Different Class

World Class difficulty is here and looks like staying. The decision was cemented in classic fashion. I paused the game to go and do something that ended up taking several hours. When I returned I forgot I’d changed the difficulty from Professional to World Class, and found myself wondering why the matches suddenly seemed so tough and midfield-y. I played two of the most amazing matches I’ve ever played on FIFA20 (or on any football game) before I remembered I’d changed it to World Class.

It’s probably too soon to go up just in terms of how strong (or not) my squad is (see below). But I need that extra layer of toughness. Professional was still giving me a good game but nearly every match was too comfortable, and too open by comparison to World Class. A rolling end-to-end procession of chances for both sides. World Class is much tighter. I can never go back to Professional now. Unless World Class proves too difficult as the season unfolds, in which case I will shriek like a girl and run back to Professional for a bit.

I will be heading into Season 4 without the exact kind of squad I wanted. Yet again I have annoyed and aggravated a broad swathe of the world’s top managers, players and agents with my completely reasonable offers. I just won’t break the wage structure at the club. No way am I paying a bench-warmer £40,000 a week when my star striker is on £30,000 a week. Not happening.

There is still a week or so of August to run at the time of typing, and I am still looking for that one extra player to slot in, but it’s just as likely that this is the squad I will play most of the coming season with.

Here, for I believe the first time in this Career, is a complete picture showing my First XI, my subs’ bench, and the rest of the squad – every player at my disposal:

Picture was assembled after a tough match, so excuse fatigue.

As can be seen at a glance, I have a decent First XI but no real quality outside it – not even on the bench. I will do well to improve on Season 3’s 7th position finish for Season 4.

The First XI is the team I want to take on all big matches. The rest of the squad will take on the Carabaos and the lesser matches of all kinds. Being in the Europa League this season has great disruptive potential to my cosy plan. We shall see.

I’m firmly immersed in the fate of this squad. As much as with any Master League.

Look at Ward (LW, 69) on the bench. He is my star Youth who has really surged up the reckoning. He started many matches last season, but after I noticed that Deulofeu is an accomplished LM/LW himself, Ward has dropped down to the bench. Nevertheless his appearances from the bench, and his still-frequent starts (because of stamina) show me that here is a virtual player whose name and destiny I might well remember for the rest of my football gaming life. See today’s Miscellany clips below for a decent goal of his.

Bello at LB is one of three (3) LBs now at the club, thanks to my cack-handedness in the negotiations market. (It’s a long and boring story.) Anyway, Bello was the one I really wanted, and got, because of his insane SPEED. It really is a joy to watch him overtake and tackle a sprinting AI winger, à la peak Michael Owen. Ayling on the RB side isn’t as pacey so when the AI attacks down that wing I still find myself in trouble.

I don’t like having two players named Torres who are so similar, and one of them will be sent out on Loan or sold before the end of August.

A word about Roberts, my young 61-rated CB. He had to play in a league match against Leicester in which I got thumped 4-0 (the World Class factor coming into play there), but his performance was a bright spot, with a saving tackle at the end preventing a truly humiliating 5th goal for Leicester. Arguably I wouldn’t have lost 4-0 if I hadn’t had to play Roberts and other squad players, and even more arguably this result does not bode well for my World Class future, but I’m thoroughly relishing the pressure and the challenge and the squad juggling, and that is what counts in a football game. These are the factors that I’ve been looking for and missing for so long.

A little clips Miscellany to end with – the key goals from the 1st leg of my Europa League qualifiying round match against Aalborg of Denamrk, who I know very well from Football Manager 2019. Also featured is a lovely 20-yard curler from young Ward, with his wrong foot, against Wolves in the Premier League – the winning goal in that match.

Also featured is a goal from my 4th-choice striker, Zlatanovic, a ferocious first-timer to the near post when I was in a spot of bother in the (World Class) return leg vs Aalborg. I went on to win that leg as well, and then faced another qualifying round vs Rosenborg, which I squeaked through (on World Class!). And am now in the Europa League group stage proper. Phew.

Onward and upward. FIFA20 is taking up a great deal of time that I would usually spend playing my other key games (the XCOMs and the like). I am addicted to progressing this club and this squad and cannot wait to find out what my young players will do in the matches to come.

Carry On Negotiating

Pre-season for Season 4 is a big one. Not least because I made a discovery that happens to me a lot in all football games — without realising it, I have stealthily qualified for the Europa League after all!

I only finished 7th in the table last season, outside the standard qualification spots, but clearly one or more teams above me won the right things to make this possible, and so here I am. I’ll take it.

Very pleased, albeit I’m starting in the qualifying round rather than the competition proper. The Europa League (and its equivalents, e.g. the ‘WEFA Cup’ et al) was always a bit of a bogey competition for me in ‘the other football game’. I’d love the chance — this early chance — to test myself on the FIFA version. As ever in football games I suspect the window of opportunity for me to win the Europa will be rather small. (Famous last words. Cut to me moaning in two months’ time about yet another season of scrapping in the Europa.)

I discovered my surprise Europa fate just as August began. But before August came July, and the European International Cup. I have played in the EIC tournament pre-season every season, and got to the final once (lost it badly). This time my group opponents included the likes of Lecce and Bristol City. I beat both and sailed through to the semis against a tough Parma team. Beat them and turned up for the final against, of all people, my group opponents, the mighty Bristol City. Who gave me a decent match. 1 minute of goals and post-match presentation here:

My very first FIFA trophy.

Around all of these matches I was desperately trying to improve my squad. As it stands I can give most non-elite teams a proper game on Professional level, but a single match played with this squad on World Class showed me that I need better players to compete at a higher level.

Amusingly, it turns out that I remain terrible at club/player transfer negotiations in FIFA Career Mode. I have a comical Carry On-style ability to offend and annoy every player and agent and manager who crosses my path. Mostly this is due to my continuing inability to shake off a slew of bad habits from ‘the other football game’ and its version of Career Mode. Principally, I have an attitude of ‘mañana’ – I’m perfectly happy to let precious time slip by.

And even when I get it to the sit-down stage, I regularly balls it up by offering too little money, even if I think that is more than enough.I offered this bozo 16 grand a week to be a Rotation player in my squad, and he would have got loads of games too, but no, not even a further negotiation, him and his agent got up in a huff and stormed out without any further interaction – upset about the money, not the Rotation aspect.

Of about 8 such negotiations that I have so far conducted in pre-season (which is nowhere near over yet; still 4 virtual weeks to run), I messed up 5 of them.

So far I have signed three new players. A long-term target that my Scouts first reported back on over 2 seasons ago – Zlatanovic, a very nice 24-year-old 74-rated striker with a touch of the Lineker goal-hanger about him. I could never get him before as he always seemed to be out on loan to other clubs when I made enquiries, but this time, he was available and easy to get. £9m to buy and only £12k wages. I’m being very stingy with my budget of £40m transfer and £60k wages.

I needed cover at LB and in my typical cack-handed fashion tried to make sure of getting at least one player in by going for two, then promptly FORGOT that they were both LBs (I thought one of them was an RM), and bought both of them. So I now have 3 LBs at the club.

It’s still only August the 4th and I am about to play that Europa qualifying match. I need to win that and then have a good rest-of-August transfer window. No way am I heading into this season with a fairly decent first-choice XI, but a bench and wider squad that would be mid-table in League 2 at best.

Lifting my first trophy has given me the taste for so much more. Without at least two great new players though, I won’t have the squad to rack the top 6.

I’m going to score that corner volley goal one day and then you’ll all be sorry

Just a compilation video today of my last session of Season 3.

I saw the season to its conclusion and amassed lots of clips of goals (and near-misses) that I have assembled here.

Every goal by me and the AI is here from all 6 matches (except for a couple from Chelsea that I forgot to record at the time):

On to Season 4. And perhaps to World Class difficulty.

Some of the goals above indicate that it’s time for World Class, and in truth, it’s a rare match I lose now. I have to be sloppy or inattentive in some way. So it should be time for the step up. I’ll see how the pre-season goes.

Transfers. Friday will be all about transfers…

Going on a Bank Holiday

Who is the star of my team right now? No question that it’s Lacazette.

The 30-year-old is at the peak of his virtual prowess in my footballing world, and he is knocking the goals in for fun.

He’s been threatening a hat-trick in recent matches and he finally got one against Leicester, with the third goal a lovely finesse curler from 20 yards. I’m getting very good at these types of goals after lots of practice on the training pitch.

I still finish every FIFA20 session with 5-to-10 minutes of one-on-one shooting practice on the training pitch. I’ve properly educated my fingers and my muscle memory to get the timing and duration of my presses just right, and it is paying off. As can be seen in today’s Miscellany video at the end, where there are two of the exact goals that I practice scoring over and over on the training pitch.

Tip for new arrivals from PES: you cannot ‘bank’ your button-presses in FIFA as you do in PES. The most egregious example of ‘banking’ a button press in PES was in PES2017, the edition of piss-easy headed goals. They were easy because as soon as you pressed the crossing button you could press the Shoot button – when the ball had barely left the crosser’s foot and was still dozens of yards away – and the game would ‘bank’ the input for you and make your striker rise up and strike a perfect header nearly every time.

It’s one of the major things to unlearn after making the transition to FIFA. In most scenarios in PES, you can press the buttons to pass or shoot well in advance of the ball actually arriving at your feet or head and there will be a more or less coherent outcome most times.

In FIFA ‘banking’ is mostly not allowed. Defensive headers, I’ve noticed, can be ‘banked’ ahead of time while the ball is still high in the air, but I’m not aware of any other scenarios where mistimed button presses are not punished. This is clearly evident on the training pitch, where a properly timed button press as the ball gets to your lone player’s feet will result in shots that are as you intended, while ‘banked’ shots à la PES result in feeble, misdirected efforts, and quite right too.Lacazette lurking just behind the league’s top scorer. His goals and the goals of my other strikers – Barbosa and Deulofeu have 10 and 12 goasl respectively– are responsible for my lofty position in the league and the fact that I am seriously challenging for a Europa League spot with 8 matches left.Arsenal are the weakest of the top 6, although all of them are formidable oponents. I’ve won one and drawn one against Arsenal this season. I’m not sensing a Master League-style table scripting thing here but I do think if I keep winning and picking up draws where I would have lost last season, I could finish in that 6th spot, or even in 5th spot. Man United are within my sights too.

I’m out of both Cups, so the League is my only route into Europe this season. It would please the Board, as getting into the Europa this season was one of my set goals, and I’m not going to meet any of the others (keeping wages growth to 15% lol – it’s 50% right now and only going to get worse).

Today’s video is a compilation of moments, goals and howlers. Also featured is my latest attempt to score with a volley from a corner – ONE DAY…