Month: May 2012

First World Problems

Season 13 has ended. I finished a painfully distant 6th in the table. Won 18. Drew 7. Lost 13. Scored just 59 goals and conceded a shocking 47.

There will be no miracle qualification for the Champions League next season. I’ve already had the notification that I’ll be playing in the Europa League.

Arsenal had a great season. There have been some great teams in my time on this Master League. The current Arsenal side is one of the best. They did the double over me. As did quite a few other teams, actually.

Arsenal had a few players in the Best XI—but so did I:

I had got something special lined up for today. I recorded myself playing a full match. I also did live commentary, using my actual voice, as I played. Alas, I left it until Sunday night to start editing the video. For various reasons it’s not ready in time for the post. Let me explain.

Recently I purchased one of those HD PVR thingumajigs. I got it specifically to record myself playing PES2012 on the PS3.

I had no idea that it would require such setting up, with so many wires. Naively, I thought it was just another box that would plug straightforwardly into the back of the TV, and record whatever was displayed on-screen.

Nope. It’s not. So let this be a warning: always do your research.

I have a PS3 connected to the TV via HDMI; my 360 is connected to the same TV via the Composite sockets.

In order to set up the HD PVR to record myself playing matches on PES2012, I have to plug the PS3 into the HD PVR, and then plug the HD PVR into the Composite sockets—where my 360 plugs usually. Then I have to change the PS3’s video output settings from HDMI to Composite. And when it’s all over, I have to unplug, and replug, and change all the PS3 settings back…

It’s all a lot of fuss that I could do without. ‘Can’t be arsed’ is, I believe, the relevant phrase here. So yes, this is strictly a one-off, probably.

I recorded myself playing all six of my last matches of season 13. I only did live commentary for one of them, Swansea vs. CCFC. This was the match I tried to have ready for today’s post.

The final file size was 2.5GB, and really looked great, but alas, it was taking hours and hours to convert into a movie (via iMovie, the built-in app on Mac).

I have various other apps that do various things with video files. One of them shrinks the file-size to something more manageable. I did that, and tried to make the movie again this morning, Monday.

Hours later, it’s nearly midday. The movie won’t be ready in time. I’ll post it here whenever it’s ready, hopefully sometime on Monday (but possibly not until Tuesday—I’m out and about today). Check back later.

I was pleased to have commentated and recorded on this match for several reasons. One of them was the performance of my immense DMF, Johann Neeskens. Yes, he does look like a bit like Eric Stoltz in Mask, but there you go.

After that Swansea match I had a nightmare run. I lost 1-2 at home to Stoke. I was absolutely slaughtered 6-1 by Everton. This is the other match that I’m working on converting to show in full. I hope to post it on Wednesday.

I only won one match out of my last 5 of the season. But these games are some of the best PES games I have ever played.

I’ll be staying on Superstar for season 14, and I’m probably here for good now. It’d take a truly wretched experience to deflect me from this course.

The Unforgotten Man

Last time I was reminiscing about Hagi the First and his best-ever free kick in PES. It’s still the best free kick I’ve ever scored in PES—but this new 35-yard effort from a semi-forgotten man, John Barnes, runs it very close indeed:

That moment, and a few other stellar performances, have put John Barnes firmly back on my radar.

Could the ageing Barnes (32) be responding to the competition of Vicente, Hagi, Ribery, and Reyes? One of them will take his place in the seasons to come. But not just yet.

That came in a 4-2 away victory over Norwich. It was 0-0 at the time and they were parking the bus. This goal from nowhere, just before half-time, drew them out and set up a Barnes-storming (sorry) second half with lots of open play and goals. It was a game-changing strike indeed.

I’m very generous with the power on these long free kicks—80-90%, which always seems wrong but is actually right—and then I hold Triangle for even more power, or extra curl (or extra placebo*, or whatever).

[*nb: I know that holding Triangle during free kicks isn’t a placebo, that it’s in the manual and everything. It’s just a joke.]

I’m probably going to finish outside the top 4 in the table for the first time in many seasons. I was making up ground and had got within 4 points of 4th place. Then a run of bad results knocked me back again.

The Champions-elect, Arsenal, came to play me at home. I lost 1-2, in a game that I could and should have got something out of. It’s these marginal defeats that have cost me dear this season, not the occasional thumpings.

And I’m out of the Champions League at the first knockout stage.

I was 2-1 down to Barcelona after the first leg at my place. I gave it my best shot at Barca in the second leg, but lost by the same scoreline: 2-1. They played exactly as you would think Barca on top difficulty should play. Simply irresistible.

I did well to get that one goal, really. I was 2-0 down (4-1 on aggregate) at the time, so it really was just a consolation. I brought some of the youngsters on for the experience.

Everybody’s favourite hair-transplantee, 18-year-old Wayne Rooney, got a blaster from 25 yards to score his first ever goal for my club:

Defeat was still bitter. My thirteenth season in total, and my second playing on Superstar difficulty, will now definitely end without any silverware.

With the players I’ve got I would have had a Treble by now on Professional difficulty, I’m pretty certain. I can’t speak for Top Player.

All that remains is to play as well as possible in the last stretch of the League and aim to finish as high as possible. Hopefully I can benefit from the game’s generosity and sneak into a Champions League pre-tournament qualifier. I’d really like that. And I’ll have to tighten up at the back next season if I’m ever going to get that coveted first trophy on Superstar.

Return Of The Hagi

I don’t need a special reason to carry on playing PES2012—but if I did need one, it’d be this guy.

Yep, Hagi is back as a Regen. Let the good times roll (eventually).

Undoubtedly the player of my early seasons on the game, he scored a load of memorable goals, including the best free kick I’ve ever scored in PES.

Back then I got him when he was 29 years old. Sadly he started to decline when he hit 31. I let him go soon afterward. He retired from Inter Milan last season.

On January 1st just gone, I checked the new Regens—and there was Hagi. He’d popped up in Free Agents at the age of 16. I signed him straightaway without any fuss, first time.

His rating right now? A massive 66 OVR…

He’s nowhere near my First XI (visible here to the right), and it may be some time before he is. But he’s made two substitute appearances.

I brought him on late in a 1-0 defeat at Liverpool, a self-indulgent decision that I regretted. He was slow and clumsy and shouldn’t have been on that pitch. I should really have been more focused on getting something out of the game than blooding my trophy Youth. (I really have written off this season—more on that to come.)

And I brought Hagi on late in a 2-0 win at Wolves, where I even crafted a shooting opportunity for him that the keeper batted away. Hagi’s impish skills are still there in embryo.

At 66 OVR, there’s a long road ahead of him, and me. It’s likely I won’t see the real Hagi for 4, maybe 5 or 6 seasons. I’ll still be playing PES2012 by that time, it’s pretty clear now.

I’ve also been busy otherwise. Work is well underway on a long-term project to hopefully build something a bit special.

After my bad start to this season I had to choose which way to take things for the rest of this season and the next. Spend all my cash in a mad splurge (if that would even be possible)? Or stick with what I’ve got (look at the talent already out there in my First XI!) and bring on the youngsters for the future?

I went with the latter. I won’t be going on a shopping spree for the biggest and bestest new players. I’ve already got my fair share of top names and talents, and then some.

Besides, the mechanics of the PES2012 transfer system seem to stipulate that the big players won’t come if they think they won’t play regularly.

So I went Youth hunting. Ribery (age 17) and Schweinsteiger (18) appeared in my Youths. I signed them. Both already on a pretty good OVR.

I’m particularly excited about Schweinsteiger. This lad already handles pretty well as he is now, and cuts an impressive dash out there in centre midfield. I’m looking forward to seeing him bloom, although not looking forward to having to type his name repeatedly in the seasons to come. (Before anyone suggests it: I already have TextExpander.)

Navarro (age 21, so not a proper Youth) has come in as left-back cover, finally replacing Hyam whom I sold at the end of last season.

A nice touch saw Agostini go onto a purple arrow for a few matches after Navarro’s arrival. No doubt not appreciating the competition for that left-back slot.

And then there was Kaka (age 16). A player I last remember playing with in PES2008(PS2/PSP), where he was a superb player. I bought him here from Roma’s Youth team.

I put all four of the youngsters up for loan—yes, Hagi too—but there were no takers, disappointingly. It’ll be awkward and time-consuming if I have to develop them all myself, but you know what, I cannot wait to get cracking.

League form has remained very patchy. As the table shows, I am now 20 points off the lead. The title is long, long gone.

Right now I should be most worried about holding onto a top 7 slot. I should be hauling myself up into 4th if I can. If I miss out on the Champions League next season it’ll be a minor calamity. It would mean my next chance at the fabled Treble would be season 15—probably in bloody June!

Speaking of the Champions League, it is my last chance of silverware this current season. But if I win it, will I qualify for next season’s tournament regardless of where I finish in the domestic league, as in real life? Who knows.

I was doing badly in the group stages, but rallied to win two and draw one of my last three games to squeak into second spot behind AC Milan.

The draw for the first knockout stage came along. I got Barcelona. At the time of writing, I’ve just played the first leg at home. I lost 1-2. Ouch.

It’s been a while since I posted a goal on the blog. In a recent match I scored a decent-ish long-range goal with Farinos.

It’s the first such that he’s got for me. I thought I’d be posting loads of these after Farinos’s arrival, but it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

I went up to Superstar difficulty for one thing, which always limits long-range opportunites. And Farinos, although he has excellent core shooting stats, has no skill cards whatsoever. When you’re shooting with Farinos, you’re working with his raw unmodified skills.

Which makes goals like this even more satisfying:

Season the 13th

I’m in big trouble in season 13. I always remember having randomly awkward, trouble-filled seasons back in PES5. Now here’s one in PES2012, it appears.

After barely a quarter of the season played, I’m already out of the FA Cup. I’m in serious danger of going out of the Champions League at the group stage. And I’m seriously out of form in the league, where I currently sit in 8th position after playing 13. I’m scoring a pitiful amount too. All in all, it’s my poorest showing at this stage for a few seasons.

I don’t know what’s happened. Or actually, I do know what’s happened—I got rid of a few good players, brought in a few raw youths, and they’ve diluted the pool. Thrown me off kilter. And perhaps there’s more than a dash of complacency too.

At times so far this season, the Superstar AI has been all over me. It’s been playing exactly how I feared Superstar would play, before I started playing it. Swarming and blocking and nudging and biting… Maybe not literally biting, but getting there.

Liverpool and Man City beat me in the first few matches of the season. I’ve since lost 0-2 at home to Newcastle. Bottom club Celtic held me 1-1 at their place.

I lost away to Blackburn, 1-0, after a long, long battle to score one goal with my overwhelming pressure (71% at half-time; 63% by full-time). They’d had hardly a sniff, and there didn’t seem to be any danger at all in the 89th minute when I conceded a free kick near the halfway line.

The Blackburn front line stood on the edge of my box. I’m usually confident defending these free kicks in PES2012. What I do is select a big defender and move him a few yards away from the pack, towards the goal. Then, as the ball comes in, I attack it with that player. His momentum, coming from goal-side, usually suffices to get the ball away or disrupt any knock-downs.

On this occasion, the defender was Natali, who was playing thanks to Ruggeri being suspended. He seemed to lumber towards the ball, and failed to jump when I pressed Square. A Blackburn striker—oh God, I think it was Goodwillie—thudded the ball into the back of the net.

I was pretty shattered by this defeat. I’d lost another match that I couldn’t afford to lose.

My next opoonents were Arsenal, away. They battered me 3-0, and went 12 points ahead of me. Even this early in the season, it looks like the title is beyond me.

Which leaves the Champions League as my only route to silverware.

Where I lost the two openers, pretty dismally, against AC Milan and Atletico Madrid.

The third match against Zenit St Petersburg at my place was a must-win game. I went 0-1 down after a few minutes. Started throwing my players into challenges and picking up bookings. I foolishly used Ruggeri for a ‘reducer’ and picked up a second yellow for him, and was down to 10 men.

I wasn’t having it. I staged a classic PES backs-to-the-wall heroic rally. A massive effort like none other. Life on Superstar is hard, and it was hard here with 10 men, but I sensed that the game would allow me back into it if I kept trying and believing.

Farinos got me the equaliser, a lovely tucked-away finish after 60 minutes. Plenty of time left for the winner, and it came from Agostini who was first to react to a loose ball in the Zenit box.

I saw out the last 5 minutes for one of my most memorable victories in PES2012 so far. I was shouting and shaking my fists at the ceiling. My neighbours avoid eye-contact with me in the street, you know.

It gave me a precious lifeline in the Champions League. I may find myself having to win the whole thing to qualify next season, the way things are going.

It’s the domestic league I’m most worried about. I cannot finish outside the top 4. It would be embarrassing.

I need to buck my ideas up and fast. Regen Rooney and Del Piero aren’t going to be any help. Del Piero got a scrambled goal in a match I’d already won. Rooney has done nothing yet—he can’t. He’s 17, and still a lightweight really.

The January transfer window is approaching fast. I could either spend some of my £200 million and buy my way out of trouble. Or write this season off and focus on developing the youngsters. I really don’t know yet which one it’ll be.