Category: Treble

What happens in Master League stays in Master League

Arsenal vs Coventry finale PES2015

Season 14 is over. PES2015 is over. Master League is over, and will not be resumed until PES2016.

And – the Treble. Is it over?

I’ll tell you straightaway — by means of a short clip that is worth watching because of how it neatly encapsulates the whole PES-playing, ML-playing, Treble-seeking experience.

Regular readers will remember that I was still in all three Tournaments of the Treble. I was facing an FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea. I was dangerously confident about progressing through.

Predictably, it was a tough match, one where Chelsea netted first and early. My fellow Master League 2015’ers will all nod their heads and sigh, knowing what I subsequently went through.

We join the action in the 74th minute. It’s still 0-1 to Chelsea. At this stage I have been battering the Chelsea defence for a good 60 minutes of game time, and only rarely forcing a save from the keeper.

The Treble was teetering in the balance. And then…

Well. Take a look (and listen):

The score at the end of the match was the score shown at the end above.

The Treble was over, not just for this season, but for PES2015. There will be no more seasons. I’m not tempted to have another crack. That was the last chance, and it’s gone.

It was gutting, and I considered reloading for the first time in my Master League life since… since… since ever, I believe.

Reloading and replaying matches to get a different result is against everything that I play Master League for. So it just cannot happen, ever.

I play ML and adore it for the up-and-down storylines it delivers. For the unfolding, over many weeks and months, of memorable, personalised, lived experience. Reloading and replaying would undermine the very essence of what I’m looking for when I play Master League.

So there was no reloading. If my Master League playing style had a motto, the motto would be: “Whatever happens, happens.” Accidat quicquid accidet.

The Treble was gone – but an almost-as-good, last-season Double of League-and-Champions-League wasn’t.

Let’s wrap that up right now.

I breezed past Monaco in the Champions League semi-final and beat PSG comfortably in the final 3-0, and that was that. The Champions League could do with a healthy dose of domestic league difficulty. It’s rarely a problem once you get good enough to progress past the Group stage.

The last-but-one match in the League was against Arsenal. Away.

All season with me and Arsenal at the top of the table it’d been nip-and-tuck, neck-and-neck, and so on.

Here’s another 1-minute clip. There are no audio tricks with this one, just a straightforward clip of footy game action.

It’s 0-0 at the start of the clip. Just as with the first clip, the score at the end of this clip was the final score at the end of the match:

That Arsenal shot was close, wasn’t it? Was that a stroke of luck, or was it a good save by Friedel (my ever-present keeper since he was a 17-yr-old Regen)? Whichever, it was huge for me, and potentially decisive as things turned out.

As I expected, it went down to the last day, but with a slight goal-difference advantage I went into my last match (at home against Newcastle) knowing that a draw would almost certainly do me. I won. The final League table:

Season 14 final table

Yes! Only my second league title on PES2015, and my last. That, coupled with the Champions League, rounded off a great season, all told – and a very good Master League.

I let the calendar run forward a few weeks, interested to see my updated club ranking:

PES2015 Final Club Ranking

A good point at which to bow out. I’ve definitely had enough to eat at this table. I’m full.

I’ll have much more to say about PES2015 in my end-of-year retrospective in early September

My general feeling for now is that PES2015, and its Master League, couldn’t be said to be classics. They’re both in the second rank of PES and ML. I don’t think that’s a controversial or surprising view.

I love PES2015. I’ve loved playing Master League. Which doesn’t mean either one is automatically a classic that I’ll look back on with wistful longing in years to come. I also loved PES6, and loved playing PES6’s Master League – but I’d go seriously against the grain of PES fan sentiment, and only assign PES6 to the second rank of PES games. When I think of great PES games, I rarely think of PES6, but there’s no denying PES6 was a great game. PES2015 will occupy more or less the same position in my personal pantheon.

Experienced PES players will know exactly what nuance of opinion I’m straining to express here. Another good example: when you’re an enthusiastic, committed fan of a TV show, there are no bad episodes (or so few as to make no real difference) — there are just less-great episodes. There’s plenty such nuance to be teased out of PES2015, but I’ll save it all now for the retrospective.

I can safely say it’s been another epic Master League. The latest of many such epics, stretching all the way back to the turn of the century.

And on that blaring trombone note of triumph, Master League 2015 has left the building.

But Evra knows I’m miserable now

Season 13 Treble is over

The Treble dream is over for another season. I crashed out of the FA Cup, 0-1, at the hands of… QPR.

It was one of those 0-1 Master League defeats against supposedly lesser opposition. They got the early goal, and then no goal of mine was ever going to happen.

I don’t need to describe in detail how it went down because, if you’re reading this, you’ve played a football game or two before and you know how things work.

It’s conceding the early goal that does the damage. The AI scoring an early goal triggers whatever script – yes, I said script, and I bloody mean it too – that’s working in the bowels of the game to frustrate your efforts. A moment’s loss of focus on your part, and it’s 0-1 to the other team, and if you don’t at least equalise by half-time then you’re nearly always as good as finished. The catenaccio vice closes, and the game’s over.

Season 13 Evra joins

Today’s post title is more than just a desperate recycling of an already tired joke that hardly anyone under the age of 35 really understands. Before the transfer window closed, I snapped up Evra.

He played in the ill-fated QPR match and missed a great chance late on that would have taken it to extra time. I had a shot that the keeper pushed out wide to Evra’s feet. From a tight angle, the goal was open and at his mercy… and the shot blazed against the side-netting. Today’s post title was chosen there and then.

Aged 25 Evra’s currently at his peak. He’s always struck me as a great attacking full back in real life, so we’ll see how his Pro Evo persona plays out.

But what of the main man of the previous post, one G HAGI esquire?

Things are going great. I made a few tweaks to his appearance, darkening his skin tone a shade or two, altering his body type and running style. (Such changes do carry over into an existing ML save that the created player has already joined, I can confirm.)

And I got a bloody free kick that I promptly swapped Hagi in to take, and promptly blasted into the keeper’s hands.

Homemade Hagi looks great

But look there – look at the distinctive Hagi-like stance. It’s him! It’s without any doubt the one and only Hagi… He plays like him too. (I scored a decent Hagi-esque goal with him that I’m saving for a longish compilation at the end of the season.)

Creating such a lifelike Hagi makes me feel proud, but I was working to a template from an online database. The credit must go the faithful online curators of PES stats going back years. Seriously, there’s a body of work out there that is almost staggering to contemplate. The well-known PC patches and console option files are arguably the tip of the iceberg of all the obsessive fan labour that goes into a typical edition of PES.

No wonder PES2015 has been something of a damp squib across the community. The PS4/XB1 version offered no way to permit the creators and curators to do what they want to do, which is edit the bejesus out of the game. PES2016 should remedy that. We’ll see.

Enough of my musings on The State of Pro Evo.

With the loss of the Treble chance this year, my focus has switched to the league title and the Champions League.

Securing even one of these would boost my team up into the top 10 rankings. Winning both would surely move me into the top 5.

Especially after I won the World Club Championship. I was surprised to find this competition was a tournament with four teams. My semi-final opponents were none other than WE United. It felt odd playing them, but I did and duly dispatched them, and then thumped Cruzeiro in the final:

Won the World Club

And then I was awarded the World Manager of the Year. So everything is falling my way except the darn Treble.

The League table after 28 matches:

Season 13 after 28

With 10 matches left, I fancy my chances of making up 7 points. Last season I was in a similar position and got sloppy. Every match will get maximum focus this time.

I saw off Napoli in the first knockout round of the Champs League. Next up, Bayern Munich. I’ve already used “I was happy in the haze of a Bayern Munchen hour” as a post title, back in 2009. So this coming Tuesday’s post title is not as predictable as you might think.

Sweet sixteen

PES2016 is announcedTraditionally on this blog, I don’t pay much attention to PES’s annual summertime PR push. Because traditionally there’s not much to take notice of.

Since the dawn of the Internet age, there have been three traditional pillars of PES summertime PR:

  • One or two FMV clips of the latest cover star doing some standard-issue stepovers, and/or the kind of rainbow-flicky tricks that have actually happened perhaps 4 times in a real-world professional football match.
  • Journos are summoned at intervals to play each other at multiplayer, and then they all report back on the experience of playing PES in multiplayer — a completely different game that I won’t ever play.
  • Gamescom comes along, and we watch some shaky-cam footage from the exhibition floor (once again, ALL multiplayer) that looks too fast and frantic and prompts the same old cry of ‘it’s because of how YouTube encodes the videos!‘ (No it’s not.)

I’ve never been very impressed with the annual PR cycle. I think I understand it — the aim of PR is to plant the seed of awareness of something (REMEMBER TO BUY THIS GAME IN SEPTEMBER), not to inform you about that something.

PES’s summertime PR is gloriously uninformative, because it’s not trying to inform. Us single-player football gamers and Master League enthusiasts traditionally get ZERO attention.

Until this year.

Last week saw the release of a slew of PES2016 information, images, and videos that made me very excited indeed. It’s completely unprecedented for there to be this much information this early. The original video is still intriguing to watch:

There’s a 50-minute frame-by-frame analysis complete with cheerfully wild speculation on WENB. I haven’t got round to watching yet.

Maybe the UK office has finally exerted its influence. Maybe the team in Japan are so confident in PES2016 that they’re gagging to get the information out there. The presence of We Will Rock You at the start of the trailer is possibly significant. Fans of PES2 will recall this–

–and recall that PES2 was the series’ true arrival on PS2. It’s certainly where it all really started for me. The ISS games had been impressive. PES2 was another level of greatness altogether. Every now and then I watch the above video in full, and remember.

Is the same song’s presence in the PES2016 trailer just an accident, or does it indicate that PES2016 is intended to be the series’ true arrival on this generation of consoles?

That’s my own cheerfully wild speculation there. We shall see.

We’ve got 13 weeks or so before the new game rides into view. For now, the fat sheriff in town is PES2015, and right now is all that I really care about.

I’m wrapped up in Crouchy, Forlan, Robben, Messi, and the gang. Names and faces that I’ve built up a familiarity with and an affinity for over many long months of campaigning. That is what ML is all about. Not the next one, but the one that’s right here.

Thumbnail sketch of the status quo: Season 12, bad start, a surge back up the table: Going For It.

I’ll say right off that the league is now out of reach. I lost a couple of big 6-pointers against other top-4 teams — here’s the critical one:

Season 12 the big 6 pointer stats

A terrible defeat in which it felt that there was always an AI player snapping at my heels. I got my goal when it was only 2-0, and felt that a miracle comeback was on the cards, but a killer third goal from a penalty put the final nail in the Treble-seeking coffin.

The table after 34 matches:

Season 12 after 34

5th in the table, and twelve points behind the leaders with 4 to play. I’d need to win all my remaining 4 matches about 5-0 each and hope all the teams above me lose most or all of theirs by similar margins.

No, not even Master League’s macro-scripting at its most generous will see me get back into this one.

So the league’s gone and with it the Treble, and PES2015 is guaranteed to stay alive for at least one more season.

I’m pretty glad. Life is better for me with a viable football game to think about and come back to. I pretty much always need to have a good book on the go, and in the same way, I need a football game. It’s an anchor in the midst of life’s turbulences. Whatever else happens, I’ve always got that reserved space.

Season 12 is not a washout. I still have two trophies to go for. One of which I’ve won before — the FA Cup. The other is one I’ve never won but would dearly love to, not least because of the cash. I want to be able to afford one more BIG player for next season’s campaign. The semi-final draw:

Season 12 CL semi draw

I’ve already played the first leg and won it 2-0 away from home. I don’t believe I’ve ever lost a two-legged cup tie in Master League where I have a 2-0 lead from the first leg. PES2015 is capable of doing that, so I’ll be properly careful.

By Friday I will definitely have finished Season 12 and played the FA Cup Final and (hopefully) the Champions League Final too.

Squad erat desperandum

Season 12 the horror the horror

The horror-show of Season 12 has continued. Last time, I’d only had a bad start — three defeats in three league matches.

This time, well — here’s the League table after 14 matches:

Season 12 after 14

11th in the table. 13 points behind the leaders. I’ve already lost 7 times (having lost only 4 times all last season), My goalscoring is pitiful, my defending woeful. It feels like one of my first seasons in the top flight instead of a Treble-hunting season.

I have played slightly distractedly, I’ll admit. I’ve played sometimes as if the game owes me easy goals and easy wins. Few people who have played PES2015 at length would say that it gives you anything easily.

I made a serious blunder at the end of last season that left me with a threadbare squad, as seen here:

First half of season 12 squad

I’ve already had more than a couple of suspensions and been unable to field a full subs’ bench, but thankfully PES2015 doesn’t then force a 0-3 forfeit the way FIFA15 does. You just play without a full subs’ bench.

I’m playing badly. I’m seeing some bizarre results, the likes of which I’ve never seen before:

Ridiculous 5-4 PES2015

That match went 1-0; 1-1; 1-2; 2-2; then I scored to make it 2-3 with 85 minutes gone, and I thought I had the win; it was 3-3 straight from their kickoff; I made it 3-4 straight from my kickoff, and cheered myself hoarse; but it was instantly 4-4, again straight from their kickoff (I shit you not); and just when I’d accepted the craziest 4-4 draw in my PES history, they nicked the ball and got the winner for 5-4 with 96 minutes showing.

It was thrilling, no question, and I confess to playing terribly to concede the goals I conceded.

The players don’t feel the same. I’m starting to wonder if there’s an automatic penalty levied on dumb-ass human managers like me who blunder into situations of having good players, but no squad to speak of. Apart from the obvious penalty where most of my players start most matches on half or three-quarter bars of stamina.

Bizarrely, things are going superbly in the Champions League itself. My draw was sort-of OK:

Season 12 Champions League draw

Juventus, PSV, Apoel FC. A standard sort of draw. I’ve played 4 matches and beaten Apoel home and away, beaten PSV away, and beaten Juve at home. Top of the group. I will qualify for the knockout stage.

With the Treble in mind it’s a shame I’m almost certainly out of the running for the domestic league.

Or am I?

Knowing PES as I do, and knowing Master League as I do, I know that if I just knuckle down and pick up a few results, then get to mid-season and bring some fresh players in, I can easily go on a run that will almost certainly see the game allowing me back into the title mix.

We might not like it, but that’s how Master League operates. There’s an auto-balancing script in play. The human player is never truly out of the running at this stage of the season. Even if I was rock-bottom now I’d fancy my chances of finishing in the top 6.

So that’s the plan: grapple with the game until mid-season transfer window, bring in some new decent players and a few Youths to bulk out the ranks, and then just go for it.

To finish with today, a brief pot pot-pourri of goals from the opening of this tricky campaign:

That first goal is from Pirlo, popping up in the DMF hole (the ‘Mathieu zone’ as my PES5-oiled mind will always think of it) to score one of PES2015’s signature types of goals (which I haven’t actually seen all that much of since the last few patches).

Goals 2 and 3 are from Drogba in full-on beast mode with two power-strikes.

And Goal 4 is Messi’s very first goal for me, coming after a long period of games where he did barely anything. He’s come good now, but still not a first-choice. Fit and in form, my front three remains the trio that helped me to the title last season: Forlan, Robben, Crouch. Drogba, incredibly, starts most matches on the bench, and so does Messi for now.