November is on its way, and with it comes the release of the latest edition of the Football Manager series.
Football Manager 2021 is set to be released on November 24, a slightly later date than usual as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nevertheless, fans of the game throughout the world will be desperate to dive right in when release day does arrive, beginning their opening long-term (or short-term if you get sacked early) save.
We’ve picked out 11 English clubs from across the Premier League and EFL that we think you should start a save with, ranging from sleeping giants with plenty of money in the bank, to lower-league clubs that you can build up over many years.
Arguably the winners of this year’s summer transfer window, Everton currently sit top of the real-life Premier League with four games played.
Having appointed the two-time Champions League winning manager Carlo Ancelotti last year, they followed up with the signings of midfielders Allan, Abdoulaye Doucoure and James Rodriguez ahead of the new season.
All three have made immediate impacts, but it is the form of Dominic Calvert-Lewin that has attracted attention the most. The 23-year-old has opened the season with six goals in four games, resulting in a maiden England cap.
If you do take over at Goodison Park, you will begin with a squad that is strong all over the pitch.
The defence potentially needs some work, with Seamus Coleman your only real quality option at right-back, but the Toffees plugged other gaps on deadline day by signing Sweden international goalkeeper Robin Olsen to provide competition to Jordan Pickford, and centre-back Ben Godfrey from Norwich.
With European qualification genuinely on the cards for Everton this season, they are a great option to manage when you do get your hands on the latest FM.
2. Aston Villa
Another side that have started the Premier League season on fire, Villa join Everton as the only two clubs to have 100% records.
Villa were forced to spend big last summer to add depth to a squad that lost several key players following promotion to the top flight, but they have been more prudent this summer.
Striker Ollie Watkins came in from Brentford for a club-record fee, and immediately paid back some of that money with a hat-trick against Liverpool.
Emiliano Martinez was signed from Arsenal to take the number one shirt, whilst the addition of Matty Cash represented a deal for one of the Championship’s star right-backs.
The squad could potentially do with a few signings, with depth beyond Watkins in the striker position relatively scarce. However, this is a competitive squad, and one that you can achieve success with.
3. Leeds United
It has been 16 years since Leeds United graced the Premier League, but they are finally back under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa.
They are one of the most exciting teams in the division, with pace and creativity across the pitch.
The key test for you is whether you can replicate the Argentine’s high intensity football, with getting the best out of a squad that have successfully adapted to Bielsa’s methods the key to this save.
Your efforts will be helped somewhat by the acquisition of Spanish international duo Rodrigo and Diego Llorente, whilst Leeds’s youth setup is one of the best in English football and has already produced England regular Kalvin Phillips, as well as midfielder Jamie Shackleton and defender Pascal Struijk.
The squad does not have major depth in midfield, but this is arguably the only area that immediately needs looking at in a side that has plenty of potential.
Relegated from the Premier League last season, Watford will be looking to bounce straight back up this term.
At the time of writing, they have kept several of their top flight regulars, with captain Troy Deeney, Will Hughes and Christian Kabasele all still in and around the first team squad.
They also have the creative prowess of Ismaila Sarr to call upon, the 22-year-old having impressed many during his first full Premier League season.
Taking over at Vicarage Road will be a tough task, given that promotion is the sole aim, but you’ll have funds available to improve the squad as well as strengthening the spine of the team that served Watford well for several years until relegation last season.
5. Sheffield Wednesday
The Owls have had a nightmare start to the 2020/21 Championship season, having been handed a 12-point deduction for breaching EFL spending rules before the campaign even kicks off.
That puts you at a distinct disadvantage if you do take the reins at Hillsborough, although the squad is good enough to pull you out of the mire.
Garry Monk made several key additions in the summer, with the signing of Callum Paterson from Cardiff being supplemented by Elias Kachunga and Josh Windass.
Wednesday have huge problems up front, however, with Fernando Forestieri, Atdhe Nuhiu and Sam Winnall having all left the club in the summer.
His best days may be behind him, but Jordan Rhodes is a proven commodity in the second tier and you may be able to coax a solid return from his services.
Failing that, the transfer market is open, although you may not have the funds to recruit proven quality options.
Another club who began the 2020/21 season in chaos, Charlton were looking for a new owner as recently as two weeks ago.
That meant that signings were thin on the ground at first, whilst the recently relegated League One club also lost the services of Macauley Bonne, Tom Lockyer and Naby Sarr.
They have since been taken over by Thomas Sandgaard, and have made some good additions to the squad.
Those include the signing of former Nottingham Forest midfielder Ben Watson, who will add experience to any potential promotion push.
Bouncing back to the second tier at the first attempt may not be an absolute must, given the uncertainty surrounding the start of the season for the Addicks, so a season of consolidation may be on the menu with a long-term view of getting back to the Championship.
When Sunderland suffered back-to-back relegations from the Premier League and Championship, expectations were that they would bounce straight back up to the second tier.
Two full seasons later, however, and they are still in League One.
Phil Parkinson was appointed last year and guided them to within a point of the play-offs on points per game.
But this is a crucial season for the Black Cats, shown by the signings of former Bristol City and Preston North End defender Bailey Wright and ex-Swansea man Danny Graham, who returns to the club for a second spell.
The owners at Sunderland will surely expect nothing less than promotion, meaning the pressure will be on to deliver, but the squad already present at the Stadium of Light has the potential to achieve success.
Compiling this list has simply underlined just how competitive League One is this season.
Twelve years ago, Portsmouth were winning the FA Cup final at Wembley. Eight years ago, they were in administration and perilously close to liquidation.
It took several seasons for Pompey to bounce back from the results of their financial crisis, which eventually caused relegation to League Two, but under the stewardship of Kenny Jackett, they have become a solid top-half League One side.
Your challenge will be taking them that step further and getting the club back to the second tier for the first time since 2012. With Michael Eisner of Disney still in control of Pompey, the ambitions of the club are huge, and the long-term aim is for Premier League football to grace Fratton Park once again.
The squad is a strong one, with John Marquis and Ronan Curtis both proven commodities at this level. The Pompey academy DNA is also present in the squad, with midfielder Ben Close and goalkeeper Alex Bass both coming through a richly acclaimed youth system, which you should take advantage of throughout.
9. Harrogate Town
The story of Harrogate Town’s promotion to League Two was compared to that of a fairytale, with the Sulphurites having secured consecutive promotions to reach the EFL for the first time.
They have enjoyed an excellent start to the season, notching up two wins and two draws from their first five games.
Whether they can keep up this form throughout the campaign is the major question, although manager Simon Weaver has kept together most of last season’s promotion-winning side whilst making several shrewd additions.
As Harrogate manager, you will be boosted by the services of Jon Stead – the journeyman striker may now be 37 years of age, but he certainly knows where the goal is.
The squad does lack defensive depth, and that will need to be addressed with whatever funds you may receive in the transfer market. This save is a challenge, but one you can certainly succeed with.
10. Bolton Wanderers
Bolton have suffered a tumultuous last eight years ever since relegation from the Premier League in 2012, and your main long-term aim over this save will be to get them back there.
Financial issues have dogged the Lancashire-based side, and several years of yo-yoing between the Championship and League One preceded what became an eventual relegation to League Two, after a hefty points deduction at the beginning of the season.
Current owners Football Ventures saved them from potential liquidation in August last year, and things are beginning to look slightly brighter around the University of Bolton Stadium.
The Trotters appointed Ian Evatt as manager in the summer, who took Barrow to the Football League last season, and signed last season’s League Two top scorer Eoin Doyle from Swindon.
They have Football League experience all over the pitch, with Lloyd Isgrove, Andrew Tutte, Alex Baptiste and Antoni Sarcevic also joining the club in the last few months.
Your main issue as Bolton manager will be to integrate the new signings – Wanderers have signed over 20 players as part of a major squad overhaul. Fulfil that aim, and promotion could well be on the cards.
Barrow’s first season in the EFL since 1972 got off to a difficult start when manager Ian Evatt left to join Bolton.
But the board acted quickly in appointing former Blackburn midfielder David Dunn and bringing in Football League experience in the form of goalkeeper Josh Lillis, midfielder Chris Taylor and forward Courtney Baker-Richardson.
Barrow have relatively strong depth over the pitch in terms of numbers, meaning that you will have plenty of names to call upon during what should be a season of consolidation.
One key factor will be whether you can replicate the heralded style of play that Evatt introduced to the club, and which led to eventual promotion as champions of the National League last season.
Like Harrogate, this save will be a challenge, but its goals are more than achievable.
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