Category: defending

The Three Stigmata of Palmieri-Jaric

I’ve played to the end of season 2, on Regular difficulty. I’ve evaded all further trouble with the Chairman, mostly. I finished third from bottom in the Division 2 table.

Still enjoying PES2012. I feel there’s a need for me to affirm this regularly, lest my continued play of the game—reviled and abandoned by so many, it seems—appears to be just a stubborn habit rather than the absorbing pleasure it mostly is.

Something happened to one of my players that I’ve heard about from others but never experienced myself until now. The player was Cork, one of my 70-something OVR midfielders. This season he’s been an essential part of whatever small successes I’ve had.

I lost Cork to another club and couldn’t do anything about it. I had no idea about it until it had happened and was all over. I knew that Cork was stalling on signing a new contract, so it wasn’t the total shock that many others have reported. It even has a weird kind of Konami logic. As long as this only happens to ‘contract rebels’, I can accept it.

Before the season was even nearly over, Giersen announced his retirement (at age 27) and I forgot about it. After the final game—in which he had not featured—he paid my avatar a nice sulky visit:

Is it crazy that I actually felt GUILTY about it? If I’d remembered, I would definitely have played him. Giersen isn’t the best player in the world, but he deserves a peculiar kind of respect. It’s a sliver of the kind of respect that all long-term ML players have for the Defaults and for the mode. (Look at the veneration of Castolo over recent years, out of all proportion to his actual ability. Exhibit no. 1, right there.)

Goals are coming easier on Regular, although stopping them at my end is still surprisingly tough. If there was a single sentence that sums up PES2012 defending it would have to be “Stay with the runner”.

Palmieri and Jaric are both awesome and they do a lot of mopping up, but both lack that extra bit of pace that would make them a truly formidable partnership. If the CPU runner gets half a yard on them, and then the inevitable through-ball comes, I’m usually in trouble. I’ll be looking for a pacy CB in post-season.

The time has surely come to stop feeling confused and conflicted over the new Regular/Professional/Top Player levels. I thought I’d be on Superstar by now, imagining that it’d just be a fancy-pants version of the old 6* difficulty. In the PS2 days I used to move onto 6* difficulty about now and stay on it.

My favourite recent goal came from Twiggy, my dependable, solid man up front. He will be sold in a heartbeat when the time comes, of course. He’s very much a ‘seasons 1 to 4’ sort of striker. They’re often the ones you remember with most fondness.

I love goals that go in off the post or bar. Better yet are goals that go in off post and bar, rebounding from one to the other and in. Related to this species of goal is the kind that strikes the angle of post and bar at the same time:

Chairman weirdness crept up on me after the season was all over. The end of the season triggered a decrease in the Chairman’s trust over not getting promotion.

On the final day of the season I demolished Blackpool 4-0, but there were still rumours in the boardroom about me being sacked.

Ridiculously, before my first Training Match of post-season, I was told that if I didn’t win I would be fired.

I won it, but only just—1-0—and got myself back on the straight and narrow.

And then I plunged into the transfer market. With no real money to speak of. But I had to have some new players, especially after Cork’s departure. I’ll cover that and the beginning of season 3 next time.

FIFA fatigue setting in?

Okay, so I’ve got two main ISSUES with FIFA09 at the moment. The game’s pace, for one. And the extreme ease of regaining possession from the CPU by pressing and holding X+Square together (A+X on the 360).

FIFA09 is just too fast. There, I’ve said it. After being in denial for weeks, I think it really is too fast. I play with the speed setting on Slow, and I still find it too fast. It’s not something I really appreciate after several weeks’ intensive play. At times it’s just like playing PES—possibly something that EA intended, possibly not. No doubt this change from FIFA08 and UEFA2008 was done for commercial reasons—for ‘accessibility’ reasons. In time I’ll learn to live with it (I already have done, really) but I think it’s a cause for regret. FIFA08 had the pace spot-on, in my opinion. They could have at least made that pace the FIFA09 Slow pace. But no, the FIFA09 Slow pace is a lot faster. Very peculiar.

And it’s far, far too easy to regain possession of the ball at almost any time simply by ‘clamping’ the tackle and sprint buttons. This is something we got used to doing for many years on PES, until it became almost second nature. In conjunction with the R1 sprint button (I have sprint mapped to R1 in FIFA09), at times you might just as well be playing PES, several years ago. I really don’t like the way that ‘clamping’ has already become second nature to me in FIFA09. “Well, play it differently, then.” Fine, I’ll try to. My fellow footy game blogger heraldo contends that playing on World Class reduces the effectiveness of clamping. I’ll be trying it out soon.

I’ll be talking more about those two bugbears in the days and weeks to come. Time will tell what impact they (and other, lesser issues) will have on my long-term relationship with FIFA09. Is this the start of my ‘FIFA fatigue’? It might be. It just might be.

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Things are certainly… interesting in my Manager Mode career on FIFA09 just now. I’m playing with Coventry City in the Championship (it’ll always be Division 2 to me and to others of a certain age).

I’m doing appallingly badly. I should be ashamed of myself, and I am. Playing on Professional difficulty, things shouldn’t be like this. I’ve been careless, yes. I’ve neglected to play the ‘new FIFA’ way too often. (Which might explain some of my current dissatisfaction with the game.) I’ve gone full-tilt for quick goals and cheap wins, and been caught out. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been sucker-punched in the 80th minute and after. Cruising to an easy 1-0 win, only to be pegged back to 1-1. Or holding out for a creditable 0-0 away from home, only to concede a daft goal late on, and lose.

It’s all built up and built up into a perfect storm of anti-form. I’ve freefalled down the table, and there have been consequences—as the following grim trio of screenshots shows:

I’m fifth from bottom with only eight or so games left in the season. There are only two points between me and the bottom team. The way I’ve been playing, relegation is a serious possibility. Given that avoiding relegation was my only target for the season, things are pretty bad on the job security front:

That top JOB SECURITY meter is at 38%, in the red. I nervously hovered there for a game or two, grinding out 0-0s and 1-1s. Then I lost a game, and got this:

It’s a warning. It meant I had a really big game coming up. It was against Doncaster Rovers, and I went behind early on to a really, really tame goal. The rest of the game just sort of fizzled along, never really catching fire, nothing remarkable happening. It seemed I was sleepwalking to my doom. I made chances but failed to convert them. It was my own fault for using semi-manual controls. If I’d had the shooting on Assisted I’d have scored at least four goals. I had all the possession I could have wanted…

In the last minute I won a corner. By now I was more or less resigned to being sacked and starting Manager Mode all over again (which I will probably do anyway, whatever else happens this season).

My keeper came up for the last-minute corner. For all I knew, this was my last kick of the ball in this whole career. I’d never been sacked in FIFA before. I swung the corner over, my keeper watched it sail past him—and one of my strikers was standing on the corner of the six-yard box to nod the ball into the net. Hmmm, I thought. How timely…

Cynicism aside,  I was happy with the goal, and with the job-saving draw. And I lived to fight another day.

Defence minister

Here in season 2020 of my Master League career on the PSP/PS2 version of PES2008, I’ve just won the league title with several games to spare. I’m in the Division 1 Cup final and the European Cup semi-final. The Treble is very much on.

After winning the Treble last year, I badly want to win it again this year. It’s only natural. For me, winning back-to-back Trebles would be the ultimate confirmation that I’ve mastered PES2008 in terms of its gameplay. I’ve won a few Trebles in the past in this career, but never consecutively. In PES4 and PES6 I was capable of winning back-to-back Trebles without much effort. I found those two PESes pretty easy overall, so it’d be a yardstick for PES2008 if I could replicate my achievements now.

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As well as the general goal of a Treble, I had two bonus targets: to navigate through to the end of the league season unbeaten, and concede less than 20 goals while doing so. For a long time this season, it looked as if I would succeed on both fronts. And then I stupidly let my newfound confidence get the better of me. I lost a game to Valencia, my long-standing divisional rivals.

That hurt, but at least I was keeping the goals-against column down to respectable levels. As I’m remarked previously, it seems a lot harder to stop the CPU from scoring goals in this version of the game than in any previous versions.

In PES5, for example, it was customary for me to concede around 10-15 goals per season. Here in PES2008, especially in the early seasons of this ML, I was shipping an average of 30 goals per season. I’ve complained to high heaven about the CPU apparently waltzing the ball into the net with my players either rendered immobile or ludicrously unable to put in a routine challenge (or challenges) to stop the attack. In other words, I was asserting that most of the goals scored against me were scripted.

Scripting is a serious topic for football game fans, and for PES fans in particular. If scripting is real, and if it’s as bad as we sometimes think it is, then what would be the point of playing any football game? Wouldn’t we be complete fools simply to press buttons whilst watching an interactive script unfold before our eyes? Yes, we would be complete fools.

—————–

Wanting to concede less goals than normal is my own little way of challenging myself, and of testing the sturdiness of the alleged behind-the-scenes script. I wanted to see if it really was true that half the CPU goals were inevitable and unstoppable, or if it was just me not concentrating properly, being reckless, being too attack-minded—in short, defending badly.

It might be too early, but I’m pleased to report that the answer would seem to be that it was all my fault. This season so far I’ve conceded 12 goals. With three league games left, unless I suffer a compete catastrophe in a game or two, I think I’m going to meet my target. We’ll see.

None of which means that scripting per se isn’t true. Scripting in PES is very much true. It’s real and it’s annoying and it doesn’t belong in a mature, serious football game. In my opinion. All that my little mini-experiment with defending shows is that with concentration you can drastically cut the number of goals you concede. I’d still say that 75% of the goals I have conceded were predestined and frankly unstoppable.

——————–

In league game 28 I actually lost another game—my second of the season. Real Zaragoza beat me 2-1. I was actually more bothered about conceding those two goals than I was about the defeat.

It was very like the 2-1 defeat I took from Valencia earlier this season. The same scoreline and pretty much the same reason for it—over-confidence bordering on arrogance from me. When you head out onto the virtual pitch assuming you have a right to win the game, a lot of the time it’ll work out for you—if you’ve got enough experience in the game to back up your belief. But when you’re at 1-1 and the CPU is plainly up for a fight, and you ignore all the warning signs and push on regardless, looking for a winner that the game is in no mood to let you have, well, that’s a mistake. Best to shut up shop, accept that the game is a draw, and see if you can’t snatch a cheeky winner on the break toward the end. That’s what I’ve done countless times already this season to great effect and it’s what I should have done on this occasion. But I didn’t.

Like I said, conceding two goals was the most hurtful side of it. That’s 14 goals against me all season. I should still make it to the end with less than 20 conceded, but it’s looking like being a lot closer than it could—and should—have been.

——————

Happily, in Europe there was better news. I met Lazio in the semi-final of the game’s Champions League equivalent. It’s the third or fourth time, in total, that Lazio and I have faced off in European competitions over the seasons. They beat me in a European Champioship final a few seasons ago. I’ve generally found them to be alarmingly tough opponents, almost on a par with my domestic nemesis Valencia.

On this occasion, though, Lazio were pussycats. I won the first leg 1-2 at their place. With those two away goals to my name, I regarded the second leg as pretty much a formality—a dangerous thing to do, yes, but I got away with it. I won that second leg by the mammoth scoreline of 6-1. The only dowside was conceding that solitary goal, but that was near the end when the game was over anyway.

All of which leaves me having to win just the two Cup finals to win the Treble. My second Treble in a row, hopefully. And I have to try not to concede another 6 goals in my remaining three league games. I think I am going to do it on all fronts.

Cech, please

Things are getting pretty serious in season 2020 of my ongoing career in Master League on PES2008. That’s the PS2/PSP version of PES2008—I always like to reiterate this fact in case any new visitors read that I’m playing PES2008 and assume that I mean the so-called next-gen version. I definitely don’t mean that version. I wouldn’t play that version ever again if it was literally the last football game on earth.

In my opinion, Pro Evolution Soccer jumped the shark (or nuked the fridge) with the PS3/360/PC version of PES2008. Whether the version was a genuine mistake—rushed out prematurely due to commercial pressures—or a deliberate, fateful foray into the ‘yoof’ market, remains to be seen. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see a great version of PES on the next-gen consoles for another year or two, but I’m just an old cynic.

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In the mid-season negotiations I picked up a third goalkeeper from the Youth list. I got Petr Cech as a 17-year-old Regen, for a nominal yearly salary. Partway through this current season, Frederiksson was called up for international duty, leaving me with just Buffon to play in every game. In a couple of games I had to play him with half of his stamina bar gone. Then Frederiksson returned with half of his stamina bar gone, so it was an awkward situation all round. I conceded a couple of bad goals during this fiasco.

Having a third goalkeeper in my squad would have resolved the problem, but I didn’t have one. Well, I’ve got one now—and what a good one. Cech should be the top keeper in the game when he gets to his mid-20s. I’ve bought him specifically to fill in whenever my senior keepers have to do international duty, but I’ll play him for the odd game here and there anyway.

My squad is starting to feel a little bloated again. A few seasons ago I trimmed it down to 26 players, but it’s started creeping up once more. I’ll be having a long hard look at several of my squad in the off-season, and doing some pruning.

Along with going for the usual Treble of League, Cup, European Cup, I’m also trying for a couple of other lofty targets. I want to remain unbeaten in the League, and I want to concede less than 20 goals whilst doing so.

I’ve come close for the past few seasons, but this season I feel it’s ON. I’m way, way out in front at the top of the league with 17 games played. I’m still in both Cup competitons. All of that is important, but I’ll confess to having been caught up by the excitement of maintaining my unbeaten run, and of conceding as few goals as possible.

There was some business to take care of in Europe. I made the crass mistake of taking an early game in my European Cup qualifying group lightly, which I lost, thus endangering my qualification for the knockout stages. It was Galatasaray whom I took lightly, back in game 2. When will I ever learn? Nearly 10 years I’ve been playing PES/ISS, and I still get caught out by the CPU when I least expect it. This is a good thing, I think.

Happily I beat Galatasaray 2-0 in our return fixture to make my qualification assured. It’s a relief and a great weight off my mind. As every seasoned Master League player who’s going for a Treble knows all too well, the European qualifying groups can be a minefield. It can be so, so easy to lose a game and get eliminated too early. All’s well that ends well, though.

I was cheered up, briefly. Sadly, what happened next was one of the single most disappointing things that has ever happened to me in almost a decade of playing PES/ISS games. I am not exaggerating.

I lost game 17 in the League. Valencia wielded the knife and plunged it in. They beat me 2-1. It hurt.

I was actually more disappointed by this than I have been about any single game in this Master League so far. I can’t even blame scripting, really. It was my own stupid fault. My grasp exceeded my reach. My eyes were bigger than my belly. Worse things really did happen at sea…

I knew it was a dangerous fixture before it started. Valencia have consistently been my most dangerous opponents for just about all of this ML career. (I almost cannot wait for the probable emergence of another great team in the seasons to come. My money’s on it being Barcelona. Real Madid are actually getting worse, season after season. This year they’re down in mid-table.)

Against Valencia I went 1-0 up and thought: Ah-ha, that’s it… I got complacent, and conceded a dumb equaliser whilst pushing for a second killer goal. A Valencia striker broke through my defence a long way out. I charged my keeper towards him, and the Valencia player simply lobbed me from 25 yards. It was a great goal of the kind you rarely see from the CPU.

1-1, and in retrospect I should have just settled for that, shut up shop, maybe grabbed a winner for myself on the break. But no, I carried on attacking. I was full of myself, thinking I was invincible, that all I had to do was want to score a winner enough for it to become reality. The success of my season so far made me think I’m a much better player than I really am.

Valencia broke through on my goal again. This time I wasn’t risking it, and cynically chopped down their striker with Roberto Carlos. It was a justified straight red card. Even then I still could, and should, have held on for the draw, and preserved my unbeaten record.

I should have subbed one of my three CFs and brought on Chivu to slot in at left back, and gone to a 4-3-2. But instead of doing the logical thing, I had a moment of madness. I believed I could win the game with 10 men using a 3-3-3 formation. I was asking for trouble, and got it.

I started attacking, and had some good possession but couldn’t get through. I’d left myself wide open for a sucker-punch, which wasn’t long in coming. Valencia seemed to gleefully walk the ball through what remained of my defence, and into the net. 1-2 down with several minutes left, I could see the unbeaten record flashing before my eyes. How could I have been so careless?

I really tried everything to get the goal back that would have secured an undeserved draw. But it wasn’t to be. When the final whistle went I was – what was I? What’s the word? GUTTED. That’s the word.

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