There he is. Steven Gerrard, aged 16, a fresh-faced Regen, rated 74OVR. Wearing my team’s (away) kit. I saw the special ‘big signing’ Cutscene to herald Gerrard’s arrival as well.
I got him in the January window, and he’s already pretty decent. Not too great attacking-wise just now, but he bites into tackles in a very Gerrard-like way. Schweinsteiger has been shoved down the pecking order a touch.
I also picked up another promising youngster: 16-year-old Franco Baresi, rated 98OVR(!). I released Reyes, who just wasn’t doing anything for my team anymore. No other comings or goings. I now have a nice feature-rich squad of 25 players.
So it’s June 1st, and the relentless march of time marches on—as does my Master League. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through season 14 now and loving it more than ever.
Changing up to Superstar at the start of season 12 hasn’t brought me any trophies (yet), but it’s brought me probably the best PES gameplay I’ve ever known.
The current season is really, really exciting. The games are so tough, and it’s so hard to get a result sometimes, that I feel any trophy will be a major achievement.
The League title would be the ultimate. I’d love that.
I’m in a rich enough vein of form to win it. I can handle the mid- and lower-table teams comfortably now. My team seems to respond to my every wish. Want to close the game down and keep things tight? We can do that for you, boss. Want to flood the CPU half with attackers and open up its defence? We’ve got that covered too.
Sometimes I enter a kind of meditative, almost trance-like state where I feel that PES’s much criticised on-rails feel is totally absent, when my players are capable of responding instinctively and individually, like the most lithe of ballet dancers. (Who needs Player ID when we’ve already got oodles of player individuality? It all smacks of Teamvision-type-speak to me.)
But then I played a run of big matches against my rivals for the League title, and didn’t have it all my own way.
First were Newcastle at home, whom I beat easily 3-0. They have since fallen away big-time, and are no longer real contenders for the title.
Manchester City away. God this match tested my newfound pateince with PES2012 to the limit. I conceded a bad goal just before half-time, but scored my equaliser just after the break.
I’d have taken that 1-1 the way the game was shaping up, with Man City launching wave after wave of super-dribbling attacks. It was tough to cope with, but I did cope—until the 89th minute, when one of the attacks got through. I lost 2-1.
In truth, I made little of my own opportunities. I was tense and hesitant. The secret of success in PES2012 is to be decisive and flowing. That’s what wins matches.
Next were Arsenal, the league leaders, away. A tight match, looking like 0-0 all over, which again I’d have taken.
On 70 minutes that hero of the season so far, Caracciolo, latched onto a loose ball on the edge of Arsenal’s box. On his wrong foot… I tried it anyway. The ball curled deliciously around the keeper. If I’d been recording commentary on this game you would have heard a most unmanly howl at this point. And then again at full-time when the whistle went. Oh yes, this was a BIG result.
A result that briefly lifted me up to second place, one point behind Arsenal
My next match was against Manchester United, another of the challengers. This match was very different. I was at home and I expected an easy win, in truth. Perhaps that was the trouble, right there.
Man Utd scored with their first attack, and then, incredibly, went down to 10 men. This was the second CPU red card of the season. You wait ages for one…
Sadly, it didn’t translate into dominance for me. As so often, the other team’s 10 men were just as hard to break down. With this being PES2012, Man Utd were still ultra-dangerous in attack. I struggled to contain their strikers in particular.
Strange things come about in long-term Master Leagues. Guess which two strikers Man Utd have playing for them up front? Mario Balotelli for one (and he’s the team captain). And the other striker alongside him? Only one Roberto Mancini… (Yep, the same Regen Classic Mancini whom I released a couple of seasons ago.)
Balotelli scored on a breakwaway to make it 2-0 to them. I kept hitting the woodwork at the other end. Eventually I got one back (Rooney), and rubbed my hands, thinking, I’m gonna get a draw out of this... I’d have been happy with that.
But no. Another unstoppable Man Utd attack on 85 minutes, and Balotelli rifled a stylish shot into the roof of the net from 20 yards. It was a good goal actually, the sort that human players score a lot of the time.
And so I’d lost 1-3, at home, to a team that had 10 men for 75 minutes of the match. Slightly embarrassing, and a huge blow to my title push.
Here’s the table afterward:
Perhaps that Man Utd match was the decisive one for me this season. With goal difference as it is, I need Man Utd to lose twice, while not losing any more matches myself. A tall, tall order.
But not an impossible one. I’ll keep playing and trying to win. I’ll see what happens. I am still within striking distance of that coveted #1 spot and won’t give up. I want that title more badly than I’ve ever wanted any title in PES history.
But I have to at least ensure Champions League qualification for next season. And take whatever else comes as a bonus. I’m still in the FA Cup, still in the Europa League.