It feels like a long time ago and the dust has settled but the disappointment lingers. As predicted, game week 29 was truly awful and has subsequently left us nearly 60 points behind the office leader with only 8 gameweek’s left to play.
With a -8 starting point our lads only managed 21 points for the week with Harry Kane bagging 14 of them. It makes for truly dire reading and is possibly my worst ever return for a fixture set in FPL history. Putting my faith in Newcastle players was a monumental mistake and definitely a case of the heart ruling over the head, an absolute FPL no no. Like Steve Bruce, I have become the fantasy April fool.
If we add a little more context however, the game week average was only 25. In normal circumstances our score wouldn’t have been too bad. The problem was, my 2 main title rivals scored a very impressive 71 and 61 respectively. An average week for them would’ve made our average score week totally fine. Would having Son fit have made that much of a difference to us? With that gap in score lines, probably not.
We did feel this week would be a poor one from our point of view. The fixtures or lack of, the availability of our squad, it all had the hallmarks of a nightmare incoming and so it proved. Obviously the key factor was not being able to foresee the points deficit we now have to claw back, I was thinking it was going to be around the 30 mark. DOUBLE THAT. DISASTER.
We need to get the player’s heads up, take our medicine and move on. There’s still a lot of points to play for and our rivals in question will have to make changes going forward. Yes, we will have to take a few risks but the aim now is to claw 10 points per week back. How? I’m not sure but it’s only a captains pick difference and is by no means impossible. We may have to look down the differentials route in the coming weeks and you know what, I love trying to find the gems. This season we’ve had a pretty good record in the regard.
As bad as our game week 29 was, the squad we have does still look decent for the upcoming fixtures. Our biggest concern, as always, is Manchester City and Pep Guardiola. This week is no different and trying to predict the rotation will be made harder by the fact they have a Champions League match in midweek. With the league all but wrapped up, you’ve got to think the Easter eggs will be firmly placed in the European basket. Is it even worth having City players in your squad at this stage? Definitely a question to be answered.
Man United at home to Brighton and Chelsea at home to West Brom look the pick of GW30, I would predict Bruno Fernandes will be a lot of managers captain this week and quite possibly mine. Do I take the risk and go for a differential though? Food for thought.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
Only 1 transfer this week despite the game week 29 debacle. Importantly, there’s no minus hits in hope that the others have made changes and we already start to eat away at the deficit.
The change is Calvert-Lewin (home to Crystal Palace) coming in for Vydra which many would agree is a no brainer.
We now have a relatively strong bench which has enabled us to retain the Manchester City players. KDB and Gundugan will be in my XI but in the event of Pep roulette we should have decent auto back up subs.
I have played it safe with the skipper and gone with Bruno, while Kane takes the vice. In terms of our TOON representatives, Willock and Fraser will sit on the bench. The magpie’s form is abysmal and they don’t look like they’ll get another point, I just couldn’t afford (negative points wise) to replace them.
Rocky times ahead ladies and gentlemen, I’ll briefly summarise GW28 and move straight into the eye of the week 29 storm.
We managed to maintain a slender 1 point lead at the top of the office leaderboard after the latest round of fixtures. In the end, 51 points in a week’s average of 43 was a decent return. Of course Pep did his usual trick and rested a few including my captain Kevin De Bruyne – nil point!! But, an excellent score from John Stones and a surprising 5 points from auto-sub Vydra just about salvaged what was shaping up to be a disaster. That, incidentally, leads me to game week 29. THE NIGHTMARE IN WAITING.
There are only 4 matches on the set list of GW29 which, in itself, is absolutely scandalous. It’s the kind of week your free hit chip is built for but, unfortunately, ours is long gone. With my Steve Bruce head on ‘we need to find another way’🙄
When Heung-Min Son pulled up against Arsenal the other day the magnitude of our plight really started to hit home. At the time, the South Korean was a one of only 4 players pencilled in our side for GW29. Now that he is almost certain to miss the coming fixtures we are, as it stands, down to 3. 3 representing players for a full game gameweek?!?! Unfeasible, unthinkable and a potential undoing of a season’s good work.
Last week’s decision to make 0 changes in order to gain an extra free transfer was a good one. It means we can make two transfers instantly and take our team up to 5 players with no penalty. At the time, it would have been 4 to 6 but didn’t take into account any potential injuries which could occur. What happens? Son’s crocked and it’s disarray. As I see it at the moment, we have only 2 potential ways of playing this.
The first would be only using our 2 free transfers but only starting the game week with 5 players. Advantages being no negative points hit and minimal squad disruption for the weeks ahead. The disadvantage quite clearly being a massive 6 players short of a full team.
The alternative second would be to use our 2 free transfers and make 2,3, maybe even 4 more changes on top of that. The advantages being a near full starting team, matching rivals up like for like. The clear disadvantages being a big negative point start and breaking up a strong squad.
I’m hoping a 3rd scenario will put into my head before I make any changes and we’ll be exploring more potential permutations but, putting the hard hat on and taking a sitting duck battering is looking the most likely option this week. Anything more than a -8 starting point would probably be pretty pointless (literally) and would disrupt our team too much for the coming weeks. The most amount of participants we’re looking at this week is 7. Not great but hopefully any lasting damage to our season will be minimal.
Scouting intel tells me my 2 main rival teams already have 8/9 players ready to start for them and with a transfer or 2 they will probably now have a full 11 a side team. This is where a well rounded squad comes in handy, we have been relying on a strong 11 for the majority of the season but at the value detriment to the bench as a result. Any changes we’ve made have invariably been full blown transfer rather than substitutions. I know my colleagues have been making little weekly tweaks in preparation for this spanner in the works game week and I have to take my hat off to them for that. We have been left in a pickle with only ourselves to blame.
In terms of the fixtures, they aren’t even great and certainly not a set you could make a long term plan from. Look for yourself..
FULHAM V LEEDS
BRIGHTON V NEWCASTLE
WEST HAM V ARSENAL
ASTON VILLA V TOTTENHAM
Where are the points at there? This could be our saving grace, a low scoring week is what we need here. There’s not a great deal to write home about that’s for sure but having only 5 players available to play is a problem regardless of the fixture quality. Had the matches been more pleasing on the scoring eye, I would have taken the starting points hit and matched up no questions asked. As it is, all I’m doing is asking serious questions with little few answers. What to do?!? At this point of writing, I haven’t a clue.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS.
So, after much intense deliberation, it’s 2 free transfers……… plus a -8 start for god sake. And we still only have 7 players involved. In terms of selections for a game week this is possibly the WORST I’ve endured in FPL. We start with 4 zero’s on the card and -8. Laughable really but if I can stay within 30 points of the top of the table after the week I’ll be very pleased.
The all important transfers are Cresswell, Tierney, Targett and Willock coming in for Son, Digne, Williams and Mitchell. The thinking here is that I’m predicting a low scoring week in terms of goals so I’ve tried to load up with decent defenders. Its making me ill to think I won’t be playing a goalkeeper.
In normal circumstances the changes I’ve made would be pretty decent but this isn’t a normal week and my hand has been forced. In terms of a captains pick, I’ve gone for the safe option of Kane but I may change that closer to the deadline.
Looking for a positive to end on, from our 7 players, 2 are TOON representatives. Is that a positive?!? I guess that sums up the week’s plight.
We’ve reached the summit. An outstanding score of 89 points in week’s average of 60 saw us reel in the 12 point deficit to lead the office league by 2 going into game week 28.
Great stuff but what remains to be seen is, how long will this lead last? I’m not too sure. In fact, skipping over a week and into game week 29 things are looking bleak and it’s one that, if I don’t make some thoughtful changes, could derail my season completely. As it stands that week in question only has 4 fixtures on it’s list and my current squad would only have 4 representatives. With no wildcard or free hit remaining it’s going to take some astute planning of GW28 with 29 fully in mind. How I’m going to do it? Not a clue at this moment in time. I mentioned last week, that every week will likely begin with a negative starting point until the end of the season and that prophecy is likely to live up to the billing. What I must do is incorporate some of GW29’s changes into this week so minimise the hit.
In terms of our scorers for the week just gone, the big hitters all produced. Kevin De Bruyne (captain) Bruno Fernandes and Harry Kane all pulled excellent scores out the bag. That is in contrast to the defenders who only mustered 6 between them, roles definitely reserved from the previous week. Seasons really do swing in roundabouts.
As just mentioned, we aren’t just looking at this coming week but also the week after. Only having 4 fixtures for a match set is just ridiculous and getting as many players into my squad from those 8 teams is going to be a monumental task. I could just write off that GW completely and take the hit but I know my rivals will be looking to capitalise. I need to find a way of minimising the damage – I sound like Steve Bruce🙄
Spurs play Arsenal this week in the North London derby which is a tough fixture but they are on a good run and, more importantly, have a fixture in GW29. That is one avenue I’ll be definitely looking down when making my transfers. Crucially, we already have 2 Tottenham players in the squad. Arsenal play in both weeks so that is also a possibility but maybe they will be in next weeks changes.
If we are looking at only game week 28, I would be looking at Man City at Fulham, Man United home to West Ham and Leicester at home to Sheff. United. Neither of those sides have a fixture in game week 29. Do I just play this week as it is and make huge changes and a huge point hit for GW29? This set of dilemmas is actually worse than anything a double game week could produce and there are so many different ways to approach it tactically. Picking the right approach is tough.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
So……. after much thought, mental turmoil and exploring most of the permutations, I decided to make…….. NO TRANSFERS OR CHANGES!
All talk about taking minus hits every week from now till the end of season goes completely out of the window. When I looked at my team and the fixture set they all had for 28, it was all very conducive for good point scoring. Yes, it leaves us short for game week 29 but what making no changes this week gives us is 2 free transfers when we will need it most next week. 2 freebies and a couple of negative hits should see us scratch together a team for the 4 fixture week.
Who’s to say players I could have potentially bought in this week with next week in mind get injured or pick up a suspension. The Premier League could also add fixtures to that game week so we will just sit tight and see what happens. We are airing slightly on the side of caution this round but the fixtures always dictate the selections and we’ll deal with game week 29 when it comes around.
Even the captain pick remains the same, KDB has the armband with Bruno waiting in reserve. In terms of TOON representation, Fraser remains the sole flag flyer in black and white.
Gundugan. What a season he’s having at Manchester City. Another 2 goals and an assist this week given him a total of 19 points. One problem. I didn’t captain him, others in our mini league did and that was the difference in this week’s totals. I’ve never been so happy for one of my players NOT to play when the second match of his double game week came round for fear of him doing the same again. What a warped state of affairs.
Take that situation away and we’ve had, what would usually be, an excellent week. 78 points in a game week’s average of 61. Why do I feel disappointed? It’s a more than decent score. The reason? Those around me scored 87, 88 and 99 respectively and brilliantly. Sometimes it’s hard to separate your score from the results of the others but, at the end, you can only change your own team. Has it made a huge difference to the table? Not at all. Only 20 points off the top in 2nd place, what a season we’re having when you look at the broader picture. It’s simply a captain pick’s difference.
At this point I am going to blow my own trumpet and give myself a pat myself on the back. I had a feeling that Michail Antonio wouldn’t be fit for his match against Sheffield United. He was down as having fatigue (ya what mate!?) but would have a 75% chance of playing. Now he’s a striker in form and that was a tasty fixture for him. Rather than take him out and risk losing good striker scoring points, I left him in ensuring that my number 1 substitute would be a scoring one should he fail to be fit. Number one sub? Aaron Cresswell, 12 points. A little tactical victory there and good plan conjured up.
Elsewhere amongst my team, Bruno keeps delivering and it was a decent week for Sterling however, as captain, 14 points in a double game week side, you would expect a little more? Maybe that’s being greedy and again maybe that’s because Gundugan scored so high. Going forward, I feel predicting City’s lineups are going to become even tougher in the coming weeks. One to watch.
First things first, it’s another double game week but only for 2 sides, Leeds and Southampton. Now this a tricky one and at this stage of the writing process I’m not sure what to do with my team. Do I take a risk and incorporate either of those teams players in my side. Neither of those teams are in great form but out of the 2, Leeds seem to have the better looking matches. The question for you lot this week is simple?
WILL ANY OF YOU BE MAKING CHANGES TO GET LEEDS OR SOUTHAMPTON PLAYERS IN?
Like I’ve just said, neither are in great form. Who would you go for? Bamford? Ward-Prowse? Ings perhaps? For me it’s probably too much of a risk and, at this stage, would upset my team, transfer budget and negative starting point too much to do so but that’s just initial thoughts. I will sit down properly later and explore all the avenues and permutations.
Leeds actually kick GW25 on Friday night meaning office silent treatment has come into play for the first time in a while. All transfers and team selection must be completed 24 hours before the usual deadline. Do my esteemed colleagues know this vital piece of information? Most probably do but if one doesn’t, the slightly underhanded silent treatment has worked a…… treat?
The main scoring fixture I would to look out for I would say is (unfortunately⚫️⚪️) Man United at home to Newcastle. The form of Fernandes and frailty of the Toon’s team could be a lethal combination. Steve Bruce’s side rolled over and died in their last match and I fear the same could happen here.
The rest of the fixtures are pretty tricky to call, it could be a real differential weekend. Personal preference rather than scoring certainty picks could well be order of the game week and, at this stage of writing, I haven’t a clue how to approach it.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
This has been a struggle. The dilemma I’ve had is, do I take a few minus hits and double up on Leeds and Southampton players? Or do I roughly stick with what I have at the risk the doublers gamers scoring big?
In the end, I’ve gone with a mix of both conundrums. 2 transfers which only incurs a -4 start. I’ve bought it Bamford of Leeds who replaces Davies. A pick to double up on games and one that I have no doubt will be a very popular selection all round this weekend.
I’ve also bought back Heung Min Son. He comes in for Rahim Sterling with a medium to long term plan in mind. I eventually want to bring back Kevin De Bruyne as he now approaches full fitness. Relieving Sterling of his duties frees up some much needed funds for this eventuality and Son, who has some promising fixtures coming up, doesn’t compromise the quality or scoring potential on display. Not only that I think Sterling will be a huge resting risk this weekend with Man City having one eye on their all important Champions League tie in the week.
The Son transfer is a bit of a gamble but I think it will be a potentially lucrative differential and now that Harry Kane is fully fit again, their partnership could flourish once more.
I’ve had to go Fernandes as captain at home to Newcastle with Rashford, the vice. Allan Saint-Maximin remains our sole TOON representative but he makes do with a place on the bench with his tricky fixture in mind. Cresswell joins ASM on the bench which makes up the strongest list of substitutes we’ve probably had this season. Doubts remain of the fitness of Antonio and Gundugan so these two are ready in waiting as good automatic backups.
The fantasy football rollercoaster ride continues. We managed an impressive score of 86 points in a week’s average of 57 during round 22. This more than makes up for the previous week’s disappointments and goes to show you don’t always need to make wholesale changes when you have a bad game week.
Yes, sticking is a gamble but so is twisting. Sometimes it’s about looking at your team and the fixture set ahead and trusting the process. Quite often it’s all too easy this pull the changes trigger, and believe me, I was so tempted. Deep breath, nothing drastic and go again. Logic suggested that the rested players in GW21 would be just that, rested, and ready to play in GW22. So it conspired, they played and contributed massively.
What making no changes now gives us is 2 free transfers for the week ahead.
It could have been so much better as well, 86 points included 3 (YES THREE!?) big fat zero’s. Paul Pogba, Sadio Mané and Ben Chilwell all failed to play any part in their respective fixtures. The score is a testament to the strong week the rest of the team had. Special mentions have to go to Rahim Sterling, James Justin and Bruno Fernandes, each scoring well into the teens which is an excellent return.
The big news heading into Game week 23 is that Liverpool and Manchester City clash at Anfield. Obviously that is going to mean so many potential point cancelling players for so many fantasy football managers. This means that alot of fantasy teams will contain the maximum 3 players from each team and only one side can truly triumph fantasy points wise. What you gain in one, you will lose in the other. So my question for all you gaffers this week is.
WHICH SET OF PLAYERS ARE CURRENTLY MORE CRUCIAL TO FANTASY FOOTBALL? MAN CITY OR LIVERPOOL?
Things to take into consideration with this question are firstly, Pep roulette. The erratic rotation policy of the city boss and never truly knowing which team he will put out. Secondly, the Salah affect. If you take the Egyptian’s points away from the Liverpool fantasy total, are the rest really worth their weight in gold? Salah is a consistent big point scorer and maybe a big leveller. And thirdly, the current collective form of both sides. Worth thinking about in terms of team selection for this week.
Other fixtures of note to be aware of would be Chelsea away at struggling Sheff. United and (maybe) Tottenham at home to West Brom, who are still without Harry Kane though. leicester are still a consistent shout for potential points as they travel to Wolves.
In terms my team I’ve made some BOLD choices, let’s go.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
The bonus of making no changes in GW22 means we have 1 extra free transfer to use in GW23. That said, I’ve still made 3 and taken a -4 in the process.
The first and most risky change is Allan Saint-Maximin for the injured Sadio Mané. I can see the raised eyebrows but let me explain. First of he’s a Toon player so my heartstrings are already pulled. Yes using full emotional pull should never be only reason to pick a player in fantasy football. So I go into my second of all. I fancy the French man to start his first game in over 2 months for Newcastle at home to Southampton in, what is, a very important match for the home. Southampton got hit for 9 last time out, perfect time for a tricky pacey winger like ASM to get back amongst the goal and assist trail. He will be a huge differential player, is cheap and is always Newcastle’s most dangerous player when playing. The big risk is whether he will start the match or not. No risk, no reward.
The next change is Manchester United like for like with Rashford coming in for Paul Pogba. This change would have happened a few weeks ago but I had other pressing issues elsewhere. Quite simply, Rashford is a forward in a midfield role and more of a goal threat.
And the final change is another like for like, this time at Chelsea. Rüdiger comes in for Chilwell. Reason being Chelsea’s new boss Thomas Tuchel. He has left Chilwell out the last 2 matches and doesn’t seem to fancy him which is the complete opposite of Rüdiger. I still toying over whether the German will be in my XI or not but Chelsea do have a good clean sheet chance at Sheffield United.
What these 3 transfers also bring to our squad is a massive bank balance in reserve. £6.9 million to be precise. Ready and waiting to be fired for either Kane’s or KDB’s return from injury or when Liverpool have a more Favourable fixture set for Salah.
Fernandes will be captain with my other toon representative, Wilson, the vice. Let’s hope the ASM gamble pays off, I’m quietly optimistic.
We’re back again as the fantasy football gameweeks come in thick and fast. No sooner does one end, the next begins at barely 48 hours notice. It’s superb stuff but will test squads, strategies and manager mindset to the max. We are now starting to see injuries become a huge sticking part in the selection process as we’ll get onto.
It was another excellent week for my team racking up 54 points in a week’s average of 42. We are edging closer to the summit in the all important office table, a mere 3 points off the top spot. And tellingly, the man who has been top for a large portion of the season has now relinquished his perch after a shakey couple of weeks – Signs of title race pressure starting to show in some camps.
From my perspective, I’m relishing a title race. The season overall has been very good so far as we pass the half way point and into the nitty-gritty. But when I look back, I can’t help but rue the week Tottenham’s game was postponed which was, typically, the cup qualification round which we subsequently failed to make – That week still irks.
The big news from GW20 was another injury. This time to Harry Kane, adding to the premium priced player injury list which includes also Kevin De Bruyne, Vardy, Aguero and Aubameyang. The players seem to be dropping like flys now which does happen at this stage of the season, mainly due to the amount of games. This means the deferential players are going to have a huge say in everyone’s next game week totals and respective leagues. By deferential, I mean the lesser priced players that have less chance to be duplicated in yours and your opponents team. With the lack of standard big hitters that most select available, it’s really going to come down to a mixture of clever selection and, of course, good luck.
Looking at the striking options available now that Kane has took a tumble, it seems very limited. This is, in part, due to the bizarre Fantasy Premier League player positioning set out at the start of the season. Salah, Rashford, Son, Mané and Aubameyang are all down as midfielders when we all know they are clearly forwards. The go to formation for fantasy managers has been 5 across midfield for this sole reason, whoever was in charge of selecting player positions at Fantasy HQ has had a stinker this year.
Replacing Kane looks like it’s going to be a far tougher task than it was to change KDB last week so, with that in mind and similar to the last week’s question, my need to know this week is for those with Kane in their side.
HOW DO YOU PLAN TO REPLACE HARRY KANE?
Simple answer for me is I HAVEN’T A POT OF GLUE. And we must remember, as I write this, Kane hasn’t definitely been ruled out yet. So is it worth the risk in keeping him in? Maybe. He’s such a focal point to Spurs attack and many fantasy Premier League teams. Another question mark now has to be laid at the feet of his Tottenham strike partner, Son. The South Korean will now carry that extra burden in the Spurs team and so much of his good work is due to his balanced partnership with Kane. Can he cope without him? I’m not so sure. The one thing I do know is, I won’t be taking the risk on Kane. In my eyes, he’s ruled out and needs replaced. A few minuses are on the cards in terms of my transfer activity that’s for sure.
Manchester City’s favourable run of fixtures will continue when they entertain Sheffield United. Without KDB in their side, Pep’s usually erratic rotated selections should be a lot more controlled and slightly easier to predict. The cheap option of Gundugan has been an outstanding point source of late.
Other fixtures to keep an eye on would be Chelsea at home to Burnley and possibly Leicester home to Leeds. It pains me to say it, but also Everton at home to a Newcastle side who are bereft of any sort of cohesion, form or quality. But, as mentioned before, the main thing this week is the Kane conundrum. That’s the key battle ground and whoever gets it right could be set to make good gains.
THIS WEEKS PICKS
I’ve taken a -8 straight on the chin this week and it looks like that could become a regular occurrence. My team is strong but my squad isn’t. Even after the minus, am I satisfied with my team? No. It lacks striking prowess in the absence of Kane. The midfield is full of great talent who could/should be great but haven’t really lived up to expectations so far this season. Mané, Sterling and Paul Pogba have the potential to offer big scores week in week out but have so far failed to do that consistently. Just a quick side note on Pogba in particular – He was only meant to a temporary inclusion in my side but changes elsewhere means he stays in this week. You can’t help but feel for a midfielder of his size, stature and obvious ability that he should be a point scorer in the bracket of a KBD or a Salah. It just never seems to happen. Whether that’s down to his off field activities, his mindset or maybe he’s just been overrated and isn’t as good as people make out. I’m not sure of the latter. He was sensational at Juventus and the 2018 World Cup with France. Who knows, strange player to work out. Anyway, taking him out my team would’ve meant a -12 and I always try to limit myself to -8 at the absolute max.
My -8 three changes are
IN: Davis – OUT: Kane (frees up funds)
IN: Chilwell – OUT: Bernardo
IN: Mané – OUT: Smith-Rowe
With the lack of striking options available, I’ve gone for a tactic many have used this season – Bolstering up the defence. Defenders have been an excellent point source this year so I’m going to try and cash in this week.
Sterling will be the captain, with Fernandes (who did nothing with the armband last time out) vice. Wilson remains the sole Toon player on board but will have to make do with a place on the bench such is Newcastle’s terrible form.
Six teenage lads are crammed into a bite-sized bedroom. Two around the PC, malfunctioning the motherboard by illegally downloading mp3’s as the others sit on the edge of the single bed staring, fully concentrated at a box Beko TV. It’s not PES or eFootball, It’s Pro Evo on the PlayStation 2 – The one with Colina on the front. Hours upon hours of winner stays on or round robin format and the glory days of football gaming. It was simplistic and that was key. There weren’t updates, coins, packs, points or any other pointless money grabbing gimmicks – Just the game, a 10 minute 90 minutes on the pitch.
To be clear this isn’t a FIFA versus PES who did what to who, rather a plight summary of the 2 franchises. Having tried to play the ‘next-genFIFA’ in the last week or so I feel compelled to write this, I don’t give a scripted sweaty last minute winner which is better. I just want a good football game to play – A game that will excite, bring realism without sucking the fun out of the sport, that crucial fine balance. Other than the historically great PES Master League which still delivers some magical moments, I’m struggling. When I look back to those days of old, all I remember is joy. Very limited scripting, no buying wins in bulk, just great multiplayer on a level playing field and seasoned career modes to boot.
We are now 3 whole generations of console beyond those halcyon Pro Evo days and I’ve remained a constant throughout, buying all the PES games on release and most FIFA’s – some of which have been god awful, on both’s behalf. Whether football games were genuinely better in the early 2000’s or whether I’m wearing my teenage rose tinted spectacles with Pro Evo pride leaves a large scope for debate but, I would hope 20 years from now there are absolutely no doubts and no looking back. Games, in general, should be miles ahead of a previous generational period as the technology advances with the passing years. We may still have our own preferences or favourite console era’s but it should never be better from a gaming or technical perspective, the latest product should always be the best in that regard.
WHERE WE’RE AT
This year EA have at least tried to deliver a next gen version of FIFA 21 as opposed to Konami’s gap year previous gen ‘seasonupdate.’
Intially, I took this as a chickening out on Konami’s part but looking deeper, we are obviously in the midst of a global pandemic, we cut some slack. Also, having played FIFA 21 on PS5 and having seen the funny graphic comparisons with FIFA 17 which have emerged online, maybe the Japanese developer’s decision is, in fact, justified – more time will tell. Konami, by not releasing this year, now have the pressure of making their new version of Pro Evo, PES, Efootball, whatever they decide to call it next, absolutely flawless having given themselves that extra time cushion. You can’t help but feel it’s make or break for the entire Pro Evolution Soccer franchise.
FIFA, love it or loath it, is the juggernaut of football gaming which is fantastic if you’re a large Electronic Arts shareholder. Not so great for us – the consumer. It’s now at the point where no matter what footballing spectacle they put out in front of us, millions of copies will be, and are, sold worldwide come what may.
EA have the licenses, the fanbase but what they are currently offering on the pitch is, for me, very substandard – taking into consideration the substantial resources they have at their disposal.
It’s shockingly scripted with often clunky gameplay and the rip off roulette pack opening culture stinks of pure greed. With a budget as big as EA’s we should be seeing giant strides year in year out. All we actually see is updated transfer window rosters, a few tweaks to the menu screens and changes to whatever soundtracks are hot in the charts that year – A season update?
The FIFA online servers are usually decent. You can get matched up pretty much straight away – mainly because of the amount of people playing the game at any given time. And 9 times out of 10 you’ll get a lag free experience.
The problem you get online however, is a human one – your opponent. The player who doesn’t actually play the game as football but as just another video game. Basically looking to find any shortcut to win. The high through ball has been a cheat for many years, the unrealistic, overplayed skill moves and the mother off all controller based rage, the sweaty cutback. This fault isn’t necessarily with EA but it still makes me think twice about logging in. The point at which you can lay blame at the developers door is the incessant and relentless scripting. You know the score, usually 0-1 last minute after you’ve spent 10 minutes battering your opponent. The FIFA force field comes into affect and its impossible to score, even when you revert to the anti-football tactics mentioned above. Even when you actually get that win, your victories are usually tinged with the feeling of guilt – The computer helped you in some way and that there’s some poor lad or lass at the other end currently contemplating dropping their disc directly in the bin or worse, having to clean the bits of an expensive control pad from their bedroom floor after it connected full force with a wall. It’s a true nightmare at times – but, in the end, we always return for more. The Fifa juggernaut.
I do find selecting the lesser teams does actually serve up a better experience when playing FIFA online. You find more like-minded football gamers looking for a proper football match whereby the result is secondary. Being a Newcastle fan, this is where is becomes easy for me – Newcastle are shit but I love being the toon and playing at St.James park, the stadium detail is excellent. FIFA is pretty good at matching similarly poor teams and player ratings. You can have some pretty decent matches that way but the bottom line is avoid picking Barcelona, PSG, Real Madrid, Bayern – you get the gist, try Hull City.
There’s actually alot to like about FIFA. I’ve focused on the negatives – mainly because of the EA budget, there shouldn’t be as many down sides. I’ve seen and read an increasing number of not so favourable reviews that may make the developer sit up and notice that they are sleep walking through the same old motions season after season. I would love to see them push the boat out and give the game a reshfreshing overhaul but I suspect that, while sales remain high, you’ve got more chance of ‘packing’ team of the year Lionel Messi from a freebie.
Pro Evolution Soccer, at first glance, is an awful game. The layout, the menu’s, the unlicensed teams, players and commentary – which is muted from minute one.
And playing online, I’ve found, is near impossible. I’m not exaggerating when I say the very first Pro Evo you could play online, 5 I think it was, had better match making facilities and connectivity. That was 15 or so years ago with an ethernet cable into your (my specifically bought Netgear) router. In 2020, the era of super fast fibre broadband, it shouldn’t be too difficult to have a lag free ElClassico, should it? Hugely frustrating – a word that sums up the majority of my football gaming career.
One time, not so long ago, my mate and I spent an hour trying to figure out how to set up a Co-op 2v2 match. After much deliberating with Google and a number of Youtube tutorials we finally used the rocket science like instructions to manage it. In the end, the lag experienced made it an tremendous exercise in the art of time wasting – Never again. What’s worse this year is that PS5 users have been experiencing slow down offline too. Why, oh why, Konami.
So why do I keep going back I hear you ask?
Simple, PES does still bring that element of magic on the pitch – where it truly matters. If you can open your mind enough to see past the bullshit and take it for what is it then you can still have a great time – especially on the legendary Master League. Taking a team of duff no hopers, building a weird emotional bond with each player and struggling through division 2 together and beyond still brings a superb sense of achievement. It maybe a bit of a dated format of dodgy cutscenes and cliches and in need of some serious refreshment but it has stopped me ditching football games altogether in the past few years.
Then, theres still that euphoric feeling of volleying a 25 yard cannon ball into the top corner which is one of the features Konami has managed to maintain throughout the franchise’s 26 year existence. The balance of frequency, it not happening all the time but knowing it could at any given time. Make sense? It’s a hard one to describe but it’s just right and it’s that feeling, like scoring a real life goal, you could never replicate with FIFA.
Also, the editing system, especially for PlayStation users, is brilliant and one that helps alleviate those licensing problems.
IF TWO BECAME ONE
The problem with both football games is simple. One offers everything off the pitch and the other on it, put them together and you’d have a pretty solid package but both developers seem content to cash in on the extra added in game purchases without any consideration to the actual game of football. I can understand why they have to do this but that doesn’t help a football purist seek the perfection he needs. In fact, having to lower our own football gaming standards and expectations is where we’re currently at and that’s a shame.
So where does each franchise go from here? For Fifa, it’ll probably be more of the same. Keep churning it out every September, minimal changes and watch the EA bank balance continue to expand. There’s no real need to mix it up it up, the formula has succeeded. It’s dull and samey – will I buy it? Probably. I’m a sucker for football, EA wins.
As for PES, as mentioned earlier, this next 12-18 months do seem critical. By delaying a proper next generation release, they have basically told the footballing world that having an extra year to work on things will help them produce something, the likes of which, we have never had on the virtual pitch before. They have set themselves up for a mighty fall should they not be able to pull it off. As a Pro Evo fan I hope they succeed and I’m eager to see what they come up with – some menu screens that don’t hurt your eyes would be a good start.
In terms of what could make either game better, other than the ironing out of the obvious previously stated problems, I would love to see an online multi-player Master League/career mode. The format would be along the lines of Football Manager but in console form. You, along with 2 to 8 players each have your own team and complete as the career moves along, battling it out for signings, leagues, cups etc. Each player would have say a week to play a block of their matches, maybe a virtual month’s worth and arrange to play against each other as and when the fixtures required. How hard would that be for EA or Konami to set up? Surely not so difficult, considering the amount of hours they waste on the Ultimate Team/My Team nonsense. They could even add their money grabbing extras within that format should they so please and it would put a refreshing spin on either career mode. Any chance?
For now, I’ll continue to play the Master League with my beloved Tyneside. That is, until I get the by-monthly urge to try FIFA again, play at St.James’ Park – maybe it’s changed a little? A couple of hours, maybe days later, it’s the same and it’s back to Master League or sometimes nothing at all for a period. That’s been the recurring pattern of the last few years but, in truth, I’m desperate for the two games to be great and to get equal satisfaction from both – and not just on one mode. I get the feeling that’s a long way away but one can only yearn for better days ahead for the virtually beautiful game.