Eight teams to exceed expectations with in FM21

By the end of the January transfer window, we’ve all usually got a good sense of how a league is going to play out and whether this year might actually be our team’s year. Things can still change of course but by the mid-point of a campaign it’s usually pretty clear who is leading the pack, who is prime for the drop and the teams more than capable of springing a surprise. 

We’ve picked out eight teams that have either underperformed or outdone their expectations going in to the 2020/21 season. Can you outdo the overachievers and turn around those who’d like to quit and restart?
 

Eight teams to exceed expectations with in FM21

Nottingham Forest

The two-time European champions looked set for a return to the top-flight this time last year but much like many of all of our best laid plans, it didn’t quite work out. A run of just three wins in their final 15 games saw them miss out on the SkyBet Championship play-offs on the final day on goal difference. Ouch.

This season started slowly, with Forest losing their first four games before appointing a new manager. At the time of writing though, they’re six games unbeaten and look like they might be turning it around. The Nottinghamshire club have a big squad that’s certainly got all the ingredients for a great FM save – experienced heads, genuine quality and exciting youth prospects like Loic Mbe Soh and Alex Mighten. 

Can you make a better start to the season and bring top-tier football back to the City Ground for the first time since 1999?

TSG Hoffenheim

Over the last four seasons, TSG Hoffenheim have garnered plaudits from around the footballing community for their pressing football and their impressive finishes in the Bundesliga: fourth, third, ninth and sixth in successive seasons. This season though, they’re firmly in the bottom half of the table.

They showed what they can do when they ended Bayern Munich’s lengthy unbeaten run but ultimately they’ve been a bit too leaky at the back to mount another charge for European football. Your task will be harnessing the physical capabilities of their squad and continuing to challenge Germany’s elite.

Hoffenheim tactics

Benevento

First impressions count. We all know that. But they can also be deceptive and nowhere is that truer than with Benevento. 

Nicknamed Gli Stregoni (The Sorcerers), the club achieved a first-ever promotion to the Italian top tier back in 2017. Their debut season was, well, not the best as they struggled to adjust at first to the rigours of Serie A, setting a continental record by losing their opening 14 league games. 

This season they’re back in the big time and they’re doing it in style. Benevento have managed to extract every ounce of performance from their squad, sitting comfortably in mid-table at the time of writing. They might not be prolific in front of goal but they are effective. 

While you certainly won’t be winning the league title in your first season, this is the sort of career for a manager who lives to weave a bit of magic and make some history.

OGC Nice

OGC Nice have, pardon the pun, a very nice squad indeed, leading many to expect big things of the Riviera outfit this season. After a mixed start, the club have found good results hard to come by, edging closer to the drop zone than the European places they were aiming for at the turn of the year.

With a healthy budget behind them, OGC Nice have been one of the most popular Ligue 1 Uber Eats teams to manage so far in FM21. Prodigious young striker Amine Gouiri is an FM player’s dream and The Eagles’ best asset this season, netting six times in all competition. Can you build around him and end Paris Saint-Germain’s dominance at the top of the table?

L1UET

Reading

In almost complete contrast to their EFL colleagues mentioned above, Reading looked relegation threatened for a lot of last season before pulling clear. This year though, with a new coaching setup in place, they look like a club rejuvenated. The Royals stormed to the top of the table in the opening weeks of the season, winning seven of their opening eight games while outperforming their xG by a considerable margin. Although things inevitably settled down, it has become very clear that their good start was by no means a fluke and that they are genuine promotion candidates. 

Looking at their squad, it is easy to see why. Rafael is one of the division’s best goalkeepers and in front of him there is a very solid spine to guide you through your first season as manager. Liam Moore offers great Leadership in defence, while the Work Rate of Josh Laurent and Andy Rinomhota will ensure that you’ll always see plenty of the ball. Up front they’ve got the threat of George Puscas, Lucas Joao and Yakou Meite. Oh, and the small matter of Michael Olise, one of FM21’s most popular signings. 

Reading XI

Lech Poznan

For one of Polish football’s most noteworthy clubs, this season hasn’t started the way that Lech Poznan would have hoped as last year’s Ekstraklasa runners-up currently find themselves in the bottom half of the table.

The Railwaymen haven’t been bad this season, they’ve just not quite clicked at any point. A factor in that could be the big squad overhaul they had in the summer, with Kamil Jozwiak, Robert Gumny, Jakub Moder and last season’s top goalscorer all departing. Lech Poznan have brought in a lot of quality replacements though, so if you can get those new signings to gel and hit the ground running early doors, you’re going to be in with a shot at the title.

Lech CI

Türkgücü München

Türkgücü München may be a new name to many as they only gained promotion to the 3.Liga this season for the first time in their history. Originally founded by a community of Turkish migrant workers in Munich, the club are splitting their home games this season between the iconic Olympiastadion and Grünwalder. 

Captained by former VfB Stuttgart winger Sercan Sararer and powered by the goals of nomadic Croatian striker Petar Sliskovic, Turkgucu have taken to the step up in competition like ducks to water and were sat within touching distance of the promotion play-offs at the time of writing. Guiding them to successive promotions would be an impressive achievement and then it probably won’t be too long before you can start dreaming of the bright lights of the Bundesliga.

3LT0

Barnet

If you asked an English football fan to point to a lower league ‘yo-yo club’, they’d probably say Barnet. The club flitted between Sky Bet League Two and the Vanarama National League throughout the 21st century but the 2020/21 campaign marks their third successive campaign in England’s fifth tier and it hasn’t started well, with The Bees firmly mired in a relegation battle. In many ways it’s a familiar tale for many of us we’re sure – not a lot of goals scored and far too many conceded at the other end…

Looking at their squad, which features a number of talented youth prospects, they definitely have the tools to turn it round. Starting from scratch, can you set the club on a upward trajectory throughout the English football pyramid?

We hope this list has given you inspiration for some new saves. We love hearing how you’re getting on, so please let us know how you’re doing on social media @FootballManager.
 

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