I had a very interesting couple of sessions on PES20 these last few days.
After moving back to Top Player difficulty back end of last season, the early fears of how it plays were distant memories as I have mostly thoroughly enjoyed my matches in season 2, that is up until around 10 games from the end of the season, where Top Player seemed to kick back into its frustrating, annoying, strangulated mode that makes you want to throw the dualshock 4 through the nearest window.
I have no problems with the AI 'beefing up' in order to present a greater challenge to the player, that's what higher difficulties are all about, but the way PES20 goes about it is very blatant and crude and underwhelming.
The AI doesn't adapt to your play and start to exploit weaknesses, as it should, in order to give you a harder time of things, instead, it completely strangulates and handicaps your players whilst boosting its own. Suddenly, high rated players are completely overpowered, smashed to the ground in any physical battle, unable to complete a 10 yard simple pass, forget how to mark men, and ignore tactics instructions, at times it can feel like such a struggle its hardly worth playing, but when the game isn't behaving this way, damn its superb.
In the January transfer window, I saw a certain legend that's been talked about widely over on PES Chronicles, many have had him in their ML squads at some point, although I never have, he appeared on the free agents list aged 38 after being released, I managed to pick him up on a one year deal for around £1.2 million a year salary. He has slotted in at RMF, providing competition for Yamga, and is still rated a decent 78 OVR at such an 'old' age.
Here he is lining up in my usual starting XI.
I was enjoying a solid and consistent run of good results, at one point 2nd in the Championship, until the strangulating process kicked in whereby we dropped points by drawing 5 out of 8 games, which saw us drop down into 7th position with just 2 matches left to play. One of those matches was at home vs QPR as can be seen above. A 2-0 defeat due to 2 instances of the TP fiasco kicking in, my defender, the ever so consistently solid 17yr old Nef, taking forever to clear the ball in his own box, despite rapid button smashes, which allowed the QPR Cf to tap in from 6 yards, and the second was another of those instant clinical finishes from the COM, they had 2 shots all match, 2 goals, I had 9 shots, 5 on target, zero goals.
So one match left, in 7th place with 73pts, Derby were in 6th with 76pts, Stoke in 5th with 74pts, and Brentford in 4th with 75pts. I needed results to go my way.
A 1-0 win against PNE on the final day, courtesy of a Candellone finish for his 23rd of the season, would it be enough? After checking the other results I saw that both Stoke and Brentford won, I'd all but consigned myself to another season in the Championship, but then saw that Derby had lost, here's the final league table:
Squeaked into the final playoff spot by Goal difference!!! A 5-1 win against Derby earlier in the season proving pivotal, so into the play-offs we go.
Semi-final 1st leg away to Sheffield Wednesday, go 1-0 down early on with all the signs that this was going to be another TP strangling match, but patience paid off, kept it simple, stopped misplacing passes and 2 quick goals in 7 mins saw us win 2-1. Second leg finished 1-1, after going 1-0 down, Castledine came on to leather home from the edge of the box, so we were through to the play-off Final against Brentford.
The Final was held at the Konami stadium, in the daytime, and have to say, the grandeur of it, the lighting, the lush green turf, made it feel like a big match experience, in a very tight first half, we had to wait until the 46th minute for a breakthrough, Arcas playing a neat one-two with Candellone and racing through to dink over the advancing keeper, 1-0 at the break.
The second half was backs to the wall, Brentford attacked in waves, the aggression, smashing to the floor, overpowered COM and strangulating were all in boost mode, I switched to a 5-4-1 with all out defence mentality from the 70th minute just to get men behind the ball and crowd our box, then in the 91st minute a long punt up the field as a clearance was fumbled out of play by the COM, we got a throw-in, easy just to shield the ball in the corner and play out time, but then Castledine called for the ball in space .......
Cracking outside of the foot curler for 2-0 and sealed promotion to the Premier League!!!
I was awarded £10.2mil in salary budget, and have around £28mil in the transfer budget.
I have already shortlisted a few more players needed to bolster the squad in an attempt to cement our Premier League place next season.
Also in negotiations with another free agent legend who'm I've never had in my ML squad.
All in all, a great season, only marred slightly by the TP cheating elements, will be interesting to see how teams play in the Premier League, and how the COM handles this levelling out stuff.
Fairly realistic promotions/relegation's I'd say.
Team of the season.
Candellone was nailed on, finished as league top scorer with 23 goals, Castledine was a regular commanding figure in the AMF slot, and Fernando bossed the DMF position. Quite Surprised Arcas wasn't in there, 12 goals from SS position and many assists.
Premier League here we come, new kits, new sponsor, new signings, Up the Dog & Duck!