War of the Rosenthals

At about 2:45am Thursday night/Friday morning, I reached the Division 2 Playoffs in my Season 2 of Master League.

I then stayed up until well after 3am to play the most extraordinary single match of PES2020 so far, and one of the most memorable single matches of PES ever.

A 4m30s highlights package is below.

First, some context for the match. I coasted through the latter third of the season, racking up the wins, drawing a few, losing the odd one. The final table:Results picked up massively when I switched formations. Since around PES2012 I have played with a version of a 4-2-2-2. Back four, two DMF/CMF anchors, two wide AMF/SMF types, and two central CF/SS sorts. Nice and simple and effective, year in, year out.

Looking at my players in PES2020, and sensing that this is a different type of PES and I needed to try something new, I have gone back to a version of the 4-3-3 that I used to play with in PES2-PES2011.

In PS2 PES and the first few editions on PS3, I always played with a back 4, a lone DMF, two AMFs (sometimes wide, sometimes central) and 3 CFs. (They were always CFs until all the SS tomfoolery started. The series hasn’t been the same since, if you ask me.)

I’ve now played about 15 matches with the 4-3-3 you see here.

It’s a standard back four, with just the 1 DMF; a close-to-hand CMF who pitches in at both ends; a lone AMF (huge burden on him); and the front three consists of an LWF in this instance (Pjaca’s strongest role) with two CFs.

I really like it and believe I will stick with it all the way. It generates chances and goals, but it does seem to leave me open to counter-attacks, as will be seen…

Full-backs are incredibly important in a setup like this of course. They need stamina and speed. Neither of the ones on show here are entirely satisfactory for different reasons. Both too young and too unfinished. I know what I’ll be shopping for post-season… but which division will I playing in?

I saw off Sheffield United in the Playoff semi-final.

Nottingham Forest were up in the final.

I’d played Forest in my run-in and easily beaten them. I anticipated this final being one of those matches in a Master League where the journey proves more exciting than the destination. This match was a formality, right? Right?

Please release fee, let me Diego

Halfway through the second half of Season 2. I continue to bob around just outside the Playoff spots.I think the game will ‘let me’ get to the playoffs. It’s just being coy at the moment. I can have a consistent run of results, but the game always seems to contrive to chuck a curveball my way.

Every long-term player of PES who’s on a Master League winning run understands that sooner or later, you just won’t be allowed to win. As I’ve remarked before, if this wasn’t true, then it’d be quite common to have unbeaten seasons in Master League, or even seasons where the player wins every match – but the former is rare and the latter simply doesn’t happen.

I whizzed through the transfer window, simplifying my squad and picking up am eye-catching young Regen, the Brazilian AMF Diego.As a 16-year-old he already handles superbly. Here’s his page at the PES2020 database. Looks like he retired quite early in my Master League world. I’m looking forward to seeing him in a few seasons.

This lad is going to be a Master League megastar. Whilst finalising Diego’s contract I wanted to try something. It’s always a worry that other teams will poach your best players by triggering the release fee. I raised his release fee to the maximum possible. From £17m to £30m.

The very first press of the right-arrow button triggered the ‘you might have rubbed him the wrong way’ message. I’ve always been scared off by that message in Negotiations so far. But I wanted to test what would happen if I ignored it and raised the release fee to the Max. On my Hard Negotiations settings, it shouldn’t have been a happy outcome for me.

After a few days I received the notification that Diego was happy with everything, including the £30m release clause.

I’m now ready to call it. Hard Negotiations are broken. Or if they’re not broken, then the setting does not mean what a lifelong computer gamer reasonably expects it to mean. I expect Hard Negotiations to mean that Negotiations should be Hard. Not the easiest ever.

Here’s my full squad for the second half of Season 2. It’s trivially easy to get new players even with all the supposedly hardest settings.You can pretty much have an entire new team every transfer window if you want. No, this is not a great Master League so far. Remember when it was a major event to get just 1 slightly better player than you already had in the first few seasons of Master League? And then how you’d spend an entire session worrying over his form and fitness, and how he was settling in? Only your own custom House Rules can bring those days back now. Welcome to the future, people.

In my entire run of matches yesterday, this nice goal was the best. I spotted the striker’s run, and Diego delivered the ball:

Being able to watch that goal going in that from that angle enhanced my enjoyment of it. This might be my final camera angle. I think most people are still tinkering, and I’m no exception.

I also played for a while with -2 speed yesterday but finished the day on -1. A -1.5 speed would probably be ideal for me.

As a final fun instalment today I recorded 3 AI free kicks against me in my last session. All the chatter is about how it’s a near-certain goal for the AI. Which is not my experience.

This is how every single AI free kick in shooting range has gone in PES2020 so far:

Just press Circle well before the kick is kicked. If it’s not working, you’re not doing it right. If you’re pressing as the kicker is kicking, it’s too late. Once you learn when to press the circle button (too early is as bad as too late), you will never concede another free kick goal again. I think I conceded 1 (ONE) in all of PES2019. So far 0 (ZERO) in PES2020, and the AI usually has at least one attempt per match.

January blues

All the way to mid-season 2 now. I could have signed a few star players from big clubs. I pulled back at the last moments.Not happy with the Negotiations settings! My early impression is that this is one of the most ‘broken’ Master League features ever to make an appearance in the beloved old mode.

At the start of the January window, wanting to see what ‘Hard’ Negotiations was like, I made a bid for Mezut Ozil – yes, Mezut Ozil – and I was stunned when I was not only allowed to negotiate with him, but I achieved a result. I bid the release fee, so Arsenal had no choice, but the player was quite happy to enter and complete Negotiations.

After a bit of to-and-fro (perhaps all that ‘Hard’ amounts to: a few rounds of to-and-fro) we settled on a salary of £3.8m, which would have used up my entire budget. There was no question of actually getting Ozil. I just wanted to see how far I would get negotiating with him, on Hard settings, as a mid-table Division 2 team. The answer was: all the way, albeit at a cost.

Here’s my mid-January First XI and squad – I’ve got a few days of the month left so there could be comings and goings, but with all the comings I think I need to settle down and actually get to know some players again.That Lincoln at CF is not the celebrated Lincoln of PES2019 Youth promotee and R2 curlers fame – he’s another Lincoln completely. Just 21 years old so there’s future potential. He cost me £24m from a Brazilian club, and a hefty £900k wage to go with it. He’s no Mezut Ozil but he’s what I’ve got.

Too early to tell if he’ll actually be any good. My pre-season signing, Pjaca, has only just started to perform well for me after 24 matches.

The player at right-sided AMF, called ‘SHVILI’ in the screenshot, is actually one Z. DAVITASHVILI, a rare example of me actually signing a Scouted player. AMF, 20 years old, good supporting stats and a full list of skills readymade – I have high hopes.Zabaleta at right-back is a Youth promotee. Only 17 in-game, he amusingly still has that ’90-year-old Nicolas Cage’ look going on.

Here’s the table after 24 matches:Hanging on the shoulder of the leaders with half the season to go – I’ve got a great chance of the playoffs.

My general form is patchy but I’m capable of winning enough to stay in touch and snatch it. It’s a shame you have to go hunting for this screen now:Seeing that pop up automatically every month was a nice bit of visual punctuation to the passage of time if nothing else. I’m still not used to having to go looking for regular updates and messages. It’s very easy to miss important stuff. Master League has felt bare-bones since the vanished brilliance of PES2010 and PES2011. We’ve got to the point now in PES2020 where, with all the window dressing tidied away out of sight, it can feel even emptier.

Where am I with PES2020 as a game right now? I’m not madly in love with it, that’s for sure. Master League’s new stuff either isn’t new, doesn’t work as I anticipated it would, or doesn’t seem to work at all. There are no fouls out on the pitch. Maybe 1 every few matches. It’s appalling, the worst ever.

I have an awful feeling that PES2020 will be the worst one ever for the lack of long-rangers. I’ve hit the bar twice from range. I am coming to suspect that’s all I’ll ever be allowed to do.

There’s so many good things right now that I’m not so focused on the bad. I love the way you’re not allowed to ping off a blind reverse pass with accuracy anymore. That was long overdue. But will it survive the patch cycle?

And this is what it all comes down to. The game isn’t made for me or my tastes.

The lack of long-rangers is disappointing, but the lack of AI Fouls is unforgivable. I never thought any PES could be worse for fouls than PES2018 was, but PES2020 is much worse. And at least PES2018 had some long-range goals!

So I’m having an uncharacteristic wobble, all told. Usually at this time of an ML I’m fizzing with excitement and joy.

Perhaps PES2019 is to blame. For me, PES2019 was a classic PES and Master League experience, a solid 9/10, and PES2020 was always going to have to follow that.

I’m not saying I’m not excited by PES2020 and curious about where this Master League will take me, but it’s at a lower intensity.

Come on rock me aMattheus

Season 2 is well underway. I spent pre-season and the month of August wheeler-dealering.

My concerns about my settings – Fairly Hard for Negotiations; Small for Transfer budget – were that they’d be too hard. Now I’m concerned they’re too easy. So far I have not failed to sign a single player I’ve gone after, with Free Agents in particular being the proverbial piece of piss to sign up. I got Free Agent Flamini, for example, aged 36 but still good for a year or two in the Championship, for a third of his asking price.

I have fleshed out my squad in most areas, and trimmed down in others. My Season 2 First XI, Formation, and Squad:

My most important player right now? MATTHEUS. He’s a 30-something journeyman who won’t last long past Season 3 or 4, I think, but for now he’s very much my Kante.

Mattheus is emerging as one much greater than his modest stats, controlling matches, and popping up with the odd goal. Mattheus is playing on the left side of centre-mid in the screenshot above but I think I need him square in the middle, in front of Flamini, so Castledine might have to move back out wide. I’m fiddling with things.

I have had lots of offers for Castledine, but so far not taken them, and so far none have triggered his release clause. Realistic picture on the right of my avatar, looking like Jeremy Clarkson in the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? hotseat, thinking over the latest Casteldine offer. ‘Hmmm, shall I? Nah.’

My other transfer highlight for a different reason is Pjaca, the striker currently holding down a starting berth. Drury calls his name as Piazza. He was also a Free and he also wanted over a million in salary to sign. Last year I’d have bumped that down to about £800k and massaged his feelings with scoring and appearance bonuses, and that would have made about an 80% chance of signing, and chances were I’d have got him.

This year, suspecting that something is screwy with the ‘Fairly Hard’ setup, I bumped his wage all the way down to £400k and offered NO bonuses. And he signed.

There are plenty of other stories of my squad – aren’t there always? Canning at left-back is the reincarnation of Ruskin – I’m going to keep him and develop him, and I plan to see him running the line in a Champions League Final.

Vitor Hugo at CB will inspire many a punning post title in the weeks to come.

Karlsen at SS has so far done little to justify my decision to hang onto him this year (check today’s compilation vid for a hilarious ‘miss-kick’ of his).

Begovic at GK is as solid and dependable as I wanted him to be when I snapped him up on another cheap Free. But his understudy, Youth promotee Beto, should be my club goalie long-term.

The table after 11 matches of Season 2:

A short compilation vid today, with goals and some amusing highlights. All action on Top Player difficulty.

It starts with the AI failing to score from a shooting-range free kick (0 conceded in all of PES2020 so far).

Then there’s a sequence from about the 20-second mark onwards that shows the end of a match versus Leeds when it was 0-0 and 1) I scored, 2) they equalised almost straight from kickoff, and 3) I scored the winner straight from my kickoff (in alarmingly easy style, it should be noted).

There are a couple of goals in the mix from the aforementioned Mattheus. Mid-rangers. (Still no laces long-ranger in PES2020 for me.)

And the video ends with me creating a team goal that I actually liked – because the finish was from mid-range and in off the post.