FOOTBALL management used to be a lot simpler. In the heydays of Brian

Clough’s European Cup-winning Nottingham Forest side, match preparation simply involved some men casually running around a park. Football has changed immeasurably since the late-seventies, and since the dawn of Sports

Interactive’s Football Manager series in 2004, virtual simulations of the sport have drastically moved forward.

Modern Football Manager is a behemoth of a video game; with the average season taking dozens of hours to go through, especially if you want to actually win things. This year’s game sees the series continuing to slowly repeat the same formula, something the series has been doing for a number of years now.

This is not simply wheel-spinning, mind you. While there are few big new features this year, there is plenty of handy changes to make this year a worthy upgrade.

There’s an abundance of changes to make long-term saves more enjoyable, mostly in how clubs change over time. It also sees older players decline with age, so you’re less likely to see 37 year-old Eden Hazard line up for Chelsea in 2028.

The updated team report screen is also handy, continuing the series’ move toward colour-coding and clearer interfaces, and away from big piles of sliders and scary numbers. There are also some smaller changes, like the new pre-contract screen, which steps around thirty-something Brazilian also-rans unexpectedly holding you up for massive wages.

Other changes include those to the match engine. Player passing and movement animations have taken a big step forward. On top of that, players tend to make smarter decisions on the pitch, so there players don’t tend to idiotically run the ball out of play.

These small changes are all welcome, but the game is certainly not without its flaws. Matches may look a lot better, but once any contact between two players occur, the resulting animations are just awful. The same can be said with the goalkeeper animations, which look slow and robotic.

The new social media tab attempts to recreate Twitter and is mostly terrible. While it keeps you up-to-date on events in your alternate-football world, most of the feedback from fans can be completely random. Also, despite being in the game for a decade, dealing with the media is still a mostly-pointless chore.

New staff roles have also been introduced to better simulate the expansion of modern football clubs, but it’s very hard to tell what data analysts and sport scientists actually do, or why you would hire one person over another.

There are so many things to keep track of in Football Manager 2017 but some parts continue to be a chore, even if you can delegate to a virtual stooge. Nonetheless, this is still another engaging entry in Sports Interactive series, so prepare to spend many enjoyable and frustrating hours dreaming big and devouring pass-completion ratios.