Interestingly, Sunderland are probably THE team to be on this year’s edition of FIFA since they possess a lot of the criteria for a fun and long-lasting save.
Firstly, they have the Stadium of Light on the game which makes the game far more realistic and fun to play. Secondly, they have a big budget in which you will have the ability to mould your squad into something majestic.And, finally, they are a club that has been on a downward trajectory just waiting for someone to wave a magic wand and turn it all around.
But what are we working with?
Transfer budget: £4.461 million
Main aim: Win League One and reach last 32 of the FA Cup
In nets we have Jon McLaughlin, who is rated at a very nice 71 with the potential to grow to a 72 - handy for a long term save as he can be your goalkeeper until you reach the Premier League.
Backing him up is Robbin Ruiter, who is rated at a rather generous 68. Don’t sell him mind - McLaughlin often gets called up to the Scotland squad, which means you will need a good backup for those games where our number one is away.
Max Stryjek is rated at 59 overall, though his potential is 69 meaning he could be a long term option as a back up or even a third-choice ‘keeper.
Adam Matthews is a shoe in to be right back, and his rating of 69 with the potential to improve makes him a very good option in League One and the Championship. What he lacks in an attacking sense is more than made up for by not being a liability - something which should not be underestimated when building a side gunning for promotion.
Contending for his spot is the rather poor Donald Love, who is rated at a lowly 60, though his potential could see him jump to 68 - but I don’t think he is worth keeping hold of once you get yourself out of the third tier.
Youngster Denver Hume - who is just starting to break through onto the real-life first team scene - can also fill in at right back, though he should be treated as a last resort in that position.
Here is where it gets rather interesting. Bryan Oviedo is far too good to be in League One, and getting rid of him would be foolish - but that means that Reece James is unlikely to see much game time.
That can be rectified with moving James to right back (that is what I do as I hate playing with Matthews). But if you decide to keep both James and Oviedo then you will find that your depth at left back is better than most Championship sides.
It is a nice problem to have, and with Denver Hume also decently rated as a third option, his potential of 72 makes him a project worth persisting with.
This is one area where you may want to strengthen as Sunderland are quite short in this department. Jack Baldwin is rated at 66 but can grow to 71 - that means he will probably stick with you on your promotion journey and then be a squad player in the Premier League.
Glenn Loovens, however, is 34 and rated at 67, so the likelihood of you persisting with him should be slim - he’s very slow in the game.
Ozturk is rated at 66 overall, but he does have the potential to grow to 70; therefore, he might be worth keeping around for at least a season or two. I find him to be rather clunky, but that could just be me.
Finally, Tom Flanagan is the perfect squad player as he is decently rated at 66 and can play anywhere across the back four. He is good at just about everything, and his style translates well in the game.
Sunderland have a plethora of options in central midfield and this should be your position of strength over the first few seasons before you reach the promised land of the Premier League.
Lee Cattermole is our best rated player in this position with a rating of 70 overall, and he often drives play from midfield if you set his personal tactics that way.
Dylan McGeouch is also a stellar option in the middle of the park, and having him next to Catts in away games should give you the best opportunity to keep clean sheets whilst simultaneously protecting your back four. He has a rating of 68 but will grow to 71 over time, which means he will be good until you get to the top division.
Max Power is my favourite of the Sunderland midfielders on the game; if you give him license to get forward you will be rewarded with goals. He has a superb shot, and is a decent finisher in and around the area. With a rating of 67 he doesn’t jump off the page, but his growth to a potential of 72 means he is a player you can keep around even when you get to the top flight.
Luke O’Nien is also a great option to have - I often deploy him in CAM rather than CM. He has a rating of 65, but he quickly grows and he can eventually reach a rating of 74 - very impressive.
Ethan Robson finishes off the list of first team midfielders, though his rating leaves a lot to be desired. At 59 he will struggle to play many important fixtures but do not give up on him as his rating can rise to 70. That being said, by the time it does you may have already given up on him.
If you let Lynden Gooch run in behind he will create chances and space for the players around him - plus, he is a canny finisher. His rating of 68 will grow quickly in the game, and he has the potential to get to 79 - meaning he will be a very good Premier League player.
Aiden McGeady is our best-rated winger starting at 73 overall. This level looks below him in the game, though. He can take on players and dominate full backs with his trickery and technique; plus, if you put him on the left with Oviedo you’ll get endless amounts of joy down that flank.
Chris Maguire is a decent rotation option with a rating of 66 overall - though watch out as it may fall if you do not give him game time. He is a steady player at this level and I have found him to be good finisher and crosser.
Duncan Watmore no longer has the explosive pace on FIFA that we are used to seeing, and he often appears wasteful when he has the ball. His attacking stats are weak with virtually every stat ranking under 70 apart from dribbling which is rated at 71. He has growth potential of 74, though, which makes keeping him around worth your while.
George Honeyman is down as a CAM, but I will include him as a winger since he can play in those areas. He is a player that is decent enough, but, like Chris Maguire, lacks that cutting edge compared to the other players in those attacking positions. His rating of 65 is poor and his potential of 71 is hardly inspiring, so you may want to upgrade the CAM position in the transfer market.
Josh Maja is the standout candidate upfront as he has the potential to reach a whopping 82 overall with the right training and game time. Initially, though, he is difficult to play with as he often seems to get pushed off the ball. If you persist with him he will get better, and if you tell him to focus on running in behind, you will have a great player on your hands. Maja is a cornerstone player when rebuilding your Sunderland side.
Charlie Wyke, on the other hand, offers something entirely different to Maja as he is a bigger player who relies on his physicality. He can win headers and be a nuisance for opposition defenders - though his finishing often leaves a lot to be desired. His rating of 67 puts him three ahead of Maja initially, but young Josh will overtake him by Christmas in your first season.
Jerome Sinclair is on loan from Watford this season, and is rated at a rather dismal 61 overall. He has pace and the basic qualities to be useful, though I tended to not use him because he lacked that cutting edge.
How should I play?
The new FIFA is very in depth when it comes to tactics, and it feels like this year’s edition is the best yet when it comes to tactics that actually make a difference.
If you tell a player that you want them to get in behind, they will try and do it at every opportunity when attacking - it just makes the game easier to play.
With Sunderland, the logical option is to play a 4-2-3-1 system as the players we have suit that formation perfectly.
When Oviedo plays left back I tell him to overlap and get forward at when attacking, which works well because I tell one of my central midfielders to cover him when he does it. Often that man is McGeouch and he does an expert job of covering him making me less susceptible to a counter attack.
The centre backs are reasonably self-explanatory and I tend to not change their playing styles because I do not want to see Loovens marauding up the field at any point in the game unless it is for a corner.
With Matthews/Love/James/Flanagan at right back I tend to tell them to stay back when attacking because they aren’t really offering anything positive when they get forward anyway. This also gives my right winger - generally Gooch - the chance stay forward and create havoc in the opposition half from counter attacks.
As I said before, one of my central midfielders is given the responsibility of staying back during attacks and covering my full backs; normally that job is given to McGeouch or Cattermole. They are pretty decent passers of the ball, so having them sitting deeper and collecting the ball of the defenders is useful and often starts most of my attacks.
The other central midfielder is generally Max Power or Luke O’Nien and they are given license to attack when we are going forward. Power has a wicked shot on him while O’Nien is a decent shooter in and around the box. Those two players compliment the attack well and should be utilised in this way.
On the wings, Gooch and McGeady are the two diamonds of your team. Both players are better than the majority of the wingers in the league and will destroy full backs in every game. I usually tell Gooch to get in behind and stick to the wing, while McGeady is given a bit more license to roam.
In CAM I usually play Honeyman. He is probably the weak spot of the attack, though, and investing in a replacement may make sense since you have the budget to do so.
Up front I usually go with Maja because he is a bit more dynamic than Wyke. Often my strikers are setting up the midfielders though and I use them more for link up play rather than scoring themselves. Maja is weak in the air which can be frustrating, but you miss his pace and trickery if you play Wyke in that central position.
Firstly, you should get rid of Ndong straight away. You can get over £4 million for him, so it’s a no-brainer!
After that, I would advise keeping the squad the same with exception of maybe loaning a few younger squad players out - though I would leave that to your own discretion of how big you like your squad.
Transfers in are rather interesting and I tended to follow a pattern that I thought was fitting into our current recruitment policy. Here are my picks.
Scott McKenna from Aberdeen is a great CB who is rated at 69 overall but can grow to 82. You can pick him up for around £1.5 million - he is worth every penny.
Cammy Smith is also a player I like a lot and he is a useful addition to your CAM options. His 66 rating is only slightly better than Honeyman but he is a bit pacier and offers you a great option from the bench. You can purchase him for around £600k, which is a bargain really.
Stevie May is another Scottish player who is worth looking at. He is rated at 69 overall and should come in at around £1.5 million. His potential is only rated at 73, but that should be enough for your first few seasons.
Kieffer Moore is at Barnsley and could be a great addition in January if you need that extra firepower. His cost should be under £1.5 million and his physical stats are great, which should make him the perfect player for the Championship when you get there.
If you have any more questions about this year’s game and fancy picking my brains, hit me up over on Twitter - I’m @ConnorBromley. Just send me a tweet!