Bench pressure

It has to be said: I’m not a team player. There is no I in team, and more’s the pity. I’m heading towards the end of my first season in Become A Legend in PES2009. The stupidity of my AI team-mates is starting to grind. Suspension of disbelief—that most critical component of not just gaming, but of life in toto—is getting harder and harder to maintain.

So much of football, and PES, takes place down the wings, but the AI players just can’t play down the wings. They will just keep on running into trouble, getting tackled, losing the ball, dribbling the ball out of play… Even if you play a great through-ball that sets them loose in a few yards of space they’ll slow down, or even stop, and let the opposition defenders surround them. Fully 80% of my runs into the box—using up precious, irreplaceable stamina—are wasted.

I slightly exaggerate, of course. The AI isn’t all that bad. It does sometimes do what it’s supposed to do. The trouble is that those times are all too infrequent.

Another frustration (can you tell that the BaL AI annoys me?) relates to passages of play in the congested midfield area. Let’s say my fellow CMF has the ball, just a few virtual yards away. OK, so I make a little darting run into a bit of space, and I’m clearly the right man to pass to. But no: the AI decides to lay off the ball to another team-mate on the other side of the pitch, who is usually further away, switching focus all the way over there and virtually guaranteeing that play will go on without me for a while. It’s at times like these, I think, that so many BaL players (myself included) tend to squeeze down on the sprint button and try to get over there and get involved. No. You absolutely cannot do that. Not as a raw Youth player anyway.

So I was stuck in the Villa ‘B’ team, but putting in some good performances in my favoured CMF positions. If I’d stayed at Man City I’d probably be starting in the first team by now. It really was a big error to move teams in the transfer window. Man City played a 4-5-1 as its main team formation. There were lots of opportunities for midfielders like me to play, and to experience different roles in midfield to boot. I was in the best place. Here at Villa, the first team formation is a 4-3-3.

I had one game in the ‘A’ team. It was one of my worst performances of the season. I was rarely involved, and when I was involved I was ineffective. We lost 1-3, a terrible result. I was put back in the ‘B’ team straightaway.

Eventually, I clawed my way back, and got back to the subs’ bench for the First Team, playing in proper matches, with about a quarter of the season remaining. I found myself understanding why young players in real life feel the need to move to smaller clubs to get regular first-team football. Aston Villa were challenging for the title. They were in the Masters Cup (i.e. the UEFA Cup). And they were in the final of the D1 Cup. A pretty big, successful team. And they usually played with only three central midfielders. No wonder I was finding it hard to break into the first team. That decision to leave Manchester City was looking more and more premature.

mebluehair-pompeyI watched the ENTIRE D1 Cup final from the bench. I hated every second of it. After 65-70 minutes, if you’re not brought on you’re not coming on at all. I hope the neighbours didn’t hear me turning the air blue when I knew I wasn’t going to be brought on. They think I’m such a nice young man.

I’d had enough of life in claret and blue. I simmed the last few matches of the season, completely uncaring. In the first week of negotiations I had 3 offers, one of them from Villa. I ignored that—Villa scum—and took a very nice-looking offer from Portsmouth instead. I’ll state right now that I plan to stay at Portsmouth and make my Become A Legend name here. There’ll be no more moving around for a couple of seasons at least.

To mark the occasion, I grew some hair and dyed it blue. New team, new beginning. Maybe the wingers will be better. Maybe it’ll all be better.


  1. lol good post! Great passion! I like the loyal hairstyle too lol.
    I has similar frustrations with the AI. Without a real person to orchestrate the play, the football played by the AI is shocking, it barely resembles the real thing. It really is obvious when watching the matches form the bench, no matter who is playing. No dribbling, no volleys, nothing out of the ordinary. I think the AI in Pro Evo is the main reason why I got bored of playing offline single player…its just so … dull.
    Back to FIFA I’m still loving Ultimate Team. I bought my first gold pack yesterday, which was pretty disappointing (only 1 gold player 79 rating – wtf!), but I’m really enjoying winning the offline trophies. I tried playing a few online tournaments, but the last 3 games I’ve come up against 5 star teams rated 99. How haven’t these players won the 1st bronze online trophy yet? Its unbelievable! So I’ll have to improve my team a lot more I think before entering these online tournaments.

  2. Sounds like the anger is engulfing you. Hate leads to anger, anger leads to suffering, suffering leads… the dark side. Or words to that effect.

    Think you’re right in moving to Portsmouth, 4 midfielders play there for a start. All you need now is the patience to stay there. Hopefully with your stats improving slightly (think they generally go up by about 2 per season), you should be able to impress in training quicker and get some first team action.

    The AI can be annoying. I particularly dislike it when the defenders kick it straight out when there’s a pass on. Though I have to say that I don’t really have a problem with the wing play.

    Currently in the 3rd season of my second BaL career, and am on for an unlikely league and cup double for West Ham. It must be said though that the AI David di Michele is a greedy ****.

  3. Grilled Seabass – Yes you’ve got to be on that pitch playing in BaL, otherwise it’s just intolerable. Having said that, it has to be said that not being on the pitch and having to fight to get on there and stay there is one of the gameplay features that makes it a great mode and very different from FIFA’s BaP.

    I have played Ultimate Team in the past few days and I’m still just plodding along I’m afraid. I do love tinkering with my team and playing an offline match to fine-tune a few things. It’ll be a while before I get a clear space to take them online again. Next time I do a FIFA09/UT post (should be Weds or Fri next week now) I’ll post my full team. It is amusing in some respects – my first-choice goalkeeper is Ian Walker (yes, the actual Ian Walker).

  4. Liam – as you may remember from my Master League months, and indeed my FIFA09/ManagerMode months, I tend to rip into aspects of games that I take a dislike to even if I like/love the game overall, and will carry on that tradition with BaL. Overall I am still absolutely loving this, as the next few posts will show. You’re spot-on about the midfield situation at my new club – that’s one of the biggest things for new BaL players to watch out for I think. E.g. if you start as a young CF it’s no good going to a club that plays 4-5-1. As an AMF/CMF I was always going to struggle at Villa with their 4-3-3. I should have stayed at Man City with their five-man midfield!

    I’m looking forward to my second career already (hope I’ve still got the enthusiasm for BaL by then), and planning to avoid all my noob mistakes from this time around.

  5. I share your frustration. My young AMF got an offer from Bayern Munich (!), and jumped at it, and is now starting for them alongside Podolski in the attacking midfield positions.

    That said, in this option file, Bayern is written over PES United, so in the WEFA rankings, we are a pathetic 62nd. Accordingly, we can’t beat a drum, and unless I make it happen, we don’t score. That WEFA ranking determines quite a bit of what the AI thinks you ought to be doing. It’s the Heavy Hand of the Script, making sure the top teams are always very good, etc.

    Earlier, I played for Marseilles, who at WEFA 11th, were a fantastic side, who put me in the hole where I had the freedom to orchestrate the play, and we did very well. That is where I just started sprinting to where I needed to be and demanding the ball. If my stamina ran out, then sub me — getting an assist and at least one shot was good for a 6.5 ranking minimum, and rankings are the currency of playing time.

    But Bayern came calling. At the time, they were #1 in the league. I thought Champions League football would be good for my development (and I was right; extra games = extra uses of the Strengthen menu), but it’s obvious that on the pitch the scripting element of the game thinks that Bayern isn’t very good (i.e. is PES United) despite Klose, Ribery, Podolski, etc.

    It’s odd that when the AI is simulating the match, Bayern was very, very good, but once the AI has to *play* the match with these players, we leak goals like a sieve, and can’t stop such attacking geniuses as Fred from dribbling through our entire defense. 😀

    Still, I’m going to pad my stats and take the next train off this team and onto something with a top-ten WEFA ranking.

    Nothing helps you understand the mercenary attitudes of the modern footballer faster than BAL. Look at you — dying your hair in order to engineer a transfer! 😀

  6. Wow, got to say it sounds like you should have stayed at villa. The nature of the game is such that it realy doesn’t matter how good you are sooner or later you will break through. Sounds like you could have won a few early
    trophies with villa aswel and i dont think jermaine pennant and co are gonna be better than ashley young and milner.

  7. ck – I’ve seen the scripting in action a few times in my Portsmouth career so far, without ever having seen it at all whilst at Man City and Villa. I’ll be mentioning that in Monday’s post. Now that I’m into m second season BaL is starting to stabilise a little and I can see what the meat and potatoes of the game mode will be. So far I do like it. Oh, and well-spotted: that is a Villa training shirt I’m wearing in the blue-hair picture. I was playing around with the player editor, and dyed my hair (sky) blue as a mark of defiance whilst stuck on the Villa bench, and then Pompey came in for me…

  8. Tom – I think the club I should have stayed at was Man City. Getting away from Villa was a good move given their 4-3-3 midfield. I hear what you’re saying about automatically breaking through no matter what. I’m kind of seeing that now. And as for my new Pompey team-mates… let’s just say I’m getting lots of opportunities to shine.

  9. not-Greg – Can you imagine the furor in the tabloids as rumors began to swirl about Pompey’s interest, and then you turn up with blue hair? 😀 Must have been a furor, but no doubt the Portsmouth support has already made you a cult hero.

    Hopefully, their hearts won’t be too broken when you leave for Chelsea. 😉

  10. ck—I meant what I said at the end of the post. I’m a Pompey man from now until I make my name in this bizarro Master League world. At the moment I’m thinking at least four seasons, time enough to help take Pompey to Treble glory. Then I’ll leave for Chelsea…

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