I’m back again. 24 hours after I posted about Gameweek 18, I feel compelled to update on proceedings. Things are changing minute by minute and emotions are running high in the office.
The Premier League have thrown another curve ball into, what was already, the game week 18 madness. They have, as excepted, called off Tottenham’s match at Aston Villa due to Corona virus. But, it gets interesting. Spurs will now be at home to Fulham instead, a match that was knocked on the head a few weeks ago causing one of the worst gameweek’s in our history. What does that mean for us? A chance to make amends from that disastrous gameweek 16 episode for a start. It’s a more favourable fixture than Villa away and takes away some of the selection doubts regarding Son and Kane. They’ll both be in the side now that’s for sure and both will be potential Captain material.
I mentioned yesterday that should the Spurs game go ahead the free hit would still be an option but wouldn’t be a total necessity. However, I want a full starting 11 competing in the 6 matches of gameweek 18 and a strong lineup at that. Dominic Calvert-Lewin was red flagged this morning, supposed hamstring injury with an unknown return date – We need a striker. Our goalkeeper doesn’t have a fixture this week, nor does one of our centre backs. The list keeps growing and we are being pointed down that road.👇🏻
FREE HIT ACTIVATED – let’s do this.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS.
I’m just about there, I think. I’ve used the free hit and it is a new look side, for one week only of course. Now, as I write this (21:00 Monday night) the XI I’m about to reveal is still subject to a sleepless night of change. The free hit will allow me to make as many transfers as I want all the way up to the 16:30 deadline tomorrow (today in reader time.) A plethora of chopping and changing. What I have learned in fantasy Premier League though – never leave it too late to make changes. The site often goes down due to the amount of traffic. I’ve never been caught up in this but I’ve seen hapless colleagues who have and it’s a tough watch. Grown men having a full blown meltdown when they can’t change their captain. Not pretty.
Anyway, where was I? Yeah, the team itself is self explanatory. All the players in it should be involved in game week 18, maximising our scoring capacity despite it not being a full fixture list. In terms of captain I’ve gone with Kane over Bruno simply because Spurs are at home, not an easy decision and one I hope doesn’t cost me.
The final thing to note, and most important, is, another Toon player edges his way back into the squad. GET IN.😌🖤🤍
After one of the worst fantasy football performances of all time in game week 16, game week 17 produced a more satisfactory 60 points. A result I’m putting down to getting our allotted lucky charm Newcastle United players back into the side and nothing else – The straws you clutch at as a Toon fan. Looking at it, we actually could have been about 15 to 20 points better off had Leicester and Chelsea not conceded very late consolation goals.
I’ve been looking forward to the prospect of game weeks 18 and 19 for months. The shortened fixture set of the former, the long double gamer of the latter. Now that they’ve finally come round, I have a feeling of absolute fear and dread which has been exacerbated by the fact Spurs’ game at Villa is in serious doubt due to the Covid crisis.
There are only 6 fixtures in GW18. Should the Spurs match go ahead, I would have 9 players potentially involved. This means I could get away with making a couple of transfers to make up the usual full 11. Sounds straight forward? It’s not. A big problem would arise if the Spurs match is called off, taking our player involvement down to 6. That won’t be enough to have a meaningful score for the week. I would have to use my free hit and rejig the whole team to suit, what would be, the remaining 5 fixtures. Hopefully we get a decision on this match in good time, giving us enough scope to really use the free hit properly as I’m assuming the match will be bashed on the head. I am actually tempted to use it anyway regardless of any ￼postponement. The conundrum and nightmare scenario being if Tottenham do actually play at Villa as planned, Kane bags a hattrick from 3 Son assists and we miss a massive truck load full of points. ——- All in all the situation is a f**king mine field. I’ve set the Premier League a 17:00 Monday night deadline to make their decision before I’m forced take matters into my own hands and pick a team on pure gut feeling – the worst type of team selection. Yes a certain percentage of your team should involve your gut but you also have to have those important elements of form, stats and certainty.
One plus from these dilemmas is that every fantasy manager in the land will be roughly in the same boat and that is why my question this week is simple.
HOW ARE YOU APPROACHING GW18?
Freehit, wildcard, transfers or even same XI. I want to know. Listening to the excellent fantasy 606 podcast, Statman Dave had, what at the time, sounded like a decent enough solution involving both transfers and the free hit at the same time. Trying to remember it properly without listening to the pod again is proving a difficult one though and would probably complicate matters further anyway.
What I do know is some managers will massively profit this week, some will massively fail and a large portion of what happens will ultimately come down to luck.
Of the 6 fixtures to look out for this week, scoring chance has to come at the Etihad. Man City at home to Brighton. That is providing you’re willing to play Pep Ball with city having played in the cup just 2 days earlier.
Man United away at Burnley could be another double figure Bruno return and, of course, Spurs away at Villa but we know the nonsense surrounding that match, it really is a lottery.
At this point on the blog I would usually run through my team for the week, explain my changes, Captain etc. But and it’s a massive but, I haven’t a clue what I’m doing yet and, as mentioned earlier, I’m leaving it till the last possible moment to do what needs to be done. I have the scenarios in my head, we are simply awaiting Premier League clarification now.
So whatever you fellow managers do in game week 18, I wish thee good luck and see you on the other side.
Or not for our fantasy football guys. As game weeks go that is possibly the worst the I’ve ever experienced. 2 matches postponed and in those matches I had 6 players involved including Kane my captain. That’s a big fat zero for each player of those players.
Not only that, we took a -8 prior, making 3 transfers. At one point during the round, the scoreboard read -4 points and 5 players already played – half the team. If you don’t laugh you’d cry. It’s Unbelievable, unprecedented and to say I’m feeling despondent at this moment in time would be an understatement. But for the sake of the club, players and back room staff we need to get our heads up, move on and quickly.
A slight silver lining came in the fact that quite a lot of managers were in a similar boat and, thanks in no due part to my subs bench and the form of Bruno Fernandes, the lads rallied late and salvaged 30 points. It’s definitely 2 consolation goals when you’re 6 nil down but at least it was something – a bit of fight and spirit, something we can work on.
We drop to 5th in the table, our lowest position of the season. What’s the next move, I’m not sure. More games could fall victim to the Covid crisis.
Looking ahead to this week is like staring into the abyss and pure uncertainty. You’ve got to feel the Man City match is again under threat. Should it go ahead you then have to battle it out with Pep and his selection. My advice, which I learned in the harshest of manners last week, is to get city players out your squad and fast. In way I’m hoping their game v Chelsea remains on, I’ve removed most of my city employees and my rivals have quite a few Chelsea players in their lineups.
Man United at home to Villa is a match I’ll be looking to pinpoint. The form of Fernandes and Rashford is about as good as it gets in the league at present. A little outsider would be Arsenal away at West Brom, the gunners have won their last 2 matches whilst the baggies come into it on the back of a home drubbing off Leeds. If you have the balls to get the Arsenal lads in, there could be some reward there.
I’m looking for a good bounce back score to get back into the mix but I’ve actually got my eye on gameweek’s 18+19 which could be crucial in the title race.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS.
I’ve take another -4 again this week. Not ideal but it’s far to early to be wasting the 2nd wildcard yet. As mentioned earlier, I’ve tried to remove my Manchester City players. Out comes Mahrez and in comes Marcus Rashford. Simple reasoning, the form of Rashford and the fact that the city match may not go ahead. Not to mention city’s tricky away fixture at Chelsea.
I’ve also got a TOON man back in. I said come the new year that a black and white strip would be back in my lineup so in comes Callum Wilson once again. He replaces Cavani who, although he is top class, I can’t guarantee he’ll play week in week out. I’m actually putting my recent fantasy football bad luck down to the fact I haven’t had Toon players in my team recently so there you go, it’s an ethos that has served me so well in the past and one I should never have tampered with – Big point week incoming🙃
My captain will be fernandes because he’s just a fantasy football dream at the moment, producing every week. Kane vice, let’s hope the Tottenham game gets the go ahead this time round.
The Christmas period has got my head absolutely battered and it’s reflecting in results on the pitch. Who will play? Who’s going to be rested? Who’s ate too much turkey? Pep? Brexit? Its a chaotic time. Gameweek 15 only ended yesterday and 16 starts today. I’ve barely got time to sort my team never mind write this nonsense out. And my team certainly does need sorting out.
We only managed 36 points in a gameweek average of 41. Kevin De Bruyne, as captain, only produced 6 points while 6 others on the team sheet only mustered up 1 point each. Simply not good enough. Subsequently, we’ve slipped to 4th place in the office league – The sooner the Christmas tree is taken down the better.
Where to go with my team from here I’m not sure but you can’t have six 1’s on your scorecard and expect to be challenging for titles. Maybe it’s time to stop pitting my wits with Pep Guardiola and scrap Man City players altogether? After all, they haven’t even been firing on all cylinders this season so perhaps there’s too much risk involved for the amount of potential reward.
The fixtures I’ve got my eye on in gameweek 16 are Man United at home to Wolves. Of all my players, Bruno Fernandes is the one that keeps producing week after week. There’s a good chance again for him here. Spurs v Fulham could be another decent points match, despite the home side’s scratchy form. If I could sum my fantasy season up so far, I would call myself Spurs. Excellent for the majority but have hit a Christmas period form wall. We both need to snap out of it for our respective title pushes that’s for sure.
Another reason for picking out these 2 fixtures is the fact both Man United and Spurs rarely rotate their lineups in the way City do. Even Klopp at Liverpool has become a bit more unpredictable in recent weeks. I’ve probably just commentator’s cursed it but that’s the way it’s been up to this point.
There’s a massive chance of the Silent Treatment affecting fellow managers this game week. Only a day between fixture weeks could mean some are unaware of the quick turn around. Potential unchanged teams galore. Luckily, I’ve made my changes and remember, my team is the Spurs of Fantasy Football which makes me Jose Mourinho. Find a way to win by any means is the ethos. Reminding my rivals of the quick turnaround? NOT A CHANCE🙃
THIS WEEK’S PICKS: I mentioned earlier that my head was scrambled, exasperated by poor results. This week, after a few Sunday drinks I’ve hit the eject button. I’ve taken a -8 and made 3 transfers. Not only that, of the players that have come in, 2 of them are potential substitutes. We are really rolling the dice but should it come off, the reward could be great.
Kevin De Bruyne is out and in comes his City team mate Riyad Mahrez. Yes I’m still taking Pep on head to head but this change firstly frees up funds to strengthen else where. Second of all, De Bruyne played the full match against Newcastle only 2 days ago while Mahrez didn’t even get on. I think it will be the opposite this Gameweek.
My second change is upfront. Edison Cavani replaces Danny Welbeck. I’m hearing Marcus Rashford is injured for the Manc’s, Cavani should be the natural replacement and is an out and out goalscorer. This transfer was made possible by the KDB deal.
And the final change is again in midfield. Ndombele of Spurs is in for Podence of Wolves. Reason being the latter has done nothing for me and has a tricky fixture at Old Trafford. Ndombele has now made that centre midfield spot his own at White Hart Lane (Tottenham Hotspur Stadium)
Massive risk involved here but hopefully massive reward. The changes are only short term, we have a new wildcard on the horizon in the coming weeks and I’m just looking to get through this Christmas period still in the title mix.
I’ve gone with Kane as captain, Bruno as vice – another contentious choice but it’s a week of risks and reward.
There’s still no place for my TOON players, I’m hoping to draft them back in come the new year.
Gameweek 14 was a proper rollercoaster. From euphoric highs and bottom end lows and eventually settling back to an even ground.
It started off brilliantly when it was announced Mohamed Salah was on Liverpool’s substitutes bench. Most of my rivals had him as captain, what a buzz. 2 hours later he’d bagged 32 points and we are already playing catch up – Buzzkill. Then to make matters worse Tariq Lamptey, who I’d just transferred in, isn’t in the Brighton squad – no explanation given. It didn’t end there, his teammate Danny Welbeck was named as a substitute. We were on the back foot prepared for a long weekend ahead.
It turned out to be one of the highest scoring weekends I can remember and, unfortunately, our lads couldn’t take advantage. An average score of 60 and we could only manage 59, down to the afore mentioned but mainly due to the wrong captain selection. Kane only managed the basic 4 points which is bad but in a big point game week, is sheer sacrilege. Had I selected Fernandes we would have been looking at 80+ points. A slight silver lining coming when Welbeck came on and scored late saving our bacon somewhat.
59 on a usual week is a decent enough score but when your rivals are all bagging 70+, you can’t help but feel disappointed. One guy in our league scored 102 points for the week, a tremendous effort. It subsequently moved him from bottom all the way up to 4th and back into the mix. The league itself is extremely tight which makes it’s so enjoyable. Yes, I would like to be smashing them off the park by 100+ but from a competitive stand point and keeping everyone vested, a tight league is perfect. Only about 40 points separate the top 4 and despite others having great weeks we aren’t in a bad position, sitting 3rd only about 30 behind the player in pole. What’s more, we are due a monster week and hopefully it’s on the horizon.
Looking ahead to this week’s Boxing Day fixtures, I can’t help but feel Man City are where the points will be. Which players though? Only Pep can answer that. They are home my beloved Newcastle but I know there’s a potential hiding coming. I reckon it’s probably worth the risk of second guessing of Guardiola’s selection.
Liverpool at home to West Brom is another match where premium points could be there for the taking. From a personal point of view, I’m looking for the baggies to halt them in their tracks. Weirdly I don’t have any Liverpool players in my lineup. As much as I would like to get Salah into my team, I just don’t think it’s financially viable – we’ll see.
Thoughts of breaking the up the Kane/Son partnership have began to creep into my head again. Yes I was stung last time. Yes I regretted it almost instantly. But this time feels different, Spurs have had an alarming slip of form in recent weeks. It’s a fickle world fantasy football and your only as good as your previous week. Is it time to break up that marriage? Let me know what you think.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
As I mentioned before, I’ve been looking at ways to get Salah into the side. I have spent hours this week trying to calculate the financial permutations without any sort of detriment to the team. Unfortunately, it would disrupt the team’s balance too much and put all the enfaces on one player to perform – too much risk and financially unviable.
At the end of last week’s matches, I was certain I was going to take minus points this coming week. I gave the players a real dressing down in the locker room and told them big changes were going to be made. Having had time to calm down and reflect, I’ve actually only made one transfer. This means no negative starting points but……. ITS A BIG ONE. Not in terms of a huge deal but the ethos, basis and dynamic on which our team has always been built has completely changed. We now have NO NEWCASTLE UNITED players in our squad and it’s a sad day. I can’t stress enough that this is only a temporary measure but i feel a bit empty inside. Out comes Fernandez for fitness reasons and the fact they are away to City. In comes John Stones, who has had a resurgence under Pep in recent weeks.
In terms of captain pick, I’ve really rolled the dice and gone with De Bruyne. It’s a risky Christmas but hopefully one that pays dividends. We got it so wrong last week and now we are due some luck.
Who fancies trying to land £100 for Christmas from a starting stake of £10?
We’ve had pretty much no luck with the accumulators this season and I don’t hold much optimism until full crowds are allowed back into the stadiums to be honest. So we going down a different track for the next week or so.
I’m looking to turn £10 into £100 with a series of single bets. The odds for each bet will be around evens, rolling over the winnings at each stage until we reach the tonne mark. It should take 4 or 5 bets and I want it completed in time for the turkey being served. I did a similar challenge in the summer and completed it, albeit with shorter odds and more stages.
Admittedly, stage 1 does carry a fair element of risk but Fulham have been an open book in the Premier League this season whilst Newcastle’s last match had 7 goals in it. The form of Calum Wilson has been a positive also, the striker has been involved in 10 goals so far this season scoring 7 of those. An early goal in this one and the flood gates could open at either end.
OVERVIEW: Another week and another foray into the wild world of Premier League fantasy football.
I’ll start by getting the elephant out the room early. As a result of the gap between the last gameweek’s 12 and 13 being so small, the leader of our office mini league forgot to make changes with the silent treatment working an absolute dream. He had 2 injured players in his line up and a default selected captain, there couldn’t be much worse scenarios. So, when opportunities come knocking you need to open the door with both hands and accept that gift. Did our boys take that chance? DID THEY F**K!?! We only managed to cut his lead by a measly 5 points, us scoring 39 and them 34. It feels like a massive open goal missed and and chance to go back top squandered but we cannot dwell and need to move on.
To be honest, it was a low scoring game week all round and we weren’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination – The average score only being 42. Obviously with the circumstances just mentioned it feels like a bad defeat but in terms of the bigger picture we are in a steady place – Only 20 so points behind and we have 2 free transfers to play with in GW14.
Looking ahead there’s a real mixture of fixtures this coming gameweek. There’s no match where you would say ‘that’s guaranteed points’ but in the same token, there’s no match you wouldn’t stay clear of.
For me, the pick of the bunch would have to be Chelsea v West Ham and Man United v Leeds with outside mentions for Newcastle at home to Fulham and Brighton entertaining Sheffield United. A big problem fixture, definitely in terms of my side and I’m sure many others, is Spurs against Leicester. The conundrum on my part being that I need Kane and Son to continue their great form knowing that comes at the expense of my goalkeeper picking up points.
My goalkeeper is actually an interesting point. It’s the only position in the squad that has been a mainstay throughout, even going back to last season. Kasper Schmeichel has been in all this season and all last which I suppose is testament to way Leicester play. I’ve never considered taking him out either. The reason being to get someone better is going to be a big budget hit and to put a lesser priced player in would potentially end in massive points losses. He’s seems to balance the scales perfectly and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So, my questions for you guys this week is..
Who are your mainstay players? And why?
This is the player you wouldn’t or can’t replace. Your go to guy who has your loyalty till the death. Your Nico Kranjar to your Harry Redknapp. I’m interested to know.
Now, can I finally get rid of Kilman, let’s find out.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS: Two free transfers available this week and we’ve used them both with things are unravelling for our TOON ARMY players. We are now down to just one!! As Saint-Maximum’s injury return date is not specified, I couldn’t have him clogging up the bench any longer. I’ve replaced the French wing wizard with the more pragmatic cheaper priced Oriol Romeu of Southampton. This is basically to free up funds to finally replace Kilman. Has it worked? YES IT HAS. In comes Tariq Lamptey of Brighton. The flying wing back has been a revelation for south coast club this season and, with a tasty home fixture again bottom side Sheff United coming up, is the perfect fit.
My plan of a few weeks ago of having a more balanced all round squad is now completely out the window. It’s all about the XI on the pitch. If I have to take minus points in future weeks, so be it. That’s the risk I’m willing to take. A good manager is always learning and can adapt where necessary.
In terms of captain’s pick this week, I’m seriously struggling. De Bruyne played midweek which makes him a serious pep resting risk. Fernandes has, somewhat conveniently, underperformed since I bought him in but home to Leeds, it’s tempting. Do I go with the form of Kane or Son knowing they have a potential banana skin against Leicester. Or do I go total left field and go with someone like Welbeck who has a inviting home fixture against Sheff United? NOT A CLUE so I’ve gone with Kane as provisional skipper which, of course, is subject to change right up to the 11am deadline Saturday morning. I’ve just got a sneaky feeling the skipper selection is going to be crucial this week, no one stands out as an automatic pick which makes the choosing very difficult and problematic.
Fernandez is the only surviving TOON player in the squad. Sad times but very necessary at this stage. The Toon boys will be back soon, I promise.
It’s the quickest turnaround between game weeks so far this season as we hit the fringes of the busy Christmas period. In fact, there’s only 2 days between the last match in game week 12 to the first in game week 13.
It’s a time where squad strengths will be tested to max and for us, the fantasy manager, it’s going to be about 2nd guessing and taking risks. Who will play regular in this busy period? Who will be rested? Which players are likely to throw one for Christmas off? All trials and tribulations of the man on the touch line.
After a very slow start to game week 12, our lads rallied and conjured up a very impressive 61 points, 10 points above the average number. It was enough to claw back 20 points on our office league leader and move up from 3rd back into 2nd place.
For the 2nd week running the captains pick was bang on the money with Kane scoring, taking home 18 points and his strike partner, Son, making the assist. Taxes, death and those 2 providing for one another are the only sure fire things in this uncertain world at the moment. Taking Son out a few weeks ago was a big mistake on my part – to which I’ve owned up, rectified and moved on.
Also a big shout out to the Leicester players in my team. James Justin (11 points) and kasper S (7 points) really boosted the teams total, we need more of the same this week.
Looking ahead to GW13, I’m not sure how I feel. Spurs face their toughest test of the season away at Liverpool. Obviously with both Kane and Son in the lineup there’s potential for neither to score. Then we have two favourable fixtures in Man City v West Brom and Sheffield United v Manchester United however is this where squad rotation really takes affect. 2nd guessing Pep Guardiola is difficult at the best of times but coming up to the Christmas period it’s going to be an absolute minefield. De Bruyne to be rested is a real possibility and cause for concern.
With these concerns in mind, I think the tactics this week will be to maintain position and look to attack when the fixtures are better matched. A score around the average mark we will take.
PICKS: We’re going for the sensible approach to GW13 by not making any transfers. There’s a certain risk involved but the benefit of having 2 freebies in GW14 should outweigh those.
I actually wanted to get Kilman out the team with Wolves having had players return from injury in recent weeks. His playing time has now become very limited and finding an adequate replacement for the same price is proving some what problematic. TWO FREEBIES NEXT WEEK IT IS.
In terms of captain pick. I’ve gone with Bruno Fernandes. I felt De Bruyne, despite an easy home fixture, is too much of a Pep resting risk and obviously Kane and Son have the difficult trip to Anfield.
Another Leicester clean sheet would go down an absolute treat and with Saint-Maximin still injured, Federico Fernandez flys the flag solo for our Toon Army boys.
Where do we start this week? Plenty to discuss. High scoring, lifting the curse, unlucky Ziyech, Bruno Fernandes the sub or maybe the Son faux pas? I think we’ll start positive – It’s got to be LIFTING THE CURSE!
We finally managed to put the armband on the correct arm in game week 11 after what seemed like a million week’s of wrong and costly picks. A Kevin De Bruyne goal, assist and win bonus resulted in 28 glorious points, a relief and a weight lifted from the shoulders like a baron striker ending a goal draught.
That KDB tally helped the team to a very respectable 64 points, which actually brings us nicely on to high scoring. The week’s average was a whopping 62, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a high mean number. I could be way off the mark but I can’t recall the average being in the 60’s too often. Anyone know the record? Anyway, when the mean is high like that, you know the big hitters have had good weeks – Kane, Salah, Son and the afore mentioned De Bruyne all chalking up the numbers. I was initially pleased with my total until I saw the scores of my opponents. Looking deeper at my XI, zero’s for Kilman and Barnes who didn’t play, whilst Ziyech only picked up the 1. Had they contributed a little bit more we would have been looking at a huge week. We can’t dwell.
I had high hopes for Ziyech a couple of weeks ago and it just hasn’t quite happened on a points scoring front, despite his impressive performances for Chelsea. It now looks like he’s picked up another injury which will probably sideline him until after Christmas – that’s 1 forced change this week for sure.
I mentioned last week about how having both Kane and Son in your team at the same time was a risk. This was on the grounds of how costly it could be if Spurs had an off day. Well, on that basis I transferred out Son – how foolish did that turn out to be?! The Tottenham duo scored and assisted each other. Then, to make matters worse, the player I bought in to replace the South Korean, Bruno Fernandes, started on the bench for Man United. You couldn’t make it up especially as I’d been plotting the Bruno move for weeks and had finally manoeuvred my squad around enough to get him in. Luckily enough though, he came on at half time and inspired a Manc comeback salvaging himself a respectable 45 minute, 5 points. Eventful Game week indeed.
Looking ahead to GW12, the fixtures to look out for on the fantasy front have to be Liverpool at Fulham and Tottenham at Crystal Palace. Notable mentions maybe for Leicester home to Brighton and even Arsenal home to Burnley – could this be the week Pierre-Emmerick Aubameyang finally starts his season, I’m not saying put him in but he has too much quality to continue this poor form for much longer. The plight of Arsenal this season shows how much they have relied on their talisman in recent seasons. I suppose the same could be mentioned for Alex Lacazette to an extent too.
Also, it’s worth mentioning to you guys, but not my work office rivals, that we have an early start this week as Leeds take on Aston Villa in the Friday night match. This means any changes to your squad must meet the earlier deadline, 18:30 friday tea time I think it is so there’s your heads up – don’t say I never tell you nowt.
PICKS: For the first time in months I’ve had to take a -4 points hit for transfers. One forced change was the earlier stated Ziyech injury meaning he needed replaced. The bottom line is, I needed to get Hyeung-Min Son back into the team. A good manager can admit when he’s made a mistake, my hands are held up. We learn and move on.
Now the problem we had here was, I didn’t have the funds to get the Premier League’s top scorer straight back in having used the budget on Fernandes. Bit of mixing the pack was required so out came Harvey Barnes and in came the cheaper Daniel Podence of Wolves. It’s worked out quite well to be honest. The reason being that Barnes has been left out of Leicester’s starting eleven a few times recently and we can’t be taking that sort risk – we need players who play week in, week out.
Podence, on the other hand, could potentially play more prominent role in Wolves’ campaign going forward with the unfortunate injury suffered to their main centre forward, Raul Jimenez. It’s a -4 I’m pretty happy to take when you break it down into logic.
So, with those 2 transfers I now have a midfield that contains De Bruyne, Fernandes and Son – STRONG is the only way to describe it.
In terms of captain’s pick this week we hope the curse does not return. Kane takes to arm band with Son accepting the vice role. And we save the best bit of team news for last – One TOON player returns to the lineup, Federico Fernandez comes back into the defence following Newcastle postponement last time out. My team felt bare without a beautiful black and white shirt in it. TOON TOON.
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.