Month: September 2019

January blues

All the way to mid-season 2 now. I could have signed a few star players from big clubs. I pulled back at the last moments.Not happy with the Negotiations settings! My early impression is that this is one of the most ‘broken’ Master League features ever to make an appearance in the beloved old mode.

At the start of the January window, wanting to see what ‘Hard’ Negotiations was like, I made a bid for Mezut Ozil – yes, Mezut Ozil – and I was stunned when I was not only allowed to negotiate with him, but I achieved a result. I bid the release fee, so Arsenal had no choice, but the player was quite happy to enter and complete Negotiations.

After a bit of to-and-fro (perhaps all that ‘Hard’ amounts to: a few rounds of to-and-fro) we settled on a salary of £3.8m, which would have used up my entire budget. There was no question of actually getting Ozil. I just wanted to see how far I would get negotiating with him, on Hard settings, as a mid-table Division 2 team. The answer was: all the way, albeit at a cost.

Here’s my mid-January First XI and squad – I’ve got a few days of the month left so there could be comings and goings, but with all the comings I think I need to settle down and actually get to know some players again.That Lincoln at CF is not the celebrated Lincoln of PES2019 Youth promotee and R2 curlers fame – he’s another Lincoln completely. Just 21 years old so there’s future potential. He cost me £24m from a Brazilian club, and a hefty £900k wage to go with it. He’s no Mezut Ozil but he’s what I’ve got.

Too early to tell if he’ll actually be any good. My pre-season signing, Pjaca, has only just started to perform well for me after 24 matches.

The player at right-sided AMF, called ‘SHVILI’ in the screenshot, is actually one Z. DAVITASHVILI, a rare example of me actually signing a Scouted player. AMF, 20 years old, good supporting stats and a full list of skills readymade – I have high hopes.Zabaleta at right-back is a Youth promotee. Only 17 in-game, he amusingly still has that ’90-year-old Nicolas Cage’ look going on.

Here’s the table after 24 matches:Hanging on the shoulder of the leaders with half the season to go – I’ve got a great chance of the playoffs.

My general form is patchy but I’m capable of winning enough to stay in touch and snatch it. It’s a shame you have to go hunting for this screen now:Seeing that pop up automatically every month was a nice bit of visual punctuation to the passage of time if nothing else. I’m still not used to having to go looking for regular updates and messages. It’s very easy to miss important stuff. Master League has felt bare-bones since the vanished brilliance of PES2010 and PES2011. We’ve got to the point now in PES2020 where, with all the window dressing tidied away out of sight, it can feel even emptier.

Where am I with PES2020 as a game right now? I’m not madly in love with it, that’s for sure. Master League’s new stuff either isn’t new, doesn’t work as I anticipated it would, or doesn’t seem to work at all. There are no fouls out on the pitch. Maybe 1 every few matches. It’s appalling, the worst ever.

I have an awful feeling that PES2020 will be the worst one ever for the lack of long-rangers. I’ve hit the bar twice from range. I am coming to suspect that’s all I’ll ever be allowed to do.

There’s so many good things right now that I’m not so focused on the bad. I love the way you’re not allowed to ping off a blind reverse pass with accuracy anymore. That was long overdue. But will it survive the patch cycle?

And this is what it all comes down to. The game isn’t made for me or my tastes.

The lack of long-rangers is disappointing, but the lack of AI Fouls is unforgivable. I never thought any PES could be worse for fouls than PES2018 was, but PES2020 is much worse. And at least PES2018 had some long-range goals!

So I’m having an uncharacteristic wobble, all told. Usually at this time of an ML I’m fizzing with excitement and joy.

Perhaps PES2019 is to blame. For me, PES2019 was a classic PES and Master League experience, a solid 9/10, and PES2020 was always going to have to follow that.

I’m not saying I’m not excited by PES2020 and curious about where this Master League will take me, but it’s at a lower intensity.

Come on rock me aMattheus

Season 2 is well underway. I spent pre-season and the month of August wheeler-dealering.

My concerns about my settings – Fairly Hard for Negotiations; Small for Transfer budget – were that they’d be too hard. Now I’m concerned they’re too easy. So far I have not failed to sign a single player I’ve gone after, with Free Agents in particular being the proverbial piece of piss to sign up. I got Free Agent Flamini, for example, aged 36 but still good for a year or two in the Championship, for a third of his asking price.

I have fleshed out my squad in most areas, and trimmed down in others. My Season 2 First XI, Formation, and Squad:

My most important player right now? MATTHEUS. He’s a 30-something journeyman who won’t last long past Season 3 or 4, I think, but for now he’s very much my Kante.

Mattheus is emerging as one much greater than his modest stats, controlling matches, and popping up with the odd goal. Mattheus is playing on the left side of centre-mid in the screenshot above but I think I need him square in the middle, in front of Flamini, so Castledine might have to move back out wide. I’m fiddling with things.

I have had lots of offers for Castledine, but so far not taken them, and so far none have triggered his release clause. Realistic picture on the right of my avatar, looking like Jeremy Clarkson in the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? hotseat, thinking over the latest Casteldine offer. ‘Hmmm, shall I? Nah.’

My other transfer highlight for a different reason is Pjaca, the striker currently holding down a starting berth. Drury calls his name as Piazza. He was also a Free and he also wanted over a million in salary to sign. Last year I’d have bumped that down to about £800k and massaged his feelings with scoring and appearance bonuses, and that would have made about an 80% chance of signing, and chances were I’d have got him.

This year, suspecting that something is screwy with the ‘Fairly Hard’ setup, I bumped his wage all the way down to £400k and offered NO bonuses. And he signed.

There are plenty of other stories of my squad – aren’t there always? Canning at left-back is the reincarnation of Ruskin – I’m going to keep him and develop him, and I plan to see him running the line in a Champions League Final.

Vitor Hugo at CB will inspire many a punning post title in the weeks to come.

Karlsen at SS has so far done little to justify my decision to hang onto him this year (check today’s compilation vid for a hilarious ‘miss-kick’ of his).

Begovic at GK is as solid and dependable as I wanted him to be when I snapped him up on another cheap Free. But his understudy, Youth promotee Beto, should be my club goalie long-term.

The table after 11 matches of Season 2:

A short compilation vid today, with goals and some amusing highlights. All action on Top Player difficulty.

It starts with the AI failing to score from a shooting-range free kick (0 conceded in all of PES2020 so far).

Then there’s a sequence from about the 20-second mark onwards that shows the end of a match versus Leeds when it was 0-0 and 1) I scored, 2) they equalised almost straight from kickoff, and 3) I scored the winner straight from my kickoff (in alarmingly easy style, it should be noted).

There are a couple of goals in the mix from the aforementioned Mattheus. Mid-rangers. (Still no laces long-ranger in PES2020 for me.)

And the video ends with me creating a team goal that I actually liked – because the finish was from mid-range and in off the post.

Season One Gone

Season 1 has come to an end for me. I raced to the finish line in a few extraordinary days’ play.

Here’s the final table. A symmetrical goals-for and goals-against. I did well to finish 15th in the end. I played about 65% of the season on Professional, the other 35% on Top Player.

Overall experience score for PES2020 so far: 9/10.

Easy 9 there. No premature and highly melodramatic 10 at this stage. There are a couple of worries that may magnify in time, but for now, nearly everything is roses.

Gameplay held up throughout the season, even toward the end when my Team Spirit hit the low 80s, which traditionally marks the point when a nuPES sometimes feels a bit too slick and samey.

So far that has not happened here.

There are still no fouls to speak of, and it’s clear there won’t be any. The time has long since come for Referee Strictness to be put in user control. The fact that EA have not done this with FIFA probably indicates that nobody will ever do it.

Master League has been good, but I’m not sure one of the new settings is working as it should be. I set Negotiations to Fairly Hard before starting. My expectation of that setting is that it would mean Negotiations would be, well, fairly hard. Harder than last year for sure.

So far I am finding the opposite. It proved straightforward mid-season to bring in two top professionals (Shaqiri and Llorente) on loan.

As an experiment, in the first few days post-season I have made a couple of Free Agent signings, despite turning their wage demands ALL THE WAY DOWN to the minimum, with NO bonuses. Just to see what would happen.

They accepted. One was a player who asked for £1.2m to start with, accepting an offer of £500k! This is a bug, surely?

Conducting Contract negotiations with a couple of my own star players, they all accepted lower-than-they-wanted offers straightaway, without a murmur. I wasn’t quite brave enough to lower all their offers to the minimum.

Here’s Begovic – a great veteran GK – signing for half the wage he was asking for:I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t have happened last year. Even if he’d agreed to drop from the Premier League, he’d have at least wanted the wage he was asking for. Yes, Master League is fantasy football, but I expect the boundaries that are meant to be in place to remain strong.

Fortunately all of this is in the background while I get on with playing the wonderful game. Shaqiri was a great player to have on loan, as he showcased so much about PES2020 that is good. Individuality for one, and the nature ofthe stories that can develop in this mode. Here he is taking a tepid match by the scruff of the neck by pouncing on a lovely loose ball, scurrying away into space and leathering in an equaliser.

Shaqiri’s last goal for me while on loan secured a decent draw in a run of poor results on Top Player. The AI has its usual bag of tricks up its sleeve as ever to stop you playing and winning. It’s the kind of grind, at times, that Master League is rightly famous for, so I’m not complaining.At the end of the season, Shaqiri had to be in the League Team of the Season, and he was. Nice to see Castledine there too.

I’m debating whether I really need another year of Castledine’s rise to power. The plan is not to have just another identikit Master League campaign this year. Somehow another inevitable journey to a squad of galácticos doesn’t appeal.

I fancy assembling a squad of journeymen, developed Defaults, promoted Youths, and the odd star name. I’ll pick up Regen Shaqiri when the time comes.

And so to Season 2.

Albanian Rhapsody

Master League is a journey. A long one. This year it might just be longer than ever.

What a week or so it has been. I’ve been active in comments since Thursday with other commenters on the site, comparing notes about progress. Lots of similar stories out there.

The consensus seems to be: this game is the most surprising PES since PES2011 in terms of altered mechanics. Passing and shooting are strange in various ways. And the game is HARD.

I made a huge fuss last week about how ‘easy’ Professional is now. ‘Top Player is the new Professional!’ I declared. But I was forced back onto Professional over the weekend after a truly atrocious time on Top Player. I’ve only just now, at the time of writing (Tuesday morning) started to get to grips with Professional.

The gritty grind of a Season 1 in master League with the Default players has always been, ah, grindy — but is PES2020 the most grind-y it’s ever been?

I cannot remember any other PES since the PS2 days being this much of a battle to achieve the basics.

‘Potentially the greatest PES game ever’ is what I’ve been thinking for most of the past week. A few niggles – AI goalkeepers, and fouls, which both must be buffed – cannot take away from the deep and meaningful gameplay on offer here.

I have almost completed my entire Season 1 at the time of writing. By Friday’s post I will have completed it.

I passed through mid-season and was so desperate for new players to alleviate the grind, that I went crazy and brought in a combination of Loanees – too easy to do again in PES2020, even on my ‘Fairly Hard’ transfer settings – and journeymen Frees.

Here is my current second-half-of-Season-1 squad:

Look at that front two. Shaqiri and Llorente. Both of them Loanees. Neither would ever come to my club in any real-life scenario. But at the time, I didn’t care – and I still don’t! PES is all about this sort of wacky thing.Nice to see that Rami Malek is following up his Oscar-winning turn as Freddie Mercury with a spot of virtual footballing.

Shaqiri is great to play with in PES2020. Individuality is strong in this game, and he handles just as expected. And after a sedate first few matches, Llorente is not bad either.

I only have both of them until the end of the season. I paid a hefty chunk of my transfer budget – millions – for the privilege, but already it seems that this will be yet another year where I’ll never have to worry so much about the transfer budget. Salary is where I will struggle again.Popescu at CB is fully mine, as is Mattheus at CMF. I’m running without a DMF in that screenshot. Mattheus has been absolutely solid as a deep-lying CMF though.Here is the bottom portion of the League table as taken yesterday morning. I played a session very late last night in which I won all but 1 match, so I am almost up to mid-table now – and about to make the move back to Top Player.

One of the things that last night’s session brought about was a formation rethink. My standard 4-2-2-2 as seen above has stood the test of time for many a PES, but it has to change. Ive gone for 4-1-3-2: one deep midfielder; two central/wide midfielders (can be CMF or SMF based on the player); and one central AMF just behind the front two.

I did this to test Castledine in the middle. He has been a true enigma for me so far. Anonymous and frustrating out on the wide left position that he made his in PES2019. I was beginning to think this was a year in which he had been nerfed.

But last night, from the very first match where he moved inside onward, he was electric.

Here is a miniature goals compilation featuring the great man.

Watch for 3 Casteldine goals, including a lovely long-ranger curler, and also a Shaqiri special from the same sort of range (what curl!) – then finally an almost-goal from Llorente that would have been Goal of the Month, at least. As the ball came over I knew my timing and aim had to be spot-on or the ball would simply skew off the side of his boot and go well wide. That’s shooting in PES2020.

I did my part, but the AI keeper unfortunately did his too. Still, it shows the kinds of goals that I will hopefully end up scoring in this game.