Month: April 2008

Pre-season 2015

Okay, it’s the pre-season negotiations and once again I don’t need any new players, but I want some. That’s just the way it is in PES Master League. It’s a twice-a-season habit. I also want to get rid of one or two players who are not living up to expectations. As they say on the Internet: Park Jyun-Hi, I am looking at you.

I’ve got silly money. Really silly money. Winning lots of games and spending no money: it’s a mathematical certainty.

I can buy anyone I want and not have to worry about the cost—within reason. Salaries in PES2008 are pretty ludicrous. I forgot to mention at this stage last season that Schwarz’s salary is around the 2200 mark. That’s just hideous. It’s a thousand more than my next-most-well-paid player. It’s fortunate this is only a computer game, otherwise my entire squad would be beating down my door asking for a pay rise.

Actually, I never offered Schwarz that much money—a bug in the system gave it to him. I’m on record as saying I dislike paying silly wages. There’s a weird bug in the transfer market this year where the amounts offered will show up as 1 point each (fee and salary). In Schwarz’s case, I offered him around 1300 points as salary, and he accepted, but when I checked the squad info screen after the transfer was complete, his salary was posted at the 2200 mark. I wasn’t happy but I had no choice. I had to accept it. It was a fait accompli. Thankfully Schwarz has been worth it, and thankfully I haven’t had any salary bill problems, but still, this transfer market bug (and it is a bug) is the kind of thing that could cause a Game Over under other circumstances. It wasn’t just the next-gen version that was rushed out unfinished…

——————-

I visited the Openness to Negotiation list on a whim, and saw a Regenned 18-year-old Andy Cole sitting there just waiting to be picked up. I offered his club a player-plus-cash deal: Park Jyun-Hi and a token 1000 points as a sweetener. For the third time on all PES2008s this year, I now have Andy Cole in my squad.

For some reason the PES2008 powers-that-be love Andy Cole. He could only be considered an above-average striker in real life (IMO), but in PES2008—wow. He’s smokin‘, as I believe the kids say.

I also picked up Shubin, a talented Ukrainian AMF whom I’ve had on my shortlist since the start. Finally my team ranking is good enough to let me get him. He wouldn’t listen to any kinds of offers before.

I made a couple of rather forlorn, almost token bids for Rooney and Torres, who are both at Barcelona in my parallel PES world. Both of them are around the age of 30 and could have a great couple of seasons left in them yet. Alas, neither Barca nor the players were interested. Even the silliest offers—30000 transfer, 4000 salary, that kind of thing—were refused. I sort of knew I wouldn’t get them anyway. Looks like I’ll have to wait until they retire and regenerate.

Neither of my new signings are good enough to go into the First XI. Among my squad, I think Giggs and Larsson and Kim Cyun Hi could swap places with my entire forward line and do just as well, or better. There are lots of players like that in my squad—players who haven’t yet had a proper chance. Season 2015 is going to be a long one, I feel. Every single player will have to perform at some stage.

It’s another rollover

Oh dear. I’ve finished season 2014 and it all went pretty badly wrong in the closing stages. This was supposed to be the season where I either won the Treble, or at least ended up with something to show for my efforts.

But I got knocked out of the Champions League at the pre-qualifying group stage and crashed out of the D1 Cup. I was doing okay in the League, snapping at Valencia’s heels. I was confident I could win the title at least this season. And I was doing great in the WEFA Masters Cup—the Euro consolation prize—where I met Marseille in the semi-final. I was regularly playing and beating Barca and Real Madrid in the league. So Marseille in Europe should be no trouble, right? Right?

First of all I was intrigued to see the formation that the CPU was using: a weird variant on the 4-3-3, a kind of 4-2-1-3 that I don’t recall seeing the CPU use before. Those two CMFs look to be too close together. The sole AMF will have his work cut out. The burden on the three forwards (two SS and a CF) is proportionally greater than in my (relatively) more sedate 4-3-3 formation.

I thought I was going to exploit Marseille’s strange formation to the full after a first leg at their ground that finished 1-2 to me. A win, and two away goals: I couldn’t help but regard the tie as effectively over. The second leg would have to be an utter disaster for me to go out now. The final here I come…

But no. Marseille turned me over 1-3 at my place, winning the semi-final 3-4 on aggregate. It was pretty pathetic. I have no idea what went wrong, really. I just seemed to be overwhelmed by frantic, fast, lethal, attacking CPU play, and none of my many raids forward came to anything.

Disappointed (this is now my eighth season without any kind of Cup win), I turned my attention back to the league. With four games to go I was a point behind Valencia, who I played next.

It was a tough, tough game. Both sides had chances. The very best chances fell to me, but it was one of those games where the woodwork and a super-goalie conspired to shut me out. 0-0 it finished, then, without any change at the top of the table. I had to win all my remaining games and hope Valencia slipped up. I was sure Valencia would at least draw one of their remaining games. My goal difference was superior. All I had to do was win all three games, and I could still do it.

I won my next game, then played Real Madrid. As I’ve mentioned once or twice, I’ve had a pretty good time against them in this division. Imagine my extreme chagrin, then, to go 0-1 down straight from their kickoff. I equalised. Real scored again. I equalised again. Real scored again. That’s how it went, all the way to the final whistle, with the final score 4-4.

Did I not like that. Not only was it an utterly stupid old-FIFA-style scoreline of the kind that I always hate to see in PES (thankfully not so much in the PSP/PS2 version of PES2008), but it let Valencia grab a three-point lead going into the final fixture. I now had to win and hope Valencia lost.

I didn’t win my last game. I lost it, pretty dismally—Osasuna beat me 2-1. I was trying too hard. But in the end it wouldn’t have mattered, as Valencia won their last game and took the Division 1 Championship by a whopping 6 points—the biggest gap there’s been between 1st and 2nd all season. I was, and am, displeased with myself.

So I end season 2014 completely empty-handed. It’s getting annoying. The only thing I’ve won in PES2008 so far (on PSP/PS2) is the Division 2 title, way back when. Nothing else. At least it means I still have everything left to play for. The hunger is still there, spurring me on. Roll on season 2015. Finishing second this season means I’ll go straight into the full WEFA Championship tournament—none of that pesky pre-qualifying nonsense. I’ll have a normal start to the season with just one game per week. As ever the Treble is the target and this time I think I’m really going to do it.

Masters blaster

The WEFA Masters Cup is mostly uncharted territory for me in PES. It’s the game’s equivalent of the UEFA Cup—or the Euro Vase as some wags have unkindly dubbed it. It’s peculiar just how devalued the competition has come to seem. I’m talking about both competitions here: the virtual, computer game one, and its real-life counterpart. I can remember a time when football players, football managers, and most of all football fans would have given everything they had (or at least the proverbial right arm or left testicle) to play in Europe, in any competition. That time is at least a decade behind us now. So what’s changed recently? What’s made the UEFA Cup (and the likes of the FA Cup) suddenly seem comparatively worthless? I don’t have any answers.

The formula for success in Master League usually deposits you in the WEFA Championships and keeps you there, season after season. If you find yourself playing in the Masters Cup it’s because something has gone wrong. You finished the previous season in the top 6 and qualified for the pre-WEFA Championships qualifying tournament—but it’s still too soon for your team and the best you can do is finish 3rd in the group.

That’s what happened to me earlier this season (and I was pretty gutted). But at least there’s a consolation prize in automatic entry to the Masters Cup. I brushed past Rangers in the last round. Now, in the quarter finals, I came up against Benfica.

I thumped Benfica 6-3 on aggregate. The three goals that Benfica scored were jokes: I was lazy, inattentive, sloppy. Conceding them disappointed me, despite winning the quarter final with ease. This keeps happening to me in PES. It’s not just something that started this year. I always let myself go from time to time—just ‘zone out’—and let solid leads slip, and miss out on trophies. It’s a bad habit and I’ve got to get rid of it.

In the league I started winning again, and briefly reclaimed top spot from Valencia. It’s now clear that the race for the Championship is between me and them. I’ve remarked before on how I find Valencia to be my toughest opponent in Division 1. I think it’s because they’re not as big a name as the Big Two (Real Madrid and Barcelona). When I play Real and Barca I play with focus and concentration. I’m lethal in front of goal. Give me a chance, or even a half-chance, and I’ll get the goal I need, and then defend for the rest of the game with patience and discipline.

But against Valencia and other relatively less well-known teams, I tend to play in a more harem-scarem, hell-for-leather style. This exposes me to more danger at the back and seems to blunt my threat up front. Go figure, as they say.

After taking #1 spot from Valencia for a whole week, I drew my next game and found myself in second place again. There are only 5 games to go—one of them against Valencia. That, I think, will be the Championship game. I just have to make sure to win all my other fixtures. And the Masters Cup as well, of course. That’d be so nice…

If Shimizu had strength…

Quite often in PES when you’re in a delicate position in the league, the performances of other teams around you will exactly mirror your own. If you win, they win; if you draw, they draw; if you lose, they lose. This is most noticeable when you’re top of the league by two points (for example) and then you lose and draw several key games—but somehow you remain top of the league by two points. Because, fortunately, the team(s) below you lost and drew those games as well…

It’s only because of this phenomenon that I’m still top of the league at the moment. The 5 games I’ve played since the mid-season negotiations have all gone poorly. Won 1, Drawn 1, Lost 3. I have no idea what I’m suddenly doing wrong.

I think the mid-season break simulates an interruption of momentum. In real life a team can be flying along and winning games for fun. One weekend there’ll be a break for International games, and when regular league play resumes that same all-conquering team suddenly finds itself barely able to string two passes together. Something like this effect, I think, is present in PES. Also the addition of new players (even just two new players) to a squad can dilute the team work equation.

Or (and this is probably the real reason) I’ve just got complacent on the back of my steady pre-mid-season form. That’s happened to me too often in PES for me to recount. A sudden drop-off of form when I unconsciously assume a foregone conclusion (the Title is mine!) has often left me trophyless at the end of the season. I must not let that happen this time.

I’ve played the first leg in the Quarter-Final of the WEFA Masters Cup—a nice bonus after being knocked out of the WEFA Championships. I’m taking the competition seriously, fielding my best players when possible. In truth this isn’t hard to do—my squad is pretty strong. There aren’t any real bench-warmers in it, apart from the still untested 17-year-old Shevchenko. His time will come.

Speaking of young players: Kim Cyun Hi seems to like the Masters Cup. He scored two goals in both legs of the Quarter Final (against Rangers), helping me on my way to a 6-1 aggregate victory. I’m sorely tempted to start playing Kim Cyun Hi from the start in as many games as possible. I took a look at his stats the other day, and had to go for a lie-down afterward. I’ve never seen anything like it. Most young players take seven seasons to get the kind of growth that Kim has shown in less than two seasons. At the moment I’m strongly reminded of Shimizu at his peak—albeit a Shimizu with actual strength. Kim Cyun Hi should outstrip Shimizu with ease. He’s already got several stats in the red and high yellow zones—at the age of 19. This kid is seriously going places.

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