Category: 4-3-3

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.

Formation aggravation

February? I’ve said it before, but—what is happening to time lately? Weren’t we greeting the arrival of PES2010 and FIFA10 just last week or something?

Now it won’t be too long—two months? three months?—before the buildup to the 2011 games begins. The World Cup this year may alter the publicity calculus a little. Will Konami and EA start the hype earlier or later than usual? They could go either way, I suppose. A lot depends on whether they’ve got a World Cup game to promote as well. We know that EA definitely will have a WC game.

When the PES2011 and FIFA11 hype machine does get going, certain things are guaranteed. We’ll see underwhelming screenshots. Then there’ll be the now-traditional, utterly pointless FMV video of Messi or somebody doing a trick or—if we’re lucky—tricks. Plural! Why do football game makers insists on trailing everything about a football game EXCEPT what we most want to see—i.e., ordinary gameplay? Why must we sit through several months of flicks and tricks and nutmegs and lollipops and crap like that, instead of seeing (for example) just a few seconds of ordinary gameplay, say a passing move through midfield leading to a standard shot on goal? Does any other game genre gloss over its core experience so thoroughly for so long during its pre-release cycle?

Anyway. Season 10 in my Master League. PES2010. Here and now.

Last time, I was lightheaded at being top of the table and looking fairly good after 12 matches. Here we go with the next stage of the season. I’ve played another 10 matches, and I’ve passed through the mid-season transfer window.

I experimented with a new formation. 4-3-3 has been my favoured formation in PES for 10 years now (where does that time go?). But this year I’ve found goals harder to come by than before, and it is with regret that I finally acknowledged the 4-3-3—with wide AMFs, and widely-spaced CFs—has run its course. I needed an alternative.

I played 5 of the next 10 matches using a 4-5-1 (pictured left) and then with a version of 4-4-2. The experiment did not go well.

I lost 3 and drew 2—my worst run for a few seasons. I scored just 1 goal in those 5 matches. My rise up the table has been built on pass and move, patience, and being willing to defend 1-0 leads for long periods. With the new formation, I couldn’t pass, could barely move, and I seemed to be defending all the time anyway, whatever the circumstances. Everything that had hoisted me up to the top of the table felt missing. There was no flow.

I had to take remedial action before my fledgling title challenge was seriously compromised. (As it was, I’d do well to recover.) I soon went back to a version of 4-3-3, albeit one tempered by my experiences. The new formation can be seen below at the top of the new squad picture. It handles very much like a 4-5-1 at times, with lots of bodies in midfield. Although it looks narrow, in practice it doesn’t play that way. I adjusted my sliders to favour width. My players seem to go wide when I want them wide, and go narrow when I want them narrow. I had instant success with the new 4-3-3, to counterbalance the poor results. I’m still a bit short on goals, though. The 4-5-1 experiment is by no means over. Long-term, I believe I’ll settle for a 4-4-2 with a diamond midfield. For now I’ve got the above 4-5-1 mapped to a strategy button, and I still activate it for long periods when I feel I need to calm a game down.

My possession stats lately have been extraordinary. In one match against River Plate I had 75% possession at half-time, but ended the match with ‘only’ 69%—and I conceded a typical late goal. But that’s PES for you.

In mid-season I indulged in quite a bit of activity. I bought yet another WF/SS hybrid player, SCOKLANT, for a few hundred thousand. I got rid of my calamity goalkeeper, Jan Kun Mu, who brought in £1.5m. I replaced him with a lanky Free Agent keeper called ZUBERBUHLER, who I negotiated with back in the first weeks of the season. He’s been great since his arrival.

Also in the Free Agents list I found a CF, 85 OVR, named ZAKI… I’ve had nothing but great players from the Free Agents list recently. Why do I even need to look at the proper transfer market? Is this a slight flaw in the new Master League? Only more time will tell. As I (hopefully) get more successful and accumulate more money over the next few seasons, I’ll be able to buy top players on the regular transfer market—if I want to.

The failed experiment with 4-5-1 cost me a few league places, but look here: after 22 matches, almost 2/3rds of the season, I’m still in 4th place, and just 2 points behind the leaders. After everything that’s happened in this long old career, I’ve got to be happy with that. And I am happy.

It’s another rollover

Oh dear. I’ve finished season 2014 and it all went pretty badly wrong in the closing stages. This was supposed to be the season where I either won the Treble, or at least ended up with something to show for my efforts.

But I got knocked out of the Champions League at the pre-qualifying group stage and crashed out of the D1 Cup. I was doing okay in the League, snapping at Valencia’s heels. I was confident I could win the title at least this season. And I was doing great in the WEFA Masters Cup—the Euro consolation prize—where I met Marseille in the semi-final. I was regularly playing and beating Barca and Real Madrid in the league. So Marseille in Europe should be no trouble, right? Right?

First of all I was intrigued to see the formation that the CPU was using: a weird variant on the 4-3-3, a kind of 4-2-1-3 that I don’t recall seeing the CPU use before. Those two CMFs look to be too close together. The sole AMF will have his work cut out. The burden on the three forwards (two SS and a CF) is proportionally greater than in my (relatively) more sedate 4-3-3 formation.

I thought I was going to exploit Marseille’s strange formation to the full after a first leg at their ground that finished 1-2 to me. A win, and two away goals: I couldn’t help but regard the tie as effectively over. The second leg would have to be an utter disaster for me to go out now. The final here I come…

But no. Marseille turned me over 1-3 at my place, winning the semi-final 3-4 on aggregate. It was pretty pathetic. I have no idea what went wrong, really. I just seemed to be overwhelmed by frantic, fast, lethal, attacking CPU play, and none of my many raids forward came to anything.

Disappointed (this is now my eighth season without any kind of Cup win), I turned my attention back to the league. With four games to go I was a point behind Valencia, who I played next.

It was a tough, tough game. Both sides had chances. The very best chances fell to me, but it was one of those games where the woodwork and a super-goalie conspired to shut me out. 0-0 it finished, then, without any change at the top of the table. I had to win all my remaining games and hope Valencia slipped up. I was sure Valencia would at least draw one of their remaining games. My goal difference was superior. All I had to do was win all three games, and I could still do it.

I won my next game, then played Real Madrid. As I’ve mentioned once or twice, I’ve had a pretty good time against them in this division. Imagine my extreme chagrin, then, to go 0-1 down straight from their kickoff. I equalised. Real scored again. I equalised again. Real scored again. That’s how it went, all the way to the final whistle, with the final score 4-4.

Did I not like that. Not only was it an utterly stupid old-FIFA-style scoreline of the kind that I always hate to see in PES (thankfully not so much in the PSP/PS2 version of PES2008), but it let Valencia grab a three-point lead going into the final fixture. I now had to win and hope Valencia lost.

I didn’t win my last game. I lost it, pretty dismally—Osasuna beat me 2-1. I was trying too hard. But in the end it wouldn’t have mattered, as Valencia won their last game and took the Division 1 Championship by a whopping 6 points—the biggest gap there’s been between 1st and 2nd all season. I was, and am, displeased with myself.

So I end season 2014 completely empty-handed. It’s getting annoying. The only thing I’ve won in PES2008 so far (on PSP/PS2) is the Division 2 title, way back when. Nothing else. At least it means I still have everything left to play for. The hunger is still there, spurring me on. Roll on season 2015. Finishing second this season means I’ll go straight into the full WEFA Championship tournament—none of that pesky pre-qualifying nonsense. I’ll have a normal start to the season with just one game per week. As ever the Treble is the target and this time I think I’m really going to do it.

England 1, Scotland 1

After becoming disillusioned with PES2008 over recent weeks, I have returned to PES5.

In my opinion PES5 was and is the best-ever PES game. As with any game (or anything at all) it is not perfect. Other opinions are equally valid. This is a blog, after all – i.e., just a new-fangled version of a scribbled diary. These are not tablets engraved in stone.

The last time I played this game seriously was one night in October 2006. PES6 was released the next day (whenever that was). Naturally, despite still being perfectly satisfied with PES5, I bought PES6 like the obediently robotic consumer that I was, and played it for most of the next year. ‘Twas ever thus, eh?


After starting up the game, first on the agenda was re-familiarising myself with pressing Triangle to cancel in the menus. Next-gen developers have universally ditched the previously familiar Triangle-to-cancel in favour of Circle-to-cancel. Now I’m used to pressing Circle, and keep forgetting that I’m playing a PS2 game.

First up: an Exhibition game, England vs. Scotland.

Why Scotland? Nostalgia, mainly. When I was growing up, the annual England-Scotland fixture was one of the biggest games – and occasions – of the season. For various reasons, we’re unlikely to see the fixture resurrected for anything more than a token showpiece friendly at some point. Thank God for computer games.

I chose to play on the game’s default three-star difficulty. That’s another thing that feels weird about PES5. Difficulty stars. Of course, when I accumulate enough PES points I can purchase the 6-star difficulty in the PES Shop. This is another reason why it makes sense to play a load of games in other modes before starting a new Master League. I also have to unlock the alternate balls. The default one is just too wishy-washy. I want to use the famous PES5 half-black/half-white ball – or its yellow counterpart. I used to like both of them equally.

I rearranged the default England formation into my beloved 4-3-3. I played Gerrard as the DMF and Joe Cole as a right-sided striker. Both players are generally superb in both positions, with Gerrard having lots of opportunities to use his viciously effective Middle Shooting, and Joe Cole is a speedy, skilful, dangerous presence out wide.

First impressions of PES5 this time around?

Wow, I really didn’t remember it as being so fast.

It’s faster than PES2008. If PES2008 is 100mph, PES5 is 150mph. The ball pings around between players racing at ludicrous speeds all over the pitch.

I’m genuinely taken aback by this. Was PES5 really this fast back in 2005? Or is the extra processing power of the PS3 somehow speeding up the gameplay? Or – and I think this is the answer – has next-gen FIFA08 and the (it turns out) slower-paced next-gen PES2008 affected my perceptions?

I was under the impression that PES5 was a stately-paced, ultra-simulation. It’s not. Dare I say it, but it feels… arcadey. There, I’ve said it.


The graphics don’t look too bad, upscaled of course on my PS3.

There is one thing that PES5 has got that none of the next-gen football games has got (and how we feel the lack of it). Camera panning – oh, how I have missed you. The next-gen games’ cameras slide up and down the sideline, making your view of the goalmouth unnaturally narrow. It just doesn’t feel right after so many years of playing and viewing from a point anchored up near the halfway line. FIFA09 and PES2009 had better have full camera panning. If not, I’ll be disgruntled.

Just for the sake of it, I played this game with the full pan – setting 9 in the Camera options menu. (Usually I’m a 6 or 7 man.)

Passing in PES5 is ultra-fast. Tap X and aim for a player who’s fifty or so ‘yards’ away, and the ball positively zooms over the virtual turf. It takes some getting used to. Dare I say it (again) but I prefer the passing in PES2008.

Dribbling: I tried to dribble automatically, effortlessly taking on and beating defenders for fun – just like I have been doing in PES2008. No. It doesn’t work. The ball is lost almost straightaway, even on the default difficulty. I said that I was never a dribbler before PES2008. I wasn’t lying.

Just after halftime, I got my first goal. Rooney broke from the left wing and blasted one in:

A typical PES5 goal. It felt very satisfying.

Scotland scored their goal late in the second half. Extra time passed without much happening. Before the match, I had chosen not to have a penalty shootout. I didn’t need to have one to see what they were like in PES5 (i.e. the same as they have always been in every PES).

1-1 the final score, then, and a fair result.

Frankly, I was shocked by just how fast and – yes, I have to say it again – arcadey PES5 now seems. This (rather negative) impression was enhanced by the way I kept stupidly losing the ball due to forgetting about PES5’s R1 knock-on effect. It’s going to take time to settle back into the ebb and flow of PES5’s unique gameplay.

I’ll be scrupulously honest here (as ever – honest!) and admit that there’s a small voice at the back of my mind whispering about giving up on PES2008 too soon.

You could have dumped Elcherino and played on with severe House Rules, the voice says. And there’s a slightly louder voice asking me why I’m not playing FIFA08. You seem to be one of those PES fans with the right genetic makeup to think next-gen FIFA08 is a pretty damn good game, it says. So why are you messing around here on an upscaled PS2 game that feels as if it’s running at ten times the speed?

I’m ignoring the voices for now. I’m determined to give PES5 a really good go.