The Header Master Ritual


The man. The myth. The goal machine. (Sort of.)

The Championship top scorers list after 10 matches:


The return of F FRIDAY to my Master League team’s fold has so far been an almost unqualified success. £17.9m for a player in the Championship? I hardly batted an eye at the cost. Worth every imaginary penny.

Many readers have already seen this highlights video of my 3-0 demolition of Leeds at the start of Season 3:

My favourite goal is actually Rice’s ruler-straight volley from 20 yards. But Friday’s goals were proper ‘black Schwarz’ goals: both powerful strikes from outside the box that the revered German striker used to be adored for.

Friday is 23 years old in my game. I should get 7-10 more good seasons out of him. Where will the story take him, and me? This is what Master League is all about.

The same goes for Rice, my star midfielder, the second coming of Coynborough in all but name. Master League is about building a story, building an experience, brick by brick.

My pre-season wheeler-dealering culminated in this First XI, this Squad – and this surprising new formation:


Talking points? Quite a few.

That startling 4-2-4 with WFs – a massive departure for me.

Depay in on loan, and surprisingly good. PES is individuality-lite these days, as we all know, but Depay feels like something different.

Regen Tim Cahill. He popped up on a search for header-friendly players. I’m interested in finding out if PES2017’s ‘famous’ header-friendly nature is real, or a vast unlikely conspiracy against me.

Son Heung-min. Or is it Heung-min Son? Whichever, just £8m from Spurs for an 80-rated quality player like that? How could I refuse?

Regen Aaron Lennon from my Youths. So far indistinguishable from Downing. I know they both need time though.

A few other Youths have been brought in to pad out the squad.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161025011042

But what about that 4-2-4?

I’ve been tinkering with formations a lot recently, having admitted defeat in trying to stick with my favoured 4-2-2-2.

The 4-2-4 functions quite well. It is, of course, very goals-oriented, as can be seen by the table after 10 matches:

pes2017-season-3-after-10My current ratio of 1.2 goals per game across 10 matches is a step up from my 0.8 goals per game across the whole of last season.

Alas, swashbuckling as it is, the 4-2-4 is not going to last.

The table above suggests why. 3 matches lost already. 2 drawn. Only 5 goals conceded, but they were telling goals. That’s too many points dropped.

A 4-2-4 is such a fragile flower. It’s far too midfield-lite, and midfield is where the AI gets friskiest when it decides to get frisky.

Rice and Petsos cope well enough, as long as my front 4 are firing on all cylinders and pinning the AI back. But when the goals aren’t flying in, and the AI is in the mood to be stubborn – which is often – I really feel the lack of at least one extra body in midfield.

I’m toying with the notion of pulling back one of the front two to play as a central AMF. That would make it a 4-5-1 formation, and I’m not sure I can stomach that. 4-5-1 is one of the key factors involved in destroying ‘real-life’ football as a spectator sport.

Whatever I choose to do, Lobato’s days are numbered.

Lobato is a peculiar example of a player who plays below his stats for me. I’ve had him for almost 2 full seasons now, since the mid-season window of Season 1, and can barely remember a single good thing he’s done. I think I remember him getting an important goal in a match back in Season 1 or something. That’s about it.

I will be cashing in on Lobato in the coming midseason window, barring a miraculous Friday-style burst-to-life routine.

Lobato is officially a resounding flop for me. Proof, if proof were needed, that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for Pro Evo success. Don’t even start me about these headers. I’ve now played lots of games with a 4-2-4, flung dozens of crosses of all types into the mixer, and scored maybe one header.

One final thing today – a video oddity.

For many editions of PES now it has been my habit to bring my GK up to take late corners when I’m behind. It enables me to have all my outfield players in or around the box. Leave it late enough and even if the AI wins the ball back, the ref usually blows the final whistle, so there’s hardly ever danger to your own goal.

Hardly ever…

We’re used to seeing AI teams fluff glaring opportunities like that. My respect for the PES2017 AI was already pretty high, but went up a notch when its advanced striker took that potshot from 35 yards.

The game was lost anyway, but I was still relieved not to concede there. I didn’t want my imaginary goalkeeper to feel bad about his life. Isn’t that peculiar?

Thursday, I don’t care about you

friday-returnsGot him.

F. FRIDAY became my star striker in the first half of Season 2 – after I’d agreed to sell him, to Rotherham, for about £2.5m.

Naturally gutted, I attempted to buy him back at the first opportunity, which arose only now, at the end of the season.

Rotherham wanted a lot of money…

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161024193709

I didn’t have £17.8m, as you can see.

I started selling players, shipping them out at a rate of knots. It was like the scene in a sinking ship when everybody starts chucking ballast overboard. All so I could get the Black Schwarz back on board.

Bye-bye NIVET, it was nice knowing you, even if you did next to nothing as first-choice right-sided AMF for most of the season. Still, you brought in £8m when I really needed it, so there’s that.

Bye-bye DOST, I liked the way you sometimes seemed to be the White Friday but somehow never were. Another £8m. Impressive.

Friday is a Coventry City player once more. Lets see if he’s a rare example of a player going back to a club and being a success again…

Season 2 has indeed ended – miserably. My last few sessions were low quality, but still enjoyable. A hell of a lot of costly draws long since put paid to any faint chance of finishing in the top 10, or even in the top 6.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161024192500

If just half of those 20 draws had been the wins that they could have been (I love conceding late equalisers), I’d have been in contention.

I’m still in the player-acquisition phase of my post-season 2/pre-season 3 period.

I’ve made some interesting signings that have prompted some very interesting formation thoughts, but I’ll get to all that next time. I’ve played the first match of Season 3 with my squad and formation both still very much a work in progress.

I think the effort required to get Friday back is going to cost me. I have had to resort to the old ‘padding out a threadbare squad with Youths’ stratagem. Which always sounds good in theory, (‘I’m totally going to focus on Youth development!’) but rarely translates to anything by way of success on the pitch.

Here’s what happened 10 minutes into Game 1 of Season 3:

I won that match 2-0 and currently sit 4th in the table.

Season 3 hasn’t yet properly got underway. That won’t happen until the transfer window is completely over and I’ve got my settled squad and formation in mind.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161024191440

I spent a few matches toward the end of the season experimenting with some alternative formations. This PES seems the most formation-critical PES ever. I rarely bother tinkering as the seasons go by, but I can see myself having several formations stored and brought out whenever the situation demands.

I tried the unthinkable – a 3-5-2, and it didn’t really work out. Also a 4-3-3, something I haven’t played with in PES for many editions – and it likewise didn’t really work out.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161024193609

Of course much of the not-working-out will be down to other factors. The players I was using, the fact that I’ve yet to really hit my stride with PES2017 (a puzzle in its own right), and the tendency this game has to just nullify you if it feels like it.

Next time I’ll be well through the transfer window and embarked properly on Season 3.

Which has to be a promotion year, I feel, or things really will be taking a turn for the bizarre.


Daisycutter’s club

I’m firmly mid-table in Season 2 of PES2017, on Professional difficulty. After a brief rally that saw me nuzzling the outer edges of the top 6, I’m now 12 points off the top 6 with 10 matches left. That’s probably not enough time to haul myself into promotion contention. Even the most generous ML league table script would struggle to look away whistling while I hauled myself up from here:


I would pretend to be all ashamed and embarrassed about being mired in Division 2 on Professional – but pretending is all it’d be. I’m having much too good a time to be bovvered, really, about not measuring up to some notional yardstick of performance that I don’t subscribe to anyway.

Master League players do not compete with each other. I also don’t think they play to ‘beat the game’. They’re in it for the self-contained experience – for the journey, if I may say so. Nobody walks the road with you. The whole point of walking this road is that there’s nobody else there to spoil the fun. It’s just something for you, and you alone, and that is its glory.

It’s time to talk about long-rangers in PES2017 – or their absence, by and large.

Since day 1 of PES2017, I have scored two goals that could be classed as long-rangers. There was this one by Hettich, which earned him the accolade of My Favourite Player, until I sold him not long after.

I don’t regard that goal as a true long-ranger, on account of its placement in the net. The kind of long-ranger I am talking about is struck from 30-40 yards and rockets into the postage stamp corner of the net, preferably cannoning off the underside of the bar or the side of the post. Or even, in the best cases, the underside of the bar and the side of the post. Netting a thundering, blasting shot from decent range is one of the principal joys of Pro Evo, and of life.

So far, I have yet to score one of these in PES2017.

This isn’t a moan. I’m not paranoid that there are no long-range goals in PES2017. I have seen examples. (So please don’t post any stray videos you’ve come across in forums. I’ve probably seen them already. Although I am interested in your own.)

The forums opine, based on scanty evidence as usual, that long-range shooting is reserved for the top-rated players. This makes no sense given the abundance of long-range goals throughout the lower divisions of ‘real life’, but it is just the kind of thing that PES Productions are capable of doing.

Long-range goals were too common in PES2016. I thought the balance was just right in PES2015 (the most underrated PES game since PES2009, or even arguably since PES4).

Maybe the keepers are the key in PES2017. They’re the best PES keepers we have ever seen, of that there’s no doubt.

Here’s the other quasi-long-ranger I mentioned. I scored this just yesterday. It’s an interesting one, as it’s a bit of a daisycutter that appears to fool an unsighted keeper from a diagonal distance of 25+ yards:


Running like a Gauld

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161017120112After the encouraging upturn of fortunes I reported in the last post, I embarked on the most awful run ever. From one extreme to the other. 8 games without a win, just like it says there.

Nothing I did worked. Everything I did failed. My results for December:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161014123139

Other than that Wigan anomaly, I can’t account for what happened.

I’m finding PES2017 a high-quality experience, for the most part. The AI is giving me a great game, every game, on Professional difficulty, a season and a half in. Which doubtless says more about me than about PES2017. But whatever it is, I’ll happily take it.

I spoke on Friday about the booboo I made with one F Friday, a player who suddenly became so good that my playfully-bestowed moniker of ‘The Black Schwarz’ started to seem more than just playful. Sadly, he only came good after I’d agreed to sell him.

He’s gone now. I couldn’t buy him back in the transfer window — which is fair enough, really. If you drop a clanger like that one, you must expect there to be consequences. No consequences, no game.

I had another striker lined up.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161014123435

B DOST is my very first press-conference-cutscene signing. He’s a big, chunky striker, not too dissimilar to Friday, but has yet to gel with the side. I’m not writing him off just yet thought. Fool me once, shame on me, or whatever that thing was Bush said. (Oh, and I know who B DOST’s ‘real life’ self is, and where he plays. I am aware that so-called real-life football exists. I deliberately choose to ignore it here. PES is better.)

DOST appears in the following mini-compilation, getting his first goal. My new loan signing, Remy, is also there, getting his debut goal (which should have been Rice’s).

There are also a couple of interesting moments from general play. A professional foul that wasn’t. And finally… well… you’ll see. It used to be said of Pro Evo that you could play it to death and still see something new every session. The explanation of today’s post title is at the end of this clip:

PES2017 is a 9/10 game for me right now, let down by two things.

First is the skewed finances in Master League that make it far, far too easy to buy and sell players. I don’t like being able to get Remy on loan, either.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161017123525

And then there’s the peculiar lack of fouls in the majority of matches. There is no question that this is a deliberate policy decision by PES Productions (not Konami). And it is arguably the stupidest game design decision ever made in the history of game design decisions. ‘But nobody wants the game stopped every 10 seconds for fouls!’ Who says something like that? People, of course, and in enough numbers for PES Productions (not Konami) to take heed.

Well I do want the game stopped for fouls – every bloody second if need be! If that’s how the player plays, then that’s just what has to happen. Let the player learn how to play so as not to concede fouls. That’s the proper Pro Evo way. Not this horrible ‘continuous play’ ethos.

Imagine a Formula One game in which you were not allowed to crash – where the car was gently guided back onto the track without allowing any interruption to the gameplay. Where any crashes with other cars were just ignored for the sake of ‘flow’. That would be the stupidest, most insulting thing ever, wouldn’t it?

There are fouls in PES2017, we must acknowledge. There are matches with a proper abundance of fouls – about 1 match in 6 for me. And what wonderful matches those matches are! What a stark contrast they make with the no-fouls matches, which are the majority.

I appreciate that nobody makes football games for the over-20s anymore. I’m a long way outside EA’s and Konami’s target demographic. They both must know that they are never getting any Ultimate shiteClub cash from me.

But would it kill them to give us a simple referee strictness toggle switch, and let us oldies (of all ages) just go and play by ourselves like we want to? Why not throw us this bone?

You know those moments when a player gets clattered, and spreads his arms wide as if to say ‘Ref!’? I would like to see each and every one of those instances given as a foul and a free kick, and play stopped.

This match here was my game of the season so far – the fouls/free kicks count is not a coincidence:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161017125745

Even a 6-4 fouls count isn’t really enough for me. 10-10 would be about right.

You can say ‘PC modding community!’ all you like, but I play PES on a console.

Anyway, the medication is kicking in, so onto other things. Here is my squad for the second half of the season:

pes2017-mid-season-2-first-xi-and-squadLICHT, NIVET, EDINHO, and Regen LESCOTT are emergency Youths, plucked from obscurity in the grand tradition of a panicking Master League player who messed up his transfer window and needs to fill some gaps.

I sold Castledine, which brings down the curtain on last season’s Lennon-and-McCartneyesque partnership, one of PES2016’s highlights.

I’m still not out of the running for the playoffs.

9 points adrift, a few wins will see the table obliging me:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161017125819

I’m on Professional, and I’ve shown that I can get a run going. Once all the new players gel – and that Team Spirit of 80 shows they are gelling – things will change, I’m sure of it.

My noob errors in the transfer market have probably crimped my style this season enough to consign me to a Season 3 in Division 2, but we will see.


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