Category: Bergkamp

The eternal joy of the sweetest volley

I’ve now played until the mid-season transfer window in season 14. I’ve only just gone top of the table. It’s the first time I’ve been top all season. For a change I’ll post the full mid-season Division 1 table:

Burnley have faded after being a strong force last season. Chelsea have rallied well after being poor last season and at the start of this season. But look who’s in the bottom 3: Liverpool. It’s shocking to see them there, even if it’s only in the cartoony make-believe football world of ML.

In the Champions League things were not straightforward. I drew and lost my opening two matches of the qualifying group. Then I won three on the bounce to secure the second qualifying spot with a game to spare. I simmed the meaningless final fixture against Rosenborg, which the game determined was a 3-3 draw.

The draw for the next round has been made. For the 4th season in a row, my first opponents in the knockout stage are French. This time it’s Olympique Lyonnais. Over the past three seasons at this stage of the competition, I’ve faced FC Sochaux, RC Lens, and Stade Rennais. What are the odds of this kind of draw happening 4 seasons in a row?

I’m still in the Division 1 Cup. (I have a feeling about this season. I hope I’m not tempting fate—I probably am—but I can smell a Treble. It all feels right.)

My second round opponents in the D1 Cup were Spurs. They’re currently not the D1 superpower they were a few seasons ago, but they’re still tricky to play against. However I beat them very easily in both legs, 3-0 both times. I even failed to notice that the second leg was a Cup match until it was over.

Just before the mid-season transfer window, I suffered a terrible blow. Zaki, my main striker, picked up an injury that’ll effectively keep him out for the rest of the season. Zaki has been an integral part of my team over the past few seasons. He’s actually lost a point or two of OVR rating, and he’s 31 now, but he’s still a great striker. I came within a whisker of winning the Golden Boot with him last season.

So I mourned Zaki for a few minutes (he’s unlikely to be the same player after the injury, and will probably be sold). Then I went and slapped in panic transfer bids for five top young strikers (pictured left). I doubt I’ll be successful in getting any of them. I could be left to make do with what I’ve got – which would not be too bad actually. Bamen Roberk, your time may be at hand.

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I was looking through some old stuff the other day and came across my PES5 videos. Among the goals I recorded at the time (using MaxDrive to transfer from PS2 to PC!) was one in particular that I always think of first in the general category of ‘your most favourite-ever PES goal, ever’. It came in Master League (of course). The scorer was Bergkamp:

Link: Bergkamp PES5 volley

What makes a great goal? It’s at least partly subjective, perhaps mostly so. Some people salivate over the Argentina ‘team goal’ from Germany 2006. I failed to see, and still fail to see, why so much fuss was made about it. Tellingly, few people today would instantly think of it when asked to recall great World Cup goals. Oh, I know that it was a technical marvel, and I love to score goals like it in computer games myself. But Maxi Rodriguez’s showbiz volley later in the same tournament was a genuinely great goal, IMO.

I love my PES5 Bergkamp goal. I’ve scored plenty of memorable goals before and since, but none  have yet occupied the special place in my memory that this one does.

Coventry City 7-0 RCD Espanyol

So, I’ve been toiling along in PES2008 over the past few days. I switched from the PSP version to the PS2 version, and something hasn’t clicked back into place. I don’t know what it is. I’ve got my theories about screen sizes and controller button placements etc., but it’s more probable that I’m just suffering from PES fatigue and I need a short break to recharge my enthusiasm. A day or two on FIFA08 (I still instinctively shudder to say it) should sort me out. That’ll happen on Monday now.

Here in PES2008, I’ve lost key games in every competition. This was not good in a season where I’m going for another Treble. But every now and then when you’re toiling along in PES, a chink of sunshine breaks through. You get a good game—in this case, it was a very good game. It was the last game before the mid-season break.

Espanyol are not a bad team. They’re not up with the best teams either, but they’re by no means one of the Division’s basement clubs. as ever on PES, these are the kinds of teams that it’s often hardest to play against. I worry about playing teams like Espanyol, Villarreal, Osasuna et al far more than I worry about playing Barcelona, Real Madrid, Deportivo la Coruna et al (Valencia being the sole exception).

The game went my way on this occasion: 7-0. It’s a high-scoring PES year across all the consoles. Things are not so bad (or good, depending on your perspective) on the last-gen PES2008 as they are on the next-gen game, but even so, 4-1 and 3-2 and similar scorelines are sadly a bit more common in ‘classic’ PES than they were in the past (come on Seabass, sort it out for PES2009). But a 7-0 win is still rare enough for it to remain noteworthy.

I was only 2-0 up at half-time. Usually when I inflict a hammering on the CPU, I get most of my goals in the first half and then have to get through a much tighter second half as the CPU exerts itself to get goals back, as if it’s only 1-0 or 2-0 down. In this case, the CPU was only 2-0 down. There was no hint of the goals deluge to come as I defended desperately to avoid conceding. On a random kind of breakaway somewhere around the 60th minute mark, this happened:

Good old Giggs. In real life, for my money, Giggs is one of the very few players who realised most of their wunderkind potential. Who can forget that goal back in 1999? In PES2008 I think Giggs is the best he’s ever been in PES, full stop. I got him as a 17-year-old and he’s 22 now. This goal was an example of my favourite type of PES goal: taken on the half-volley at an angle from outside the box. It’s the kind of goal that a 4-3-3 formation like mine is particularly suited for, with its wide frontmen just waiting for those aerial through balls to come bouncing through.

Giggs went on to claim a hat trick. Kim Cyun Hi got two goals. Andy Cole got one, Bradley the other. A 7-0 win is special in any kind of football, real or virtual.

In all my years on PES I’ve only ever scored one full volley (not a half-volley) from an aerial through-ball. It came over two years ago in PES5, and it can be seen toward the end of my first PES5 compilation video. Maldini floats the cross-field aerial through-ball over to Bergkamp, who deliciously thumps the ball into the net without letting it bounce first. That PES5 incarnation of Bergkamp (he was a Regen) remains the single best striker I have ever played with in 10 years of ISS/PES. The rest of that video (and its follow-up) shows why.

#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.

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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.

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