Australian football, going a record 36 games unbeaten and winning back to back titles. They were dubbed ‘Roar-celona’ for their lovely possession based approach and devastating attacks. However, after a procession of underwhelming coaches and seasons, the Roar need a revival more than ever. Can you bring back free flowing tiki-taka football to Brisbane?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Jay O’shea is a creative number 10 for the Roar and the Irish 32 year old designated player will be key to any attacking success you will aim to have. Tom Aldred leads the team in Brisbane which were praised for their defensive stability last season under coach Robbie Fowler. The English defender should prove a rock on which to build the rest of the side.

Future Star

Rahmat Akbari is an exciting young attacking midfielder who is comfortable as a playmaker in the cm strata or the amc strata. Still only 20, he’s very much in the raw stage and will need much attention to fashion him into a star.

Central Coast Mariners

Stadium: Central Coast Stadium

Capacity: 20,059 all seater

Corporate Facilities: fairly basic

Training Facilities: great

Youth Facilities: great

Junior coaching: good

Youth recruitment: good

Why you should manage

Central Coast has been flailing in the A-league for the past 5 years. Wooden Spooners in the last 2 campaigns, the Mariners need an urgent revival. The club has won an A-league championship and used to be seen as the best developers of youth in Australia but those days seem a distant memory. Can you restore the coast back to their former glory?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Daniel De Silva takes the only designated player slot for the Mariners and is deserving of the spot. A dynamic attacking midfielder who can play centrally or on both sides. Unlock his potential and your xG should soar. At the other end, Goalkeeper Mark Birighitti is a very good goalkeeper who could stop your team losing by cricket scores.

Future Star

Slim pickings at the Mariners, but Dylan Ruiz-Diaz provides some spark for the Coasties. At just 19 years old, he should progress well with plenty of game time.

Macarthur FC

Stadium: Campbelltown Sports Stadium

Capacity: 20,000 (13,028 seated)

Corporate Facilities: average

Training Facilities: basic

Youth Facilities: basic

Junior coaching: fairly basic

Youth recruitment: fairly basic

Why you should manage

Macarthur FC are a brand new franchise entering the A-league for their first season in 2020-21. So don’t let the average facilities scare you off, there is a blank slate for you to work with and a whole new fan-base to cheering your name. Macarthur have put together a really competitive and exciting squad to launch their debut season, so making the finals straight away should be easy.

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Aussie veteran Mark Milligan takes the designated player slot and still has a lot to offer as a controlling defensive midfielder, but it is the signing of English striker Matt Derbyshire which will excite the fans.

Future Star

Denis Genreau is an exciting midfielder who has been signed from Melbourne City. At 21 years of age he should develop well with plenty of game time alongside some experienced midfielders. Get his development right and you could be looking at a future Socceroos star.

Melbourne City

Stadium: AAMI Park

Capacity: 30,050 all seater

Corporate Facilities: Top

Training Facilities: superb

Youth Facilities: superb

Junior coaching: good

Youth recruitment: good

Why you should manage

The riches of the City Football Group are yours at Melbourne City and with that comes the world class facilities and access to star players and of course, the expectation. Since the CFG took over Melbourne’s second club they have failed to really deliver the dominance that is demanded. A sole FFA cup sits in City’s trophy cabinet, but with a desire for more you will be expected to challenge for the Premiership and Championship and make your way in Asia as well. Can you handle the pressure?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Jamie Maclaren leads the line for City and is one of Australia’s best strikers. He’s got a real eye for goal, winning last season’s golden boot. You should have no trouble getting Maclaren to score with the service of Adrian Luna from either wing. The Uruguayan will be a real handful for opposition full backs in FM21’s match engine.

Future Star

Connor Metcalfe should be a regular starter for you even at just 21 years of age. He’s able to be useful in all areas of the pitch and is one of the leading players for the Olyroos (Australia’s U23 national side). He could make you quite a bit of money if you can find a good European buyer for him after the first season.

Melbourne Victory

Stadium: AAMI Park

Capacity: 30,050 all seater

Corporate Facilities: Top

Training Facilities: great

Youth Facilities: good

Junior coaching: adequate

Youth recruitment: good

Why you should manage

Often claimed as Australia’s biggest club, Victory boasts the most members and a rich history of silverware. However, recent results have seen the Melbournians flailing after Kevin Muscat stood down as manager. Not quite a fallen giant, but definitely in need of a revival, Melbourne Victory have put together quite a good squad for the 20/21 season. The question is can you come out on top?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Robbie Kruse holds the designated player contract, and whilst he is quite injury prone, when he’s fit he’s very good. Add in the physical specimen that is Adama Traore (no, not the one from wolves, although physically similar) and the new English signing, Callum McManaman and you have quite a good set of players to provide scoring opportunities. You might just need to find a striker to finish them off.

Future Star

Luis Lawrie-Latanzio might just be that striker to provide the goals in the future with a little bit of work. LLL has some good raw attributes but will need you to mould his player traits to turn him into a deadly striker.

Newcastle Jets 

Stadium: Hunter Stadium

Capacity: 33,000 (23,000 seated)

Corporate Facilities: Adequate

Training Facilities: good

Youth Facilities: adequate

Junior coaching: good

Youth recruitment: average

Why you should manage

Do you like to take that middle of the rung club and make something of them? This is the club for you, if so. The Jets won the third season of the A-League back in 2008 and then made the final back in 2018 (only to lose to an offside goal that didn’t get ruled out because VAR “wasn’t working” for a short period of time in the final). The Jets never seem to put it all together and have had some off field drama in the off season losing their coach to the Wanderers, struggling to find an owner, and having players fail to turn up for pre-season. Can you fix the mess?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Joe Ledley made the switch to the Jets last season and in comparison to the rest of the league has very good attributes at the age of 33. He’s not even on a designated player contract, so make good use of him while he lasts. Bernie Ibini is the other star player at the club, but is also the player causing big issues off the field. He only moved to the Jets because of the previous coach Carl Robinson, but all that could be forgotten in game and he could really make a difference for you up front.

Future Stars

Ramy Najjarine is the most exciting young player at the club, but is on loan from Melbourne City. Angus Thurgate shows promise as well and is even dubbed the ‘Port Macquarie Pele’ but needs some real development in the game.

Perth Glory

Stadium: Perth Rectangular Stadium

Capacity: 20,500 (16,950 seated)

Corporate Facilities: Adequate

Training Facilities: good

Youth Facilities: basic

Junior coaching: good

Youth recruitment: adequate

Why you should manage

Perth Glory won the last 2 championships in the old National Soccer League before the league went defunct and was replaced by the A-League and since then the once glorious club hasn’t managed to win a championship. Can you bring the first A-League Championship to the West?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Bruno Fornaroli will be a real danger to opposition defences with great finishing and good mental attributes for a striker. Combined with the exciting Chris Iokonomidis, there is great potential to open defences. Glory also has some good options at the back to make for a solid squad.

Future Star

Uhh… might want to fire up that youth intake.

Sydney FC

Stadium: Jubilee Stadium

Capacity: 22,000 (8,500 seated)

Due to move into Sydney Football Stadium (45,500 all seater) on 1/8/2022

Corporate Facilities: good

Training Facilities: good

Youth Facilities: good

Junior coaching: good

Youth recruitment: excellent

Why you should manage

Sydney FC have just won back to back Championships and are looking to be the most successful club in Australia by adding another Championship to that list in 2021. Just because they have one of the best squads doesn’t make this an easy save however. It will be difficult to keep the success coming after replacing a loved manager. Are you good enough to keep the Sky Blues at the top of Australian football?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

The two real gems in this Sydney FC side are the attacking midfielders, Milos Ninkovic and Alexander Baumjohann. Both players are gifted on the ball and make space for themselves in good positions to create plenty of scoring opportunities. If FM21 really has improved through balls and attacking midfielders, you are going to want to utilise these two. Kosta Barbarouses could fetch you a big fee as the leading striker (with Adam Le Fondre off on loan to India for a season, but who also has a one-year extension trigger) and Rhyan Grant and Luke Brattan also stand out as impressive first team players in their prime. What a squad.

Future Star

Joel King stands out as the most exciting prospect in the Sydney FC squad. At just 20 years old he’s got room to grow and his major competition for the left back spot, Michael Zullo starts the game injured and injury prone, which means you have no reason not to give King the game time he needs to excel. His physical attributes stand out and help him to match the league’s best wingers.

Wellington Phoenix 

Stadium: Wellington Regional Stadium

Capacity: 34,500 all seater

Corporate Facilities: adequate

Training Facilities: average

Youth Facilities: below average

Junior coaching: fairly basic

Youth recruitment: exceptional

Why you should manage

The Phoenix are the outsiders in the A-League, from across the ditch in New Zealand. But they have shown that they deserve their spot on merit in the past couple of seasons. They pose a good challenge to bring through New Zealand internationals with their exceptional youth recruitment, you just have to improve the rest of the club to make them shine. There won’t be any Asian Champions League distraction for you either, as they cannot qualify due to being a NZ team and NZ still being in the Oceania confederation. Can you make New Zealand overtake Australia?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Wellington have stars at both ends of the pitch, with David Ball leading the line upfront with the ability to create and score himself and Stefan Marinovic providing the shot-stopping brilliance in goal. With the front and back sorted you can worry about getting the best out of your youngsters in midfield.

Future Stars

Reno Piscopo has a bright future ahead of him. The Olyroos star is physically capable and has some good technical attributes but needs to be helped with the mental side of his game to truly become a star. He’ll also be helped by playing alongside the exciting prospect that is Cameron Devlin in midfield. Devlin looks really comfortable in the first team despite being just 22.

Western Sydney Wanderers 

Stadium: Western Sydney Stadium

Capacity: 30,000 all seater

Corporate Facilities: good

Training Facilities: excellent

Youth Facilities: excellent

Junior coaching: adequate

Youth recruitment: exceptional

Why you should manage

A great stadium, excellent training facilities and youth recruitment, a passionate fan base and a proud history that includes being the only Australian side to have won the Asian Champions League, and that being in their first year as a club. And yet, the Wanderers have been wandering in the wilderness for a few seasons now and need to get back on board. Can you be the one to lead the Wanderers to realise their potential.

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Former Bundesliga player Nicolai Muller has all the attributes to make him a standout in the league. He’s got good support in the midfield and at the back Dylan McGowan is strong and versatile enough to be the rock of your backline. 

Future Star

Jake Trew is the best looking youngster at the Wanderers. A striker who could become deadly if given the gametime and good training. But there’s not much else to look at, so get going with that exceptional youth recruitment.

Western United FC

Stadium: GMHBA

Capacity: 36,000 all seater

Corporate Facilities: average

Training Facilities: basic

Youth Facilities: basic

Junior coaching: fairly basic

Youth recruitment: fairly basic

Why you should manage

Western did well in their first ever season making it into the Finals series and will hope they have done enough to keep that momentum rolling into the next season. The club is still fairly young with little history and has the challenge of taking down their two Melbournian rivals who are arguably two of the biggest clubs in the country. Can you establish Western as a third power in Melbourne?

Current Marquees/ Star Players

Alessandro Diamanti is clearly the best player at Western, if not the entire league so you have to make the most of him as the 37 year old can’t have much longer left in him. Josh Risdon is a key player also at right back and Besart Berisha, though old, still has the ability to knock in the goals.

Future Stars

Dylan Pierias is an exciting prospect at the club, powering down the right wing from deep, perfect wing back for the future. Another bright youngster is Sebastian Pasquali, a midfielder who can already match it with the rest of the league, will also be worth keeping hold of and investing in.

Conclusion

The A-League is a fun and dynamic league that doesn’t punish failure with relegation, but does reward success. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s an easy league to manage in. There are still plenty of challenges and rivalries in a cut-throat environment where players are desperate to make it big and find their way to Europe. There are some exciting youngsters to develop and uncover and a whole range of stars to try and lure to the Land Down Under to secure the A-League Championship and win the coveted Toilet Seat trophy.

I hope you’ve found this guide helpful on your way to dominance in Australia in FM21.

Bye

SOGG

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