The Expendables

Season 5 of Master League on PES2016. This is where things should be taking off – and they are.

Last time I mentioned getting a ‘name’ player and making do with Youth Regens to bulk out the remainder of my squad. I’ve gone ahead and done that.

So who did I get? I got another ageing striker, that’s who I got. I’m building a kind of Dad’s Army, in some ways. My very own Expendables.

Here’s the kind of picture you see filling up the PES forums every year during the weeks between the demo and full release::

Cavani forum-style photo PES2016

There are people who absolutely love looking at player faces. I know this and accept this. It’s a valid lifestyle decision. Hey, it’s a small world, and we’ve all got to get along.

Cavani is the ‘name’ player for Season 5 that I was talking about the other day. Cavani: the other Uruguayan, the one who’d get all the attention if Suarez and Forlan had never existed.

Cost: £22,000,000. Fine, he’s not that big a name, perhaps not even in the second rank of names, but he’s another big, powerful striker. It seems I’m making a theme of them in PES2016. He’s also over 30 in this ML world and about to go into decline. Another thing I’m doing different this year.

I like a big striker in PES (nods at Crouchy) and in real life — how is Peter Withe not on the Classics list? Mark Hateley? — but it might be argued that with Dzeko already on the books (and staying put), I don’t need another big man up front.

But when Cavani popped up in my searching around, I was instantly – instinctively – sure that this was the way to go. Cavani and Dzeko up front. Castledine behind. Arcas wide on the right. And wide on the left…

I sold a few players and scrimped together enough cash to spend on Rakitic. I snapped him up for a low-seeming £7m from Barcelona. He’s got the most astounding hair.

PES2016 Rakitic debut

Which doesn’t bother his manager as much as it probably should. I’ll share this secret with any men out there going bald and hating it: you soon get over it.

PES2016 pensive manager

Cavani and Rakitic are both over 30. I might only get a few good seasons out of them before they become bench players for a further season or two and then sold. It’s not something I can really explain. But something about this path calls to me and I’m taking it.

I had a new crop of Youths and helped myself. I picked up Berbatov and Valencia and Domizzi and Julio Cesar.

My Season 5 starting XI and squad:

Season 5 squad and First XI

New-style PES doesn’t really do players rated over 90, so the 80s are the new 90s.

My remaining weaknesses are the DMF and LB positions. I’ll live with these weakness areas for now and look to plug them in mid-season, or maybe even next season, depending on how things go.

My current LB, Marin, hasn’t developed as expected. Cambiasso as a DMF has never really taken off either – he’s one of new-style PES’s identikit players, sadly. What I mean by this is that his cocktail of stats and attributes and animations don’t produce anything that feels truly individual. He moves and passes and shoots and turns-on-a-sixpence just like 95% of all other players. You could swap him out for just about any of those other 95% and you’d never really notice. How times have changed in PES. My quest for big, lumbering centre forwards is a quest for the other 5%.

Let’s see the new boys in action and scoring goals. This clip actually starts with an established player, Giorza, scoring a great goal – the type I call a Big Dipper. The other goals are all bread and butter types.

Check the blatant handball from Cavani right at the end there. I dislike game niggles when they benefit me too. Granted, it’s problematic to program handball into football games, but that kind of handball should definitely be called.

These goals might give the impression that I had a great start to Season 5. I didn’t.

Here was the table after the opening few matches — this might amuse readers who thought my confidence last week was somewhat misplaced:

PES2016 Season 5 after 4

Rock-bottom of the league. My own stupid fault, mostly. I streaked into a 2-0 lead before half-time on the opening day against Villa, but lost focus and let them peg me back to 2-2. That’s the only point on show above.

I did get a grip eventually, and started knocking in plenty of goals with Cavani and Dzeko. Here’s a delightful little compilation, if I may say so myself:

First Cavani nets a classic header from a viciously direct Giorza cross. I love the way he cuts in front of the defender to glance the header into the net. And then comes a classic hat trick from Dzeko. Right foot, header, left foot. The header is an unusual sort of goal that had me grinning.

Enjoying unusual moments is why we play football games, I think. On the face of it, most football gaming is rather routine (another reason why we love it), but those periods of patient ordinariness are often punctuated by moments that have you grinning and watching replays.

That resurgence in form brought a few wins and that shot me up the table:

PES2016 season 5 after 9

My goals-scored column is very healthy there. If I can staunch my leaky defence, I can get into the top 6, and possibly even into the title race. All Master League players will know that it’s entirely possible to storm up the table from almost any position, thanks to the famous/notorious rubberband effect.

For once I’ve got some players appearing on the top scorers’ list:

PES2016 season 5 top scorers after 9

The game on Superstar is very tough, but enjoyable. I think I’ve hit a sweet spot where the game feels good and tough in exactly the right proportions.

Getting results against the lesser and middling teams (teams like myself, in other words) are essential, and I’m doing that.

PES2016 season 5 October results

Visual representation of PES2016 pressure

A great month apart from that result against Stoke, which annoyed the hell out of me. The pressure from the AI was obnoxious.

The image on the right is a visual representation of how Stoke play.

They are totally my bogey team.

There’s a bogey team for me every year. For some reason it’s usually Sunderland, but this year it’s definitely Stoke. I’ve had a few results against Stoke, but the relentlessly physical way they play suggests that Konami have been taking the real-life Stoke’s reputation a touch too seriously.

All the niggles and gripes and grumbles aside, over the past few sessions I’ve really been having a good time with PES2016.

Nope, the franchise isn’t what it used to be. Online multiplayer has had a terrible numbing effect on PES. The series has gone soft on player individuality and soft on fouls (or ‘interruptions’).

But… like many of the PS3-era PES games before it, PES2016 does seem to have a depth and playability that exceeds the sum of its parts. I’m enjoying PES2016 far more than I’m not enjoying it. My modest skills at the game should make it last a few seasons longer for me than for many others. There’s a reasonable chance I’ll still be playing PES2016 in the actual year 2016.


  1. Stoke are most definitely one of the teams that play above their real world expectation. Never near the top of the league they have given me three brutal games, the last I only won after they had a man sent off for an appalling challenge from behind. They have a mean, nasty defence that seems populated by giants. I resorted to long humps over the top to get chances. I’m not looking forward to the rematch.

  2. nG – Re your comments at the end of the last post, I totally agree that PES fans (which we all are to a greater or lesser degree) are guilty of forgiving PES the most heinous sins because ‘it is just better than FIFA’. Not only could this lead to the gradual demise of existing PES support, but may prevent any new adoptees of the franchise.

  3. Crazy spending NG! I’ve just ummed and arred for a month over whether Gaston Ramirez was worth spending 10m on, but then all my free transfers sold so I was flush and pulled the trigger.

    Rakitic has been a favourite of mine since he was a 20/21 year old in the promising youth searches must be from PES 08 is? Memories……

    I’m hoping to get promoted this season solely so I get closer to the Newcastle job (I have a path planned)

  4. NG – for me its usually Palace (a rival) Stoke and Everton that give me the chills, basically spending the entire match kicking my little fairies at every opportunity. When Vilhena or Bazoer pick up the fight and start dishing it out the ref is always super keen to book or card me, Kovacic my CMF/AMF (incidentally out for 15 weeks!!!) is like a card magnet, i’ve never known so many going to one player. (its a bit like he has a hidden violence card)

    a couple of tested player suggestions, if you need a DMF i can’t really fault Bazoer from Ajax, super strong and tackles like a beast, and left back Douglas Santos has shone for me, he’s more Roberto Carlos or Jordi Alba than a proper left back, but cracking fun to dribble with.

    My Castledine has arrived alongside Lamela and although Lamela is current first choice on the RMF, an oversight in my transfer dealings may mean El Castledino gets a fair few run outs as the central AMF. Denis Suarez (very injury prone) is ludicrously the only AMF i have in my squad for the second half of the season. Which brings me on to my point about transfer windows.

    With the apparent ease of signing and selling players this year, is anyone else struggling to keep track of their transfers? I’ve had to really think carefully about who i want and who i sell as its so easy to unbalance your side if your not careful.

    I don’t think I’ve finished one window yet and not discovered a massive flaw that I’d unwittingly created during the havoc of transfers.

  5. Uncle Turf – imagine a proper fouling system in this game. I’m still seeing whole matches – sometimes groups of matches, sometimes whole sessions – without a single free kick that isn’t for offside. Even against Stoke. How wonderful it would be to have 10 free kicks in a match (entirely possible in the one true football game, whose name I need not speak) Except that’ll never happen again because the kids won’t have it. I’ll say it again: the reviewers gushed and gushed over the physical side of PES2016, but what does it actually produce in gameplay terms?

  6. Chris99 – indeed, the uptake of PES by new players must be vanishingly small. I’d bet there are young kids who’ve barely heard of the series. Hence the desperation of myClub, no-fouls, ultra-responsiveness in handling etc. Although to be fair, I’m now 90% sure the Oct 29th patch definitely took the responsiveness in single player down a notch. A step in the right direction, but the trend is clear. Football game makers are being told by all the wrong voices that people want fast uninterrupted gameplay online with as close as possible to a perfect 1:1 correspondence between controller input and action on screen.

  7. Mike — over-30 aged signings are against my usual policy in ML too, but on the PS4 at least it is sadly the case that player individuality feels like a relatively rare commodity. Where it does appear it appears in the big strikers. And the over-30s.

    stewdog — Everton are beasts in my ML too. Not quite up there with Stoke but close. As I remark above though, it’s a shame these rough and violent matches don’t result in free kicks and cards, at least in my matches they don’t. Still getting on average 1 scoring-range free kick every 10 matches. Which is, strangely, a whole load more than PES2015 ever provided.

  8. Yep, the collision system (or whatever they called it) was widely hailed yet it is a white elephant with feet of clay that are hollow and erm empty and other such metaphors. There is no way of countering that ‘a good big un will always beat a good little un’ idea because you dont have a jostle button, speed is nowhere near as relative as the stats suggest (remember the days michael Owen really would leave defenders standing) and you can’t play to get the free kick that would be due. You can simply whack people off the ball, speedball 2 style – as I believe we mentioned way back. I do really like this master league but it’s not the thinking players ML, it feels so like 2013 to me – ramp up the power and let fly.

  9. NG/Chris99 – agree completely, had Fifa done the same thing last year I’d have dropped it without doubt… I guess its that continual search/hope/longing for a hit only PES can provide

  10. well, I ventured online this evening on PES2014 in the hope of finding a couple of like minded hardcore enthusiasts keen to relish the unique qualities of the last proper(?) PES before the servers are turned off this week. The first guy, rated 890 in the world, after seeing my Ado Den Haag selected Barcelona and proceeded to apply manic pressure, chip through balls and pass the ball across goal for easy tap ins. I was quite happy with my 3-1 defeat, especially as my goal was a crunching far post header from a deep cross, although obviously he (I assume it was a he) didn’t let me watch the replay

    The second fellow, ranked 194 and playing with Bayern Munich, scored in the first few minutes but did at least try to play proper football when he spotted I was doing the same and also might have been playing 0 bar passing too. Finished 0-2, with my keeper having a blinder. Although it wasn’t the greatest session in terms of online opponents it did reinforce my enthusiasm for the subtlety of PES2014 – I can imagine that 2015 would be an absolute fucking nightmare online

  11. and by the way Greg not, I really like the new name, and also your enthusiasm for buying old players in contrast to the established wisdom of focusing on ML youths!

  12. Season 8 drawing to a close and I’m in the Cup Final against Man Utd and CL Semis against Ajax. 4 points off 4th with 4 to play.

  13. I really like headed goals, especially so in this PES because they’re rare, right? Your Dzeko one is particularly pleasing.

    My squad is now comfortably in the 80s and the game is easier although I struggled in the Europa Legaue group a bit despite a now freak 7-3 win in one game. I’m 6 points off the top in February so the title is on and still in the cup and Europa. A sort of treble is on the cards but I’m still yet to qualify for the Champions League. It’s tight at the top and I have the best goal difference but Chelsea, fucking Chelsea.

    My super Owen stopped glowing red at 93 OVR (4th best player in the game) and he’s still unstoppable most of the time, it’s fun. I might take the England job with the classics in tow; Scholes, Beckham, Owen and Shearer. What England classics did we used to get on past games?

  14. Cook – we used to get real England classics in prior PESes rather than these underachievers you mention! I seem to remember Bobby Moore, Peter Shilton, Terry Butcher, Bobby Charlton, Paul Gascoigne and so on

  15. abbeyhill – I thought I remembered the classics being more classic. I suppose the kids don’t know who they are so they’ve been replaced with more recent editions.

  16. abbeyhill – I’ll never weep for the end of any online football game, but does the switching off of online servers mean that PES2014 is now also ended as an updateable entity online? I.e. no more data packs, patches etc? Any new players on console restricted to vanilla? If so, that’s the effective end of PES2014, as the game isn’t really playable at ver. 1.0 in my opinion. I recall initial interest at the start, followed by rapid horror (literally no long-range shooting at all) followed by abandonment. Konami got hammered over PES2014 from a variety of angles and it took them nearly a year to produce the version you’re playing and that I’ll be playing at some point.

    I hate this aspect of modern games on consoles. Take any PC game – literally any PC game in history – and there’ll be some corner of the Internet where it’s lovingly curated and updated by an individual or group. But that’s not possible with consoles.

    I’m very pleased I’ve got all my PS3 PESes installed and updated (and backed up), and there’s the PC version as the ultimate fallback anyway. Whether PES2014 could be called the last ‘pure’ PES is debatable, but I’d say it was the last one made without the cold, dead hand of online multiplayer on its shoulder. In that sense, yes, it was the Last King of PESland.

    Cook – headers aren’t so much rare as weak, unfortunately. The Benteke-style headed bullets only happen with a few players, but in reality any football player can make the ball travel with speed and purpose by planting his bonce on the end of it. In PES2016 and most football games that’s blatantly not allowed and you get a weak looping header that travels like a balloon. I suppose it’s a game balancing thing. Ah, for PES3’s power headers….

  17. Cook, I signed Jay Rodriguez at the start of my current season, he’s 185cm tall and I have the pacey Gnabry on the right, so far J-Rod has scored 4 headers from crosses and I score a few from corners too, aiming for the penalty spot but curling towards the 6 yard box seems to be the best bet.

  18. What’s the longest injury anyone’s had so far? Drogba has just returned from a 13 week absence!!! It really derailed my season in the League.

  19. Oh boy, nG. The Chelsea in your world have Fat Ronaldo. He’s up to 97ovr in my world and still climbing (he’s just signed for Swansea, oddly).

    And I thought Shevchenko was tough to play against!

  20. 3 months lloyd. Centre half. Usual span though is one month maybe twice per season.

    Just fired up 2014 to make sure it’s patched up to date. It looks really retro on the menus already and that Pavarotti. It could be a real contender if it plays.

  21. Lloyd — I’ve had a 6-week injury. I’ve only had 4 injuries in 5+ seasons and I’ve never had any player go down injured in a match and then stay off injured. This is one of the disappointments of this ML, which is otherwise set up quite well.

  22. Finished season 1 last night, just the game against the old boys to go… Sorting my kit for the new season, as per last season – picking an international kit and editing in paint to change badges/sponsor and a bit of colour, using Bosnia’s kit which should be quite straight forward (Finland last season)… Sadly paint is the best I have though does the trick

  23. not-Greg – actually I’m not sure, the announcement on PES2014 servers closing that flashed up referred specifically to online play. Presumably anyone who downloads it from the PlayStation store now would get the fully patched version anyway, if not the data packs, I think that was the case with my download. PES2014 is not dead!

  24. Good point – I was forgetting the digital download (which is peculiar given how much of a digital download cheerleader I am, and the fact that I got PES2014 ‘free’ from PS+ in April 2014, to complement my boxed copy). As long as the digital download stays available, of course. I recall the PSP download version of PES2012 vanishing in mysterious and still-unexplained circumstances.

    I’m looking forward to my PES2014 adventure, whenever it happens. It’ll be something I’ve never done on the blog before, really. The only other ‘unfinished business’ PES would be PES2011, and I played 11 seasons of that anyway. PES2014 remains the undiscovered country, for me and for most PES players. If even 1 in 10 regular PES players was still around when those final patches landed, I’d be surprised.

  25. Turf – the Pavarotti is nice, and the ‘theme tune’ with the bagpipes is even nicer!

    I’ve put my Ado den Haag ML on hold, and started again with the defaults in D2. Was thinking that using a decent-ish team had removed something from the overall experience, especially as it seems this is a ML where financial and transfer market constraints are important. Not enjoying PES2015 at all, and from what I read here 2016 could be worse, so determined to get as much longevity from PES2014 as I can!

  26. I played a quick exhibition of 2014, newcastle v galatasaraay. Fouls, free kicks and cards seemed very fair – two yellows for poor challenges (I didn’t try outright hacks), a penalty and a yellow for a trip which wasn’t a through on goal red, free kicks for and against for niggles with some jostling gone unpunished. Only one game but an interesting start. Keepers great at long range and I didn’t get close enough to test inside the box – the difficulty is significantly higher than 2016 IMHO. It looks years old though, if I hadn’t known I’d have said 2011 or thereabouts. I won’t be playing more yet as I want to ‘complete’ 2016 but it feels like the much longer challenge.

  27. Interesting what you’re saying about the PES 2014 digital download. Does that mean it will be latest patch (gameplay fixes) but not “datapacked” (up to date squads)?

    There are no datapacks available for 2014 on xbox live anymore.

    A fully up to date 2014 plays brilliantly guys. I really enjoyed that version so I’m looking forward to reading your journey through it NG.

  28. Interesting end to season 8. Got Cup Final against Chelsea. 2 games left in the League and I’m 5th on 60 points. Stoke 4th on 62 and West Ham 3rd on 63. Last 2 games are against Hull and Forest. 2nd leg of CL semi against Ajax and I’ve got a 2-0 away victory to defend. I could end up with 2 trophies and a 3rd place finish, or need to win the CL to qualify again. Roll on Monday night.

  29. abbeyhill – it’ll be interesting to hear what you think of the Defaults in PES2014 because, whatever the game’s other qualities, that was the year they started to seem better than they should do.

    Uncle Turf – yes, it’s a great shock looking back at previous gen games after a while on the new-gen console. I’ll never forget my shock at playing a PS2 PES again after PES2008 on PS3, which was itself no great shakes graphically.

    Ridders – no idea about your question I’m afraid. My impression of how Konami operate with old PES is that once the servers are off they’re off for everything. I’d say the digital PES would arrive fully patched and datapacked – because why not? – but that’s just surmise.

    Lloyd – Superstar has got really hard for me and I’m loving it. I’m having a good time with PES2016 right now, all niggles aside. The AI scores 90% corner goals and I’m still not getting any free kicks or daytime matches to speak of, so the ‘feel’ is rather basic, but still enjoyable.

  30. The game refusing to allow clean sheets (or rarely) is really starting to bother me now. In my last game before January last night I played bottom of the league Preston at home. Was looking forward to a thumping win but in injury time I was only 1-0 up. Sure enough, having not even got close to my goal all game, they get the ball on the flank, their Mr average Joe Bloggs winger becomes Messi, completely bamboozling my full back (81 opr Callum Chambers) and delivering the perfect cross to the back post where my “General ” CB Grant Hanley didn’t even get off the ground allowing the striker to head home

    A few matches later, 2-0 against Bristol, exact same story. Dominated the game but in injury time their striker becomes Hulk, beyond powerful, no one can get the ball off him and he curls home from the edge of the box.

    I’m otherwise really enjoying the game but shit like this really pisses me off.

  31. Mike – had quite a few heartbreaker moments myself, which feel worse when you’re 1-0 up against a Man City with minutes left, having defended well, and they get the ball and you swarm the Man City ball-carrier who seems to melt through your players, and you know what’s coming, and you launch slide-tackles at him that are all skipped over or just ignored, and you know what’s coming, and finally you dislodge the ball from his feet and it rolls loose but your nearest player doesn’t clear it as you want him to, and you know what’s coming, and it’s picked up by another AI player who insta-throughballs a pass to an AI player in the ‘corner goal zone’, and you’re resigned to whatever’s coming – and then it comes.

  32. NG that last comment explains Ai Goals on this pes perfectly. The dreaded 89th minute wonder goal. I have to be three up before I feel comfortable nowadays as they always find a way thru. The classic from kick off is another favourite.

    Having said that I suppose the computer is up against a superior brain in us so they only have certain predetermined coded ways of scoring I think it just must select a way to attack as it goes over half way rather than reacting to our play.

  33. NG – you just described the cheat /straight from kick off goal perfectly

  34. Haha, NG I’m honoured that what is one of the best comments I’ve ever read on here was a reply to me!

    On the subject of defending can anyone tell me how to assign man markers? My scout/Coach tells me a couple of players have learned man marking bit bugger me of I can find a menu anywhere to do anything with it!

  35. stewdog — being two up often seems to trigger a 2-2 comeback script, so yes, 3 goals are pretty much optimum for making a game safe. I will say though that if I remember and focus on the game, I can usually stop the straight-from-kickoff. It’s when I forget about it and am still mentally exulting in my goal that the AI does me time and time again straight from kickoff.

    Mike — it’s there somewhere, #1 was big on man-marking and might know more.

  36. It’s in the same menu where you assign your free kick takers.

    FA Cup in the bag, beat Man Utd 3-1. 4th with 1 game to go and CL Final against City. Big session tonight.

  37. Back to back CL titles. Finished 4th an eye watering 26 points behind City.

  38. Season 9 commences with 6 wins, 2 trophies and no goals conceded. Boom.

  39. Mike – press left on the dpad once in the formation screen and then it’s a few options down from there.

  40. Played MGS for the first time last night as someone at work has lent it me. It is a game that has never been on my radar so as I know nowt about it I am in an envious position. First impressions are that it would appear that everything has been put into the cut scenes to give it that cinematic feel and the game is overly dominated by them. Took ages to start playing. The game itself appears to be a bit awkward and clunky at times when crawling and stuff. This could be deliberate. The stealth sneaking around enemy bases feels a bit random and you feel like you are in bother but next news everything is ok and you get out of there. 2 and a half hours passed by quickly and I
    enjoyed it and is just the kind of game I want to play right now.

  41. Darryl – that opening hour to MGS5 isn’t representative of the gameplay. Its a strange, barely interactive kind of tutorial that had me baffled and wondering when the game would start.

    Walking past a car boot sale I saw a 2nd hand copy of Witcher 3 and had to pick it up. A tenner! The lady didn’t know what she had. Or maybe she did – most computer games at car boot sales are priced at a quid or two. I checked the disc before buying and tested it when I got in and all is well. One for after MGS5, I think. I’m still less than halfway through the latter.

  42. NG – i would indeed complete mgs first but i can almost guarantee you will not regret witcher 3. Great find as well.

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