Month: May 2015

There’s more to life than bookings, you know, but not much more

PES2015 pirlo corner

I probably finish more than half of my matches with 10 men. Because it’s PES2015, it’s Superstar, and I’m defending most of the time in a furiously violent fashion, like a possessed demon. That’s right: like a demon who’s been possessed by a demon.

I’m going for my very first title on PES2015. This is a pretty big deal. It’s going to be June next week. Space-year 2016 is shimmering into view. Can you see it, out there on the horizon? I can.

I want to get to some kind of conclusion with a bit of time to spare. And this is the hardest-ever PES.

It’s the hardest-ever PES for me. Other perspectives are always available.

I won the big crunch 6-pointer encounter with Manchester United. The kind of fixture that, in real life, Sky Sports would trumpet for weeks in the build-up, with dramatic operatic music pumping in the background. Carmina Burana never gets old.

I won the Big Match by two goals to nil, and it was quite easy in the end. Almost anti-climactic. But I played with 100% focus and was duly rewarded. Considering I was playing away from home against the then-runaway league leaders, it was a great result and performance to match.

PES2015 has a few characteristic little moments. There’s the big dipper-style volleys that come along occasionally. And there are also the delicate directed headers that come along occasionally. Here’s Robben scoring my opener against Manchester United in the Big Game, directing a delicate one past the ageing De Gea:

This was Man Utd’s starting XI and bench:

Man Utd lineup for the big match

Bergkamp is the only Classic player in this ML world whose name I have edited. I edited him before understanding that if I did any more I’d have to do all of them. That seemed a whole lot of work and so I never bothered. With the limited chunks of time available, I’d rather just play the game.

Here is the table with 7 matches remaining in the season:

Season 11 after 31

5 points clear with a comparable goal-difference to my nearest challengers. Going 4-3-3 has paid off in that sense. But boy, do you have to work hard defensively.

Manchester United have fallen back a touch after my defeat of them at their place. Liverpool. the current reigning champions, have emerged as the likeliest challengers.

After the Big Match I suffered a baffling home defeat against Crystal Palace.

0-1 down from almost the first minute, my frustrations mounted. I was down to 9 men by half-time. I’ve mentioned before that I actually relish playing football games under such conditions. Quite a few times in my footy gaming life, I have pulled off miracle results with 10 or 9 or even 8 men.

Alas, this wasn’t one of those times and I suffered a terrible 0-3 defeat. That’s one of PES2015’s hallmarks too. It punishes you more severely than previous editions.

I continue to see bookings rain down on my team like confetti. I’m easily the dirtiest team in the league, with greyed-out players permanently filling the bottom of my squad list.

I’ve defended with a lot more finesse in other football games. In this football game, stopping the AI is paramount.

But needs must. On Monday, it’ll be June. Traditionally the time when thoughts turn to the other end of summer and the imminence of a new football gaming year.

Me, I’m still firmly rooted in the present, and focusing all my time and attention on PES2015. I want that title this season.

And I want that Treble next season.

I heart Stevie G

Gerrard arrives

I’ve pushed on through the January transfer window of Season 11 in my rather singular PES2015 Master League career.

I didn’t get any new players. But who needs new players, when you’ve got Stevie G? I’ll get to his heroics.

I’ve only got £32m in the bank anyway. To buy anybody better than the players I’ve already got, I’d need to pay all of that (if not more) as the transfer fee alone. Then I’d need a lot more to absorb the new player’s wages.

So I’m still rocking along with the same squad I’ve had for several seasons now.

Still playing on Superstar, 2-bar passing — which, I now accept in my heart, is where I will stay for the duration of my time with this game. Other, hardier football gamers than I will have to scale the heights of 0-bar and 1-bar.

2-bar is where the game plays best for me and where I’ll stay now until the end.

When will that end be? With June around the corner, I’m starting to think about the endgame.

Will I play PES2015 until the eve of PES2016? I doubt it, but given the difficulty of the game, it’s possible.

Traditionally, I play a PES until I snag a Treble (League, Cup, European Cup). In recent years, it’s been until I get a Quadruple (Treble+World Club championship) or Quintuple (Treble+World Club+Community Shield).

With International management in PES2015, a Sextuple is theoretically possible, missus, if you consider the World Cup as part of the deal.

That’s not how I roll. I don’t meddle with International management in ML, and I don’t believe I ever will.

So, all that considered, I’ll settle for a Treble, but would like a Quadruple or Quintuple. It all depends how I’m feeling about PES2015 as a whole if and when the Treble moment arrives.

At the moment PES2015’s endgame, whatever form it takes, is a long way off.

A typical season of ML in PES2015 throws so many obstacles in the way of progress, that it’s possible I might never get near a Treble, never mind any of the others.

At the moment in Season 11 I’m still in the FA Cup. I”m also through to the last 16 of the Europa League. I easily swatted aside one of the made-up Konami teams in the Round of 32.

And I’m sitting pretty at 2nd in the league table thanks to some heroic performances.

On Sunday night, mere hours after the much-maligned (by me) real-life Steven Gerrard was scoring his last-ever goal in the Premier League, his digital counterpart in my ML world was scoring a massive, massive goal for me.

Away at Norwich, I went 1-0 down. Going behind is always a heart-sinking moment for me in PES2015. The game makes it so difficult to come back for the win. A win is what I needed in order to stay in touch at the top of the league.

With 1 minute of normal time remaining, I got it back to 1-1 thanks to a messy goal from Robben, and 1-1 felt as if it would be the final score. Norwich kicked off, and slipped immediately into the PES2015 AI’s frustrating keep-ball routine. I chased and harried, but wasn’t getting near the ball. The final whistle would go at any moment. I’d have to pretend I was happy with the draw,

All 4 minutes of added-on time were over when I scooped up possession in midfield. That’s when the whistle usually goes, but this time it didn’t, and:

A bread and butter goal in any football game, but in the context of my attempt to win my first league title on PES2015, this was one of the most important goals I’ve scored in all 11 seasons.

And how eerily similar it was to the much-maligned (by me) real-life Stevie G’s consolation finish against Stoke on Sunday!

The goal left the table looking like this:

Season 11 after 25

Which sets things up very nicely indeed for my next league fixture. Which is against… MANCHESTER UNITED.

Talk about a big game.

At this stage in the season, with so many fixtures left, it’s a title 6-pointer in name only. PES2015 is far too capable of chucking a spanner in the works and indulging in all sorts of results-managing and macro-scripting shenanigans. So I’m not getting too excited.

But I’m still fairly excited. I’ll report on how this match went on Friday.

Four Three Three

A new era has begun for me on PES2015 – well, probably.

First things first, my new home kit is nothing extraordinary: just a plain all-sky-blue, with a lighter sky blue section on the back of the shirt and the shorts, which appears as a brighter white lozenge on the players as they run around on the field – like this:

Season 11 new kits

Not an intentional effect. This was one of my quickest and laziest-ever new kit designs. It does me.

The big departure for season 11 is in my new swashbuckling formation.

After 10 seasons of struggle and hard graft that saw me actually use the much-hated (by me) 4-5-1, which was serviceable but uninspiring (exactly like the real thing), it occurred to me that I had yet to try an all-out, swashbuckling approach as in PES of old.

Of course, there are many variants of 4-3-3. Here’s the narrow 4-3-3 formation I finally went with – I remember playing PES2010 with something similar:

PES2015 Season 11 formation

That screenshot is taken from the middle of a match where I’d already picked up yellow cards. Crouch and Forlan are CFs. Robben is an SS.

That young midfielder on the right there isn’t yet my first choice, but as ever in PES he’s a great, great player. Gerrard has only ever been a continental-class player in real life (and even that’s possibly overstating it), but in PES, every time I’ve had the fabled Stevie G, he’s been phenomenal, truly world class, always living up to the hyper-idealised image that every Liverpool fan has of him.

PES2015 is no different.

A new star for PES2015

The only slight niggle at the moment is that I’ve yet to score a typical long-range Stevie G screamer with him. It’ll come. He’s a Regen and still only 20 or so.

Back to that new 4-3-3: I’m now experienced enough with PES2015’s defensive system to have some measure of confidence fielding just one DMF. That would have been suicidal in my early-to-mid seasons. Nowadays most of the threat comes from the game disabling my defenders’ reactions. Good defensive work comes from anticipating the nerf and compensating in other areas. It’s about knowing when it’s right to swarm the ball-carrier, or when to stand off and cover passing lanes, or when to just slide in and take the bugger out (accepting the card, whatever colour, that follows).

This 4-3-3 is lots of fun to play with, and surprisingly often seems to work like a 4-5-1 (spit), with Robben and Forlan often popping up in deep midfield alongside Pirlo.

When the attacking bonus kicks in, I get the occasional match where the momentum swings to me and stays with me. Then I run absolutely rampant over the opposition. Such as here in the Europa League, away to Valencia:

Season 11 thumping Valencia

And here in the League, at home to Chelsea:

Season 11 Thumping Chelsea

Two unprecedented results. In previous seasons I rarely scored more than 3 goals in any match.

Alas, it’s not all goals and action. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the game clamps down and produces the same kind of gritty 0-0 or 1-1 that I grew to know so well.

Here was the table after 12 matches of the 4-3-3 – look at my puny goals-scored column:

Season 11 after 12

That was before my 6-0 against Chelsea. My goal difference is much healthier now.

That table is not going to make me declare that the 4-3-3 experiment has been a success. 4-3-3 has never really worked in PES since PES2010.

I’ve been at or near the top of the table at this stage in every recent season of PES2015, and fallen away. Having played a session or two after the above screenie, I can report that the game is already closing me down in lots of ways. 4-3-3 is not going to be a procession by any means.

At least I’ve made it to the Europa League Round of 32. I’m still in the FA Cup. I’m near the top of the table with mid-season coming into sight. I’m hopeful. That’s all that can be said at this stage.

What a Conti

While last week’s two special posts were going on, season 10 was wending to a close. Season 10 has now come to an end, and with it has ended a whole era of how I approach this game we call PES2015. I will come to that later.

I almost did something special at the end of season 10. I almost won the title. I should have won the title.

With just nine matches to go, this was the top 4 of the Premier League:

PES2015 Season 10 almost there

At this stage I genuinely thought I was going to win the title. Put it this way: I can’t recall being in that kind of position in any Master League and not winning the title.

But a few too many costly draws put paid to my hopes. Here’s what the actual final table looked like at season’s end:

PES2015 Season 10 final table

I was disappointed to miss out on the title, but in a strange way even more disappointed to end up finishing outside the Champions League spots as well. This game punishes slip-ups more thoroughly than any other PES I can remember.

I scored one noteworthy goal during the run-in. This one comes courtesy of D CONTI, a journeyman DMF who has quietly been one of the stars of this PES for me. Whisper it, but I’d take D CONTI over A PIRLO any day of the week, I’ve not seen Pirlo do anything like this:

I know, I know, Different strokes and all that. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and the rest of it.

The goal was a highlight in an arduous sequence of matches where I struggled to make anything happen. I deserved my whimpering finish to the season.

Most insultingly of all, the post-season Club Rankings show that I’ve barely shifted at all from last season’s dismal ranking of 64:

PES2015 Season 10 ranking

At least this year I’m within sniffing distance of one other Premier League team.

The final tale of the tape:

PES2015 Season 10 final standings

13 draws did me in. It just isn’t good enough. And here’s where we get to my change of heart in how I approach PES2015.

Staring at the table and the Season Record just above, I started to understand what’s holding me back. Fannying about with 4-5-1 formations. ‘Respecting the game.’ These and other elements of caution and fear are holding me back.

I’ve got a great crop of players. There are not many better in this whole ML world than the likes of Friedel, Heinze, Pirlo, Carrick, Forlan, Drogba, Robben, and Crouch. Pound for pound, this is one of the best squads I’ve had in any ML.

I need to start cutting teams’ throats out there on the pitch, I need to bluff and bluster and bully my way to getting the precious wins needed to win trophies.

You can survive in PES2015 using the safety-first, softly-softly approach, as I have discovered over the past 10 seasons. You can even win the odd trophy. I bet you could even win the title using the method.

But Trebles would be hard to come by playing tippy-tappy, cautious football. I want to win THE LOT, and soon, and there’s only one thing for it.

It’s time for a change of attitude. This is the change:

For season 11 I’m going to play some version of 4-3-3, from start to finish, and see what happens. No more nip and tuck. I’m going for it in season 11. All out, no nonsense, balls to the wall. Let’s see what happens.

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