Category: squad

The Header Master Ritual


The man. The myth. The goal machine. (Sort of.)

The Championship top scorers list after 10 matches:


The return of F FRIDAY to my Master League team’s fold has so far been an almost unqualified success. £17.9m for a player in the Championship? I hardly batted an eye at the cost. Worth every imaginary penny.

Many readers have already seen this highlights video of my 3-0 demolition of Leeds at the start of Season 3:

My favourite goal is actually Rice’s ruler-straight volley from 20 yards. But Friday’s goals were proper ‘black Schwarz’ goals: both powerful strikes from outside the box that the revered German striker used to be adored for.

Friday is 23 years old in my game. I should get 7-10 more good seasons out of him. Where will the story take him, and me? This is what Master League is all about.

The same goes for Rice, my star midfielder, the second coming of Coynborough in all but name. Master League is about building a story, building an experience, brick by brick.

My pre-season wheeler-dealering culminated in this First XI, this Squad – and this surprising new formation:


Talking points? Quite a few.

That startling 4-2-4 with WFs – a massive departure for me.

Depay in on loan, and surprisingly good. PES is individuality-lite these days, as we all know, but Depay feels like something different.

Regen Tim Cahill. He popped up on a search for header-friendly players. I’m interested in finding out if PES2017’s ‘famous’ header-friendly nature is real, or a vast unlikely conspiracy against me.

Son Heung-min. Or is it Heung-min Son? Whichever, just £8m from Spurs for an 80-rated quality player like that? How could I refuse?

Regen Aaron Lennon from my Youths. So far indistinguishable from Downing. I know they both need time though.

A few other Youths have been brought in to pad out the squad.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161025011042

But what about that 4-2-4?

I’ve been tinkering with formations a lot recently, having admitted defeat in trying to stick with my favoured 4-2-2-2.

The 4-2-4 functions quite well. It is, of course, very goals-oriented, as can be seen by the table after 10 matches:

pes2017-season-3-after-10My current ratio of 1.2 goals per game across 10 matches is a step up from my 0.8 goals per game across the whole of last season.

Alas, swashbuckling as it is, the 4-2-4 is not going to last.

The table above suggests why. 3 matches lost already. 2 drawn. Only 5 goals conceded, but they were telling goals. That’s too many points dropped.

A 4-2-4 is such a fragile flower. It’s far too midfield-lite, and midfield is where the AI gets friskiest when it decides to get frisky.

Rice and Petsos cope well enough, as long as my front 4 are firing on all cylinders and pinning the AI back. But when the goals aren’t flying in, and the AI is in the mood to be stubborn – which is often – I really feel the lack of at least one extra body in midfield.

I’m toying with the notion of pulling back one of the front two to play as a central AMF. That would make it a 4-5-1 formation, and I’m not sure I can stomach that. 4-5-1 is one of the key factors involved in destroying ‘real-life’ football as a spectator sport.

Whatever I choose to do, Lobato’s days are numbered.

Lobato is a peculiar example of a player who plays below his stats for me. I’ve had him for almost 2 full seasons now, since the mid-season window of Season 1, and can barely remember a single good thing he’s done. I think I remember him getting an important goal in a match back in Season 1 or something. That’s about it.

I will be cashing in on Lobato in the coming midseason window, barring a miraculous Friday-style burst-to-life routine.

Lobato is officially a resounding flop for me. Proof, if proof were needed, that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for Pro Evo success. Don’t even start me about these headers. I’ve now played lots of games with a 4-2-4, flung dozens of crosses of all types into the mixer, and scored maybe one header.

One final thing today – a video oddity.

For many editions of PES now it has been my habit to bring my GK up to take late corners when I’m behind. It enables me to have all my outfield players in or around the box. Leave it late enough and even if the AI wins the ball back, the ref usually blows the final whistle, so there’s hardly ever danger to your own goal.

Hardly ever…

We’re used to seeing AI teams fluff glaring opportunities like that. My respect for the PES2017 AI was already pretty high, but went up a notch when its advanced striker took that potshot from 35 yards.

The game was lost anyway, but I was still relieved not to concede there. I didn’t want my imaginary goalkeeper to feel bad about his life. Isn’t that peculiar?

Running like a Gauld

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161017120112After the encouraging upturn of fortunes I reported in the last post, I embarked on the most awful run ever. From one extreme to the other. 8 games without a win, just like it says there.

Nothing I did worked. Everything I did failed. My results for December:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161014123139

Other than that Wigan anomaly, I can’t account for what happened.

I’m finding PES2017 a high-quality experience, for the most part. The AI is giving me a great game, every game, on Professional difficulty, a season and a half in. Which doubtless says more about me than about PES2017. But whatever it is, I’ll happily take it.

I spoke on Friday about the booboo I made with one F Friday, a player who suddenly became so good that my playfully-bestowed moniker of ‘The Black Schwarz’ started to seem more than just playful. Sadly, he only came good after I’d agreed to sell him.

He’s gone now. I couldn’t buy him back in the transfer window — which is fair enough, really. If you drop a clanger like that one, you must expect there to be consequences. No consequences, no game.

I had another striker lined up.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161014123435

B DOST is my very first press-conference-cutscene signing. He’s a big, chunky striker, not too dissimilar to Friday, but has yet to gel with the side. I’m not writing him off just yet thought. Fool me once, shame on me, or whatever that thing was Bush said. (Oh, and I know who B DOST’s ‘real life’ self is, and where he plays. I am aware that so-called real-life football exists. I deliberately choose to ignore it here. PES is better.)

DOST appears in the following mini-compilation, getting his first goal. My new loan signing, Remy, is also there, getting his debut goal (which should have been Rice’s).

There are also a couple of interesting moments from general play. A professional foul that wasn’t. And finally… well… you’ll see. It used to be said of Pro Evo that you could play it to death and still see something new every session. The explanation of today’s post title is at the end of this clip:

PES2017 is a 9/10 game for me right now, let down by two things.

First is the skewed finances in Master League that make it far, far too easy to buy and sell players. I don’t like being able to get Remy on loan, either.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161017123525

And then there’s the peculiar lack of fouls in the majority of matches. There is no question that this is a deliberate policy decision by PES Productions (not Konami). And it is arguably the stupidest game design decision ever made in the history of game design decisions. ‘But nobody wants the game stopped every 10 seconds for fouls!’ Who says something like that? People, of course, and in enough numbers for PES Productions (not Konami) to take heed.

Well I do want the game stopped for fouls – every bloody second if need be! If that’s how the player plays, then that’s just what has to happen. Let the player learn how to play so as not to concede fouls. That’s the proper Pro Evo way. Not this horrible ‘continuous play’ ethos.

Imagine a Formula One game in which you were not allowed to crash – where the car was gently guided back onto the track without allowing any interruption to the gameplay. Where any crashes with other cars were just ignored for the sake of ‘flow’. That would be the stupidest, most insulting thing ever, wouldn’t it?

There are fouls in PES2017, we must acknowledge. There are matches with a proper abundance of fouls – about 1 match in 6 for me. And what wonderful matches those matches are! What a stark contrast they make with the no-fouls matches, which are the majority.

I appreciate that nobody makes football games for the over-20s anymore. I’m a long way outside EA’s and Konami’s target demographic. They both must know that they are never getting any Ultimate shiteClub cash from me.

But would it kill them to give us a simple referee strictness toggle switch, and let us oldies (of all ages) just go and play by ourselves like we want to? Why not throw us this bone?

You know those moments when a player gets clattered, and spreads his arms wide as if to say ‘Ref!’? I would like to see each and every one of those instances given as a foul and a free kick, and play stopped.

This match here was my game of the season so far – the fouls/free kicks count is not a coincidence:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161017125745

Even a 6-4 fouls count isn’t really enough for me. 10-10 would be about right.

You can say ‘PC modding community!’ all you like, but I play PES on a console.

Anyway, the medication is kicking in, so onto other things. Here is my squad for the second half of the season:

pes2017-mid-season-2-first-xi-and-squadLICHT, NIVET, EDINHO, and Regen LESCOTT are emergency Youths, plucked from obscurity in the grand tradition of a panicking Master League player who messed up his transfer window and needs to fill some gaps.

I sold Castledine, which brings down the curtain on last season’s Lennon-and-McCartneyesque partnership, one of PES2016’s highlights.

I’m still not out of the running for the playoffs.

9 points adrift, a few wins will see the table obliging me:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161017125819

I’m on Professional, and I’ve shown that I can get a run going. Once all the new players gel – and that Team Spirit of 80 shows they are gelling – things will change, I’m sure of it.

My noob errors in the transfer market have probably crimped my style this season enough to consign me to a Season 3 in Division 2, but we will see.


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.

Somewhere In Added Time

FIFA16 Season 2 After 10

My FIFA16 Career Mode is back on. I’m back playing as Coventry City, safely ensconced in the Championship.

I had fallen foul of the board expectations, which, as several commenters pointed out, were indeed too stringent: win the league, it turned out, was the culprit.

Having ‘only’ achieved promotion via the playoffs, the board dismissed me. Not something that would happen in reality, but as I often say, football gaming is superior to reality.

I overturned the verdict thanks to my PlayStation+ subscription. I never play anything online, so the annual subscription has to earn its keep through the free monthly games and the automatic online backups of savegame files. Worth every penny.

I resumed with about 3 matches left of Season 1 in League 1. I fiddled about with simming at first, but that didn’t work out, so I had to play some of the matches. I left it on Professional difficulty for honour’s sake.

In the last match of the season, with the last kick of the ball, in the last seconds of added-on time, I scored the goal that won me second spot and automatic promotion.

But would it be enough to satisfy the board?

The board wasn’t happy, but I kept my job.

Post-season, I had to say goodbye to my star loanee, Marcus Rashford. He’s a promising youngster in FIFA16.

I tried to buy him outright, but couldn’t afford the £5m asking fee. I signed him on another year-long loan.

BIG screenshot of my First XI and squad:

FIFA16 Season 2 squad

I haven’t played enough of FIFA to know if this is a good or bad squad for a season n the Championship on Professional difficulty. My record indicates that I’ll have a tricky season sometimes, but it should be OK overall. I am considering making a move up to World Class.

The board target for this season: mid-table finish.