Since the introduction of Tactical Defending in FIFA 12, many gamers have struggled to come to terms with the basic principles of the system. I’ve witnessed endless defenders stretching limbs out aimlessly, only for attackers to glide effortlessly past and score easy goals.
The key thing to understand is that you can no longer simply mash buttons and hope to win back possession. Defending is a skill. Patience is the most important factor. Waiting for the man to take a heavy touch, make a sloppy pass, or wander into a crowded area of the pitch to present the opportunity to win the challenge is vital. Below are some of the biggest factors you need to consider when using tactical defending. A lot of these may sound like they’ve come straight from the real sport, but that’s only because Tactical Defending is a pretty good reflection of how defending is handled.
Use the second man press
Calling a second defender to press the ball can really help win possession back quickly. Not only does it often force attackers into making errors, but the AI controlled defender is also more composed and times tackles better than you or I could ever hope to.
When you first initiate the second man press, make sure the man who comes across doesn’t leave gaps in the middle of the pitch. If the AI elects to bring a centre back or other unhelpful player, let go of the button then press it again in order to have a different man come and press the ball.
Control a second defender several yards behind the man pressing the ball, goal-side. This way, if the attacker chooses to take on the AI defender, any heavy touch used to beat him will allow you to jump in and take advantage.
Don’t spam the tackle buttons
Time your tackles, don’t sprint in and mash the tackle buttons hoping to win the challenge. Initiating a tackle commits your player to an animation that, should you fail to make contact with the ball or player, leaves you vulnerable and allows the attacker to sprint through. Now, with push-pull also, you will be more likely commit silly fouls and receive bookings for shirt pulling.
Holding both triggers allows you to ‘jockey’, which in essence is a faster side-step that gives you more control and quicker changes of direction when defending a player on the ball. Sprint to an opponent, then transition to this when you get within five or so yards. Wait for the attacker to take a heavy touch on the ball, or try a sharp change of direction, then make your attempt. If you fail to win back the ball, try and recover and get goalside once again. If the attacker has beaten the defender, quickly switch to another man and close him down to stop any easy shots.
Don’t press the ball in isolation
Closing down the opposition is only effective when done in numbers. Closing down the opposition’s defence as the lone striker will only tire out your front man as the defence passes along the back line. Wait for the ball to make its way closer to the half way half-way line, allowing your midfield to join in with the pressing, and your defence to step up and close any space between the midfield. Equally, don’t control one man and press every pass from one side of the pitch to the other. Continue to switch player so that the appropriate defender is pressing his corresponding assignment. For example, your right midfielder should shut down the opposition’s left-back.
If you want your team to defend higher up the pitch, switch your tactics to “High Pressure”, or have a look at your custom tactics and and change your defensive numbers.
Don’t be afraid to slide tackle
Slide tackling is very difficult to pull off successfully, and rightfully so, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Make sure that your player is running with good momentum before slide-tackling, otherwise he won’t travel very far when he hits the ground. In adverse conditions, he will slide even further than he normally would, so take this into consideration when you play games through the winter months. Players who are naturally better defenders will be more effective at slide tackling, and will be able to win the ball without fouling even if they tackle from behind the man on occasion.
Try to get as close to the ball carrier as possible before slide tackling, because you need to make a strong connection with both man and ball for the tackle to be effective. if you fail to hit the ball hard, it will only roll a little away from the man who can then change direction and regain it. If you don’t hit the man, he will simply hurdle you and avoid the challenge altogether.
The best times to use a slide tackle are when you’re running at the ball carrier head-on or you stand a good chance of knocking the ball out of play. Avoid slide tackling in your own penalty box as much as possible for obvious reasons.
Look for mismatches
Stronger players will always out-muscle weaker opposition in a battle for the ball. Get in front of the attacker, hit tackle, and he will simply barge the player out of the way and take possession. If you have a big holding midfielder against small, quick wingers or strikers, look to utilise him to press the ball early and snuff out any counter-attacks.
There is such a thing as a good foul
If you’re about to fall victim to a quick breakaway and your defence is left outnumbered, conceding an early foul in your opposition’s half and taking the booking is more beneficial than losing the goal. Just don’t do this too often, as you’ll find yourself down a player or two very quickly and then you’re in real trouble.