Category: formations

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.

Four Three Three

A new era has begun for me on PES2015 – well, probably.

First things first, my new home kit is nothing extraordinary: just a plain all-sky-blue, with a lighter sky blue section on the back of the shirt and the shorts, which appears as a brighter white lozenge on the players as they run around on the field – like this:

Season 11 new kits

Not an intentional effect. This was one of my quickest and laziest-ever new kit designs. It does me.

The big departure for season 11 is in my new swashbuckling formation.

After 10 seasons of struggle and hard graft that saw me actually use the much-hated (by me) 4-5-1, which was serviceable but uninspiring (exactly like the real thing), it occurred to me that I had yet to try an all-out, swashbuckling approach as in PES of old.

Of course, there are many variants of 4-3-3. Here’s the narrow 4-3-3 formation I finally went with – I remember playing PES2010 with something similar:

PES2015 Season 11 formation

That screenshot is taken from the middle of a match where I’d already picked up yellow cards. Crouch and Forlan are CFs. Robben is an SS.

That young midfielder on the right there isn’t yet my first choice, but as ever in PES he’s a great, great player. Gerrard has only ever been a continental-class player in real life (and even that’s possibly overstating it), but in PES, every time I’ve had the fabled Stevie G, he’s been phenomenal, truly world class, always living up to the hyper-idealised image that every Liverpool fan has of him.

PES2015 is no different.

A new star for PES2015

The only slight niggle at the moment is that I’ve yet to score a typical long-range Stevie G screamer with him. It’ll come. He’s a Regen and still only 20 or so.

Back to that new 4-3-3: I’m now experienced enough with PES2015’s defensive system to have some measure of confidence fielding just one DMF. That would have been suicidal in my early-to-mid seasons. Nowadays most of the threat comes from the game disabling my defenders’ reactions. Good defensive work comes from anticipating the nerf and compensating in other areas. It’s about knowing when it’s right to swarm the ball-carrier, or when to stand off and cover passing lanes, or when to just slide in and take the bugger out (accepting the card, whatever colour, that follows).

This 4-3-3 is lots of fun to play with, and surprisingly often seems to work like a 4-5-1 (spit), with Robben and Forlan often popping up in deep midfield alongside Pirlo.

When the attacking bonus kicks in, I get the occasional match where the momentum swings to me and stays with me. Then I run absolutely rampant over the opposition. Such as here in the Europa League, away to Valencia:

Season 11 thumping Valencia

And here in the League, at home to Chelsea:

Season 11 Thumping Chelsea

Two unprecedented results. In previous seasons I rarely scored more than 3 goals in any match.

Alas, it’s not all goals and action. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, the game clamps down and produces the same kind of gritty 0-0 or 1-1 that I grew to know so well.

Here was the table after 12 matches of the 4-3-3 – look at my puny goals-scored column:

Season 11 after 12

That was before my 6-0 against Chelsea. My goal difference is much healthier now.

That table is not going to make me declare that the 4-3-3 experiment has been a success. 4-3-3 has never really worked in PES since PES2010.

I’ve been at or near the top of the table at this stage in every recent season of PES2015, and fallen away. Having played a session or two after the above screenie, I can report that the game is already closing me down in lots of ways. 4-3-3 is not going to be a procession by any means.

At least I’ve made it to the Europa League Round of 32. I’m still in the FA Cup. I’m near the top of the table with mid-season coming into sight. I’m hopeful. That’s all that can be said at this stage.

Four Five One

PES2015 Forlan takes it down

A couple of long sessions have carried me well past the halfway stage of Season 10 — and taken me past an important point. Results have picked up quite remarkably. From about 12 matches, I lost maybe once, drew three or four times, and won all the other times. One was a glorious 4-0 demolition job, my clearest victory yet on Superstar.

PES2015 still has not cracked, and may never fully do so, but I’m starting to build something at least.

You have to defend like the devil in this game. You have to be ruthless and dirty when required, taking the yellow (or even red) card for the sake of the team. I finished one match with 8 players, but still won 1-0, and so it was worth it.

The double-tap stab tackle is very important in PES2015. Getting it right and getting it wrong is the difference between success and failure. It’s impossible to defend effectively in PES2015 without getting that right.

I’m getting it right a lot more than I am wrong. The table after 22 matches:

PES2015 Season 10 after 22

My target for this season was to finish in the top 4. With over a third of the season remaining, and with this game’s mysteriously heightened difficulty at random times, anything can still happen.

But I start to believe, cautiously, that the tanker is starting to turn. I’m snatching lots of wins and draws now, whereas before I was only snatching draws while suffering too many defeats.

The switch to 4-5-1, I will grudgingly admit, is the likely root cause of this turnaround. It was the last attempt of many formations and the only one that works.

As every real-life football-watcher knows all too well, 4-5-1 is the new common sense, and in my view has contributed more to the decline of football as a spectacle than any other factor.

The last repository of authenticity in football resides in PES, in FIFA, in Football Manager, and in any other virtual contenders that happen along. The fake is more authentic than the original.

The average length of a highlights package on Match of the Day right now is, I believe, around 6 minutes. Some go as low as 4 minutes. I used to wonder how they could condense 90 minutes of action down to a few minutes. I no longer wonder. Getting a few minutes of interesting action from a real-life professional game is often as good as it gets.

Liverpool’s tilt at the Premier League title last year was interesting. Newcastle’s slow-motion, car-crash descent this year is also interesting. But these are exceptions. When you consider the amount of sheer product that the modern football machine pumps out, there’s too little return-on-investment.

When the football season ends next week (or the week after, or whenever it is), I won’t miss it. I’m glad there’s no International tournament this year.

The only football I’m interested in and passionate about anymore is the fake football of my Master League.

I’m also interested in the prospect of meeting the excellent FIFA15 again later in the year (PES Treble willing).

And I’m also interested in the ongoing Football Manager careers that I have going, and still return to from time to time.

A good football computer game distils the essence of what makes football great (or used to be great) for you to inject into your veins whenever you like.

A controversial view, and not one that many are likely to take on board anytime soon. The concept of oneself as a football fan — that whole conscious layer of social identity — is far too deeply rooted. The machine will grind on and nothing will ever stop it. I don’t hope to stop it. I don’t want to stop it. Association Football gave birth to PES and the rest of them. Job done.

Next time on PES Chronicles: how I shot Bambi; and why Santa Claus does not — and never could — exist.

Back in the Premier League

So I’m back in the Premier League, and after a couple of seasons of non-traditional kits, I’m back in orthodox Sky Blue. Complete with an authentic (yes, that word again) 2012-2013 real-life PNG overlay. Credit for that to regular commenter Paul, who takes any reasonable requests over at PES Ultra.

Another commenter, Werd Llitrah, recently mentioned the old yellow Coventry City strip featuring the justly infamous late-70s/early 80s tramlines. That set me thinking. I still had Paul’s other PNG overlay sitting around from last year, and it’s not time yet to revisit the brown kit, so…

And thus kitted out, I set forth into the wilds of season 5.

The last time I paid a visit to the Premier League I was relegated immediately. I mistakenly went up to Top Player, enjoyed a single good opening session, but duly suffered the ignominy of near-total obliteration in session after session thereafter.

I went back to Professional after relegation, and on Professional I will now stay for another season at least, and probably longer.

I sold a few players pre-season. My new-look First XI and full squad is on the right.

Rafael went. Mehmedi went. Gellazca followed. I got a nice price for Berengeur. All in all, I built up a nice little nest-egg of around £7,000,000. I went shopping.

But there were no goods to be found anywhere. The only players I could have signed were like ones I already had. The bigger, better players were all way out of my reach. 1% and 2% likelihood of success.

Back to my own resources. The Youth list.

Iyaghsek (or whatever his name is) retired. I picked up a replacement GK from the Youth list. While I was there I helped myself to Hugo Leal at DMF as a straight replacement for Berengeur. I also signed Lurling. The main thing here was to bulk out my sparse squad.

I had some cash left over, but decided to sit on that for emergencies. At the end of this season, if my ranking goes up, I’ll spend the money then—and get players for season 6. I do find that I’m looking two seasons ahead in this Master League. As and when my ranking rises enough for me to be able to sign some better players, I want to have a nice little nest-egg ready to go.

The season kicked off and… it has been tough. Professional remains a highly competitive difficulty level for me, make no mistake. Here is the table—which looks rather alarming on the face of it:

That is indeed the bottom half of the table, and that is not a good start from yours truly.

But I’m not downcast. I’ve been consciously playing very loose-aggressive (in poker terms) from the start of these matches, trying to force things, and it’s not working. My approach will change—has already changed, with good results.

I had success in PES2012 when I started playing that game tight-passive, i.e., setting out to nullify the CPU with defensive tactics designed to get a 0-0, and then taking any scraps that fell my way (and they often did). In that way I imposed some discipline on the essentially chaotic, utterly unfair world of PES.

I am and remain at peace with the gameplay. Not for me the Dark Nights of the PES Soul that seem to be coming along all too frequently for so many. I think PES2013 plays a wonderful game of football.

It probably helps that PES is just one of three games I’m playing right now in roughly equal measure. The other two help to modify my attitude and perceptions.

Those other two games are Football Manager 2010 and Dwarf Fortress. Compared to the different demands of that pair, PES2013 is relaxing and soothing—even at its cheatiest worst.

And there is no doubt that PES2013 often plays most foully.

I went behind to Newcastle early on, but I dominated play thereafter, and then agonisingly squeezed myself back into the match midway through the second half.

Plenty of time left for me to get a much-needed winner, I thought.

But no—immediately after kickoff, and until the end of the match, the CPU flipped into some kind of powerplay mode. Now that it was 1-1, I couldn’t pass or dribble, suddenly. I went the whole of the rest of match without making a single chance, having made chances galore whilst 0-1 down. It was a stage-managed 1-1 draw. I really felt that.