Walk like a pre-script ‘un

A busy period of work and life meant just a few snatched games on Friday afternoon, and no PES at all until Monday evening.

Yesterday I put in a hefty 10-match session (split into two over the course of the evening, thanks be to the PS4’s Standby feature).

Moving into the main part of Season 6, the game seems to be taking revenge for an offhanded remark I made in comments over the weekend. I said that when I focus properly, I can almost always win on Superstar. I stand by the spirit of that fate-tempting remark, if not the fact…

Here are October’s results (Spurs match was the Cup match):

That result at the bottom came on Friday afternoon. I was 3-0 up by the hour mark, and Paused the game to go and get ready for work, planning to finish it off just before I headed out. (This is why football games fit in so well with life. Imagine trying to play a game-game – a Final Red Dead Solid 4 type of game – in this fashion. It just wouldn’t work.)

When I resumed, Reading got an 80th minute goal to make it 3-1, and I thought, oh well, so they got a consolation goal. Then at around 88 minutes they got another one back and I thought, oh well, my goal difference won’t be as good as it would have been. Then they got the equaliser with the game’s last kick, and I turned the air blue.

November:

Three great results in a row and then that game at the bottom. Every PES player reading this will know what I mean when I say this was a match I was never meant to win. They scored with their one clear-cut chance. I made 6 clear-cut chances – each with my players alone in front of the keeper, not under pressure – and the keeper got a hand to each shot.

It was a match I was simply not meant to win. Every year in PES I get one match where I wonder what would happen if I quit and reloaded and played it again. Would the game ‘remember’ that this was a match it wasn’t going to let me win (if that’s what it was)?

I don’t have time this year to do anything but always move forward with my ML, so I just carried on. It amazes me there is still a nucleus of PES fans who doggedly maintain, against all evidence to the contrary, there is no such thing as scripting in the series. None of which has spoiled my enjoyment of the game (if it did, I would never have enjoyed any PES at all).

PES2019, amazingly, is ticking along at a solid 9/10 experience, session in, session out. Scripted bollocks is as much part of the series as its 1960s menus and Eurovision music tracks.

One slight reservation: in my 10-match session on Monday the game often felt very fast (on the same -1 speed I’ve been on since the start). There were also very few fouls. Back down to an average of 1.3 per match or so. An unpleasant whiff of the worst of nuPES. Session variance, hopefully.

No great goals to speak of. I’ve scored a fair few goals that have made me whoop with delight, but more because of the context and the results they got, rather than the aesthetic joy of them. That’s 98% of all goals in PES or any football game of course.

The table:I’m only 3 points behind the playoffs. Which is suspiciously fortunate for a team that’s lost 7 matches, isn’t it? Oh yes, Master League table scripting is also a certain thing.

I’ve played a few more matches after the screenshot above, all the way to mid-season, and have moved up to 7th, with just 1 point between me and the leading pack.

I’m in January, and the wages bill is slowly coming down as the months roll by and the merchandise money drips into the coffers.

I’m planning for the Premier League, but anything could happen here. A few bad results and I might leave myself with too much to do to get back into promotion contention. Maximum focus required for every single match. It’ll be tough.

A Spur to greatness

Ah, a new season. That refreshing Day 1 feeling never gets old. Look at this bright blue August sky.Now look at your grey November sky outside.

And I am still in the Championship, in Season 6. This season will present me with quite a few challenges.

If I don’t go up this season, I might never go up.

PES2019’s Master League salary shenanigans are by now well-documented. I’m sceptical of whether Konami intended for it to be this way, but it is this way, and it is good.

In a nutshell, throughout all this time in Division 2, in order to hang onto my best players I have had to pay them so much salary that I haven’t been able to afford any other players’ wages.

I have had to resort to Loans. For the past 3 seasons or so, I’ve been running the club with around 18 club players, plus 5 or 6 Loanees to flesh out the squad.

This is by choice. I could offload some or all of my high-earners and assemble a full squad of lower-earning players, but I choose to persist with things as they are.

I need the likes of Mario Gomez (£1.8m a year), and Giorza (£1.1m), and Castledine (£1.1m), and Lincoln (£1m). There are about 10 others on the £900k mark, such as Rice and Robben, whom I could not bear to part with either.

And here’s the thing: all of the above will be out of contract at the end of this season. They’ll all typically want another million each to stay on.

And I’m currently minus-£3m in the red on the salary front.

So it’s all built to a head. There will be no easy answers. I will have to part with a few favourite players no matter what. But do you know what would make it all a touch easier?

Getting promoted.

Let’s go.

Pre-season, I let Rodriguez and Cahill go. Each were up for renewal this very month, and both wanted silly money. I managed to sell Rodriguez before his contract expired. Cahill left as a Free Agent.

So I was down to 16 players. I went hunting and got a shock: only 11 (ELEVEN) players, in total, populated the Loan list.

I helped myself to Bakayoko. PES2019’s ML has a weird tradition of offering up top-rated DMFs for Loan. I’m more than happy to help myself.

I grabbed a few others, and took a chance on requesting Loans for Transfer-listed players who were not Loan-listed. I got a couple that way.

I won and lost the first two matches in August. Then September came and with it a patchy run of form, to say the least. The first result here was in the FA Cup, and the rest in the league:

Eek.

I’ve played a bit of October. Form is about the same. Leading to the current table:

A 2-1-3 record is disappointing, but the dilution of Team Spirit and a seeming stiffening of the Superstar spine has meant I did well to get those two wins, really.

I’m still confident that I have enough experience and know-how with Superstar now to get promoted this year.

I have had an early taster of what life in the Premier League might be like. My next FA Cup opponents were Tottenham.

Here is a useful pic showing my full Season 6 squad on the left, and Spurs’ current Season 6 squad on the right:

My loanees this season are Pereiro (playing up front here for the knackered Jarvis), Piotrowski, Blind, Khaoui, Enomoto, Johnsen, and Bakayoko.

22 players in total.

7 loanees.

Just 15 players of my own.

No, I really cannot keep doing this.

I lost the cup match against Spurs, 2-1.

They were fast and furious. Dizzyingly so. But I coped quite well for long periods and was unfortunate to go 1-0 down, then 2-0 down. Near the end I snatched a lucky goal to set up an exciting finish – but as so often happens in PES2019, scoring my goal sent the AI into a frenzy and I had to resist a battering for the last 10 minutes. I don’t think I made a single chance.

Meeting up with Spurs like this was an experience of a totally different order to my usual opponents in the Championship (even though most of them, too, are tough opponents). Strong motivation to get out of this division was already there. Now, it’s even more there.

The season continues slowly. Work and life distractions mean I’ll be making slow progress on this season. Expect it to last until the first week or two of December.

Finally today, technical issues prevent me from posting a great laces long-ranger from that gem of the new Defaults, Rice. I will post the goal in due course. Maybe later today in comments.

In the meantime, here is a short highlights reel of the opening to Season 6:

 

Season 5 ends interestingly

Season 5. I moved to Superstar last season and have been struggling to put together enough results to mount a serious promotion challenge.

Well – I won 5 matches in a row in the month of May.

That defeat right at the end was disappointing – and a mite unfair: I’m at that stage of ML where around half the goals the AI scores are TFB goals. (Total Fucking Bullshit goals. They make me groan and swear.)

Those 5 wins saw me move up the table. Right up the table.

Here was the astounding table after 43 matches:

That’s my team in 6th (SIXTH).

(No, 21st century world, not SICKTH, as you keep wrongly saying it. SIXTH.)

After the season I have had, this is something of a miracle.

There were 3 matches left. Realistically it was between me and Leeds for that bottom playoff spot. With our currently identical W-D-L records, maintaining that healthy goal difference was the key. Oh, and winning all my matches of course.

The impossible dream of reaching the playoffs was on!

Here’s a random 45-yard free kick from Rice that cannoned (out and away) off the post. For much of my last session I thought this was going to be today’s major highlight:

I thought that was going in, until it didn’t. One day…

Back at the main event, my unlikely promotion charge, I was watching amazed as Master League table scripting kicked in. That match I lost at the end of the list above? Leeds lost their match as well. Of course they did.

It was one of those scenarios where I knew that if I kept winning my matches, I would be in the playoffs. And if I got to the play-offs, I swore to myself, this time things would be different from last time, two seasons ago, when I meekly went out in the semi-final.

Promotion this season, all of it played on Superstar, would be one of my greatest-ever PES achievements. ML table scripting or not.

The penultimate match, away to Millwall, saw me wear my lovely alternate away strip of black-grey-red for the first time all season.

A tight, tense match in which I had to defend like a sweating dog. Millwall have got Ataide up front – Classic (Brazilian) Ronaldo. Having spent so many seasons in D2, I’ve come up against Ataide several times, and each time he does indeed play like Ronaldo.

I kept him quiet this match by strict use of secondary pressure to shadow the midfield ball-carrier, whilst using my left-stick-controlled player to always stay with Ataide. It worked. I must have performed a dozen pass interceptions and/or meaty tackles on him.

This looked destined for a 0-0. I had a few chances, one of them with Gomez, dropping deep once more as per my tactical settings:

Whoomph. Pick that one out. None of yer fancy-dan R2 curling rubbish there! A traditional PES laces long-ranger.

That flew into the net at around 1am this very morning (last night really). I let out a strangled scream of surprise and amazement. Surely this was it! Surely I was going up!

My final match of the season, I was still level with Leeds on points. Away to Middlesbrough.

I went 1-0 down, but didn’t panic. I’ve been 1-0 down lots of times during this magical run. The difference now is that I relish the prospect of coming back to get a result, instead of feeling deflated by all the hard work involved. I relish having to squeeze that extra bit of juice out of all my players,.

And that was the problem. Nearly all my first-choice players were pretty much dead on their feet by half-time. I had played 3 matches in a week. Visual Fatigue as a gameplay factor is a winner in PES2019.

I forced a goal back to make it 1-1 by half-time, but catastrophically got my DMF, Rodriguez, sent off early in the second half after picking up his second yellow.

I conceded a sloppy goal soon after to make it 2-1 to them – and that’s how it stayed. My knackered players struggled to put two passes together. I don’t recall making a single chance. Defeat.

But there’s always ML table scripting, right? Maybe Leeds had lost their match as well?

Nope – on the final whistle my players all sank to the turf in dejection. Leeds had drawn their match – a heartbreaking outcome, as it meant a draw would have been sufficient for me to make the playoffs.

The final table:What a punch in the gut. After all my effort. To miss out on the playoffs by so narrow a margin felt worse than not being anywhere near them at all.

A slight consolation, the game recognised my extraordinary season and put 5 of my players in the Team of the Season:

I will make a small confession. There was a moment – more than a single moment, actually – at the end of the final game when I considered reloading and replaying the match to get the right result. Who would ever know?

I would know, and it would undermine the integrity of the narrative. So it didn’t happen. My entire season turned on the conceding of a single goal. But that’s how it has to be.

Onward. Season 6 looms, and with it a substantial watershed moment: I have to get promoted or there will be a Crunch Moment. At the end of this coming season all my key players – Gomez, Lincoln, Giorza, Castledine et al – will be out of contract. I’m already £3m in debt as it is. I can’t envisage their demands being anything less than eye-watering. I will need whatever financial boost that promotion would bring. Even that will likely be insufficient, but better than nothing. I’d get to keep a few of them. If I lose Gomez, I riot.

For Season 6 it’ll be promotion or, quite literally, bust.

There’s no placement like Gomez

Results have picked up, but I’ve left myself too much to do. Season 5 is still a washout – probably. Unless a minor miracle occurs in the last 8-or-so matches, I will remain in The Championship for Season 6. By the time I get to the Premier League, God knows who’ll be playing for whom.

January was where results picked up – opening with the 6-3 extravaganza that closed off my previous post:

These slightly improved results came about through one simple method: keeping 10 men behind the ball, parking the bus, and letting the AI dash itself against the side of that bus until I got the ball back. Then play very cautiously and see if I might snatch a goal.

As these improved results show, it’s an approach that works for me.

It continued in February:

Not bad, not bad. 3 wins, a draw, and that 1 disappointing defeat at Norwich (that I should have won).

Onto March, and things really picked up:

This is promotion form! Or it would be if I hadn’t been in relegation form for the first half of this season.

These performances were good enough to earn places for 5 of my players in the March Team of the Month:

And next onto April, where my form flickered when it really counted, against two of the league heavyweights, Leeds and Brighton:

The match versus Leeds was a 6-pointer (see table below) that I went behind in early on, went down to 10 men, then down to 9 men (two straight reds for filthy tackles), but still snatched a draw with a late, lucky goal.

The current table heading into May:If I’d won that match against Leeds instead of drawing it, I’d have been 6 points off 6th place with 8 matches remaining. And would have more than likely had a shot at the playoffs.

As things stand, it’s still not out of the realms of possibility – but it is very unlikely. ML league table scripting would have to be at its most generous to let me into this promotion fight now.

I’m resigned to spending at least Season 6 in The Championship, but will be exerting maximum effort to win as many as possible of my final 8 matches this season. Just in case.

Finally, after a whole season without an R2 curler, I was beginning to think I’d lost my mojo. Or that the R2 curlers had been stealthily patched out of the game by one of those Secret Konami Patches that are announced every few days on the forums.

I finally have got another R2 curler – with Mario Gomez, of all people. Very much a box striker for me in PES2019 so far, Gomez somehow was chasing down a loose ball 30 yards out. I got the ball under control, turned side-on to goal – and thought, hell, why not have a pop:

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