This complaceny is not least because developer Sports Interactive devoted much of 2009 to mediocre football MMO Football Manager Live. Are those fears alleviated with the release of FM 2010? Not entirely, no.
In many ways, this year's edition feels like a service pack for FM 2009, with major changes at a premium, although subtle improvements do start to emerge after a few hours in the virtual dugout.
The most notable addition is the ability to shout instructions and make substitutions from the sidelines. You no longer need to enter the tactics menu to change the shape of your team; instructions such as "retain possession" or "take fewer risks" can be issued using dropdown menus. You still need to dip into the Tactics menu to make advanced changes, but there are fewer breaks in the action, and it's satisfying to see your players carry out your barked instructions.
Pre-match tactics have also been spruced up. Players are now not only allocated set positions (defender, attacking midfielder and so on) but predefined roles, such as goal poacher or anchor man. A new Tactics wizard makes it easy to create bespoke formations - although there's still a long list of predefined options for those who think tactics are tiny white mints.
Your backroom staff will weigh in with tactical advice, and they'll also demand meetings on a monthly basis to give their feedback on the squad and potential transfer targets. It's a hit-and-miss feature, with their advice often erratic - advising that you appoint a new penalty taker when your current top scorer has a 100% record, for example.
Deft improvements have been made to the 3D match engine's animations: goalkeepers now berate their defenders and players throw themselves theatrically to the ground. The revamped interface makes the game look less like a spreadsheet, but in some instances actually makes it harder to find the information you're looking for. It has the unmistakable whiff of change for change's sake.
It's also a shame that some of the features crying out for attention have been left untouched. The appalling press conferences remain, as does the training, which is important for improving your team but far too laborious to organise. Creating set-piece routines is also a pain in the proverbial, forcing you to edit every player's movements rather than giving you a single screen to position them all at once.
That isn't to say that Football Manager 2010 is a bad game: it's a marginal improvement on the already excellent FM 2009, and the meticulously updated data would be reason enough for many to part with $70. Yet, rather like Intel ticks and tocks with major processor upgrades and minor architecture refinements, you get the impression that this is very much a tock release: an update good enough to tide fans over for 12 months.
It's still strong enough to keep ahead of the fast-improving Championship Manager - a game Eidos was literally giving away on pre-release. But in the same way that the once peerless Pro Evolution Soccer has been overtaken by EA's FIFA franchise in the football sim world, you can't help wondering if an upset is on the cards in the management sim genre too. 2011 is going to be very interesting indeed.
As always, an improvement over the previous year's release
lack of revolutionary features