The Header Master Ritual


The man. The myth. The goal machine. (Sort of.)

The Championship top scorers list after 10 matches:


The return of F FRIDAY to my Master League team’s fold has so far been an almost unqualified success. £17.9m for a player in the Championship? I hardly batted an eye at the cost. Worth every imaginary penny.

Many readers have already seen this highlights video of my 3-0 demolition of Leeds at the start of Season 3:

My favourite goal is actually Rice’s ruler-straight volley from 20 yards. But Friday’s goals were proper ‘black Schwarz’ goals: both powerful strikes from outside the box that the revered German striker used to be adored for.

Friday is 23 years old in my game. I should get 7-10 more good seasons out of him. Where will the story take him, and me? This is what Master League is all about.

The same goes for Rice, my star midfielder, the second coming of Coynborough in all but name. Master League is about building a story, building an experience, brick by brick.

My pre-season wheeler-dealering culminated in this First XI, this Squad – and this surprising new formation:


Talking points? Quite a few.

That startling 4-2-4 with WFs – a massive departure for me.

Depay in on loan, and surprisingly good. PES is individuality-lite these days, as we all know, but Depay feels like something different.

Regen Tim Cahill. He popped up on a search for header-friendly players. I’m interested in finding out if PES2017’s ‘famous’ header-friendly nature is real, or a vast unlikely conspiracy against me.

Son Heung-min. Or is it Heung-min Son? Whichever, just £8m from Spurs for an 80-rated quality player like that? How could I refuse?

Regen Aaron Lennon from my Youths. So far indistinguishable from Downing. I know they both need time though.

A few other Youths have been brought in to pad out the squad.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20161025011042

But what about that 4-2-4?

I’ve been tinkering with formations a lot recently, having admitted defeat in trying to stick with my favoured 4-2-2-2.

The 4-2-4 functions quite well. It is, of course, very goals-oriented, as can be seen by the table after 10 matches:

pes2017-season-3-after-10My current ratio of 1.2 goals per game across 10 matches is a step up from my 0.8 goals per game across the whole of last season.

Alas, swashbuckling as it is, the 4-2-4 is not going to last.

The table above suggests why. 3 matches lost already. 2 drawn. Only 5 goals conceded, but they were telling goals. That’s too many points dropped.

A 4-2-4 is such a fragile flower. It’s far too midfield-lite, and midfield is where the AI gets friskiest when it decides to get frisky.

Rice and Petsos cope well enough, as long as my front 4 are firing on all cylinders and pinning the AI back. But when the goals aren’t flying in, and the AI is in the mood to be stubborn – which is often – I really feel the lack of at least one extra body in midfield.

I’m toying with the notion of pulling back one of the front two to play as a central AMF. That would make it a 4-5-1 formation, and I’m not sure I can stomach that. 4-5-1 is one of the key factors involved in destroying ‘real-life’ football as a spectator sport.

Whatever I choose to do, Lobato’s days are numbered.

Lobato is a peculiar example of a player who plays below his stats for me. I’ve had him for almost 2 full seasons now, since the mid-season window of Season 1, and can barely remember a single good thing he’s done. I think I remember him getting an important goal in a match back in Season 1 or something. That’s about it.

I will be cashing in on Lobato in the coming midseason window, barring a miraculous Friday-style burst-to-life routine.

Lobato is officially a resounding flop for me. Proof, if proof were needed, that there is no one-size-fits-all prescription for Pro Evo success. Don’t even start me about these headers. I’ve now played lots of games with a 4-2-4, flung dozens of crosses of all types into the mixer, and scored maybe one header.

One final thing today – a video oddity.

For many editions of PES now it has been my habit to bring my GK up to take late corners when I’m behind. It enables me to have all my outfield players in or around the box. Leave it late enough and even if the AI wins the ball back, the ref usually blows the final whistle, so there’s hardly ever danger to your own goal.

Hardly ever…

We’re used to seeing AI teams fluff glaring opportunities like that. My respect for the PES2017 AI was already pretty high, but went up a notch when its advanced striker took that potshot from 35 yards.

The game was lost anyway, but I was still relieved not to concede there. I didn’t want my imaginary goalkeeper to feel bad about his life. Isn’t that peculiar?

Updated: 28th October 2016 — 10:39


  1. NG – I was trying to engage the misses in a conversation about the clocks moving yesterday with the result being she just shrugged it off as me being a crank as usual and didn’t really get what I was saying. I too had a difficult time trying to convince people that it was not the millennium. That night I went to bed at 10pm and was pissed off to be woken at five minutes to midnight. If they were going to celebrate their false event at least they could have waited 5 more minutes.

    Casteldine went last season. What I am liking now is that my starting eleven has remained just about unchanged for the last two seasons. After a high turnover at the beginning things settle down and the budget in terms of transfer kitty is very meagre for a top flight club. My favourite PES player of all time, Joey Barton has popped up in my Youth Team.

  2. Abbey – actually the stats do differ from career to career. If you get one of those (semi-random) flashing arrows on a player and give him a few run outs with success, they’ll go on a streak. Jarvis has been on a permanent upward arrow for me for the better part of the season and as a result his stats are going through the roof.

  3. Darryl – oh God, the year 2000. I’m more than happy to go along with the clock-and-calendar belief systems, in the same way that I’m happy to go along with every custom and law we use to shape daily experience – I love the big lie! – but I want it to be consistent, i.e. if everyone suddenly decides to believe that today is Tuesday instead of Monday, I’m not having it. Ditto the year 2000 and the 21st century etc. Interestingly, the one and only time I have ever had ‘flu (not the heavy cold that most people call ‘flu, but actual should-I-call-an-ambulance ‘flu), was on New Year’s Day 2000. Woke up with it and had the worst few days’ illness of my life.

  4. #1 – I think abbeyhill meant starting stats. Of course as soon as each of us starts playing with the squad and imprinting our own styles on them, things will go different.

    I might ‘do a Friday’ with Jarvis and bring him back in the next window, as long as he’s not too expensive.

  5. Morning, and happy Halloween.
    Didn’t get to play any PES over the weekend, too busy with family events, and actually went to bed at 8:40pm last night, slept for 10 hours and still feel bloody shattered.

    Interesting to read about all of your differing experiences with the defaults and other players. I only have one default player left in my squad, and that’s Arcas, my Captain, and highest rated player at 82 OPR.
    Just approached the Jan transfer window in season 4 and Re-gen John Terry and Robin Van Persie have just popped up in my youth team, so promptly signed them both up.

    I’ve also had 8 of my first team squad reject a new contract offer, twice, all their contracts run out next August, the 2 that did accept new offers substantially increased their wages.
    So the 50mil Transfer kitty I have looks likely to be spent on keeping existing players rather than signing new ones.

    Using this season (4) as an experimental season due to Top Player ruining the experience for me, back on Professional now, which hopefully will see me retain my premier league status, next season will start on Superstar and see how it goes from there.

  6. NG – ah, gotcha. By the way, what I’ve found with defaults you sell or release is that they become free agents eventually. Jarvis is pretty low rated in terms of OPR so I suspect you can pick him up sooner rather than later. His shot power is increasing now as well which is lovely. Same for Castledine, I can actually take a shot from distance with the man now. Also, I spotted Sako, who has a shot power of 90,just the winger I need… Getting into a good flow with the game, can’t wait to start season 2 tonight.

  7. #1 – yes agreed that the defaults can develop differently, although I did not realise the significance of this flashing arrow. Happily, Rice has a flashing arrow. Will have a closer look at Jarvis when he’s back from loan. Although a season 2 promotion is now looking less likely I still think the defaults can be moulded into a competitive team. The only problem is at centre back – Erikson and Vasilj have declined to 62 and 63 OVR, not sure how to replace them without spoiling the purity

  8. Paul – if ’17 is anything like ’16, you can stock up on all the players you like and the difficulty should hold up. That was for me – other types of player (the Cooks, Tommys, Petes, Jameses et al) blasted through ’16 in a few seasons as they’re doing here. Playing PES is an area of life where I’m delighted to be perfectly mediocre.

    Re. the 8 players who rejected contracts, I’m wondering about the criteria. Were they all reserve players? Any 1st-team regulars among them? If I spend a lot of time nurturing Rice. Friday etc. and then just randomly lose them for no good in-universe reason, I will not be happy.

  9. Abbeyhill – you can actually mold them into an effective team no doubt. I’m no “elite” pes players but promoted to the premiership as champions on professional with eight defaulters in my starting eleven. I’ve found if you nurture them correctly that they are actually quite capable. The defenders do degrade quickly but I’ve found vasilj in particular to play “above his stats”. Same goes for candemir who seems crap but always delivered (he’s gone now) for me. In my view the “elite” defaults seem to be Giorza, Arcas, Castledine, Jarvis. One tier below are the likes of Yankov, Rice, Matthiessen, Canning (who is a quite capable LB) and perhaps Redmond. Below that are Driessen, Schippers, Pallister and other players that never seem to do anything for anyone. I guess what I’m trying to say is that there is real quality if you invest some time in them (the defaults) and don’t replace them too quickly.

  10. I’ve had loads of players reject new contracts, most of whom will come around eventually if you keep trying, and trying, and trying! Only two put renewal talks on hold, my sub keeper (fair enough, didn’t get a game) and Valerón, who played regularly. Not sure what his problem was. It gives you the option to keep trying to change their minds even after that, but it doesn’t seem to have an effect.

    I guess if you want to make definitely sure Rice will stay put, start any renewal talks asap and take the hit on the wage, then you have as long as possible to keep trying and trying if needed.

  11. NG – I did mention above that it was 8 of my First Team Squad as in 8 players who start every match, it was actually 10, but 8 rejected a second offer, 2 didn’t.
    If even half those players leave, it will rip the guts out of my team.
    I will keep you posted.

  12. Back in 1752 there will have been a member of the Greg family burned at the stake for daring to suggest that eleven days hadn’t really been ‘lost’. I tried to explain to small fella about the “millennium bug” the other day and it sounded so ridiculous that it was ever even considered an issue. He looked at me like I’d been talking as if going to the moon was something we might one day achieve. How many million hours must have been wasted on pointless meetings about a clock.

  13. Turf – Had to chuckle at that.

    Paul – Not sure I’m in favour of your flagrant use of Happy Halloween. Whilst I’m willing to accept that I’ll never see the forgotten apostrophe reappear in my lifetime, and in my youth I attended private soirees of people bobbing for apples etc, I cannot condone Americanised Juvenile Begging Day as I prefer to call it.

  14. My player clearly disagrees with the lack of a booking…

  15. Turf – It’s clearly a head injury. Ref was right to stop the game.

  16. Paul – what are you doing for Thanksgiving?

    And I’ll be bombarding my Crown Jewels ML players with early offers in this PES. It’d be a very PES thing to happen if they were all to swan off at the peak of their powers.

    Uncle Turf – great video, and I love those glitch-in-the-Matrix moments like that. Oddly, they never disrupt my immersion when seen in any game. Scenery behind Lara Croft just dissolved in a fog of pixels? No problem. Etc. Similar to how we can know (as we should know) that there is no such thing as a Monday or money or the sun rising/setting earlier/later on our two annual clocks-changing days, but we remain immersed anyway and have that ‘Monday feeling’, believe in the value of money, think the sun is setting early, etc. Very curious.

  17. Chris99 – Haha Its irrelevant whether you approve as I largely don’t give 2 shits 🙂
    Happy Halloween is contradictory considering Halloween is supposed to be a scary occasion, and only made popular within the last few years over here thanks to the American film culture and hallmark holiday cash generating spectacle, nonetheless, I enjoy paranormal type literature, movies, documentaries and the actual science (or non-science depending on your beliefs) behind the phenomenon, so it was merely just a reason to have family and friends over, eat food, and have a bit of fun.

    Turf – you are lucky you even got the free kick for that foul, I wouldn’t have.

  18. NG – Probably a bout of pheasant shooting in the grounds, which the butler will serve up for Thanksgiving dinner, followed by champagne and irish coffee’s in the parlour whilst having a best selling audio book read to us by Morgan Freeman whilst we lounge about in smoking jackets and slippers.

  19. Paul – I have a similar problem as I have got about the same (7 maybe 8 players) all with their contracts due to expire at the end of August and has me panicking as it would rip out the heart of my team as well.

    As for picking up new players with a transfer budget which averages about 11 Million it is very difficult to pick up anyone now better than what I have got, so this is much better now.

  20. I’m hoping that this is the games way of instilling a little fear / apprehension and making team management a bit more exciting and that the key players will all agree new deals, even if it is with massive salary hikes.

    I suppose the salaries are realistic enough, Arcs was on £958k a year, that equates to £79 grand a week, about average for a player who’s captain of the club that he steered to 5th place and a European place last season ?
    His 940k hike up to 1.98mil a year equates to around £165k a week, quite a steep increase but I guess not unheard of for a team of that level.

    I’ve also had fringe players request new deals with salary drops too.

  21. Goals at a premium.

    Take a look at @loydpay’s Tweet:

  22. Paul – I can’t begrudge a man family, friends, food and fun. I’m just hoping we don’t have to watch a video of nG bombarding his crown jewels.

  23. Well in Tommy.

    Out of the CL at the group stage, but into the Europa League. Struggling in the League as the table I shared earlier suggests.

  24. God forebid Chris !!! Haha
    Nice FK Tommy.

  25. Well January ended and exactly the same as my first ml I’ve ended up with lobato and origi. Lobato was the only youth teamer worth taking – I did take a couple more so I could reduce my wage budget with a few sales – and origi was the only loanee who would come and agree to a possible transfer (which I took up). Shame it’s the same faces but lobato has actually looked good in my new setup. I’ve also signed castledine and arcas to longer contracts as in the two amf slots (a pes first for me, I have always loved the one amf lurking on the edge of the box) they are playing way above their level. Arcas surges at defences and castledine seems to pop up whenever the defence threatens to clear, poking the ball back goalwards. I’ve now won more games than my first ml season one and am praying the tide doesn’t turn to shat like last time. The only downside is I have no wages to spend and am down to 16 players so I’d appreciate a generous rise at the end of the year.

  26. So my contract renewal saga took a weird little turn last night.
    I am in the Jan transfer window, as you remember from yesterday 8-10 of my key players all rejected new contracts, so after several, by several I mean more like 6 or more offers to each player, most finally accepted, with a big hike in wages obviously. I had an initial wage budget of £19 million, that went down to £11million just on renewing existing players.
    However, there is a bit of a turd in the punchbowl….

    2 of my Key players, first teamers, my first choice DMF Clement, and first choice CMF, Tiago, both rejected every contract offer, remember I am in the Jan transfer window, their existing contracts run until August, They both agreed deals with other clubs, I was severely pissed off but thought at least I had the rest of the season to scout replacements for them, not so.
    I was then informed that both Tiago and Clement had left the club.

    This must be a error with the games programming as they were still under contract for another 7 months, they shouldn’t have left until August, but they did, leaving me with no Central Midfield !!!!
    I had to draft in a spate of Youth team players, luckily Sedou Keita (CMF) and Anders Herrera (DMF) were both in my youth team so signed them up, but obviously TS took a hit.

    I also moaned about the games complete nerfing of speed and dribbling ability, so on the odd occasion that you are able to use it properly, its only fair I show an example of it.

    A late winner to grab a 2-1 win vs Watford from Maxi Rodriguez.
    I followed this with a 6-0 thumping of Palace, where the first 4 goals were all headers, 2 from corners, 2 from open play crosses. I didn’t bother recording them NG, but trust me, it did happen, 4 headers, one match.

  27. Paul – just looking at the exuberance of Maxi Rodriguez’s celebration there reminded me to look after my own Crown Jewels. If what happened to your two players happens to me I’ll go nuts. And that’s typical ML quirkiness for them to up and leave before the end of the contract. Much like playing FA Cup matches at neutral venues. There’s no reason for it.

  28. Paul – yes, that’s a ‘thing’ in this PES (an error obviously as they are still under contract and you get no compensation). It happened to me and at least one other commenter. I guess they treat Contract Exit as meaning Contract Exit. We can blame Nigel farage.

    I haven’t noticed it happening in reverse though – signing a player who is due to become a free agent in January doesn’t change from a July join date.

  29. You have to bear with Lobato for a few years until he hits early 20’s then he becomes superhuman with a rifle of a right foot and faster than Forrest Gump!

  30. Sounds good Turf, are you now playing 4-2-2-2 or something odd like 3-3-2-2?

    Would be furious if my defaults challenge was derailed by such shenanigans. Hopefully the defaults have an extra level of loyalty

  31. I was astounded. I literally had no time to seek replacements as this all happened 2 days from the end of the window.
    The most annoying this was that id nurtured these 2 players over the last 2 seasons and seen them both develop by about 8 OPR points each, and had £8mil+ offers for both of them in this very same window.

    Maxi Rodriguez was signed at the end of my first season from the youth team as a 68 OPR player, he’s now at 81 OPR and constantly on a glowing blue form arrow, this goal came during that in-form spell.

  32. abbeyhill – Arcas was a tough negotiation, he wanted a lot of money and any attempt to negotiate was rejected.

    I don’t know what the game classes it as but to me it’s a 3-1-2-2-2 (which is one too many for the formation count). 3 at the back, 1 DMF (with a massive stamina rating), LMF/RMF around the halfway line, 2 AMFs on that boundary between AMF and SS, and SS/CF slightly closer together than the AMFs.

    My liking for a single DMF and single AMF stretches way back to the days of Hierro and the classics, that corner that finds the man on the edge of the box or through ball that sees the man run in on goal. But all that has changed in recent years, corners are about headers and I simply don’t get one on ones without being caught. PES has come to mean this new style of high pressure, closed down football with a lone striker. Having 4 around the edge of the box gives me more chance to work openings as long rangers are clearly out as well.

  33. a 3-5-2 then

  34. The game doesn’t always show your formation correctly anyway.
    in the team select screen I play a bank of 3 defenders, a DMF and CMF, 2 wide midfielders, and a SS and CF with the SS naturally just behind the CF, so a 4-2-2-2 but the lineup screen as the game starts shows it completely different, with the DMF in place but the CMF, SS and wide mid’s all jumbled up.

  35. I play 4132 with cmf, amf, rmf, lmf and ss. Lobato at ss is perfect. John Walters at rmf is now the best in the game and reyes on the left is brilliant. Contract renewals could easily derail my perfect team though, I’m having to fill squad players with loans to balance the wage budget.

    My lanky cf now has 200 goals in 6 seasons, he’s irreplaceable and on 6 million a year wages. I’m on holiday at the moment so have the fa cup final and cl final for a season 6 quadruple to look forward to next week.

    I’m also looking forward to my next ml with only English players allowed as well as any original defaults. Crouchy or kane will be my aim for the target man role. SS may be problematic but alli could be the man from my experience with England so far.

  36. I often find Castledine popping up in a left back position and Lobato as Dmf so I think there is some strange wandering going on. Since my new formation I start the game with no advanced strategies on and when I ocassionally click ‘centring targets’ on I do see some movement through the middle but it’s patchy. Gegenpress doesn’t seem to do a thing. My jury have dismissed Henry Fonda as a troublemaker and are quite happy with a majority verdict.

  37. Turf – you haven’t got ‘Flexible’ set under your formation settings ?

Comments are closed.