Month: July 2015

Forlan attacks for massive damage!

Season 14 Forlan celebrates

The above screenshot was taken in the 89th minute of a completely fantastic match of Pro Evolution Soccer 2015.

The scoreline says it all, as does the time of this winning goal. The PES-playing reader doesn’t need to be told the extraordinary high emotion I was experiencing, commensurate with Forlan’s look of exultation here.

These great matches come along a bit too rarely in PES2015 nowadays. After many seasons on Superstar, and with a top squad, I’d put the great matches at about 1 in 12. So about 3 or 4 per league season. Which is a bit too rare for comfort, really. But they still come along.

If I had my time again I’d never budge from Top Player. Forcing myself up to Superstar was a huge error that won’t be repeated on PES2016.

The winning goal was a standard finish – notable more for its meaning than its spectacle – and it is being saved up for a bumper end-of-season compilation in due course.

Season 14 is my last in PES2015’s Master League. I’m ready for the end now. I’m going all-out for the Treble in my last ever season.

After a bad start that saw me draw one and lose two of the openers, I steadied the ship and moved back up the table. After 13 matches:

Season 14 after 13

The majority of these 13 matches have been typical PES2015 Superstar matches as I have come to know them. Tight and frustrating, unless you relax and find the Zen focal point of the game, which is a harder and harder place to find as these seasons have gone by.

PES2015 is unique among PESes in my experience in that the better your squad gets, the harder the game gets.

It’s as if there’s an RPG-style ‘levelling up’ of the AI. Maybe there’s no ‘as if’ about it. Maybe RPG-style levelling up of the AI is what’s really going on

The Champions League draw was quite kind: Bayer Leverkusen, Atletico Madrid, Stade De Reims. I’m holding steady in the group. An unexpected early defeat to Bayer Leverkusen took me aback somewhat, as that’s not what’s supposed to happen. The Champions League is the only place where the alleged RPG-style levelling-up does not take place.

I won the World Club championship again. Very easy again, as ever. If only the domestic league matches were like these…

Season 14 won the World Club again

My players dominated the Team of the Tournament.

World Club TotT

All in all, with about a quarter of the final season gone, I’m well-placed to go for the fabled Treble. It’s an unlikely sort of quest considering the insane ramping-up of the difficulty that the game frequently throws at you in the form of a totally impregnable Southampton or Hull City or the like. But at least I’m still in the fight.

The Swansong Begins

Season 14 new home kit

Season 14 has got off to an indifferent start, which is very worrying considering that this is my last chance to get the Treble in this Master League.

This will be my last season of PES2015. I have more or less filled up now on what is a very good football game (not the best – nowhere near the best – but very good regardless).

I had decided to play either until the end of July, or a maximum of 2 more seasons. But it takes me about a week and a half (sometimes two weeks) to get through a season. That takes me close enough to the end of July to mean that starting another season will take me well into August, and I don’t want that. So this season, my 14th in Master League, is definitely my final one.

Season 14 kit 2

First order of business, as ever for a new season, is deciding on the kits.

With this being my final season, I wanted to go out with something traditionally Sky Blue. I went for the faint chequered shirt as seen above-right. For the away kit I settled on a sort of bumblebee pattern without meaning to. In kit design I tend to just feel my way forward without any real plan and see what emerges.

Season 14 kit 3

The third and fourth kits remain the same they’ve been for the past few seasons. My chequered pseudo-Croatia strip is number 3, and actually gets used more than the official second-choice kit.

Season 14 kit 4

Kit number 4 – intended to be horrible – gets used maybe once per season, if that. Typically I’m in kit number 1 for 99% of matches.

All that sorted, the next thing on the agenda was: new players.

It’s been said before but it bears repeating that the transfer market in PES2015’s Master League is not very well designed. It doesn’t compel you to seek out new players.

PES2015 has a ‘feature’ that auto-nerfs an outstanding player after he’s played a good couple of matches. One or two matches of brilliance can often be followed by five matches of complete anonymity. This is a peculiarity of PES2015 that I don’t remember featuring in any previous PES (with the possible exception of PES2014, which I didn’t play enough to find out).

Maicon joins season 14

That’s another reason why PES2015’s transfer market isn’t as exciting as it should be. There’s not much point in getting great new players and teasing great performances out of them when they’re going to be invisible for several matches afterward.

I didn’t really need any new players, but I wanted to get at least one anyway. I had a look at my squad and decided that my long-serving right-back, Pineda, was starting to decline – down to 79OVR now from a high of the mid-80s a few seasons ago.

So I searched for quality right-backs, and took my time choosing one.

In the end I went for MAICON. He’s got the pinpoint crossing trait, and also the long-range shooting one.

After all that it was time to get on with playing.

I won the Supercup – again. It’s never been a tough trophy to win on any PES.

Here’s the league table after 3 matches:

Season 14 after 3

1 draw, 2 defeats, and they were as abject as any I’ve ever had. This was with my all-new formation, too.

Season 14 new formation 4-1-3-2

This formation seen on the left here. Last season I felt that my 4-3-3 had become stale and that the AI had ‘cracked’ it, as Football Manager aficionados often say of their game. I needed to bolster my team’s presence in midfield. Long periods spent chasing the ball while the Superstar AI kept possession were starting to get to me.

I alighted on this 4-4-2 and tried it out for a few matches. It didn’t really work. It’s still a very attacking one with those advanced SMFs.

I’m going to have to change it – again – to something more like my old 4-2-2-2, with two defensive midfielders sitting deep in front of the CBs. If I have to, I’ll go for the dreaded 4-5-1. Yes, the formation that – as much as any other factor – has neutered real-life professional football.

This start I’ve had to season 14 is a very unfortunate one considering I it’s the last season. But I remain relaxed about it, knowing for certain that a good run of results will effortlessly lift me back up into contention. Master League is just like that.

Andy Townsend’s Tactics Truck

Season 13 has ended in a semi-damp squib. I had everything staked on a Treble this season, but going out of the FA Cup really took the wind out of my sails. I still had the League+Champions League double to go for, but I barely managed to score a goal in the league before the end of the season. I have no idea how I still managed to finish 3rd. The final table:

Season 13 Final Table

15 points and a hefty goal-difference behind Arsenal, one of the heavyweights of my ML world.

I reached the final of the Champions League, a trophy I won at a canter last season. Chelsea were predictably quite easy in the semi-final. In the final, I faced Liverpool.

It was one of those PES2015 matches that featured little in the way of excitement. It was tense, it was tight, it was a typical Champions League final in most aspects.

Season 13 CL Final outcome

And it was mine. I scored a decent half-volley with Robben just after half-time, and saw out the rest of the match fairly comfortably. Liverpool only had 2 shots on target by the end, with Friedel performing well.

What a strange video game of football PES2015 is. Catenaccio AI defences are the order of the day. You get the ball and look up and somehow there’s an AI player covering everything. You pass it around looking for an opening, playing little give and gos, dribbling a bit, but with preternatural superhuman awareness the AI players magically redistribute themselves to cover.

In this sense at least, PES2015 replicates basic football tactics as the coaches would like to see them implemented. The basic principle of football tactics is something like: pull all the other team’s players out of position so your team can get in behind them and make chances and score goals.

To that end, formation and playing style is crucial, as anyone will cheerfully tell you who’s read the first 30 pages of Jonathan Wilson’s book (not an affiliate link).

When it is said of a defensive midfielder that he has ‘put in a shift’, it usually means he’s used his innate awareness of how to frustrate the opposition to the max. It was said of Paul Gascoigne in his pomp that, for all his daft-as-a-brushness, he had one of the shrewdest footballing brains of any professional player. ‘He always knew where he had to be for the team,’ I remember David Platt saying of Gazza once.

PES2015 is a beast of a football game designed with that core tactical principle in mind: the AI team’s players know exactly where they need to be for the benefit of their own team — and there they all are.

In PES of old you could fire off a pass in the direction of your player and be reasonably certain it would get there. Even if you had to watch the AI players watching the ball go past a few inches from their feet. PES2014 put a stop to all that. PES2015 has intensified the trend. Welcome to the most positionally aware, defensive defences ever seen in any football game. (There’ll be dribblers and tricksters reading this who can waltz through any opposition at will. None of this applies to you.)

PES2015’s toolbox contains an option for fluid formations, but I’ve left it too late to use that for the first time now.

So I changed my master formation to 4-5-1 (spit) for the last few matches before the end of the season – and it did zilch. I drew one and lost one. More study needed.

Season 13 League Team of Year

The team of the Tournament only featured two of my players – RECOBA and GERRARD. They seemed to have poor seasons, on the whole, not doing a single thing of note that I can remember, but PES2015’s ratings reflect a deeper statistical truth.

I look at that Team of the Tournament and wonder if I should copy its 4-1-2-1-2 (or 4-4-2 diamond). It’s a formation that always gives me a little frisson of excitement as it was the formation I used to great effect on my very first ‘proper’ computer football management game, Championship Manager 4, back in the day.

The final tale of the tape for season 13:

Season 13 tale of the tape

By now I have won every trophy possible in Master League — just not all at the same time.

The updated club rankings came out and as I predicted, another Champions League win has rocketed me into the top 10:

Season 14 new club ranking

Overall I can feel myself getting fatigued with PES2015. It’s a natural kind of fatigue that comes from day-in, day-out repetition, rather than from anything in the game. I still think that PES2015 plays a very good game of football and has been hastily dismissed by huge segments of the football-gaming populace. Maybe I’ll speak more about why I think this is in my end-of-year review of PES2015 in a month or two.

I do not want to commit the serious error of forcing myself to play this game after the departure point has been reached. So I’m setting myself a target. I’ve got a maximum of two more seasons to get the Treble.

Focus pocus

Urgh. Things have taken a poor turn in the league. After being knocked out of the FA Cup and losing my chance at the Treble in this season (my 13th on PES2015’s Master League), I was at least hoping for a Champions League and League double.

It is not to be. I’m still in the Champs League, but the League is gone.

A disastrous session, probably the single worst I’ve had on PES2015, saw me take 1 point from a possible 12 and leave myself 13 points adrift, with 4 to play.

Season 13 after 34

I don’t know what happened. Well, I do know what happened. I lost focus and concentration, particularly when the AI was kicking off, and paid the ultimate price.

I met Leicester at home, conceded early, couldn’t get back into it, and lost 0-1.

I played Crystal Palace at home, conceded early, couldn’t get back into it, and lost 0-1.

I played Chelsea away and was swept up into a crazy 4-3 match. I took the lead three times and they scored straight from their kick-off each time, and then got the winner late on.

I played Sunderland away and scored early myself, but conceded straight from their kickoff. At least I held on for the 1-1 here.

And finally in this sequence I played Spurs away and lost 2-1. At least I didn’t concede any kickoff goals.

The matches themselves seemed overwhelmingly hard. My players were constantly overrun in possession and bundled off the ball. My strikers struggled to get any kind of attacking game going and the CPU keepers saved nearly everything. Homemade Hagi is invisible. My defenders non-existent.

I’m through to the semi-finals of the Champions League, which is an all-English affair. I’ll play Chelsea. Strangely, I don’t anticipate it being very tough.

Season 13 CL semis draw

It’s only the League that has jumped up from Superstar to Nightmare difficulty.

Perhaps the 4-3-3 I’ve been playing for a few seasons now has finally run out of puff. I’m going to tinker with my formation and tactics and see what happens.

Full disclosure: prior to this Nightmare session in the league, I’d had a break of three days from the game. Work and a few other factors made it so. It was my longest time off, and when I returned it felt a bit bewildering. Also, I’d just lost my chance at the Treble this season. So clearly my focus has wavered.

Now I just have to focus for the Champions League. And try to come up with a new tactical approach for Season 14 that works.