Month: May 2008

Bogey team at ten o’clock

Osasuna. They’ve only gone and done it again. I’m officially declaring them my bogey team. Forget Valencia, Barca, Real, Deportivo—when Osasuna are in town, I tremble. They’ve pulled off yet another one of their patented 1-0 victories over me. I was cursing the place down at ten o’clock in the morning. Is it ever too early to swear?

I think it’s the third season in a row that they’ve managed to do it, and each time the game has always played out the same way. They got their early goal and somehow resisted all two million of my subsequent attempts on their goal. Their goal came from a cross that ricocheted off my defender—Maldini, one of the top defenders in the entire game, whose astronomic stats were unable to stop him becoming a statue and letting the ball simply bounce off his knees, ignoring my repeated and determined hammering of the Square button to clear it. The ricochet travelled across the six yard box direct to the feet of Osasuna’s lone striker, who strangely blasted it back across the area instead of into the net. Happily for him, though, my other top-rated centre-back, Fernandez, was keen to deflect it into my net off his knees for an amusing own-goal. So that was fine.

The rest of the game, despite me having the regulation bazillion chances, was curious. Osasuna had some good possession and created further chances of their own. They had 12 chances overall, which is about 11 more than they usually make against me. I knew the game was going to end 1-0 to them almost from the start. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps. But no, probably not.

Newly-promoted AIK gave me a tough game. Who the hell are they, anyway? I literally cannot remember ever playing them before, although I know that I must have, even if the last time was down in Division 2 all those seasons ago.

After the Osasuna farce I really wanted a win to stay in close touch with the top of the table. So I really focused hard and set out to keep another very determined CPU team at bay. If I could shut them out at the back, that’d be half the job done. It worked and I was 2-0 up heading into the last ten minutes. Then, of course, they had to get their regulation, automatic CPU goal. It had to be 2-1 for the last few minutes. There’s just no way of avoiding it sometimes. (Too many times.)

I held on for the win. Then came the season’s first league fixture against Barcelona. I hammered them 6-3. Pulverised them. Andy Cole got a hat-trick in this game. Kim Cyun Hi got two goals. I forget who got the sixth. I was 6-0 up by 65 minutes. Again, the CPU started scoring automatic goals, but not even a script could threaten to overturn this result.

At the moment, the best all-round striker currently on my books is Andy Cole. He’s neck-and-neck with Kim Cyun Hi for top scorer. In the long term I suspect Kim Cyun Hi will easily eclipse him, but for now Cole is the main man. Giggs isn’t too far behind either. In fact, come to think of it, all of my players are great. I haven’t got one turkey. Even Larsson, who I’ve had for about nine seasons now but have left underused and thus underdeveloped, has started to come through. Perhaps only Donk is a weak link, but he never lets me down on the rare occasions when he stands in for one of the other CBs.

Fear of the dark

I’m going through one of those spells with PES at the moment. I’m still playing with enjoyment and absorption in my ongoing Master League story, but my mind is partly elsewhere. It’s PES fatigue—the result of playing the game too much for too long.

PES fatigue is affecting you when you see what is average and poor about the game all too clearly, and you see what is good and great about it very dimly—or not at all. I’ve had spells of fatigue before during this PES year, and I’ve had them in previous PES years as well. The solution is to play the game a bit less, of course.

Right now there’s just so much going on in the PES world and in the world of football gaming in general. PES2009 is but a relative hop, skip, and a jump away. I’ve got HIGH hopes. And what’s that coming over the hill? It’s a monster—it’s FIFA09, the game that could potentially change everything. Konami and Seabass had better be really, really focused this year or they’ll pay the price. I’m sure of it. Their many friends in the gaming media are very unlikely to give them another pass, as happened last year.

I also have unfinished business with FIFA08. I never have mastered that game on any difficulty level higher than Professional. It’s time for PES fans like me to stop feeling ashamed of our newfound regard for ‘the dark side’. The dark side is no longer dark. Those PES fans who insist that the dark side is still dark have got their eyes firmly closed.

Away from the world of football gaming, I have other gaming needs that aren’t being met right now. Is it a crime to have unplayed copies of Halo3, Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4, GTA4, and others? Yes, it is a crime, or it darn well should be. I also have Ninja Gaiden 2 and MGS4 arriving over the next few weeks. So, all in all, a natural break is coming.

The daily blogging will carry on. The difference will be that I’ll talk a lot more about other football games, particularly FIFA. Inevitably this means I’ll be slower to get through the PES seasons…

…of which today’s post is an example. I have only one more league game to report on, rather than the usual clutch of games.

It was my second game of season 2017. The opponents were Atletico Madrid, a decidedly odd team. They were relegated to Division 2 a few seasons ago, but came back up at the start of last season and have been one of Division 1’s best sides ever since. They thumped me in a key fixture last year.

This season’s corresponding fixture stank to high heaven. I was talking above about how PES fatigue makes you see the bad side of the game all too well… This game ended 4-4, not the kind of scoreline I like to see in PES. I think the reason why high-scoring games are relatively common this year is that defending has been made harder—or arguably impossible in certain circumstances. The CPU will get its goal(s) and that’s all there is to it. This is probably unfair, probably inaccurate—but hey, PES fatigue and all that. I’m afflicted.

At least all my strikers got on the scoresheet again. Cole played in this game and broke his duck for the season. Giggs got another tidy finish from the outside left position. Kim Cyun Hi got his 5th goal in two games. And Dos Santos rounded things off with my fourth. Atletico wrecked it all by keeping pace with me, scoring almost immediately whenever I scored. The spoilsports.

We can be unsung heroes

Season 2017 got underway with a high-scoring game against FC Basel. My newly-positioned central stiker, Kim Cyun Hi, scored 4 goals in a sensational performance. He had a hat trick by half time, and then knocked in his fourth goal partway through the second half. The final score was 6-2.

I’ve almost given up trying to keep clean sheets. It seems to me that PES2008, more than any other ‘classic’ PES, simply isn’t very ‘clean-sheet-friendly’. Or, again, is it me? I’ve made a big deal out of my averageness at the game—is being relatively poor in defence just another aspect of being average? I always think that I should be better at defence after spending many seasons on PES5 conceding less than 10 goals. If I made up my mind not to concede a goal, I usually could do it. It doesn’t seem to work in PES2008.

My other two goals against Basel came from my other two strikers. Giggs out on the left bagged himself one, and Del Piero on the right—playing instead of an unfit Andy Cole—also contributed with a fine drive from an acute angle. It’s always good when all of your strikers get on the scoresheet. I like to imagine that it improves their collective morale and sharpens them up for the next game, although this is probably wishful thinking.

Del Piero, incidentally, is one of my squad’s unsung heroes. I’ve had him as a Regen for a few seasons now and his stats have suddenly shot up. I most often play him as an AMF in place of Camacho or Dos Santos when required. For some reason I always think of Del Piero solely as a midfielder, despite him being extremely handy as a CF.

I’ll try to focus upon Del Piero—and my other unsung heroes—in due course. For now, I look at Del Piero in particular and wonder if I should pick him instead of Dos Santos. Del Piero, although right-footed, has those two magic words—both sides—that enable him to play over on the ‘wrong’ side of the pitch. However, I like to match players’ footedness with their positions. I just think a left-sided role demands a left-footed player. Eveything seems to work better that way—at least in my mind, which is arguably where any team has to work first if it’s to work at all.

Maybe I should have got a left-footed AMF in the pre-season. I spent the negotiation period not getting any new players. I did want a couple of new players, and tried for some top targets (Shaw, Bos, Khumalo) but they wouldn’t come to me after two attempts each and I just gave up.

My squad, although brilliant (if I may say so myself), felt a little stale at times last season. Yes, I won the Treble, but in the League it was more a case of the top CPU team, Valencia, mysteriously throwing it away. I lost or drew too many games, I finished the season top of the league on goal difference, with a win average of just 60% and an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

I’m definitely suffering from PES fatigue. I suffer from it at some point every PES year. I’m only human, and familiarity breeds contempt, and worse things happen at sea, and so on and so forth… This year has been my worst year for PES fatigue—for several reasons. For one thing there’s the startling emergence of FIFA and its beguiling new style of football gaming. There’s also the fact of so many other great games on the next-gen consoles all clamouring for my attention. I still haven’t played my copy of Mass Effect, and I know I want to.

But the main reason is that I’ve probably played the PSP version of PES2008 just a bit too much. At times over the past few months, PES on the PSP has been the last thing I’ve done before going to sleep and the first thing I’ve done after waking up—for weeks at a time. There’s only so much of that kind of thing that any game could withstand. PES is only human too.


Pre-season 2017

Season 2016 was a good one. I won the Treble—League, Cup, European Cup—but it left me unsatisfied for a lot of reasons.

Number one was that I felt I shouldn’t have won the Treble. I messed up the start of the league season and should never have been able to overtake the CPU team at the top. When PES indulges in macro-scripting, it’s often not very subtle about it.

What does it all mean for season 2017 and beyond? It means that I now want to win a proper Treble. I want to win it in style. I want to dominate in the league and win it comfortably. I’d like one of my players to take the Golden Boot (my early money’s on Andy Cole to do that). I also want to move my team up to #1 in the overall club rankings. I can’t believe Barcelona are at #1. They’ve done nothing of note in this Master League. Nothing.

After several negotiations periods where I didn’t get any new players, I felt that I should at least have a look for some. My squad is great—some of my players are at the very top of their game and could be described as brilliant—but overall things feel a little stale. Also, I do have some lightweights. A couple of my players never seem to get a game and remain underused and underdeveloped. Larsson in particular—a great PES striker—has suffered from lack of use. On the odd occasions throughout the seasons when international callups, injuries, and fatigue have forced me to use him, I’ve found him to be a player of low ability compared to the rest of my team. It shows, sometimes painfully.

I’d like to offload Larsson, and by this stage Donk, for some replacements with considerably better stats. Money is certainly no object. Even after my mammoth wages bill is taken into account, I’ve got a staggering 150,000+ points to play with, as the blurry picture shows. Could I get it up to 1,000,000 before PES2009 comes out? I think I could. (But would it go up to 1,000,000? I don’t think there’s room for another digit there.)

I called up the list of All Players, and sorted according to the Attack stat. I was pleased to note that I already had most of the top-rated players in my squad. Shaw was the top-rated according to Attack. I’d never managed to get him despite many years of trying. He’s 25 now, and still just young enough for it to be worth getting him. If I leave it any longer he’ll be in decline.

I forget which club he was at. It wasn’t one of the big ones—it was somebody like Parma. Whoever it was, I offered them 40,000 points plus Larsson. I offered Shaw himself a salary of 3000 points, eight hundred more than my next-best-paid player, Schwarz. I thought I was bound to get Shaw. I’d just won the Treble. My club ranking was second only to Barcelona. There was no reason why he wouldn’t come, surely?

He wouldn’t come. Or his club wouldn’t deal. I don’t know which it was. (Another innovation I’d love to see in PES2009: detailed reasons why transfer bids break down.) What should I amend for my next offer? The points offered, the player offered, the salary offered, what? There was no way of knowing for sure.

So I played safe and bumped up the points on offer to the maximum possible. 59,999. I don’t know why you can’t offer any more points than that. 59,999 seems a pretty arbitrary figure to me. If it’s limited to five digits, why not 99,999? Anyway, I offered Larsson in part exchange again, and this time I offered Shaw 3500 salary points. And once again it was all refused.

I gave up at that point. I was also trying for a couple of other players as well. The excellent Bos would have been a welcome addition to my defence, but he turned his nose up at all offers. Khumalo wouldn’t come for any money. Nobody wanted to come to me. I don’t know what it was, and I didn’t care to find out. I skipped all the remaining negotiations weeks. To hell with them. I’ve got a great squad anyway. Larsson can still be built up into a great player. I played my one pre-season friendly, against Rangers (a 1-1 draw), and moved onto the season proper.

On the First XI front, it’s time for Andy Cole to become an automatic first choice. He’s just too good. He’s not just a handy goal-poacher, as he was in real-life (when he was in the right mood). He’s also fast, skilful, and unerringly just there, in the right place, at the right time, to get crucial goals. I think he could win the Golden Boot in this coming season. We shall see.

Kim Cyun Hi moves to his natural position of central striker. There’s a sense in which Kim Cyun Hi is on trial for me this season. He came highly recommended, but so far I’ve only seen flashes. He is still very young, and probably has yet to fully mature. When he’s been great for me, he’s been great for me down the middle, and he’ll get a full season to prove his worth.

Dropping Schwarz to the bench for the sake of Kim Cyun Hi might seem a bit foolhardy, but it’s a bit of a no-brainer for me. As good as Schwarz is (and he’s very good), I just never seem to get the best out of him. He scores a lot fewer goals than I think he should. And I can see that Kim Cyun Hi, if used correctly, is a striker more in keeping with my pass-and-move style of play.

Otherwise I’m making no changes to the First XI. It’s largely a cosmetic selection anyway, as ever. Very few games will see this exact team take to the field. Over on the left of midfield, I did look long and hard at Dos Santos. He’s 28 now and his best years are almost behind him. However, I don’t have any other dedicated left-footed AMFs in my squad (something to shop for in the mid-season), so he keeps his place for now.