Month: May 2019

Old imaginary footballers never die

Season 15 of my so-far-epic PES2019 Master League career has got off to a decent start.

4 wins, 1 draw, 1 defeat.

I’ve had great starts before and won nothing, so this means nothing right now.

My new signings are struggling to bed in. Only one is standing out at the moment and feels like part of the team.

Hamsik at CMF is almost on the verge of becoming a regular starter in my midfield. Xavi and Mascherano are immovable, so if it happens Hamsik would probably see Buonanotte move to the bench. Or even (whisper it) the ageing Castledine. Yes, I am thinking about retiring the old man to the subs’ bench from now on.

It’s been a few seasons since the now 33-year-old Castledine was able to wrap his foot around a loose ball in the AMF area and give the GK something to think about.

Hamsik was bought with that exact purpose in mind. Even if a long shot doesn’t score (and it almost never scores), a corner or a rebound can result.

Castledine’s passing years are manifesting in two ways.

First is his now very poor stamina – he’s usually almost done by halftime, and always has to go off around 60 minutes.

Second, that famous left foot possesses a lot less venom than it used to.

I’d be satisfied if Castledine announced his retirement at the end of this season, as it would get me off the hook of a difficult decision. I doubt I could ever sell him, but with his rate of decline he would become a very occasional player.

The young pretenders, Xavi and Modric and Hamsik, are more than capable of filling his boots. But even if they have another 15 seasons at the club, they won’t come close to emulating the esteem and affection that Castledine has earned for himself. As soon as he does retire and then pop up as a Regen, he’ll be hired again.

Before anyone writes in, I am 100% aware that Castledine is ‘only’ a bunch of pixels animated by computer code and imagination.

The table:Promising, but we’ll see. I’m conceding too many goals for comfort right now.

Mathieu is settling in reasonably well. He plays a bit more than I thought he would. The fixture pileup of League, Cup, and Europa League, all see to that.

He’s big and cumbersome, not great, but dependable, a true individual. I miss the magnificent Footballer Of The Century that he was in PES5, of course.

In PES2019 his most notable contributions are first-time sweeping crosses to the far post. Like this one:

Mathieu, Mark, Lark, and Bronn

Look who’s back and wearing a Coventry City shirt in a PES ML of mine.

Yes, it’s one J MATHIEU, who’s just a fairly average 23-year-old LB/CB nowadays. As a DMF in PES5, he was possibly my PES Player Of All Time.

I dithered over getting him in PES2019. It seems the kind of thing I do right at the end of an ML for a bit of a nostalgic lark, when there’s not much time left. But there could be 7 seasons left in PES2019, so there’s no larking around here.

I needed cover at LB/CB, someone decent but not too expensive, and Mathieu popped up in the first page of results, so I thought, why not actually get him ‘for real’ for once. So I did.

Here is my full squad and First XI for Season 15. For the first time since Season 2, none of these players are Loanees. Every player here is contracted to the club.

Just out of sight at the bottom is a Youth GK that I picked up as cheap cover for Cech. Jarvis is out on loan this season again.

So that’s 24 players, and I’ve left myself a few million to go shopping mid-season if need be.

I’m most excited about Hamsik from that list. N Ogilvy (Clint Dempsey) wasn’t doing it for me so I  moved him on and went in search of another midfielder with a big booming shot, and Hamsik fits the bill.And then the season began and everything went wrong. First of all, as the Europa League champions we took part in the UEFA Supercup match. This thrilled me, as if we won it I could then go with a ‘You Wait Ages For One Trophy And Then Two Come Along At Once’ sort of post title.

But no. Instead, it was One Of Those Matches.I had 14 shots on goal to Chelsea’s 4. Of my shots, 3 were the sort of gilt-edged opportunities where you ‘know’ in your bones that it’s a goal, it must be a goal – but each time, the AI keeper pulled off miracle Gordon Banks-style saves.

1 time is unlucky. 2 times is a coincidence. 3 times is a conspiracy. We all know the (non) score.

Chelsea scored so late with one of their few chances that it was genuinely gutting to lose.

Then the Premier League started. I really do want a title before PES2019 is over. But bloody hell.I was lucky to get nil. I’ve played a few other matches and I’ve had a draw and a win from them. I’m mid-table after 3.

I know the problem. Of course, its too many new players too quickly. The game models poor team cohesion decently enough, and there are just enough misplaced passes and non-existent defensive marking and the like to make this a terrible start to the season.

Oh, did I mention that I had to qualify for the Champions League via a playoff? Atletico Bilbao the opponents. That went terribly too:

I drew 2-2 at home in the first leg, and lost the away leg 3-2. I didn’t play that badly, but conceded awful goals. So I’ll be competing in the Europa League again this season. At least I get to see if I can retain that trophy after the rare win last season.

I would have played a lot more than these matches, but gave a few hours late Monday night to watching the climax of a certain dragon-themed TV show.

To finish with, 3 interesting moments from the very end of last season that I thought merited inclusion here.

  1. Modric and Xavi’s passing stats and skills are enabling a bit of a cheese move: the long aerial Glenn Hoddle-esque through-ball to the feet of an attacker, Castledine in this instance. But it always feels so good.
  2. In a PES of rare headers, this was a satisfactory one. Mascherano popped up on the wing to deliver a Beckham-esque cross for Castledine, who made a late Bryan Robson-esque run into the box for a David Speedie-esque header back across the keeper.
  3. And finally a real SNAFU from me with Cech trying to play the ball out of the back. A good example here of the PES2019 AI That We Need pressing me hard when behind. Regen Muller seemed to be on me in a flash.


Trophy, trophy, trophy!

It was a rocky road to the Europa League final. I needed a scrappy late late winner vs Napoli to win the quarter final. I got a helping hand from the AI own-goal of the season to win the semi-final.

Then it was here. The final, versus Fulham.

Find a player that looks at your digital avatar the way Castledine is looking at mine here. (Or looking at the back of my neck anyway.)

So. Season 14. No proper trophy in the entirety of PES2019 so far.

Below is a 3-minute highlights package. A couple of issues to mention. First, wanting to make my edit easier, I chose to manually record a highlight each time one happened, and somehow managed to miss capturing most of my second goal. Second, whilst editing I made an unfortunate 1am decision to provide a voiceover when I was a) already a bit hoarse from a long working day, and b) using the laptop microphone. Sound quality is not great.

With all that said, it was quite an interesting match.


That is all I have to say.Yes.Fulham had the best chances and dominated the match. They had 8 shots, 4 on target. I had 6 shots, 3 on target. Possession was 49/51 to me. The 2019 version of ‘the AI that we need’ was much in evidence in this match.

I’m sore that I managed to miss recording my second goal. I was so thrilled to go 2-0 up that I forgot to double-tap the Share button to capture the previous minute, and only just remembered with seconds left to capture the brief view that did make it. At least it was a standard sort of goal from Mascherano rather than a 50-yard long-ranger.

The Premier League season ended like this:Mediocre in every respect. A true transitional season.

The above table will interest all students of Master League table scripting. The script left the top-4 door ajar for me for as long as possible. At the end I was only 4 points off it. And I was only 2 points from the top 6. Every good, bad and indifferent result I had was matched by the exact result(s) above me that were needed to keep interest alive. Despite losing 14 (FOURTEEN) matches I was in the running for a podium finish right to the end.

One good thing: I’m still going to be in the Champions League next season, thanks to New Big Ears.

Now I must aim for the league title. And the Champions League. Also the FA Cup while I’m at it.

I’ll finish with a sight that I waited 14 seasons to see:

The Europa League Song Context

Real life has intervened since my last post, to the extent that I have only managed one (1) solitary session on the game. Last night, very late. I’m talking a 1:30am start kind of late.

It was a decent session of 6 or so matches that advanced progress in the Europa League. I overcame Basel in the second leg of the Round of 32, and then faced Everton in the Round of 16.

In PES as in real life, all-English encounters in European competition tend to be peculiar, stale matches, and so these two proved. But I came through the tie quite easily, 3-1 on aggregate. I finished the second match at 3am this morning and switched the console straight off without checking who’s next in the Quarter Final.

Whoever it is, I will be fielding my A Team and devoting maximum focus and commitment to the cause. The Europa League is a chance not just of my first proper trophy on PES2019 after 14 seasons, but probably my only way back into Europe next season. (I’m assuming PES2019 will mirror real life on that front.)

It’s highly unlikely I’ll get back into Europe via the league. The table after 32 matches reflects the squad-rebuilding approach I’ve taken this season:My form has been patchy. Last night I kept taking strong leads only to be pegged back for defeats and draws. I’ve lost 14 (FOURTEEN) matches, but still sit in 12th, only 7 points off the top 6, with 6 matches left to play. A top 6 finish might be doable, if I win literally all remaining matches. But the top 4 is, I think, out of reach.

I’ll keep going until the end, trying for maximum points, but the priority has to be the Europa League.

In general terms PES2019 is holding up – more than holding up. It feels rich and full-bodied like a fine wine. My feeling and attitude to the game is in stark contrast to much of the rest of the PES-playing and football-gaming community that still exists out there.

I feel ready to declare this the best PES since PES2012 for sure, and perhaps the best since the PS2 era as a whole. A massive claim to make, and a nonsensical one on the face of it, considering everything that we have lost or never had to begin with. For the first time in the post-PS2 era my end of year review in August might follow on from active involvement in the current year’s game.

One strand of the many that have gone into weaving a greater whole this year – player individuality and development. For example this man:I picked him up as a Youth about 8 seasons ago, and he is now a regular starter in the left-sided AMF slot. I only play with one advanced AMF these days, so there’s a huge amount on him. I call him the new Shimizu.

The reason I’m still here playing PES2019 when there’s so much else I might be doing, is just this. I want to see what happens with Buonanotte, and with so many others too. Forlan,Vardy, Modric, Xavi. I want to see if Castledine can hold aloft an actual trophy, invisible or not, before retirement (and then come back as a Regen). I want to see if my new Jarvis can fulfil his potential better than last time. I’ve just picked up a strapping Youth CB, Naldo, who shows great potential. Etc.

Keeping my players would be a good start. I’ll have another financial headache at the start of Season 15, in the form of another wages deficit. I won’t allow that situation to drag on for many seasons again. So I’m looking at which of my ageing high-earners might have played their last for me, and might have to move on. I’m looking at Gomez, once my star man but now in decline, and wondering if I can do it…

I will definitely have finished Season 14 by Friday’s post. Europa League final highlights if I get there.