Month: February 2010

And the show goes on and on

Season 12: year 2020-2021. Is it just me who fully expects the real world in 2020-2021 to be ruled by motorcycle gangs and cannibal cults?

I’m very happy to be at this stage in PES2010. In the PS2 era it was routine for me to get this far—and usually further. After the last two years I never thought it could happen in a next-gen PES2010, but I’m delighted that it is happening now.

PES2010 is a great PES game in my opinion. It’s getting up there towards classic PES, for me. If I was in the business of handing out review-style scores now, I’d settle for 9/10. Easily. It’s hideously flawed in some areas, as a quick glance at any PES forum will soon tell you, but it’s still great. In that respect, it’s no different from the classic PES games that we look back upon with the marvellous rose-tinted spectacles of hindsight… Every past PES game has had annoying, embarrassing flaws. Remember PES5’s auto-stepover that would concede throw-ins? For just one example.

I think what’s changed in the PES community is a decreased tolerance for the flaws. PES2008 gave us a taste for critiquing PES, and it’s been open season ever since. FIFA08 was a serious football game and provided PES with a worthy competitor for the first time. The full story has yet to be written—the end of this console generation and the beginning of the next, whenever that may be, will provide a useful juncture to examine what’s happened to PES (and to PES fans) in this generation in more detail. But, for now, we’re living through this difficult period, and thus we can’t quite see it properly yet.

Setting aside all pretentious would-be theorising, the fact is that I am playing PES2010. I am enjoying Master League more deeply than I’ve enjoyed any other since PES5. I’m happy to go on playing it indefinitely. Season 12, let’s get started…

I have reverted to my stripey home kit of two seasons ago, with a slight difference. Instead of sky blue and white stripes, I’ve gone for two shades of blue. This home kit is now the permanent template for every season. Only minor colour changes will take place for the foreseeable future. My away kits will still change every season. The new away kit has been changed since the picture was taken. Those white shorts simply weren’t working out. I’ve changed them to black. Sorry about that, white shorts fans.

On the cashflow front I was £30m in credit at the start of the transfer window. I raised all my staff levels up to level 5. I spent £5m on skill cards. I stayed out of the transfer market after looking around but not really finding anyone I was keen enough to go after. Mathieu is currently 36 years old and about to retire at Valencia. I’ll watch out for his Regen next season.

I trimmed my squad by a few players. I sold Minanda, Voavy, and Espimas, who all brought in £5.5m combined—so that was the skill cards paid for. This is my first major splurge on skill cards. I bought a few for a couple of players last season but saw no major differences on the pitch. Sazi, if anything, has declined in ability. Or is that just my perception now that other, better players have slotted in around him?

Needless to say, I came into season 12 hoping to win the Treble. But it’s gone straightaway. I’ve been eliminated from the D1 Cup in the 1st round. That’s the Treble gone for another season—already out of reach. Damn! How could I have been so careless? Next season, season 13, I really will have to be more careful. All I can say in my defence is that Manchester City (them again) were pretty formidable in the first leg. Although I tried my best in the second leg, it wasn’t to be.

I lost my opening league match, at home, against a surprisingly tough Rangers FC—newly-promoted and obviously fired up at the sight of my hooped shirts. They beat me 0-2. One of their goals was that most infuriating of PES types: the one where the ball runs loose in a crowded penalty box and your players won’t do anything, won’t respond to any button presses, for just long enough to let an AI player pinch the ball and score.

A 4-1 win at home in my next match steadied the ship. I’m doing very well in the league, and suddenly scoring lots of goals. 23 goals in 11 matches is the joint-second-highest in the league, behind only a scarily resurgent Tottenham.

The key to my scoring spree is Munitis (pictured left). He’s scored 11 of my 23 goals and is top of the top scorers’ list. He might look as if he should be playing the banjo in a trailer park, but on the pitch he’s shaping up to be my most important left-footed striker since Hristo Stoichkov on PES3 (a fond memory indeed).

Perhaps the greatest thing about Munitis is that none of his goals seem to be anything special. They’re all ‘right place, right time’ finishes from 8 yards, or headers from corners that scramble over the line somehow. This is exactly what I need.

Below is a short clip showing two goals from this opening part of this season. First is a poacher’s side-footed finish from Munitis, following some sharp build-up play. Second is a traditional long-distance screamer from Sazi, which is uncannily like one of my old FIFA09 distance goals—fired into the opposite corner whilst running diagonally:


In Europe I’m in a fairly weak group (on paper). I’ve won my opening two fixtures against Nancy Lorraine (what a gal) and Atalanta. Basel 1893 look as if they’ll offer my main competition in the group, and they’re up next.

All in all, I’m very happy with my PES life at the moment. Fumbling the Treble (yet again) right at the start of this season is only a minor blow. The bigger picture is one of intense involvement and enjoyment in Master League. Just the way it should be, really.

Vive la goal difference

Season 11 is over. I have won the title for the second season in succession—but it was close. Very close. Last year I won the league at a canter, with plenty of room to spare. This season, it went to the final fixture (and, oh, how PES loves to make that happen). I lost the match—but still won the title on goal difference. Here’s the final table:

With 9 matches to go I was in 2nd place, two points behind Arsenal. Somehow I contrived to lose 3 of those last 9 matches, including the final fixture. By all rights I should have been long out of contention, but Master League’s notorious league balancing act usually keeps you involved until the death, and so it proved.

The highlight of the run-in, and my game of the season, was an incredible match against Birmingham. Away from home, I was 3-0 down at half time. Birmingham’s play was relentless, their goals clinical. I needed a spectacular comeback—and something told me the game would not look unfavourably upon me coming back. I’m not formally alleging that the game was scripted in my favour, but the ease of my two headed goals that brought it back to 3-2 straight after the interval certainly had me feeling suspicious. My equaliser, making it 3-3 after 85 minutes, was a good goal. And then, with time dribbling out, in the 92nd minute… I scored the winner.

I was shouting, fist-pumping, kissing an imaginary ring on the third finger of my right hand, cupping a hand to my ear, rocking the baby, dog-peeing on an imaginary corner flag, the works. I had won the game 3-4 in the last second. It has to count as my greatest comeback in PES since… probably since ISS98, actually, when I vividly recall coming back from 3-0 down at half time as Turkey against Sweden in an International Cup match.

All I ever played on dear old ISS were those Cup tournaments. My football gaming year back then was composed of trying to win the International Cup, from scratch, using every team in alphabetical order. If I was defeated at any stage, I had to restart from the very beginning in the group stages, every single time (no reloading was allowed, even then). In ISS98 I think I got as far as Ukraine before moving on to the first PS1 ISS Pro Evolution game.

I feel nostalgic now. When will we see ISS98 (or similar) made available as a PSN download? Japan have had it for years. Where’s ours? I don’t think I want to wait very much longer. One of my special projects this summer might be to perform some surgery on my PSP, and then get a nice little copy of ISS98 up and running…

Back in season 11, I lost badly against Manchester City away. Again I was 3-0 down at half time. Hmmm, I thought. This time there was no miracle comeback. Which is a good thing: if I had come back again, I might just have regarded it as an insult. My involvement with PES revolves around not glimpsing any wizards behind any curtains, thank you very much.

Manchester City were in the bottom half of the table—they’ve really declined quite badly. And I was stunned to see Chelsea 5th from bottom. They were safe from relegation, but there they were. I checked out their team, and was aghast to see them still playing Cech and Joe Cole in their First XI, despite both players’ OVR ratings having dropped into the 40s. Seriously, Joe Cole is a 42 OVR rated player in this ML world right now, and he’s still getting a game. The truly bad thing here, of course, will be when I play Chelsea next season. If Joe Cole is in the team, rated 42, he’ll play like a 90-rated superstar. Something in me now hopes to see Joe Cole again next season. I’ll try to remember to keep you posted on that one.

So my league-title-deciding game was against Boca Juniors. They scored a goal after 20 minutes—and that was pretty much the last meaningful goalmouth action for either team. I could not get hold of the ball, and when I did, I lost it, or was ‘tangled’ out of it by swarming defenders… One of those games. All Arsenal would have to do in their match was win, and they’d win the title too. My match ended as a 1-0 defeat, but when my players’ arms went up anyway I knew Arsenal had not won their match.In fact, they had only drawn it. We were level on points, but my superior goal difference handed me the title.

Phew. What a season. I fumbled the Treble after making good progress. And I really thought I was going to do it at the first time of asking. The last two next-gen PESes have conditioned me to expect an instant Treble as soon as it becomes possible. It hasn’t happened.

Here’s a few goals from the end of the season. Zaki’s half-volley at the start is one of my favoutire goals in PES2010 so far. Right at the end of this clip comes the 92nd-minute winner in the match against Birmingham that I’ve spoken about above:

Link: Master League Season 11 finale

And so to season 12.

Goodbye to the Treble

The Treble is over for this season. I’ve been eliminated from the Champions League in the first knockout round. And then I was dumped out of the D1 Cup, at the semi-final stage. At least I’ve still got the League to go for…

The AI team that booted me out of the Champions League was FC Sochaux-Montbeliard. It’s rarely the Inter Milans or the Barcelonas that cause you problems in Master League. It’s nearly always the teams you’ve only vaguely heard of in real life.

I really lost the tie in the first leg at my ground. Sochaux scored two good goals before half-time. In hindsight, I then tried much too hard to get at least one goal back. I thought it’d make the return leg more straightforward. Silly of me. I should have shut up shop and taken the 0-2 defeat. The AI was in a mood to punish me. And it punished me severely. One of my incessant 10-man attacks was broken up and Sochaux scored again on the counter. Final score: 0-3. Careless, totally careless of me.

I gave it a good go in the second leg, but it wasn’t to be. It was one of those matches where I had a lot of possession, but rarely actually created anything. The AI was in full-on frustration mode. 0-0 it finished, pretty tamely. I kept going until the end, of course, but eventually time ran out. I was out.

I stared at the screen. There went the Treble for this season. Oh well. That’s fine: maybe next season, and all that. I do go on about the Treble a lot, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of my Master League ambitions. The Treble is more of a convenient narrative frame for these blog postings than an actual thing of vital importance to my enjoyment of Master League.

And I still had a League and Cup double to go for. But that was soon ended. The amazingly fantastic, brilliantly skilful, formidably strong Standard Liege beat me 2-0 at their place, and got themselves a creditable 1-1 draw at mine. I was out of the Cup. I stared at the screen. Oh well…

At least now I can concentrate on the League. Where things are still going well. That’s the great thing about a League competition, and the reason why they’re prized so highly in real life. Leagues really do establish who’s the best, because they’re rarely decided by a one-off fixture. Even when they are decided by a single fixture, it’s no good crying about it, because what about all the previous fixtures that you could and should have won, to avoid getting to that point?

Having said that, PES traditionally loves to engineer exciting finishes to league seasons. Even though I’ve been doing well and winning matches, I’m still only second. At least 4 teams are in with a shout. With 9 matches left in the season, it could go right to the wire.

I love Ujfalusi

After an extremely dodgy start to season 11, I managed to steady the ship—and now currently things remain on the up-and-up. I’m going for the Treble for the first time in PES2010: League, Cup, European Cup. I think I’ve got a great chance of doing it at the first attempt.

My league form is excellent. I could hardly ask for anything better. 10 wins in a row (in all competitions) earned me a nice PSN Trophy. I’m scoring a lot more goals as well. Those narrow 1-0 wins of last season have started turning onto 2-0 and 3-0 wins. I’m still not scoring as many as I’d like, but at least I’m not far behind most of my top-6 rivals. I’ve yet to start finding things easy, but some things feel a lot more straightforward. I’ve got better players and a bigger squad to move them around in.

I splashed out big in the mid-season transfer window. I brought in 5 new players, increasing my squad size to 27. I spent about £7m in transfer fees—easily my biggest speding spree on the transfer market yet. It was about time I started spending the capital accrued from last season’s title win.

MUNITIS and CHILNAT are both AMF/SS hybrids of the kind that seem so plentiful in PES2010. Munitis in particular is a fine player. He’s totally left-footed, and is already making himself at home on the left side of my attack.

PIRES is a Regen, of course, currently 21 years old. He’s the best player of the 5 newbies. BOANERM is a DMF from the Youth squad. UJFALUSI (Ooh for Lucy, as the PES and FIFA commentators call him) is an 18-year-old Regen as well. I bought him for a million from his CPU team. Money well spent, as I needed CB cover. Ujfalusi is already great, and only going to get better. I think he’ll be an immense player in a few years.

I tried to sign the Regen Paul Scholes from Man Utd, but failed. Obviously my team needs to win a bit more and increase its prestige. Currently we’re ranked 100th in the ML ‘world’. I could do with a better negotiator too..

My dependable forward Itzhaki was the surprise European Footballer of Year winner. Okay then… What criteria decided that? I suppose it’s based on the cold hard statistics of match ratings. Itzhaki is a great player, an essential selection for me when he’s fully fit and in good form. But the best player on the continent? No, not by a very long way. I was bemused by the award, it’s fair to say.

I’m still in the D1 Cup, and I have also qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League. I won my last 2 matches and finished in 2nd place. My opponents in the Quarter Finals will be FC Sochaux. On paper that should be a walk in the park, but this is PES. They’ll probably play like 1970 Brazil. We’ll see how it goes.

Finally today, a brief goals digest in video form. My favourite of these is the second one, from Zaki. I just love scoring goals like that. Boom. Zaki’s diving header isn’t bad either. Also on show are the first goals for my team from Munitis and Pires. Both came from cleared corners. Pires’s volley scuds along the ground and is a bit of a soft goal, really. But I liked it anyway:

Link: Mid-season 11 goals

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