Category: master league

Master League 2017

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919111328

PES2017 acquired: check.

Exhibition/Tournament ‘getting-to-know-you’ matches played: check.

Sumptuous Option File installed: check.

Master League: commence.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919003033

First, I put the finishing touches to my hybrid Option File installation. No matter how fiddly and frustrating this might be, figuring it out and then finishing it is always a strangely satisfying task.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919003848

Then I edited PES United into Coventry City. I’m not impressed with either of the 2016-17 kits. There’s a grand tradition in particular of terrible Coventry City away kits. 2016-17’s away kit is one of the worst.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919110156

There were other odds and ends I could have added, but didn’t. The Portuguese League. Celtic and Rangers.

Without wasting any more time, I got going. You can spend so much time setting up that it creates a peculiar sort of anxiety about whether you’re truly ready to begin. Down the years I’ve always leapt into Master League with the paint still drying on the figurative walls. The experience is usually all the better for it.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919105008

How considerate of the PES2017 makers to make the Default formation exactly the same 4-2-2-2 formation that I use. The only difference being that instead of two DMFs I like one CMF and one DMF.

I offloaded a load of players whose names I don’t remember now. I bought two players – a goalkeeper, STRAKOSHA (68OVR), very solid so far; and a LB/AMF, BABANCO (72OVR), both on free transfers. I’m eyeing the wages/salary budgets with caution, remembering financial brushes with disaster in many a Master League of years past.

I poked around in all the new parts of Master League. I don’t think the various innovations that surfaced last year realised their full potential. Perhaps they were hitched to a football game in PES2016 that didn’t really do them justice. There wasn’t much incentive to toil through the menus to expand the margins of performance when just about every single player was a high performer.

It’s too early for me to say anything more about PES2017’s Training except to welcome it back and acknowledge that I know it’s there. We shall see what it actually does in practice. I like the look of the position retraining, needless to say.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919114107

Since when has Castledine been white? I’m calling this Casteldinegate.

This is quietly one of the biggest scandals ever to engulf a computer game, and precisely no one will care about it but me.

Castledine in PES2017 is the latter-day avatar of the Castello-Castolo-Cinalton-Castledine entity.

Whatever you think about The Myth Of Castolo, there’s no denying that he has – and deserves – the status of ‘iconic’. One thing each instance of this Eternal Champion has had in common is that they’ve all been black. I’m not going to be laying down in the middle of an airport runway in protest, but the whitening of Castledine seems a strange, pointless, self-defeating move. Castolo is as famous and celebrated as Master League itself. He’s locked deep into the lore. Why is he suddenly not black anymore? Could it be an oversight type of mistake?

Coutinho(CF) and Arcas(SS) are good enough for my front two. Will they match up to last year’s stellar pairing that bore those names? Do I want them to be as good as last year’s?

NO, is the short answer to that question. I do not want any echo of PES2016 in this game at all. PES2017 will stand or fall according to how unlike PES2016 it is. (I’ll say again that I don’t think PES2016 was a bad football game. It was a good game of computer football. But it was definitely a bad Pro Evolution Soccer game. There’s a difference, and it’s a telling one.)

Straight into the action, and I opened with a creditable 0-0 draw against Reading. Chances were very few and far between. I still find myself automatically trying to use last year’s routes to goal, which are happily blocked off.

Classic Players ON

The only real blot on PES2017’s landscape right now is that I don’t find there are as many fouls and free kicks in Master League as there were in Exhibition and Tournament games. Which is a staggeringly stupid thing to happen, if you ask me. I believe that as my team improves, and as the seasons roll by and stakes increase, fouls and free kicks will naturally occur, as they occurred in other modes.

But still… I will remain worried until I start to see the fouls in Master League. Konami is perfectly capable of pushing out a PES game with what it thinks is a crowd-pleasing absence of fouls in the most popular mode(s).

It’s significant that we’ve yet to hear much by way of moaning from the online players. If they were having fouls in the quantity that they should be having them, we’d have heard the wailing from within a soundproof room at the bottom of the ocean. But there’s a strange silence. Which indicates to me that there are still few fouls online.

There’s a lot at stake here. Fouls and free kicks enhance a football game’s gameplay, rather than diminishing it. They enforce a kind of seriousness that used to set PES apart from the herd. They need to start happening, in numbers, and soon, or the fabric of the gameplay that looked and felt so good in Exhibition and Tournament, will be fatally undermined.

PES2017 feels very much as if it’s the series’ last chance to hang onto itself, if that makes sense. i don’t want Pro Evo to disappear down the fast-flowing-arcade-fun-bullshit drain that it’s been circling for a year or two. It might already be too late to stop that happening. On the PES forums lately, I hate how PES is occasionally referred to, in passing, as the game that ‘was always fun’.

No, it definitely wasn’t. And I can prove it too.

Hop into the nearest DeLorean. Go back to 2004 or so. Ask the average FIFA fan of the year 2004 if he thinks PES is fun. A scornful laugh will be your answer. FIFA players back then hated PES – because it wasn’t fun. PES was hard work to them. Then double-check this finding by asking the average PES fan, in 2004, if he thinks PES is fun. A scornful laugh will be your answer. We loved PES because it was a lot more than ‘just’ fun. A whole lot more. This paragraph contains the most truth about PES that I know how to express. I’m scared about how easily it’s starting to be forgotten.

This post has turned out to be a lot more hand-wringy and ‘State of PES’ than intended. This is because there is potential in PES2017. Big potential. If this game flowers as it might, PES might just have saved itself from the fast-flowing-arcade-fun-bullshit drain that I mentioned.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919184053Table. A nice spread of results.

I knocked Brighton and Hove Albion out of the Cup with this fine goal, which I’m thinking of as my first long-ranger of 2017:

Hettich with the strike. Hettich has always been the poor man’s Irjescu.

I’ve scored a pleasant range of other goals as well, all bread and butter types. No worries there.

You get a feel for how sturdy a football game is pretty quickly, and my feeling is that this AI, defensively at least, is a decent one. Up front, things are also encouraging.

So Master League 2017 is up and running. As Peter Drury remarks in his opening day spiel, a rollercoaster is getting underway.

In the spirit of David Fairclough

PES2014 is reaching fever-pitch stage in Season 11 of Master League. Every great Master League experience takes me to this place. Getting to where I am now is what I play Master League for. It’s a kind of rolling intensity that lasts for weeks on end and that nothing else can match.

Every game means something. Every pass is important. Every kick matters. Every passage of scripted CPU possession (something that PES2014 is very ‘good’ at) enrages me like no other. Just a few weeks ago, I was shrugging it off whenever my players mysteriously tripped over a blade of grass in pursuit of a loose ball. Now? Now I foam at the mouth with incoherent rage.

Manchester City finally started to drop points, and I kept winning. I gave a 6-1 thrashing to QPR — perennial whipping boys in this ML. 5 of the goals came from Robbie Keane. I followed that up by administering a 3-1 mauling to Tottenham.

And suddenly — I was there! Just a point behind Manchester City, lurking on their shoulder and ready to pounce.

Newcastle were up next. No problem, I thought. But that was not a good thought. The buggers held me to 2-2. Man City drew their match too, so there was no change at the top.

Leicester, newly-promoted in this parallel world, were up next. I pounded their goal with shots galore, all saved by the super-keeper. It got ridiculous, to the point where I knew, just knew, that the game was up to no good.

And then of course Leicester took the lead. It was late in the second half, around 70 mins. I suspected the worst.


Around 80 mins, I brought on Dzeko. And almost straightaway scrambled an equaliser with him. The ball bobbled in the box and he stuck out a leg. 1-1. I celebrated this goal as I have celebrated no other for many a year.

Pound-for-pound, playing PES2014 is often a whole lot of hard work, as there is no shortage of people to tell you. But in Master League at least, the reward is always proportional to the effort expended. In that sense, PES2014 could be seen as one of the most effective editions of the series ever made.

1-1, then, and with a couple of game-minutes remaining, could I get an unlikely winner?

Kiessling hasn’t been mentioned much since I got him, mainly because he hasn’t done much. This is a PES for the small, nippy style of striker, rather than the big rangy giant.

I picked the ball up with him on the halfway line and laid it off to Joaquin in a one-two (the ‘Old Faithful’ of PES). Joaquin’s passing ability meant the return ball was on a plate for Kiessling. I raced him clear of the right-back with a forearm shove, and was suddenly in on goal almost unopposed. A CB was coming across to cover — but there was Dzeko, standing unmarked in the middle.

One simple dinked through-ball later, and Dzeko toe-poked the ball in for the second time in as many minutes. Cue scenes of joy, verging on rapture, in chez not-Greg.

All I had to do now, of course, was hold on for the 2-1 victory with stoppage time to go. PES2014 has a nasty habit of overturning miracles in its favour late on, so I had to be ultra-cautious. The final whistle blew and soon I saw the happiest sight I have seen all season:

PES2014 Season 11 after 27I’ll probably have to win every remaining league match to be sure of the title.

Up next is the first leg of my Round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

I will say this now: a League and Champions League Double in PES2014 this season would bring my time on PES2014 to a close. Failure on either front would leave unfinished business, and lead to a Season 12.

Youther Choice and Bayern Marney

Yankov celebrates

Look at that despicable advert in the background there. As if I’d want to play Call of Duty in football game form ever again. Are there any Master League advertising hoardings in myClub? Pfffft.

Season 2 has begun. It started off well, with a couple of straight wins and a draw on Superstar, the difficulty level that I felt forced up to by some inflated scorelines last season.

Aaaand now I’ve run into a wall.

At the end of last season I deconstructed my team and brought in so many new players that my Starting XI’s Team Spirit went down to the low 80s, from the mid-90s level it had been.

When the action of season 2 got going I won the first couple of matches — on Superstar — leaving me hovering up near the top of the table, failing to hit top only by goal difference.

This is it, I thought. This is the season I go up — and I rather gloomily contemplated what might prove to be a short Master League campaign by recent standards, where 10+ seasons have been the norm.

And then I started losing.

Baddish results 2

There was one session where I lost three games on the bounce, and lost them so badly that I admitted temporary defeat and went back to Top Player.

Where I carried on mostly losing. The first game of the clutch below – against Charlton – was one of my worst performances in Master League for many a moon. I had 1 shot on goal the whole match, and finished with about 40% possession – a shocking stat for a possession-based player like myself.

Bad results 1

Other notable AI performances came from a certain Dean Marney at Burnley, who Kaisered me out of a match almost single-handedly in the kind of midfielder performance you see all too rarely these days.

It’s not too bad now here in Top Player. The game is still a disturbingly open one for what’s historically been PES’s highest difficulty level. Superstar is really just a johnny-come-lately difficulty level that’s meant to be a bonus extra. I still have great misgivings about PES2016’s difficulty curve, but they’re in abeyance for now.

PES2016 two late youths

My new players are all settling in well. Just before the transfer window closed I managed to scrape together enough cash to bring in a couple more Youths.

Yes, the Youth team is a bit too good this time round, but hey. At least all their names make sense, and it gives me the encouragement to do something I didn’t have to do last year. I took the Big Name Players route last year. I have a feeling this could be the Year of the Youths.

Both newcomers are just 16, and both are already very accomplished players. GOMES is a versatile midfielder who plays anywhere, and VIVES is the same, with the bonus of playing at left back. Either can stand in brilliantly at LMF whenever Arcas is unavailable.

What of Milligan, the Youth DMF I brought in specifically in order to fill the gap left by Hettich? I said he reminded me of Duffy, the semi-legendary DMF/RB of ML history. I’m pleased to report that he’s so Duffy-like, I’m starting to believe he’s the new incarnation of Duffy. In the same way that Coutinho is the new Minandinho.

SPEAKING OF COUTINHO. After remarking in comments yesterday that he often flattered to deceive, he scored 10 goals in 5 games while on a glowing red arrow. Including this one — which was nearly the greatest long-range goal I’ve ever scored with a full-back (Marin, already attracting offers), but instead turned into a Coutinho tap-in:

Ach, I’ll get you next time, wondergoal.

Here’s my current table, after 14 matches played of Season 2:

PES2016 Season 2 after 14

Bad start aside, I think I’m in with a shout of promotion this year. League table scripting is presumably still part and parcel of Master League. All I have to do is start winning and drawing matches, instead of losing all the time, and the game will cooperate to move me up that table.

If goals start inflating out of control again, I’ll go back up to Superstar, and then if things get insane again, I’ll come back down to Top Player. I’m not bothered about constant back-and-forthing like some farcical 1970s sitcom. My aim is always to seek the optimum level of experience, not to out-macho the Internet. I’m in no rush to get out of the Championship. I’ve never been a first-season promotion man. It’s sometimes taken me 8 or 9 seasons. But if I do get up this year, I’ll be happy.

*Extra special kudos to anyone who can decode today’s post title.

Hett-itch or Hett-ick? Doesn’t matter…

PES2016 end of season 1

Season 1 has ended (with a defeat, above), and with it any illusions I might have had that I’m good at defending in PES2016.

The final table, in full:

PES2016 Season 1 final table

Let’s look at that a bit more closely. There I am in 18th place, having won 17 matches, drawn only 4 matches, and lost a whopping 25 matches.

In that time I managed to score 77 goals, which is a top-6-level goalscoring performance, but conceded a staggering 94 goals – the worst in the whole division, as Peter Drury kept reminding me all season.

Scoring goals is easier in this Master League Season 1 than in any previous PES. Even in the most attack-oriented PES created (until this one) – PES2008 on PS3 – scoring was never this easy this early. Granted, we still had ‘proper’ Defaults back then.

What will happen if/when I learn how to defend? And if my goalscoring keeps up? Could this be like one of the deflating 5-season Master Leagues of old (PES6 and PES2009 – two otherwise perfectly good PES games, just like PES2016 – spring to mind)? And if it does turn out to be a short ML campaign, what then? Start another one?

All wildly hypothetical. And we don’t know how the game will change in the top division when playing against sides at least as good as the top sides in the Championship, all of whom gave me good games and proper thrashings in some cases.

It is a heck of a long season in the Championship. 46 matches. If PES2016’s all-action gameplay does result in a season 2 promotion, I won’t be too disheartened.

And so it was over to the post-season – and the best post-season period since PES2011, for me. So much to see and do and think about. I can only scratch the surface here.

First there was the matter of a certain testimonial match, for one MAXWELL in my game:

Testimonial gameAre those shirts available to buy? I’d wear one.

The three teams that came down from the Premier League should give me good games in the upcoming season. (And, taking a rare glance at so-called ‘real life’, what’s the betting that Norwich, Watford, Bournemouth will be the three teams that get relegated for real?)PES2016 season 1 promotion and relegation

In the transfer market I sold HETTICH for £3m to help pay for a new goalkeeper.

Selling Hettich was a wrench, as he’s been fantastic for me this season The season’s player stats show that he’s been my most effective interceptor:

Season 1 player stats

But not my best sliding tackler. That honour went to J BIKEL, a loan DMF who has now returned to his club.

I had my eye on a Scout-recommended goalkeeper, HERRERIN, who would cost £6m. I have a growing feeling that good GKs are going to be worth every penny in PES2016. So I wanted to make the deal no matter what. Ignoring a £9m bid for Casteldine, I sold Hettich instead.

Selling Hettich was all about needing the money more than the player. Sometimes in Master League you have to sell your favourites to raise the cash needed to get good players that you need more. It’s been a few years since Master League confronted us with meaningful and difficult decisions at this level. It’s very nice to see it return.

£3m was a nice bit of business for a decent Default who’d probably be sold in a season or two anyway. Now I just have to hope Hettich doesn’t blossom into Coynborough Mk II for other ML players. Coynborough was one of PES2013’s highlights and I’d never have forgiven myself for missing out on him.

Oh, when I was looking for a keeper, I spotted one old friend in the list:

PES2016 an old friend

Still pretty good for a 45-year-old! A stalwart of PES2015, but it’s a new year now.

With Hettich gone, and Bikel returned to his club, I cleared out a few other players too. Niellendner went for a tidy £1m. Rice, Hervey, others too. A proper culling.

All of which left me needing players to fill gaps. I desperately needed cover at DMF. I went into the Youths and was very pleased to find proper names replacing all the old unpronounceables, who were always hard to get to know.

This time around we’ve got a sensibly-named crop of youngsters, many of whom look very promising from the outset.

Snatching Milligan from the Youths

I snapped up MILLIGAN as a DMF. He has more than a whiff of dear old Duffy about him, and plays like him too.

From the Youths I also snapped up RICARDO at CB and COULIBALY at CF. Both 16-year-olds with already-decent stats. This is a familiar story that I love being told over and over again.

Season 2 formation and squad

Above is my chosen formation for Season 2. And my full squad. Both have issues.

The squad first – it’s pretty threadbare. Yep, I ballsed up the finances. A traditional Master League pitfall, and I fell right into it. I ended up having to release players to come in under budget. I know nothing bad would really have happened, but I wanted to balance the books anyway.

And formation-wise, I’ve gone to the formation that I ended PES2015 on. One DMF, three midfielders (position selected to maximise their affinities).

I’m happy with things as they are. The threadbare squad doesn’t particularly worry me, as I only have to get to January and will bring in a few players then.

And so onto Season 2 with a new keeper, a new central defence, some promising youngsters, and a target: promotion.

Looking forward to this.