So long, and thanks for all the R2 curlers

Goodbye, Lincoln. It’s been emotional.

Lincoln has been one of my main players from the very start. He was my first ever signing, a promoted Youth, and has been a faithful servant for 6 (SIX) full seasons, longer than many nuPES players ever get.

His silky skills, and of course those goals, pre-October patch, have gone a long way to define the PES2019 experience.

But now the finances in Master League have forced my hand. For most of the past six seasons, as the wages bill has crept up and crept up, I have relied on Loanee players to bulk out my squad. It’s time for that to start coming to an end.

This season – Season 7 – is my maiden season in the Premier League. I need to equip myself with the players I need long-term to make it big in the Premier League. And for this I need a solid squad of players of my own. I need to reorganise my finances. Hence Lincoln being sold.

This is not something I can do in one go – as will be seen, I will have a load of Loanees again this season. Possibly next season too. Depending on what happens budget-wise, where I finish, what I win, etc.

Lincoln was snapped up immediately for £10m. More significantly, his salary of £1.3m was removed from my budget.

All my Season 6 loanees departed. This was literally my entire squad on Day 1 of Season 7:

Rabiot is a Loanee who’d just arrived. Lincoln is about to be sold (and looks like he knows it).

I got cracking and went straight for the 20-year-old free agent Forlan up front, plus a CB at the back, Cabezas. Getting both of these used up all my wages bill and I was back to shopping for loans.

Here’s the squad I ended up with after deadline day:

Rabiot is a major coup, and is showing a lively lofted pass. Jack Wilshere is a sublime passer of the ball and has bags of immediately apparent individuality, which took me by surprise – he was a bench-filler, but has started nearly every match he can (his famous Weetabix ankles are a thing here too). My new reserve GK has an amusing name. Lozano might be the best Loanee I’ve had yet, and is a Level 3 star player who will put a few hundred thousand per month.

I won my first match, with Gomez (top scorer in the Championship again last season) getting the solitary goal.

That result made me wonder if the Premier League was going to be all I needed it to be, to continue the PES2019 experience.

But I needn’t have worried.

Played 9, won 1, drawn 3, lost 5. Second from bottom.

Whatever I do, I can’t do anything.

Forlan hasn’t been great so far. I got him because Jarvis was only getting about 10 goals a season. I thought Forlan might be the answer – 20+ goals a season, surely?

Well, in 9 matches so far, he’s scored just 1, a routine side-footer from 8 yards. I won’t let him sit in my team indefinitely, earning big money in seasons to come, without a return on investment. I’ll give him 2 seasons at least. He was one of my heroes of PES2012. There’s never yet been a case of a hero of one PES becoming a hero of another, so we’ll see if that curse can be lifted.

Forlan’s other key contribution was a nice assist for a consolation goal in a defeat by Man City.

It’s a type of goal I rarely post on the blog, so here it is for connoisseurs of neat near-post headers – and also to see my new Home kit in action: 

Last week another official patch arrived for the game, and as is now the tradition, a whole host of imagined changes were soon reported by the busy PES community in traditional ‘I know it sounds crazy but you gotta believe me!’ style.

As a committed patch sceptic, I feel almost embarrassed to confess that I now find the patch has loosened up the ball a touch. There is a palpable Sensible Soccer-style tendency for the ball to roll away from players in certain contexts, that simply wasn’t there before. The AI also now plays loose passes more often. I know it sounds crazy but you gotta believe me.

PES2019 seems better than ever. Life in the Premier League is good.

I do miss Lincoln. Something feels missing in my team. I think I made a mistake, now. It was a toss-up between getting rid of him or Giorza. I should have got rid of Giorza. I can always buy Lincoln back in the future I suppose.

You wait ages for one penalty…

Whew. Season 6 has ended with high drama. Of course it ended with drama. How many ML seasons have you played where things sort of dribbled out to mid-table mediocrity? Of course there are some nothing-y seasons, but not many. Master League is purposefully designed to bring about dramatic outcomes.

With 9 matches to go I was 5 points off the playoffs, and was just one of 12 teams in contention. I knew that if I put together A Run of Results, I would find myself in the playoffs.5 wins and a draw in May. I was very proud of those three clean sheets at the top, but I wouldn’t say the matches were the most enjoyable. The AI goes absolutely crazy at times. Focusing hard enough to keep those clean sheets was very stressful.

This run of results left me needing to win my last two matches to be certain of a playoff spot. I duly won my penultimate match – but lost my final match, which meant I was sweating at the final whistle.

Last season, in a similar position, the other results went against me.

This time, results went my way.

The final table:By the skin of my teeth. I did well to finish 6th for a team that lost 17 matches and conceded 70 goals. #MLtableScriptingFTW

I came up against Leeds in the semi-final. I started nervously, but got a massive slice of luck with an R2 curler. I haven’t had an R2 curler for so long (nerfed in the October patch) that I have almost stopped trying them. I try maybe one every two matches, on average. None go even close anymore. Keeper saves, or it flies wide.

This one hit the post, cannoned out, hit the diving GK’s back, hit the underside of the bar, and dropped in (it’s on the mini-clip below). I went on to win that leg of the semi 2-0, which meant the semi-final was won for all intents and purposes. The return leg was of course tougher, but I won it 3-2.Norwich in the playoff final at a weirdly-lit Wembley. The pitch seemed too bright,. Maybe it was my telly.

I was nervous. This was my first playoff final in PES2019 – I didn’t get past the semi-final stage when I was last here, four seasons ago. To have 46 matches depend on the outcome of this single match felt like a lot of pressure.

The AI was souped up to the gills. For most of the first half I struggled to get across the halfway line into Norwich’s half.

0-0 all the way to the end, and I began to get really stressed. It was getting to the point where I knew if I conceded, that might be it.

Extra time.

In the 1st half of extra time, I slid in on a running attacker and brought him down in the box. Penalty to Norwich, which they duly dispatched. 0-1. Disaster.

I was going to lose. I was going to spend at least one more season in the Championship. I’ve enjoyed these 6 seasons, but now I really feel I could do with a change of scenery,

Should I reload, or something?

No! No reloading. Never. If science fiction has taught me anything, it’s that the integrity of the timeline must be respected. Bad Things happen to those who meddle.

I played on, and the minutes dribbled away, and it looked hopeless. I wasn’t creating anything. Then I played a ‘PES2012 turn and shoot’ ball into Mario Gomez on the edge of the box with his back to goal and a defender on him. I forced a turn – Gomez is not the most nimble of strikers – forced some space, and took a snapshot. GOAL. 1-1.

With every player on both sides seemingly shattered and dead on their feet, it looked to be heading to penalties – until…

Above is a 1 minute 44 seconds vid that shows two key moments from my playoffs. First comes that flukey in-off-the-keeper R2 curler that kickstarted my semi-final. Robben is the striker of the ball, but the game rightly registers it as an own-goal by the keeper.

Second is the key moment from extra time in the final. The scores are locked at 1-1 and with a single swing of his boot, Castledine got us promotion. No aiming reticule was used. I remembered how to take them this time.

How wonderfully ironic that the goal that sent me up to the Premier League should be a penalty – but was it even a penalty?

No human ref would ever have given that as inside the area.

When it happened, I was too confused about what was happening to capture a slow, side-on replay of the incident. Getting a penalty in PES is a matter of staring and wondering what the hell is going on, then taking the resulting penalty in a daze, wondering if you’re dreaming it.

One angle in the auto-replay shows the Norwich defender’s knee seemingly just about making contact with the back of Jarvis’s calf a few pixels inside the box. Look at the area just above the ‘2’ visible on the Norwich player’s shorts – it’s the point of contact, and it’s probably around 4 pixels inside the box.

A human ref would have given a free kick just outside the box and everyone would have accepted it. But for a computer it doesn’t matter that 99.99% of the event clearly happens just outside the box. The contact might be 0.01% of the event, but it is the crucial factor, and it’s inside the box, and that’s what makes it a penalty.

Needless to say, I am delighted to be promoted on the basis of a dodgy penalty decision. Add in that freak R2 curler own goal, and I am happy as Larry with the outcome to Season 6.The playoff final was one tough match. I know I’ve said that several times already, but it really was. The final stats indicate the truth of this. It’s very rare I get out-shot, out-passed, out-crossed, and out-intercepted.And so to the next season.

Back in the goaled routine

Boy, am I making a meal out of being in Division 2 in PES2019, or what?

I am currently 2/3rds of the way through Season 6 in the lower league. It’s now looking entirely possible that there will be a Season 7 in the Championship.

By this stage a lot of virtual time has passed in this ML world, and all the teams I come up against are beefed up with talent. Brazilian Ronaldo at Millwall is a particular highlight. He always seems to torment me.

Work and real life have been extra-busy for me lately. It’s become impractical for me to play on working days in particular. This was yet another week that featured a few days of enforced absence from the game. Yesterday I finally got back on, and as ever it felt really good just to kick back and relax with a football game.

And then the AI started to kick my arse.

Here’s my first four results, from March in Season 6:

I was 2-0 up in that Bolton match as well. I did well to hang on for a point at the end.

Hull’s goal was from a weird free kick. The kicker, instead of shooting over the wall as I expected, passed sideways to a team-mate, who then passed the ball to a lurking unmarked team-mate on the outer edge of the box, who rifled the ball home. I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen.

Since when has the AI done training ground free kick routines? I’m not breaking out the bunting. I couldn’t do anything to stop it, as it was so unexpected. The AI had effectively given itself a hard-coded goal (the winning goal, it turned out). I’ll be wary of such ‘routines’ in the future, but it cost me this match.

I’ve moved into April and have picked up a couple of wins, but the overall trend remains one of struggling mightily for scraps of results here and there.

The table after 37 matches:Anyone who still doubts the existence of ML league table scripting, please examine this table.

I have lost 15 matches. My form overall should really be relegation form. But still I remain just 5 points outside the playoff spots. No matter how many I lose or draw, enough teams above me do the same to keep me close.

How is PES2019 faring overall, in gameplay terms? Very well, but a few issues are starting to show through. Roughly 1 match in 4, on average, is a blur of sprinting and sliding. No fouls. Uncomfortably close to the last few years’ 1000mph crap.

Thankfully the other 3 matches (in this notional sample) remain good enough to keep PES2019’s running score at around the 9/10 mark. At least once per session there’ll be a match that I can honestly say has the true taste of classic PES. This is not something I’ve seen in PES for a few years.

It’s a magic spell that I don’t want to break. Would promotion to a higher division (faster matches, presumably) break that spell?

9 matches remain. ML table scripting will doubtless let me into the playoffs – if I can deliver the results. I will certainly have finished the season in time for Friday’s post.

Party like it’s PES2014

Something very peculiar happened in one of my recent matches in PES2019. Something that completely confused me for several seconds, until I had a chance to go back and look at the replay.

No, it’s not the freak screenshot above. It’s something that happened in general gameplay.

I present the brief sequence of play below for inspection.

Yes. In this final week of November, in the year of our Lord PES2019, verily, it came to pass that I was awarded a penalty.

Albeit a PES2014-style penalty, where a defender slid in recklessly and took out Lincoln, who wasn’t even on the ball. Which is still a penalty, although you’d almost never see such a penalty given in ‘real’ football, with its fluid rulebook. Any ref who gave this in a real match would be surrounded by complaining players for several minutes and engulfed in a ‘storm of controversy’. And so they’re not given.

Thankfully, PES reffing is occasionally better than real life, and this perverse virtual ref pointed straight to the spot.

A penalty – a direct free kick with no defensive wall, taken from a designated central spot 12 yards from the goal-line!

These things have been rare in PES in recent years, to say the least.

Time was when you could bank on getting a reasonable amount of penalties per season. To get a penalty near the end of a tight match was a thrilling moment, with real stakes involved as to whether you would score it or miss it.

Countless times in ‘the old days’ I would be a goal down or drawing in a game that I needed a result of some kind from, and nothing was happening for me in front of goal. Ah, but then I would get a penalty, and have to lick my lips and steady myself to take the kick… Leading to elation or despair.

That aspect of football is gone from nuPES. Not since PES2014 have we seen regular penalties in the series. Okay, I do still get approximately one (1) a year, but that is across several hundred matches.

Whatever the reason for it (‘a necessary requirement so that online shitfest matches don’t feature 10 penalties per side’ is of course the reason), it’s almost more disappointing to get 1 (ONE) penalty per year than none at all.

The current league table:I would love it (just love it) if I could get into that 2nd spot (or even sneak up into 1st) and get promoted automatically. As things stand, the playoffs seem more likely.

The prospect of competing in the playoffs makes me nervous. I have now lost 11 matches, which clearly indicates just how possible it is for me to lose any match. There would be 3 matches in a playoff series, against top opposition. I wouldn’t back myself to do it.If – if – I do collapse at any point and end up having another season in the Championship, I wouldn’t be too bothered, to be absolutely honest. If anything it would enhance the experience even more. Playing these multiple seasons of PES2019 down here have been some of the most enjoyable footy gaming I’ve ever known. Easily the best since PES2015’s highest high points, and probably the best overall since PES2012.

My team and players are a tight nucleus of individuals that I am somehow hanging onto, season after season, despite the most stringent finances since PES2010 and 11’s long-vanished and still-missed MLs.

Another busy work-and-life crunch means I will not now resume until next week, and I can’t wait. It’s great to have that feeling back again. Even if there are no bloody penalties.

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