I have never really shared the complaints about "auto-goals", or similar complaints about "routine-goals".
First, I don't think that it is true that some types of goals are easily repeatable and impossible to defend against. If it was true, I would probably score more than one goal against James Beard. It is my impression that in 95% of all my possessions, the defender will or can have a say in the matter before the ball ends in his net.
Secondly, even if we admit that in some situations there is an "auto-move" to finish an attack, I don't agree that this is a problem in itself. On the contrary, I actually find it FUN to trap the ball and make a well-timed move around the keeper. I find it fun to make a well-timed header. Heck, I even find it fun to perform a corner-routine. The joy is in the challenge of performing a well-timed sequence of moves with my hands on the joystick. There is even a joy in performing a lob!
My general feeling is that there is a lot of joy in KO2 both in attacking and in defending. Even more so because there is a huge degree of dynamism between attack and defense, there is a lot of variety in the situations encountered, and there are a lot of challenging/interesting/fun decisions to make both as attacker and defender. I also find a lot of joy in discovering and practicing new ideas.
That being said, and relatively speaking, I don't find it particularly interesting to play with 4-2-4 against 4-4-2. The problem is that there is one specific type of attack that is much more effective than other types: The vertical shot or lob from nr. 10 to nr. 9. The biggest offensive challenge/joy for me in my games with Rodolfo is figuring out how to bring the ball to nr. 10. After that, there is not so much left to figure out. I still find a joy in performing the finishing move with a view to the small nuances of every concrete situation, but overall, the variety and level of decision-making and challenge of figuring out the concrete needs of a situation are not so big as when attacking against 5-3-2.
The key problem here is that when one specific type of approach is so much more effective than other types, the games will feature less variety and fewer interesting challenges. You can turn much of your brain off and still play well.
I agree with the essence of Robert's post. If you could just turn your brain off and effortlessly get behind nr. 2 or nr. 3 and score, then there would be a problem. But I don't agree that this is the case when attacking against 5-3-2. As I see it, there are several different types of attacks against 5-3-2 that are about equally effective. Or, they are the most effective one about equally often. I certainly can't turn my brain off when figuring out which one of these to use. And after having made my choice, I certainly can't expect to score without further effort (and challenge/joy, for both defender and attacker).
To add some meat to this observation, I can offer 6 common types of attacks (besides lobs...) that you can pick among against 5-3-2 (of course the boundaries between these types are not clear-cut), divided in two groups:
1) Diagonal crosses.
2) Direct lobs from midfield to the attack.
3) Flat shot-pass play.
Slower play involving dribbling:
4) Dribbling to reach the penalty area.
5) Dribbling beside the penalty area and combine with lateral pass.
6) Dribbling and finish with BLC.
I used all 6 types in my semifinals against Alkis, successfully and unsuccessfully. In practically all of my possessions, Alkis had (or could have had) a say in the matter. In general, I don't see much "auto" about the events in these games. It was a battle with a lot of variety and constantly changing concrete challenges, and a lot of dynamics between attack and defense.
The problem I have with Lockout is similar to the problem I have when attacking against 4-4-2. I feel that there is one type of attack that is much more effective than the alternatives (since the alternatives are much easier to defend against). So I feel that I turn much of my KO2 brain off when playing against Lockout since I almost always aim for this attack.
In general, I think I find KO2 most interesting when the most effective approach is an approach that dictates a lot of variety in the play and a lot of attack/defense dynamics. I don't really like to disagree with Robert, but I just don't think that Lockout helps in this regard.
Another observation, about "exploits" that are horrible for the game because "you can't defend against them".
I'd like to point to a principle with some hypothetical numbers:
1) Let's say that you score on 90% of your attacks. The only attacks that don't result in goals are attacks where the attacker screws up an easy action.
2) Then let's say that you score on only 10% of your attacks. The only attacks that result in goals are attacks where the defender screws up an easy action.
Both of these situations would normally be quite uninteresting. You only wait for a mistake from the opponent, and the only challenge for you is avoiding a mistake yourself. You can't really put pressure on your opponent.
If we play blitz vs. blitz, we are in situation 1. If we play lockout vs. lockout, we are in situation 2.
The interesting stuff happens in situation 3:
3) You score on 50% of your attacks. You score more often when you succeed in putting pressure on the defender, and less often when you don't. Likewise, you score less often if the defender succeeds in putting pressure on you, and more often if he doesn't.
So what is the connection of this to "exploits"? In my view, the connection is that it is exactly the "exploits" that allow you to put pressure on the defender. The challenge for the attacker is to seek out the "exploits", the challenge for the defender is to prevent the attacker from using them with success. If there were no "exploits", you could only score if the defender made an easy mistake.
So I really feel that the term "exploits" is unfortunate. I'd rather call them opportunities in the game without which you wouldn't be able to put pressure on the defender. Without them, everything would just be a grey mass of random "I feel lucky" actions where you wait for an essentially unprovoked mistake from the defender.
If the exploits were to be truly a problem, it would be because we were in situation 1 where the defender is only able to challenge 10% of your attacks. Then and only then would the term "exploits" be well-deserved.
The comparison to tennis is really good. If 90% of your serves were aces, it would be a huge problem. If 90% of the balls were decided by unprovoked mistakes, it would be a huge problem. Tennis becomes interesting somewhere in the middle between these two extremes. Likewise with KO2.
I think we are in the middle between the two extremes in KO2. Both in games between unexperienced players, and in games between experienced players. A score of 9-6 is no problem as long as the game is generally decided (not by random events but) by the difference in offensive as well as defensive performance.
And I still think that defense has a lot to say. When Robert writes that:
I know KO2 is not real football, but it's only half a game if there is no defensive option. The problem with KO2 has always been auto goals and the lack of effective defence against so many repetitive goals. In the end, it becomes about who is a more reliable finisher.... it's impossible to prevent goals so you have to score MORE.
he makes it sound like we are in situation 1. But the thing is that it is not impossible to prevent goals. Goals are prevented dozens of times in every game between experienced players. In fact, every time possession changes. It's true that, in some situations, it becomes difficult, even impossible, to prevent a goal. But these situations are the exception, not the rule
, and they ALWAYS result from earlier situations where it was NOT yet too late to prevent the goal.
And, as said, without these situations where the chance to score is higher (or even certain) than in other situations, there would be nothing to aim for, no subtasks to solve, but rather, the game would just be a grey mass of random actions without purpose
Finally, KO2 is difficult to master. In every game, there are dozens and dozens of offensive as well as defensive mistakes. We are so far away from playing perfect KO2. And, not least, it is still possible to provoke even more mistakes by putting pressure on the opponent.
OK, a final suggestion on how to look on this issue: Whenever you are in a "now it is too late for me to have any say in whether my opponent will score" (= an "exploit"), you can just mentally count it as a goal already. Compare it to a smash in tennis. You can't save the point if the opponent makes a decent smash. However, tennis is not decided by who is the most reliable smasher, just as there is much more to KO2 than just the question of who is the most reliable finisher.