It might sound strange, but it's during the break between the football seasons that I spend the majority of my time glued to the sports news channels.
For anyone else but those at the top of the league, those months without action offer hope: the chance for your team to buy big, to offload those merely along for the ride, and for you to kid yourself that your team is capable of actually winning a few matches.
But nothing much changes. Even the addition of a £20 million-plus signing with an unintelligible name tends not to make a difference.
If only for honouring this status quo, EA's FIFA 12 deserves some plaudits.
Balls to buttons
Yes, despite a subtle shift when it comes to presentation (the camera pulled back to give a wider view of the pitch), the bulk of FIFA 11 – and, most crucially, many of its problems – remains unchanged.
The controls are, once again, far from perfect. Unless the game is set to 'auto sprint' mode, where a double-tap of any directional key sends your player dashing, needing to hold the '*' key remains an awkward setup, given its position in the bottom left of the keypad.
In contrast, action key '5' lives up to its billing, handling almost every part of play, from passing and tackling to clearing the box with a defensive header.
It's largely the game that determines just which move you deploy and when, apart from when it comes to tackling, where FIFA 12 makes its one notable step forward.Sliding fortunes
Triggering a sliding tackle involves holding down the '5' key rather than tapping it. This brings up a gauge equipped with a sweet green spot – the closer you are to the ball, the bigger said spot gets.
It's a system that's designed to reward tight defending, but – as in real life - still allows you to snatch back possession if you're particularly skilful.
If only, however, the gameplay it was built around had made the same progress. Just like last year's effort, matches are slow affairs where the opposition seems to stalk your players to an unnatural degree.
While it's still possible to pass the ball around quite merrily without getting anywhere, attempting to break through the pack is unnecessarily painful, and the whole pace of play suffers as a result.
In light of this, it would be easy to brand this as a 'thinking man's football game', where a healthy bout of prudence wins the day. A more accurate description, however, is that the slow pace results in games where not much happens. Matches roll pass without event, without excitement, and most disappointingly without much fun.
Indeed, just like EA's last outing, FIFA 12's few attempts to mess with the formula do little for the package as a whole, delivering yet another mid-table effort from the former footie king.