Category: Aston Villa

You cannot be my wingman, anytime

Somehow, I have started playing and enjoying PES2009’s Become a Legend mode. I never wanted this. I was rather looking forward to spending the rest of this football game year catching up on all the unplayed games on my shelf. I’ll still do that, but now it seems BaL in PES2009 (and Ultimate Team and BaP in FIFA09) are also going to be in the mix.

After spending a third of my first season with Manchester City in the Reserves ‘B’ team, I found myself bumped up to the Reserves ‘A’ team. This was a really big deal. I was actually nervous before the match and for most of the time during it. I was still playing in the reserves, on an empty, echoing reserve team pitch, but I was playing with the first team players alongside Robinho et al. I felt that things were moving in the right direction for me.

But I played quite badly in the match. The occasion got to me. I tightened up, always going for the safe, conservative passes. I was scared to make a mistake. Another complicating factor: it was my first game as a proper AMF. I’d played all the previous 16 or so matches as a CMF. The problem now was that I kept dropping too deep. The performance was a mess. It wasn’t helped by my growing anger towards some of my team-mates. Yes, anger towards make-believe team-mates…

One of the most convenient options available when you get the ball in midfield is to lay it off to a winger. But that rarely leads to anything good. It’s only by playing BaL that I’ve come to appreciate just how very, very bad at wing-play the PES2009 AI really is. 9 times out of 10 the winger, whoever it is, just messes it up.

You play the pass out wide, and go on the long run into the box anyway. Watching your winger on the ball, waiting for him to do something with it, is exquisitely painful. JUST SQUARE THE ******* BALL! CROSS IT, CROSS IT, YOU USELESS PRANCING SHOW-PONY. ****! But no, he tries one jink too many, trips over a blade of grass, and that’s it. You’ve made your run and expended some of your precious non-renewable stamina for nothing. You might just as well have passed it to the opposition.

Eventually I worked out it was okay for me to just goal-hang for a bit if that’s what I wanted to do, so I did. Late on, I even had a half-chance that I thumped tamely into the keeper’s midriff. It’s a measure of BaL’s deep-immersion factor that I was hugely satisfied with that.

Despite having a pretty bad game I made the subs bench for a proper game. This was an even bigger deal for me. It was the second leg of a D1 Cup tie against West Ham. Different atmosphere, full match, crowd, commentators. The Hammers went 1-0 up. I was brought on in the 65th minute. The cutscene that showed me coming onto the pitch made me drool. Finally a chance to try to do something in a proper match.

I felt overwhelmed and played ‘tight’ for the first few minutes. After that I played ok, getting a dozen touches in the 25 minutes I was on the pitch. I played a few decent passes, including the one that eventually led to our equaliser. We went through to the next round of the Cup 1-2 on aggregate.

I thought my average performance might send me back to the reserves. But I was still on the bench for the next league match, and the one after.

Here is where I started to encounter a huge negative with BaL. Being a substitute and having to watch the match is a total chore. I’m not coping very well with it at all. You can speed up the action to twice the normal speed, but it still makes for tedious minutes spent doing nothing at all. CPU vs CPU action contains little or no incidental entertainment value for me. It’s like watching a demo game on a screen in a shop. Maybe this won’t be an issue after my player matures and earns a regular starting place, and as I become more identified with my team(s), of course.

I didn’t come on at all in that in the first league match—very frustrating, that—but I did come on in the second. This time I was brought on as a CMF, which is currently my preferred position. As CMF I seem to play an active role in nearly every type of play. I can drop deep, push forward, hang wide, or I can just stick to the official position and let play develop towards me. I thought I had a decent game and it ended 0-0.

Next up was the mid-season negotiation period. Aston Villa made a bid for me, and I accepted the offer. I was feeling frustrated about being a substitute at Man City, and thought I might have a better chance of playing more games at Villa. It was a big old NOOB error on my part. Because, of course, at Villa I had to start all over again in the reserves…

Escape to victory

It’s been a long old journey from then to now. Not as long as my journeys in previous PES years. (PES2008 will always suffer in comparison to its previous selves.) But it’s been long enough.

I sleepwalked through what was left of the League: West Ham 0, Coventry City 5. Andy Cole got 4 goals in this game.

Manchester United finally lost one, meaning that a win in my next fixture would seal the Championship title.

That next fixture was against my forthcoming D1 Cup Final opponents, Aston Villa. (This often happens in PES. Especially in the early stages of a season. With two-legged cup ties, sometimes you can end up playing the same opponents three times in a row.)

I beat Aston Villa 5-3, and took the title. Here’s Captain Schwarz leading the celebrations:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fVYYWDWLYI&rel=1]

It was the easiest League title I have ever won on any instalment of PES. Still, it was my first title in PES2008. This season was memorable for many good reasons. It would be churlish of me to grumble any more now (there’s plenty of time left until PES2009 for that.)

03-12-07_wontheleague.jpg

The only thing left to go for in the League was a goal difference of +100 or more. (Schwarz, with 29 goals, was already the runaway Golden Boot winner.)

I beat Galatasaray 5-2. Orellano got a hat trick, playing in the centre CF slot in place of Schwarz, who has been blue- or grey-arrowed for almost every game lately.

The final league game was against Bolton. I went into it with a goal difference of +99. Easy, right?

Well, once again I tried too hard. I found myself 0-1 down and with just 9 players by the middle of the second half. No problem. This is PES2008, after all. I scored two late goals with my 9 men and won 2-1, taking me to a goal difference of exactly +100 in the final table.

My final goals scored tally was 136. One hundred and thirty-six. In one season. Ridiculous.

finaltable.jpg

Here’s a full list of my team’s goal-scoring/assists performance this season:

goals-assists2012.jpg

(The discrepancy of 4 goals is made up for by CPU own goals, and one or two goals that Bramble got before I traded him mid-season.)

As can be inferred from the list, I’ve been less than dutiful in reporting just how effective Shimizu and Andy Cole have been for me up front this season. Some of my Schwarz-centric posts might have suggested that Coventry City was a one-man team. Not so.

Andy Cole in particular deserves a special mention. He’s another player I don’t think I’ve seen the best of, despite his 15 goals this season. Along with Beerens, I’ll be allowing myself to get him again next time around. Schwarz and Shimizu definitely won’t be allowed.

Final position: 1st (103 pts)
Won:33 Drew:4 Lost:1
Goals scored:136 Goals conceded:36 Goal difference:+100
Yellow cards: 34 Red cards: 6

———————-

The Division 1 Cup Final against Aston Villa was a peculiar game. Villa took the lead, I equalised. Villa equalised, I took the lead again. Then Villa took the lead. It was 3-2 to them going into half time. I was frustrated and more than a little tense. With the Treble apparently sitting on a plate begging to be eaten, I was in danger of throwing it away.

I shouldn’t have worried, though. I scored three goals in the second half and won the Cup 5-3 (the exact same score of my League title decider against Villa). The pick of the goals was this peach of a strike from Beerens:

I do love a goal that finds the postage stamp corner of the net. This one was achieved with a minimum of backlift, which always makes a player’s technique stats shine through.

I only got to play with Beerens for this one season. He’s still only 24. In my next Master League I’m banning myself from having all but a few players that I’ve had in this career. Beerens will be one of the exceptions.

——————–

After all of the fireworks in the League and D1 Cup, the ECC Final against Barcelona was relatively anti-climactic. I was nervous going into the game, and once again I conceded an early goal.

The amount of early goals conceded in big games is extremely dubious. It could be a result of being a little more uptight than usual, and playing in a withdrawn, over-careful manner; or it could just be PES’s pesky scripting; or it could be a mixture of the two. Or it could be something else. Coincidence, maybe. There sure are a lot of coincidences in PES2008…

I chose to man-mark Ronaldinho with Bradley in this game (I never usually bother with man-marking), and the buck-toothed wonderboy was pretty anonymous throughout, despite me rarely seeing Bradley within so much as 5 yards of him, all game.

wontheecc.jpg

I held firm against Barcelona’s persistent pressure. I got my equaliser with Bradley scuffing a shot over the line during a goal-mouth scramble.

I got the winner with Reyes toward the end. 2-1 to me. And that was that.

The Treble was in the bag. I had fought a war on three fronts throughout a long, long season, and been victorious on all of them.

——————-

It was difficult to progress in the Cups on one or two occasions. The absence of Italian clubs in Europe takes the gloss off winning the ECC. The League took its time to ripen and fall into my lap, thanks to Man Yoo’s peculiar reluctance to lose any of their games.

But it was all just too easy, in the final analysis.

The reasons why it was too easy have been gone over again and again (and again) here and on dozens of other PES-focused sites. Goalkeepers have emerged as the #1 reason why there are so many goals in next-gen PES2008. The keepers in the game are broken.

There is also the matter of player pace. In years gone by, your players’ pace and acceleration stats meant next to nothing. The slowest CPU team defender could catch the quickest human team player. We complained and griped and grumbled about it for so long that they finally caved in. The result? Every player is a potential Maradona. This is a tough one to criticise Seabass & co. for. What he/they should have done was to find a way to make CPU defensive AI a lot better.

But this is not the place for a PES2008 post-mortem. Not now.

There’s life in the old dog yet. I’ll say it again: the core PES gameplay of next-gen PES2008 is as good as it’s ever been. (In my opinion. Other opinions differ.)

—————–

Here’s the download link to my final saved game file: PS3.zip

WARNING! Transferring this game save to your PS3 will overwrite any ML save of your own that’s called Master League 03. Proceed with caution.

Any PS3-owner with a USB stick who’s curious to see my players and check out my season-by-season record is welcome to do so. Anyone who might want to pick up where I left off and play on is also welcome to do so.

The save file will place you in week 1 of negotiations at the end of season 2012, with the squad that won the Treble.

——————-

NEXT on peschronicles: next-gen FIFA08 week.

I said I was going to do it. And now I’m going to go ahead and do it.

I could do with a break from PES2008 (familiarity breeds you-know-what). I have a lot of unfinished business to deal with in FIFA08.

PES vs. FIFA is an ongoing (and largely dull) debate.

Until this year (or arguably last year, with FIFA07) PES vs. FIFA was a no-brainer. PES was the thougtful, mature, simulation-oriented football game for mature gamers of all ages. FIFA was the arcadey, pass-pass-shoot game for kids of all ages. There was little or no argument to be had. PES all the way.

Well. In retrospect, PES-lovers can see that our unshakeable confidence in the franchise was unrealistic. Next-gen FIFA08 is the first serious challenger to PES ever.

Over the next seven days I’ll be talking about my progress with FIFA08. I’ll discuss its gameplay specifically in relation to the PES series and to PES2008 in particular. I’ll be treating FIFA08 as a game in its own right (of course), but it’s only natural that much of my attention will be through PES-tinted spectacles.

—————-

After that it’ll be back to Master League on PES2008. In a Superleague. Starting all over again with the Default players. I can’t wait.

#Spit on the Villa…#

Aston Villa away. After I started the season like a rocket, and grew concerned about PES2008 becoming too easy for me, the CPU teams have just stepped things up a gear. I’ve taken a couple of sound beatings. I not only want and need to put one over on the PES version of the Villa, I also would like the 3 points, thank you very much.

In real life, the rivalry between Coventry City and Aston Villa football clubs is mostly one-way. We care about beating them, and we used to beat them very rarely in the English top division. Villa don’t care about beating us, and they used to beat us a lot. There’s some kind of lesson in there somewhere.

In PES – the 2008 flavour, or any other – there’s a definite forlornness about the whole local rivalry thing. The FIFA series has all the real-life licenses, and has always modelled local rivalries particularly well. In PES, you more or less have to imagine it for yourself. This is something I have always done with gusto. Whenever I finally make it into the top division I always look through the calendar and make a mental note of the two league fixtures against the Villa. Then I start preparing for them a couple of games in advance, resting key players, and licking my lips…

I made a fantastic start. Literally, the stuff of fantasy: two quickfire goals in the first 10 minutes from that man Schwarz. I was punching the air here in my sad little room.2-0 up, then, and almost guaranteed to be in a winning position. You’d think. But this is PES2008.

All matches for me at the moment in Master League seem to follow the same pattern. Taking a 2-0 lead is almost guaranteed to invite a response from the CPU in the form of a cheeky goal that it seems you are powerless to prevent. Aston Villa got themselves a corner, and I braced for the inevitable.

Recently. I have started to be able to defend corners with about 95% success. I had been automatically trying to defend them using the method from the last couple of PESes. In PES5 all you had to do was stand a defender in the sweet spot on the corner of the six-yard box; in PES6, the sweet spot was a yard or two deeper.

I got hold of my defenders in the box and dragged them over to stand on the Villa strikers’ toes. Over came the corner. The ball was dropping directly at my defender, Mattsson. There was no way the Villa attacker – who was not only smaller than Mattsson, but standing behind him relative to the ball’s approach vector (bear with me here) – was ever going to get his head on that ball, right? Right?

I waited until the appropriate time, and then pressed for Mattsson to make the kind of routine clearance that I have been routinely performing for many dozens of games now, ever since I discovered how to do it. Mattsson didn’t move, and somehow the ball went over his head, onto the Villa attacker’s forehead, and into the net.

1-2, and I would have fumed if I had any fumes left with which to fume. PES2008 has almost completely defumed me. Bless its little heart.

At this stage, things can go several ways. The CPU will maintain its supercharged drive forward to get a goal. What you need is another goal yourself, to kill the game off.

I got it. Again it came from Schwarz, completing his hat trick:

The game ended that way: 1-3. I was happy to have bested my virtual local rival on their own patch. I resisted the urge to soil a sheet of toilet paper and send it to the real Villa Park along with a rude note (again). I’m way past that.

I moved onto the next games with increased confidence. It seemed I was through the bad patch. I beat Fulham 3-0 despite the CPU once again being in perma-God Mode. I’ve discovered – or rediscovered – how to cope with God Mode in PES2008. It’s simple: remember that you’re playing a game, not locked in a life-or-death struggle for your family honour. When you feel your fingers cramping up as though you’re trying to strangle the joypad, you’re doing it wrong. Pause the game for a few moments, take literal and figurative deep breaths, and then resume.

I played the return leg of the Division 1 Cup tie against Spurs. It was at their ground, and it ended 1-1. It was a hard match but I held on to go through on the away goal. It’s my Cup and they’re not taking it off me.

The session concluded on a downbeat note with a mammoth encounter against Arsenal. It ended 3-2 to them after I had been 2-1 up at half time. They got the equaliser on 70 minutes from a penalty that I thought was a blatant dive. Referee!

I quite like the inclusion of diving in PES2008. Like it or not, diving is a feature of the real-life game. Any football video game that aspires to represent the sport must include diving, however unsporting it is. Q.E.D. What’s next, then, an objector might, er, object. Hooliganism? Point taken, but diving in PES2008 enriches the game, in my opinion. It leads to contentious moments, exciting scenarios, fair and unfair outcomes. I’ve tried it myself, off and on, with almost zero success. But it’s still early days.

When Arsenal clicked into their turbo mode in search of a winning goal I started to ignore my own advice. I could hear the joypad creaking under the pressure, but I never let up. I was clamping again: pressing R1+X+Square. Will I never learn? Clamping doesn’t actually benefit you a great deal. All it does is drag players out of position, tires them, and send them into a virtual panic. While your players are hurling themselves pell-mell all over the place, the CPU delves into its box of tricks, with this kind of result:

Oh, the pain.

Going into the mid-season negotiations period, I’m still holding steady in fourth place, but Chelsea at the top of the table are starting to pull away. They’re 7 points clear of Man Utd in second place, and 12 points clear of me. It’ll be difficult for anyone to catch them now. I wasn’t expecting to challenge for the title this season, though, so I’m not disappointed. What I wanted from this season was to avoid relegation. I will avoid it, I think, so a top-6 finish and qualification for next season’s European Cup is now my new ‘bonus’ target.

22-11-07_topscorerslist11-5.jpg

Another bonus: at the moment, Schwarz is second in the top scorers’ league. He has 12 goals. Rooney, in first place, has 15. I’d like to get Schwarz to the top of this list by season’s end. He deserves it.

I’ve always said to anyone who will listen (i.e., to no one) that the greatest PES striker ever was PES5’s Dennis Bergkamp (after he had regenerated, of course). Schwarz in PES2008 isn’t quite there yet. But he’s a contender.

Bumps and Grinds

Ow. The latest results are in.

Coventry City 1-0 Everton
Galatasaray 2-0 Coventry City
Coventry City 1-2 Blackburn Rovers
Aston Villa 0-0 Coventry City

I beat Everton, but I don’t know how. The CPU was all over me. I got a nice glancing headed goal from Chiesa at a corner. After he scored he did his trademark aeroplane celebration – running in a dreamlike trance with his arms fully extended – for ages. It was mesmerising to watch. Really, it just goes on forever. I kept Everton at bay and picked up my first 3 points in the top flight. Now this, I thought, is a bit more like it.

The next few games were terrible for me. It was as if the Arsenal game had set the real tone and the Everton win was – whisper it – a scripted gift from the game. Couldn’t pass, couldn’t shoot, couldn’t defend.

I wasn’t pleased to come up against my old nemesis, Galatasaray, so quickly. They absolutely wiped the floor with me. Every Master League brings its bogey teams with it – PES5’s FC Bosphorus, anyone? – and Galatasaray are mine in this one.

And don’t talk to me about stamina… Due to fitness issues I have had to play several players out of position, despite having 2344 players in the squad. Donadel came on as a substitute in the defeat by Blackburn and had to play as a left-sided CF – there was literally no other choice. Everyone else was knackered. (He did set up my consolation goal in that game , though. Super Donadel!)

In the last of my five openers I played Aston Villa. Traditionally, they’re Coventry City’s big local rivals in the Midlands, although it has to be said that the rivalry is felt more keenly by Coventry’s fans than by Villa’s fans (they look to Birmingham City for all of their local rivalry needs).

So I was, as they say, up for it – and it was a good game, probably the best one of the five openers in terms of excitement and near-misses, despite the 0-0 outcome. I had the strange sensation that I was actually in control of the game. Maybe the scripting engine at the heart of PES2008 is programmed to take the day off – or to take it easy – occasionally.