Category: Shaw

Pre-season 2017

Season 2016 was a good one. I won the Treble—League, Cup, European Cup—but it left me unsatisfied for a lot of reasons.

Number one was that I felt I shouldn’t have won the Treble. I messed up the start of the league season and should never have been able to overtake the CPU team at the top. When PES indulges in macro-scripting, it’s often not very subtle about it.

What does it all mean for season 2017 and beyond? It means that I now want to win a proper Treble. I want to win it in style. I want to dominate in the league and win it comfortably. I’d like one of my players to take the Golden Boot (my early money’s on Andy Cole to do that). I also want to move my team up to #1 in the overall club rankings. I can’t believe Barcelona are at #1. They’ve done nothing of note in this Master League. Nothing.

After several negotiations periods where I didn’t get any new players, I felt that I should at least have a look for some. My squad is great—some of my players are at the very top of their game and could be described as brilliant—but overall things feel a little stale. Also, I do have some lightweights. A couple of my players never seem to get a game and remain underused and underdeveloped. Larsson in particular—a great PES striker—has suffered from lack of use. On the odd occasions throughout the seasons when international callups, injuries, and fatigue have forced me to use him, I’ve found him to be a player of low ability compared to the rest of my team. It shows, sometimes painfully.

I’d like to offload Larsson, and by this stage Donk, for some replacements with considerably better stats. Money is certainly no object. Even after my mammoth wages bill is taken into account, I’ve got a staggering 150,000+ points to play with, as the blurry picture shows. Could I get it up to 1,000,000 before PES2009 comes out? I think I could. (But would it go up to 1,000,000? I don’t think there’s room for another digit there.)

I called up the list of All Players, and sorted according to the Attack stat. I was pleased to note that I already had most of the top-rated players in my squad. Shaw was the top-rated according to Attack. I’d never managed to get him despite many years of trying. He’s 25 now, and still just young enough for it to be worth getting him. If I leave it any longer he’ll be in decline.

I forget which club he was at. It wasn’t one of the big ones—it was somebody like Parma. Whoever it was, I offered them 40,000 points plus Larsson. I offered Shaw himself a salary of 3000 points, eight hundred more than my next-best-paid player, Schwarz. I thought I was bound to get Shaw. I’d just won the Treble. My club ranking was second only to Barcelona. There was no reason why he wouldn’t come, surely?

He wouldn’t come. Or his club wouldn’t deal. I don’t know which it was. (Another innovation I’d love to see in PES2009: detailed reasons why transfer bids break down.) What should I amend for my next offer? The points offered, the player offered, the salary offered, what? There was no way of knowing for sure.

So I played safe and bumped up the points on offer to the maximum possible. 59,999. I don’t know why you can’t offer any more points than that. 59,999 seems a pretty arbitrary figure to me. If it’s limited to five digits, why not 99,999? Anyway, I offered Larsson in part exchange again, and this time I offered Shaw 3500 salary points. And once again it was all refused.

I gave up at that point. I was also trying for a couple of other players as well. The excellent Bos would have been a welcome addition to my defence, but he turned his nose up at all offers. Khumalo wouldn’t come for any money. Nobody wanted to come to me. I don’t know what it was, and I didn’t care to find out. I skipped all the remaining negotiations weeks. To hell with them. I’ve got a great squad anyway. Larsson can still be built up into a great player. I played my one pre-season friendly, against Rangers (a 1-1 draw), and moved onto the season proper.

On the First XI front, it’s time for Andy Cole to become an automatic first choice. He’s just too good. He’s not just a handy goal-poacher, as he was in real-life (when he was in the right mood). He’s also fast, skilful, and unerringly just there, in the right place, at the right time, to get crucial goals. I think he could win the Golden Boot in this coming season. We shall see.

Kim Cyun Hi moves to his natural position of central striker. There’s a sense in which Kim Cyun Hi is on trial for me this season. He came highly recommended, but so far I’ve only seen flashes. He is still very young, and probably has yet to fully mature. When he’s been great for me, he’s been great for me down the middle, and he’ll get a full season to prove his worth.

Dropping Schwarz to the bench for the sake of Kim Cyun Hi might seem a bit foolhardy, but it’s a bit of a no-brainer for me. As good as Schwarz is (and he’s very good), I just never seem to get the best out of him. He scores a lot fewer goals than I think he should. And I can see that Kim Cyun Hi, if used correctly, is a striker more in keeping with my pass-and-move style of play.

Otherwise I’m making no changes to the First XI. It’s largely a cosmetic selection anyway, as ever. Very few games will see this exact team take to the field. Over on the left of midfield, I did look long and hard at Dos Santos. He’s 28 now and his best years are almost behind him. However, I don’t have any other dedicated left-footed AMFs in my squad (something to shop for in the mid-season), so he keeps his place for now.

Easy-peasy, Japanesey?

I got my copy of PES2008 back on Wednesday 24th October 2007. As of this morning, Saturday 24th November 2007, I have played PES2008 for a grand total of 90 hours and 57 minutes. Over 72 hours of that time – three entire days – has been spent in Master League alone.

That isn’t bad for a game that was blatantly published by Konami in an unfinished condition and represents one of the most cynical marketing decisions ever made by any games company in the entire history of gaming. In my opinion.

PlayStation3 owners are still waiting for a patch, which may resolve the many irritating glitches affecting offline play (framerate, I am looking at you) but which will probably ‘only’ be an attempt to fix the horrific lag that online players are so upset about.

I’m not much of an online PES gamer – I’m not much of an online gamer, full stop. But it’d be nice to be able to have my usual one or two games per month online. Some PES gamers like to play nothing but online matches. It is, after all, one of the features promised on the box.

Whether the patch does or does not resolve the offline framerate issues, the big question for me right now is: will PES2008 prove to have any longevity in the long term? Will it last me a whole year, as its predecessors did?

I am suddenly finding the game to be easy. Not very easy – I still have to work for the goals and the wins. But it’s a lot easier than I should be finding it, I think. Ever since my Team Ranking went up to ‘C’, I have noticed a proportionate increase in the time I have on the ball and the things I can do with that time on the ball.

Two matches in particular have come and gone without me having to break much in the way of a virtual sweat.

Everton at home. I won 3-0. I had 14 shots to Everton’s 2 shots. And I scored this free kick with Shaw:

Scoring that didn’t feel very satisfying. No top-flight keeper, virtual or otherwise, should ever be beaten like that from a free kick.

Bolton were next. This one was away from home. The game ended 5-2 to me. I was 5-0 up at 70 minutes. Bolton’s two goals were late efforts that were down to a drop in my concentration. Soft goals, in other words.

Four of my goals in the Bolton match were memorable for different reasons. Here they are, in order of scoring – Schwarz (corner from Marcos); Andy Cole (from another Marcos corner); Reyes (scoring possibly my favourite goal on PES2008 so far; with zero backlift, he floats it over the keeper into the opposite corner; oh, and that’s Marcos again, setting it up); and finally Andy Cole once more, continuing to show great form:

Marcos and Andy Cole are starting to get seriously good. Marcos is a proper little midfield general, and easily my player of the season so far. Andy Cole seems to have a vicious right foot shot that finds the net whenever he gets a chance.

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I’m top of the league, albeit by goal difference. While it feels good after all those seasons of struggle, I can’t quite shake off an uneasy feeling. This isn’t how Master Leagues are supposed to be. By the standard of years gone by, Coventry City should still be a mid-table team at best.

Defensively, I’m tempted to say that I’ve cracked it. I can stop all but a few CPU attacks. I don’t think I’m meant to stop the ones that I can’t stop.

Something I read a few weeks ago in a thread over on PESfan has stayed with me. The poster, whoever it was, said something like: Once you’ve worked out how to defend you’ll find you win nearly every game easily. You’ll shoot to the top of the league and stay there.

I hope not. This league table might turn out to be ridiculously premature. I have, after all, only played 11 games this season. We’ll see.

Friendlies and First Elevenses…

After the exhilaration of avoiding relegation in 2010, I had gone ahead and set up my 2011 pre-season friendlies before realising that it might be better to play, you know, someone rubbish in order to bump my ranking up a bit. I’d chosen to play the North American Stars in the fourth week of negotiations, and the South American Stars in the seventh week. Gulp.

As things turned out my ranking went from ‘D’ to ‘C’ anyway – I think I received a bonus after the end of the previous season. But still. It would have been nice to play a few teams who I wouldn’t have to struggle to beat (in theory).

I waited until the end of the pre-season period before settling on the new First XI. Hopefully I’d be able to test out all the new signings at some point during the two friendlies.

Not Andy Cole, though. He had a grey form arrow for both games. I never try to adjust grey arrows using the Regulate Condition feature – as noted by Ziggy Bashmore, you’re only ever going to move a player’s form arrow up by one level. There’s no point turning a grey arrow into a blue arrow.

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A brief word about Andy Cole before we move on – just look at those stats! Most are only just above-average for a 20-year-old striker. But look at Body Balance and Response. His development curve shows he has a ways to go yet…

The other new signings were all fit and in form. In the first friendly against a selection of North American stars, I managed to play nearly all of them.

I put Delgado on the right of midfield, O’Shea in the centre of defence, Braafheid on the left, and Lekstrom went in goal. I kept Marcos on the bench, planning to bring him on for the second half. Too many new signings in a team makes for a lot of misplaced passes and general confusion – PES has always represented teamwork most excellently, in my opinion. Depending on their teamwork stat, your new players have to play for several games – with each other, as well as with your existing players – before they settle down.

I kicked off, passed the ball wide to Shaw, went on a little run, and scored:

A great start, and it seemed it was only going to get better. I knocked the ball around at the back like a pro, linking up with midfield, finding the strikers. I hit the bar twice in the same attack. I had several shots that flew just wide. O’Shea and Braafheid at the back were excellent. I noticed how useful Braafheid was down the wings. He seemed to have that extra yard of pace missing from Klavan and Van Steensel.

At half time I brought on Marcos for Shaw. Midway through the half, Felipe received the ball in his CB position, and I knocked the ball sideways to O’Shea – but for some reason O’Shea ‘tickled’ the ball rather than trapping it… A CPU player nipped in, took the loose ball, and scored past Lekstrom (who was excellent throughout the game, and blameless here).

This incident doesn’t mean that O’Shea is a poor player. I think it was the game representing a misunderstanding between new team-mates. O’Shea won’t be a First XI choice for me, but I saw enough of him in the pre-season games to know he’ll be a good CB to have up my sleeve when necessary.

The game ended 1-1 – a fair result in some ways, but in so many other ways an unfair result. I had 16 or so shots to the CPU’s 2 shots. I had 61% of possession. But hey, that’s PES for you. Frequently, results are not fair reflections of matches. There’s nothing unique to this year’s instalment on that front. We just accept it (grumpily, but we accept it) and move on.

The next pre-season friendly against the South American stars was absolutely torrid for me. I was hammered 2-0. I call it a hammering because once again the result did not reflect the match. The South American Stars had about 55% of possession, 11 shots to my 5 shots – and, well, they ran the proverbial rings around me at times. Ronaldo and Adriano were colossal up front for them. I was lucky to keep the score down low. Lekstrom pulled off some amazing saves. O’Shea, playing again, was strong. Marcos played the whole game and was anonymous. That was only minus-point – other than the match itself, of course.

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Right on the cusp of starting season 2011 proper, I had to put together my First XI. This selection isn’t necessarily the team I would put out in every game. From match to match, the usual fitness and form considerations will always supersede the First XI. But it is a template, a statement of intent if you will.

In many ways the toughest decision was who to play as my regular goalkeeper. Friedel has been a loyal servant to the club, but both his youth and the last few seasons’ goals-against tallies count against him. The development chart shows that Friedel’s peak is still several seasons ahead of him. Deputising for Lekstrom at this stage won’t do him any harm at all. As for Kim U Don’t… I still have not forgiven him for that goal.

Guimaraes goes from strength to strength as an all-round right-back. I’m starting to find that I can sprint past anyone with him down the wing. He’s become a tough SB to get past as well. Mattsson and Felipe in the centre are a formidable duo. Mattsson – one of my first-season signings – has blossomed into a true presence as a CB.

I’m planning to lock up the midfield with Marcos, Muntari, and Delgado. Djiba will play when Delgado can’t. When Marcos is out, then I’ll play Shaw. Gone are the days of routinely playing two light-as-air show ponies in those AMF slots.

Also gone are the days of routinely playing youngsters up front. I was strongly tempted to go with Andy Cole as a right-sided CF, but after playing most of last season with Chiesa, another youngster, in that position, I’ve learned my lesson. In the end I gave the place to Shimizu. His pace and dribbling should get him plenty of goals (and assists) in the games to come.

And so we start all over again.

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.

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

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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.

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