Going at it hammer and tongs

The weekend saw me put in a few late-night sessions after work when I was a) tired, and b) had relatively little time to play.

Not a good pair of conditions to play any football game, especially not nuPES in particular – and so it proved. The game felt fast and cheap in the most PES2018-like session yet. 6.5/10.

Monday, though, brought a more considered couple of sessions, and brought back the joy. Back up to around 8/10, shading into 9/10 when I factor in the squad headache that Master League is giving me (gloriously giving me).

I’m still not seeing that many more fouls in PES2019 than I saw in PES2018. My overall stats now show an average of 1.97 AI fouls against me per match. Matches with 0 (ZERO) fouls in them are unfortunately more common now than they were to begin with. This is partly down to be getting more familiar with the game’s ins and outs and what works and what doesn’t.

And dare I say it, but I am starting to get the better of Top Player.

I had 6 (SIX) wins in a row at one point, one of them a 4-1 drubbing of Swansea.

Which all brought about this table after 22 matches:

I took that screenshot with a few matches left to play of my most recent session. I won most of next few matches and am currently 6th (SIXTH – or, as people weirdly insist on saying nowadays, SICKTH).

I think Villa are realistically out of reach at the top for me, and probably Southampton too, so the chase is on for 3rd place.

January came and with it I ran full-tilt into a trap of my own making.

nuPES hasn’t yet brought about a very common scenario that would affect us all back in the glory Golden Age days of the PS2 editions, and on some of the PS3 editions. That was a time when you could very easily misjudge some aspect of the transfer system and leave yourself with a bare-bones squad. I remember many seasons on Classic ML where I would play full seasons with a First XI and a subs’ bench, and nothing else. And a large number of those players would be last-minute panic-bought Youths.

That situation couldn’t happen in nuPES.

Could it?

It can happen and it has happened to me. I have run full-tilt into a trap that everyone has to watch out for.

Maybe there are a few ways to fall into this trap. The way I fell into it was to fail to realise that being able to go into minus-figures on the Wages budget doesn’t mean I should merrily go ahead and do it. And then keep doing it. And keep doing it. And keep doing it…

Just before the January window came along, I started to renew all my key players’ contracts.

Rice, Castledine, Necid, the lot – about 8 or 9 players, all of them got fat new contracts, negotiated as low as I could go of course, but still substantially more than they were on.

Each new contract bumped my wages bill even further into the red. Each time the minus-figure got larger, I thought, wow, this is great!

I ended the spree with a Wages bill of -£865,000. And yes, I pretty soon realised what I’d done when I tried to go shopping for new players.

Being in the red for Wages means the game won’t let you sign any new players. The only way to get out of this would be to transfer out 2 or 3 of my top players, and then that would only just about allow me to afford 1 new player, who would probably not be better than any of them.

An all-round disaster (that I am thoroughly enjoying, needless to say).

There are two ways out of this:

  1. Sell many of my high-earners and replace them with journeymen or Youths.
  2. Get promoted this season and hopefully get a boost to the Wages budget. I’d still have to let a few key players go, I think, but it wouldn’t be so bad.

This is my full squad – for this crucial last half of Season 3:

19 (NINETEEN) players.

1 suspension and/or 1 injury and I’ll be sweating.

I have had a few menu-screen injuries for a few weeks apiece.

Almost 3 seasons in and I am yet to see a proper forced-to-squad-screen injury.

Although I did see this:

I’d already used all my substitutes and couldn’t take off Lincoln. He had no ill-effects, other than a down-arrow for the next match. He was fine after that.

He’d better stay fine, too. Him and the others.

Season 3 begins

Big season, this one. As PES2019 has grown and matured for me, I have become attached to my players in ways that I haven’t in a Master League for many a year.

PES2015, probably, was the last time I really got into the nitty-gritty of assembling a squad and getting the absolute best out of every player.

I’ll be disappointed not to get at least into the playoffs this season.

It’s a big challenge, not least because I just don’t have the squad. With a few players gone and only one coming in, here is my current squad of 21:

At this time, if I could overlay my personal ‘Traditional ML Feeling Heatmap’ over this PES2019 squad, most would be glowing orange, and a few would be bright red. In recent nuPES years, most would still be only pale yellow at this time, at best.

A huge deal for me, this. Master League has been part of my life for the best part of two decades.  The last few years have been a case of making do, through gritted teeth. To feel now that I have got ML back, in some way… I almost don’t want to get too attached, knowing what can happen.

With this closeness comes a great curiosity to see what life is like in the Premier League, and in Europe.

I really do feel close to this lot, and am even half-toying with the idea of only getting a couple more players – making it up to a squad of 24, say – and then shutting up shop. For good. As a kind of crude House Rule. NO more new players, ever (apart from replacements for retirees, should there be any).

I don’t think I will do this, because that’s not how I roll in ML. I mention it here only as evidence of just how embedded the game is getting to be, for me, this year.

I played the post-season/pre-season All-star match by mistake. I pressed X when I meant not to press X. As the pre-match screen loaded, I thought I might as well take a look. I haven’t played this fixture since PES2017, because it traditionally represents the very worst that PES and football gaming have to offer.

And so it proved again. 1000mph. Zero fouls, very few stoppages of any kind. The 22 players on the park might as well have been called Defender004 and AMF0231 and the like. Total rubbish. A 1/10 match, and the 1 was for the final whistle.

The sobering thing about the All-stars kind of gameplay is that for a large part of the current footy gaming market, that is the kind of gameplay they want to have all the time. I’ll be ultra-careful never to accidentally play this fixture ever again.

Onto the real action.

Swansea were a bit of a bogey team before they were promoted after Season 1. I’ll be watching out for them now they’re back.

First match of the season wasn’t very encouraging. One of those where you batter the AI goal from the outset, but nothing goes in. Then the AI scores with its one shot on goal, and that’s that.

Only 4 shots on target for me is poor. A symptom of my tendency to blaze away form distance. But that’s how I like to play, and PES2019 rewards distance potshots often enough for them to be worth trying.

Also note the Free Kicks stat. Zero AI fouls in this one, and only 1 foul against. I don’t like PES2019 when it decides to drop into a nuPES fast-flowing-fun groove. I blame the All Stars match for setting a session tone.

My only signing of the pre-season transfer window was from my own Youths. I took a risk and splashed the wages cash on M GOMEZ. He popped up in my Youths after one season but I couldn’t afford him until now.

Gomez has been pretty mediocre so far, as is only to be expected from a youngster, The problem with picking up ‘name’ Regens is that the name makes us imagine they’ll be a lot better than they ever can be at age 17 or 18. It takes a good few seasons before they’re any good, usually. Traditionally nuPES patience doesn’t last that long, but I think PES2019 will force me to stick with Gomez for longer than I would have done in previous years.

I’ve played 10 matches or so of Season 3 at the time of writing. Here is the table after 8 matches:

Nicely positioned on the leaders’ shoulders. I’ve won 1 and lost 1 in the matches since this screenshot.

Matches are tight. PES2019 feels great. The AI plays loose passes and varies its attacks. My players are emerging into fully rounded individuals and a team with which I have a real connection. I look forward to sessions in a way that I haven’t for 4 years or more.

Everything is perfectly set up for the late October Konami patch to come along and wreck everything I have built here. We shall see.

Lincoln Scream

Season 2 has come to a close. In my final session I scored the goal I’ve been waiting to score on PES2019 – and on nuPES – for a long time.

I posted the goal in comments on the previous post, and spoke about it there a great deal.

For the many casual readers of the blog who won’t have seen it, here it is – the goal that well and truly scratched my long-range itch:

It’s an R2 sidelong ‘whip’ from Lincoln – that useful Free Agent signing that nearly everybody will come across. The distance travelled is about 40 yards, which has been scientifically proven. It was intentional.

I have been trying to score this exact sort of goal, specifically with Lincoln, from around that distance, for a few weeks now. I usually have a couple of goes at it per match if Lincoln is playing. This was approximately the 60th such attempt.

I am still not tired of watching it. I accept that this is akin to laughing at your own jokes, but I don’t care. A huge element of the enjoyment I get from football gaming is the occurrence of moments like this one. I shrieked like a girl, at 2am Saturday night/Sunday morning, when it actually flew in. I find when I watch it back now that my eye follows the trajectory of the ball, and I still can’t quite believe it when it drops into the net.

At the end of the season there could only be one name in the running for My Favourite Player.

To be fair to the rest of my squad, this goal was the only real thing of note Lincoln has ever done (apart from hit the post and crossbar from similar range several times through all of those 60 attempts).

The season ended with me firmly mid-table. At times this season I had threatened to put together a run good enough to get into playoff contention. But that oh-so-mysterious aspect of nuPES – the great performance that’s followed by an inexplicably bad one; players who are great for a match or two, then go missing for long stretches of the season – always came to the fore.

The final table:

Next season I will finish in the top 6. That’ll be my aim from the outset.

I got one player into the Team of the Season – Tomas Necid. His place was totally justified based on his goals this season. He bagged 19, in a side that averaged only 1.3 per game or thereabouts.

I was surprised in the week post-season to see some actual moving pictures in the Master League screen.

Rice had one, and so did the new main man, Lincoln. Check his final line here.

I continue not to see the infamous AI Low Cross phenomenon. This is huge. I’m not ‘coping’ with Low Cross, or ignoring it, or mitigating it, or somehow making the best of it. I’m not seeing it. No more than would be expected, anyway. The proportion of AI attacks that flow down the wings and then develop into the centre, is entirely proportionate. About a third of attacks, scaling up to half sometimes.

I count myself extremely fortunate. AI Low Cross is the main factor in the general community disenchantment that surrounds PES2019.

I now only occasionally see the PES2019 quirk that does bother me: the AI striker with a nailed-on shooting chance, who will instead shuffle off to the side and play in a teammate. I see instances of this roughly 1 in 5 matches. Not good, and I hope the patch obliterates it along with whatever causes LCS syndrome.

And so to Season 3.

Performing my customary health-check on the state of PES2019 at the moment… everything continues to be strangely ‘very good’. 9/10 good in fact.

Can you hear the drums, Rodriguinho?

After a golden session where several straight wins saw me approaching the playoff zone, I experienced a couple of bronze sessions. More defeats than wins. After 30 matches of Season 2 I am in 16th place, 12 points off the playoffs. I will remain confined to The Championship for another season.

Some late business from January deadline day: I picked up a new signing – youngster named RODRIGUINHO – from the Free Agents list. He’s a Regen of a real player. Here is his real-life counterpart, who is currently only 30 but close to retirement by the looks of things. One of those South Americans who never took the Euro bucks, and whose career currently seems to be winding to a close. An amazing in-game likeness as well. The PES database indicates he could develop to an impressive level, so I have high hopes.I got him mainly because of stats that are good for his age, and he has the Rising Shot skill. I want to score a 40-yard Rising Shot in PES2019. It’s my ambition.

I knew Rodriguinho wasn’t a good tactical fit for my setup. He has been on a down-arrow almost permanently since his arrival. The above screen popped up after he’d been at the club for an in-game month without playing.

When he did take to the pitch… he handled just as a 16-year-old Regen from the Free Agents should. Adequately, but nothing special. I saw his Rising Shot once.

Here is my First XI and squad for the backend of Season 2:

Lybohy and Cadavid are both teenage CBs from the Free Agents list. The Free Agents list is an absolute goldmine in PES2019 – at least at this stage of Master League.

Also new to my squad is that name right at the bottom of the list on the right: Fernandao. He should feature in at least one ABBA-themed punning post title.

I found Fernandao by searching in Free Agents for a player with the Heading ability. He’s also a youngster, albeit a few years older – 20. In general handling he’s very Veldwijk-like. He’s only played so far when one of the first-choice front two are unavailable. 4 goals in 6 appearances. I’m almost certainly going to give him a regular start.

The season is a write-off in terms of promotion, barring a completely unprecedented collapse by the CPU teams ahead of me. Not even Master League with its Scriptiest McScriptface on could bring that about, so Season 3 in the Championship it is.

And I’m not bothered. This is the best PES for me, at this stage, since PES2013.

The match above brought me a glorious last-minute winner. It was another match where fatigue and form forced me to play Karlsen at SS. Karlsen is one of the least-mentioned Defaults in Default history. When he plays LWF out wide, he’s anonymous for me. But played more centrally at SS just behind a CF, he’s phenomenal, and always seems to bag a goal.

In this match he bagged two goals. Then Jarvis popped up with the winner in the very last moments of injury time. A classic all-round PES encounter.

Jarvis performed some kind of ‘Gordon Strachan ’86’ mounting celebration with an advertising hoarding, and got me that GP award. And I got a trophy for the late winner.

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