Category: corners

Points make prizes

Could this be the season? As I suspected would happen, losing most of my Master League squad to the end-of-season attrition of salary payments has actually improved my game. I’m concentrating better and playing better.

Now when I get a 1-0 lead I treat it like a fragile egg that I mustn’t drop. This is my traditionally roundabout way of saying that I’ve started picking up wins. With a squad of 17 players! Who are nearly always knackered! It’s a funny old world.

Here (left) is my full, complete, actual current squad again. I still can’t believe I’m actually trying to play PES2009’s rather tough Master League with this paltry roster of players. I did okay on the PS2/PSP version of PES2008 for half a season with a squad of 16—but that was then and this is now. PES2009 is, rather gratifyingly, a wholly different game.

Of course, I won’t have to survive the whole of this season with 17 players. I just have to make it to mid-season, and then I can pick up some fresh players. And then at the end of the season, if need be, have another mass clear-out. This could become a vicious circle.

What I need to do to break out of the circle is simple: start winning. Winning brings points not just in the league table, but in the bank. And what do points make?

I’ve finally scored a long-range goal in PES2009 worthy of posting on the blog. It’s not the most outrageously spectacular long-range goal ever seen in a PES game. But it’s my first true long-ranger PES2009. It feels really tough to score them this year. Making space for the shot is hard enough. The build-up to this goal is one of the few times I’ve found enough space in midfield to have a reasonable chance of scoring. GAMBINO (my only MIddle Shooting-equipped midfielder) is the triggerman:

I enjoyed it. From this angle and speed it doesn’t look nearly as good as it looked ‘live’. But they never do, do they?

Here’s the surprising current table—I’m doing quite well:

Only scoring 5 goals in 8 games is pretty poor, really. But I’m not conceding many either, crucially. And—I don’t want to be hasty, but I think I may have solved the corner problem. This is where the CPU will almost automatically score itself a goal from a corner kick whenever it needs one. I’ve discovered how to drastically reduce the instances of this. I doubt you could ever completely stop it: some CPU goals are just meant to be. We know it. Seabass knows it. Seabass knows that we know it. And he doesn’t care.

All I do is watch the penalty area just before the kick is taken. A CPU runner will dart around in the box. I follow him with my controlled player and make sure I’m in front of him when the kick comes over. But that’s only half of the equation. I still have to time the jump and header right. It’s no good pressing jump too early and hoping the game will interpret my wishes for me, and jump my defender at the right time. Doing that—pressing too early and letting the game do the work for me—is a bad habit learned way back around PES3, I think. 

Using this method I’ve gone from conceding at about 80% of CPU corners to conceding at about 10% of them. It really does work. Admittedly a large part of this is simply having better players, of course, but the method was also working quite well when I still had the likes of Baumann playing at CB.

Not turning corners

Season 2009-2010 in my PES2009 Master League career has brought little else except defeat, defeat, defeat. The odd draw. Then defeat, defeat, defeat… Some of my ‘favourite’ old bugbears about PES are starting to show themselves again. Corners, for one thing. There are times in PES2009 when, if the CPU gets a corner, it’s as good as scored a goal already. I’d almost rather concede a penalty than a corner.

The CPU is making mincemeat out of me. I’m not conceding many goals but I’m not creating much myself. It’s grim out there and I’m struggling to understand why. I have got a pretty good team already. Granted, the players I’ve signed are only above-average at best, but I should still be picking up results and building some kind of momentum by now.

PES2009 seems a pretty hard game to me at the moment. That might make more seasoned players smile and shake their heads, but I’ve made no secret of my average abilities. I suppose that I’ve just got to wait slightly longer before I pick up this PES’s signature moves and little tricks. I’m sure I’ll get to the ‘tipping point’ soon enough. I just hope things don’t turn into another PES2008-style disaster when I do get there.

I’m firmly bottom of the table heading into the mid-season negotiations. I still haven’t won a single game. I was 1-0 up until the 88th minute of my last game. I was defending pretty well and thought I’d bagged a result a last. Then I conceded a corner… and 1-1 was the final score. I was genuinely upset about it.

General PES2009 gameplay is starting to open up to me. I’m still finding it very more-ish, but the negatives are more apparent now.

Passing is sometimes very poor, especially in comparison to FIFA09. There are frequent comedy moments when you point up-and-left with the analogue stick—and you know you’re pointing up-and-left, and there is no doubt whatsoever that you’re pointing up-and-left—but the pass goes up-and-right to a CPU player instead.

Shooting sometimes has a similar bizarre interventionist approach when one-on-one with the keepers. Clean through with just the keeper to beat, I’ll often aim to the left only for the game to execute a side-foot animation (it loves that side-foot animation) and slot the ball to the right. I hate it when it does that. Thankfully, I’ve only seen it about three or four times in what must be 50 matches now. But that’s three or four times too often.

In terms of translating what the human player wants to do into the action taking place on-screen, FIFA09 is so far ahead of PES2009 that it’s not even funny any more. Get your finger out, Seabass.

After a few weeks of playing FIFA09, I’d learned its special controls to the extent that I’m still trying to use them in PES2009. Occasionally I still try to use the right-stick to perform a first touch/knock-on in PES2009, for example—with amusing results. The right stick is a manual pass in PES2009, which turns out to have a surprising level of actual usefulness. I’ll get to that later in the week.

And I also keep tapping L1 while I have possession, farcically trying—and failing—to make my players go on runs. They don’t, of course, and I just feel idiotic. This is something I really, really miss from FIFA09. It could do with being borrowed/stolen. If PES is to have a meaningful future in this generation, it will surely need to blatantly steal the new FIFA’s best ideas. New FIFA has ‘borrowed’ enough of PES’s clothes. Time to return the compliment.

#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.

Fighting for my life

A quick paragraph of ‘previously on Pro Evolution Soccer: The Chronicles’-type stuff is called for, I think. So. I’m in my first season in Division 1 on Master League in PES2008. I’m playing on Top Player difficulty. And it’s been a disaster so far. I’m 5th from bottom of the league with eight games to go. In eight long, happy years of PES gaming, I have never been in this kind of situation before. Not even remotely close to it. This definitely isn’t Kansas anymore.

There are four or five teams above me within 3 points. But two of the four teams below me are within 2 points. Only the bottom team, Celtic (who’ve had one win all season – against me), are guaranteed to be relegated right now. Everyone else can still escape the dropzone. No one is safe.

A run of results was needed to boost me away from the danger area.

I started with an epic 0-0 draw against Liverpool that I could and should have won comfortably. I was all over them for most of the game. I had 61% of possession. I had 16 shots on target to their 5. I hit the post twice during one attack. I hit the bar with a 40-yard shot from Guimaraes, who is suddenly developing into an accomplished all-round full-back in the Roberto Carlos mode. Albeit on the right, of course. It’s still early days for him yet, so we’ll see.

After Liverpool I played West Ham away. With the Hammers hovering not too far above me I knew that this was a big game – a six-pointer. I took the lead and held it until the 85th minute. (What is it with PES2008 and the 85th minute?) They had a corner that I knew they would score from no matter what I did. They scored. Self-fulfilling prophecy? Perhaps. That would seem to have been that. I kicked off in the 90th minute and raced downfield with Shaw, hoping for a dramatic last-minute winner. I shot, but it hit a defender and deflected wide… for a corner.

Two can play at the CPU’s sneaky game. I get lots of headed goals from corners in PES2008. I swung it over, high and hard. There was Mattsson, my second-choice CB, to head home from the edge of the six-yard box.

The final whistle went almost straight after the Hammers’ kickoff. A precious 2-1 victory for me.

Next up was a league game against Manchester United. I’ll be playing them three times within a few games, as they’re my semi-final opponents in the Division 1 Cup. But the Cup can go hang right now for all I care. I’d take 3 points here and now in the league. I have been struggling to pick up results against the poor teams in Division 1, never mind against the big boys. I was worried. That relegation zone has looked like a yawning chasm below me pretty much all season so far.

Pre-game I spent a minute or two in the Regulate Condition screen. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find it more effective at adjusting players’ form arrows (and less punishing on their stamina) than it was the last time I used it a couple of PESes ago. All thanks are due to Ziggy Bashmore’s excellent Master League guide for pointing me back in this direction.

So it was that I went out onto the pitch against Man Yoo with a team packed by red-arrowed supermen. Apparently…

I kicked off, knocked the ball back to my defence, played it around at the back for a bit, then passed through to Shimizu up front. Shimizu lost the ball. It skated clear to Ferdinand, who moved upfield. I gave chase with Shimizu and put in a sliding tackle that clipped Ferdinand’s heels, bringing him down for a free kick. Oh, and Shimizu got a straight red card, of course.

Shimizu headed for the dressing room, and I fumed. For the thousandth time, I’d had a red card for an offence that wouldn’t even be a yellow card most of the time in real life, anywhere in the world.

Never mind, I thought. I’ve ground out results with 10 men plenty of times in PES2008. A draw would be a good result from this game. I’d just have to tighten up and hang on for dear life. I didn’t make any substitutions. I moved Chiesa back to Shimizu’s position, and dragged the other two CFs into the centre, Schwarz slightly behind and to the left of Boyd (who was playing in place of the unfit Frutos).

Not very much more time had passed when Tevez burst through my centre, evaded several attempted challenges, and coolly slotted the ball past Friedel. Damn. Damn them all to hell. The maniacs…

I would be lucky to avoid a sound thrashing now, I thought. I got hold of the ball and kept it at the back for a bit, knocking it around. Wasting a bit of time, and seeing if the CPU would come out a bit, leaving a nice gap or two…

I played a hopeful L1+Triangle punt over Evra, looking for Chiesa in behind him. The ball didn’t get past Evra’s head – but the rebound did drop back to Guimaraes. I passed it first time, long, to Boyd standing about 30 yards out. I jinked past a defender, to my amazement. (I rarely jink. Jinking is just not me.) I found myself on the edge of the area, clean in on goal.

Instead of trying to blast it past the keeper, I did no more than tap the shoot button. The ball went under Van der Sar’s body into the net.

1-1, and I would have settled for that. But Man Utd were still a force in the game, and the best form of defence is attack, so… I attacked as much as I could. Playing with 10 men so often has made me pretty good at keep-ball.

So, after keeping the ball at the back for a few minutes, I rapidly passed upfield, and once again found Boyd more or less where he was before – standing just outside the box with the ball at his feet and the Man Utd goal in front of him. Another careful shot, and another goal for Boyd and for me. 2-1! This was amazing. (I should play with 11 men the way I play with 10 men. I see that now.)

But there was one problem. I had 10 men, I was playing Manchester United, and there were 40 minutes left to play in the match… Factor in the CPU’s notorious onslaught mode (or God mode, or aggro mode, or whatever name you call it), and I was in for some serious testing, right here, right now.

The onslaught started immediately from Man Utd’s kickoff, and lo, it was terrible. I survived through luck, of course, and some skill. Well-timed last-ditch sliding tackles (for once) and – most importantly – positional discipline. Every one of my players had to stay within 10 yards of their position. No dragging them across the pitch to chase down CPU players with the ball glued to their feet. I’d tap L1 and switch to another player nearby when that happened. It seemed to be working. It is especially important to keep your side-backs in their position, I have noticed. It’s too easy to let them wander up to the halfway line, or across to the CB positions.

Manchester United couldn’t get past me. But I knew by now that it was really only a matter a time before they did, even if it took a corner or free kick.

Then I conceded a corner. It was the 75th minute. This is it, I thought. This is the Man Utd goal. They are going to score, right now. I was already resigned to it.

However, I think I might have discovered how to defend PES2008 corners more effectively. Instead of positioning a defender at some notional sweet spot on the corner of the six-yard box (it always worked in PES5 and PES6), this time round it’s best to position your defenders in and around the opposition players, wherever they happen to be. You have to stand around them, crowd them out.

It takes some doing, as the game will only let you control at most two defenders before the corner comes in – and most often they’re the wrong defenders. But you can usually drag one or both of them into the box and stand them right on the toes of the other team’s key players. Using this method I have found that my corners/goals conceded ratio has come way down. But it is still a problem. The CPU still has a knack of getting that vital goal from corners when it needs it. Hence my worry right now in this big game.

But I needn’t have worried. Over came the corner. It was a high, vicious in-swinger. I got a head on it, and the ball dropped outside my area to Shaw. Every outfield player I had was behind Shaw. I had to go off on a run:

That was pretty satisfying, believe me.

One of the things that PES2008 has got right is that pacy players like Shaw can now outstrip other, slower players. I’d never have made it so far forward with Shaw in PES6 – the defenders would have simply caught up with me, regardless of the stats.

The game ended a few minutes later. Having played with 10 men for 85 minutes and been 0-1 down, it was one of my best performances ever.

12-11-07_miraclegame.jpg

Now I’ve just got to reproduce it in every game and I’ll be laughing.

—————————-

NB: A word for all those wanting to see either the usual grainy mobile phone photo of the current league table or (preferably) a clear text reproduction of it…

I was certain I took a photo of the league table right after the above Man Utd game, but as a certain wizened sci-fi character might say: Find it I cannot.

After playing a sequence of games – or an entire session – that I think will make a good blog post, I usually just jot down a quick note or two. The note I made after the above three games, for example, reads: 15th p32 w8 d10 l13 f30 a43 d-13 yell31 red21. And I use that to update the information in the sidebar. I also usually take a screenshot of the table, but on this occasion either I didn’t, or I’ve misplaced it somewhere somehow, or I’ve deleted it to make room for more on my phone.

However, I do have photos (plural) of the league tables taken after the even more critical games to follow, and will post them up in due course.

From season 2011 I think I’ll make a new section in the sidebar specifically for the league table. It’s a bit of an oversight not to have already done that, but I play PES first and blog about it second, and don’t ever want it to be the other way around.