More than 26 years ago, another band of plucky Brits set forth to conquer Europe. Their manifesto was straightforward: overcome the perils of conformism, and single-mindedly dedicate yourself to following the path of individuality. Above all, simply make your mind up, and stick to your decisions thereafter. As uncomplicated as it sounds, it’s one tough prescription to follow.
Faced with a campaign on three fronts – the league, the domestic cup, and garlicky old Europe – the PES Master League player is faced with a dilemma. Who to play, and in what fixtures? Even with a squad packed full of top players in peak form and condition, there will be casualties along the way.
You can field your top strikers in a big league game (and every league game is a big game, rightly considered), but if you then play them in the big Cup game afterward, they’ll likely be unavailable for the next big League game. Either their stamina or their form, or both, will be borked (as I think people still say on the internet).
One solution, if you have a big enough squad, is to make your mind up about which competition is your priority, and formally establish a Second XI of players to play in the lesser competitions. And stick to your decision.
For me, the league is the #1 priority. I doubt I’ll be able to catch Chelsea, but second spot is well within my reach. That would mean automatic qualification for the European Championships (i.e., the Champions League) next season. A top-six finish would be the next best thing. Playing a load of pre-tournament qualifiers in the first weeks of next season would be a pain, but it’d be better than finishing outside the top six and not being there at all. More games means more points for the transfer kitty. And what do points make? That’s right. Prizes.
So the First XI (plus/minus one or two players as circumstances dictate) is the one I want to play in every league game. For the Cup and the European Masters Cup, I came up with a Second XI (pictured left) who would – notionally – always play in those fixtures. In this way I hoped to preserve my good league form, and also give myself a fighting chance of progressing in the two Cups.
It’s a good plan on so many levels. You preserve your first-choice players’ fitness levels, and you give several rising stars a full game.
Bradley in particular is in need of full games right now. I’ve resisted starting with him in the First XI so far because he feels a little bit ‘unfinished’. I think that playing him regularly in Cup games will take him that extra bit further and hopefully establish him as a first-choice regular next season.
All of this is good in theory, right?
If you stick to it, yes. I didn’t stick to it. When it came to the crunch I followed the old advice to always play your best team regardless of other fixtures coming up. Thus I embarked upon my worst run of form and results all season. Things haven’t been this bad since the dark days of 2010.
Out of seven games, I lost five and drew two. Portsmouth thumped me 3-1 at home in the league. Mattsson was sent off in this game. A bad day at the office for everyone.
As for the Cups, the First XI/Second XI thing went out of the window almost straightaway. Before the D1 Cup tie against Arsenal, I saw that Schwarz had an almost-full stamina bar and a red form arrow, and selected him for the game without giving it a second thought. Always play your best team is all well and good. But I had a plan, and I should have stuck with it. I drew the Arsenal cup match and lost the second leg. I also lost the league games in between times.
Espanyol almost contemptuously disposed of me in the Masters Cup. They beat me 3-1 at home, and the fixture at their place ended 1-1. They were all over me in both games. It looks like the standard of play in Europe this year is a lot higher than the domestic game.
So much for Europe. #Don’t let your indecision take you from behind…# How I wish I’d really listened to that sound advice. Coventry City, nul points.