Since we published our EPL team of the season predictions, there has been a lot of talk about who has the best one. This led me to decide to conduct an experiment in FIFA 17. Each members’ TOTS would play Real Madrid away at the Bernabeu against the same lineup, with no substitutions allowed. I didn’t play any of the games, opting to let the computers play each other. Since Premier League managers are included in FIFA, I transferred each player that was needed to Chelsea first for Conte, then Spurs for Pochettino, and then to Liverpool for Klopp, to make the simulation more accurate. It was time for us to find out what FIFA has to say about who has the best TOTS.
The game with Ben’s TOTS vs Madrid was very back and forth. 15 minutes into the match, James Rodriguez lined up a shot from the outside of the box, Phillipe Coutinho slid in to challenge the ball, and as he was sliding in, James Rodriguez shot, it deflected of Coutinho and the spin created when it hit the sliding Coutinho had the ball almost float perfectly top corner. Nothing Ben Foster could do about it. It was an unfair reflection of the first 15 minutes as It was Madrid’s first time with the ball the entire match. Just before halftime after more constant possessions and chances for Ben, Gareth Bale pranced past Danny Rose and crossed the ball to an eager Danny Carvajal waiting near post with at least 5 yards between him and the nearest defender and he finished the ball cooly to make the score 2-0. The match went into halftime at 2-0 but as soon as the half began Sanchez found himself 1v1 vs Navas, he took the ball past him and slotted the ball home to make the score 2-1. It wasn’t over yet. Bale pranced by Rose again in the 65th minute and played the ball to a wide open Cristiano Ronaldo who tapped the ball in from 6 yards. 10 minutes later Toni Kroos had the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and played the ball yet again to a wide open Cristiano Ronaldo. At first glance, the goal looked offsides until replays show Kyle Walker was keeping him onsides. After going all out attacking in the 90th minute, Ben’s TOTS grabbed the final goal of the game, Coutinho hit the crossbar from 10 yards and the ball fell to Azpilicueta who volleyed the ball top corner. The game ended 4-2 Ben would have certainly felt hard done by the way his defense played. The reason Ben’s TOTS lost that game so bad boils down to a bad defense. There were too many occasions where men were left unmarked in the middle of the penalty area. The majority of Bens goals were from this and no doubt his TOTS would have won the game if his defense was tighter at the back.
FIFA Ratings: Sanchez (8.3), Ibra (6.3), Hazard (6.6), Dele (6.0), Coutinho (6.7), Mane (7.3), Rose (7.3), Mustafi (6.6), Azplicueta (8.0), Walker (7.6), Foster (5.9)
The game with Kevin’s TOTS vs Madrid had a very bland opening 20 minutes with the only mentionable thing that happened was a shot from Sanchez from about 25 yards out which went miles above the goal. At the 25th minute though Ronaldo picked up the ball in his own half, beat Dele for pace, and absolutely exposed Marcos Alonso’s side of the defense and finessed the ball into the bottom corner. 5 minutes later, Eden Hazard dribbled through about 5 Madrid players, shot it at Navas who parried the ball straight to Eriksen who had near enough of an open goal to shoot at. But the shot was rushed and the ball sailed over the crossbar. At the 66th minute Harry Kane was 1v1 vs Navas but couldn’t find a good enough angle and Navas dealt with the danger easily. In the dying embers of the game, there was one last chance for Kevin’s TOTS to grab an equalizer. Eden Hazard fizzed a ball across the 6-yard box it found Michael Antonio who was sliding in to get a touch on the ball, he got there but skied the ball, and the ref blew the final whistle with the game ending 1-0. Madrid scored with their only shot on target. A big reason Kevin’s TOTS lost was the many many missed chances from his team, if Antonio or Eriksen were to bury many of the missed chances I didn’t even mention, Kevin’s TOTS would have won by 3 at least.
FIFA Ratings: Sanchez (6.7), Kane (6.2), Hazard (6.3), Alli. (6.7), Eriksen (6.4), Antonio (6.7), Azpilicueta (6.9), Alderwiereld (8.2), Alonso (8.0), Walker (6.1), Heaton (5.5)
The game with Nik’s TOTS vs Madrid had action right away when in the 8th minute, Kyle Walker hit the outside of the Post. After some possessing in the midfield from both sides, Bale skimmed Danny Rose on the outside of the box the ball was shot and Ben Foster saved the shot but it fell straight to Ronaldo who played a ball to Toni Kronos who was wide open on the penalty spot, Kroos hit the ball and went in off the chest of Foster. A shot Foster really should have been saving. Around the 70th minute, Alexis Sanchez beat the Madrid defense for pace. With no one around for 30 yards and only the keeper to beat, he shot….. and HE MISSED, shot it straight at the keeper and the score remained 1-0. Nik’s TOTS changed to a 4-3-3 all out attack with 10 minutes to go and it paid off when Eden Hazard picked up the ball in midfield, he passed to Diego Costa who took the shot first time and it hit the inside of the post, the ball fell to Marcos Alonso, who tapped the ball in from 3 yards. The game finished 1-1 a fair reflection of the game. One of the reasons the game was only 1-1 is the fact Eden Hazard had no one to cross to when he was at the end line. The only time his TOTS committed men into the box was right before Madrid countered and scored.
FIFA Ratings: Sanchez (6.7), Costa (6.4), Hazard (7.2), Alli. (6.9), Eriksen (6.9), Coutinho (7.1), Rose (7.0), Mustafi (7.2), Alonso (8.8), Walker (7.5), Foster (7.4)
The game with my TOTS vs Madrid was very tight in the first half with not much happening besides Ronaldo hitting the post in the 31st minute. The match went into halftime at 0-0. Early in the second half in the 48th minute Dele picked up the ball around the halfway line and played an inch-perfect through ball to Sadio Mané who finished near post to make the score 0-1. From there, the game was dominated by my TOTS. Adam Lallana scored a volley crossed in by Eden Hazard, shortly after Sanchez missed a 1v1 and Hazard hit the post and the score was 0-2. In the 87th minute, my team was on a 4v2, and after some dribbling from Ngolo Kante, the ball was played through to Mané, and he fired across goal to make the game 3-0. And that’s how the game finished. Some big reasons my TOTS won that game was Ngolo Kante’s work rate, Lallana and Dele’s passing, runs made by Sanchez to create space, Eden Hazard’s runs down the wing, and the pit pace and finishing ability from Sadio Mané.
FIFA Ratings: Sanchez (7.8), Mane (9.0), Hazard (7.6), Alli (8.3), Lallana (8.7), Kante (8.6), Azpilicueta (7.8), Koscielny (7.5), Alonso (6.7), Walker (7.6), Heaton (7.3)
I think the reason my TOTS fared better vs Madrid then the other team was that Nik and Kevin basically had a left-midfielder playing Center-back. My team was the only one to play a 4-3-3 formation, and the only team that had Ngolo Kante playing (the major reason Leicester won the league last year and one of the reasons Chelsea are going to win it this year). My goals resulted from having many men in the box to finish crosses or passes from the top of the box. That’s the difference between a 4-3-3 and a 4-4-2.
As some of you may be saying “Oh wow it’s just a game, none of this really matters.” And that’s the beauty of it. I basically only won bragging right for now, as the real TOTS will be announced in May, where we will be looking back at how FIFA predicted the best TOTS and how accurate our predictions were.
Let us know what you think in the comments!
Image courtesy of EA Sports