During the Match

To achieve consistently good performances from your team you will need to adapt your tactics to the different situations that occur during each match. In order for you to properly analyse the action and decide upon the tactical changes required it is advisable to watch each match in the Full Match, Comprehensive or Extended views. The more of the action you see the more you will be aware of how your tactics are working, how your players are performing and how the opposition team may be causing your side problems.

Read Match Strategy and Tactics to learn more about how to adapt your tactics to the opposition and different match scenarios.

Using This Guide

As in the Tactical Planning guide, the tactical changes detailed here are only suggestions that you may want to consider. You should decide for yourself which of them are appropriate and whether they suit the types of players you have available, including any substitutes that you may be able to bring on. Where a tactical style is suggested, you may only want to adopt a certain aspect of that style, for instance by changing one or two specific team instructions. The Tactical Styles guide details appropriate specific team instructions for each style, along with whether the style suits a more defensive or a more attacking mentality.

On the other hand, you may decide that allowing your players to continue playing with your current tactic is all that is required until the situation changes, for example due to a goal being scored or time starting to run out, while you may want to make alternative tactical changes to those suggested here.

Your team should ideally have a good level of familiarity with any tactic that you choose to switch to. You should therefore try to prepare formations and tactical styles that are likely to provide you with the most useful tactical alternatives.

General Scenarios

Listed below are some general basic scenarios that you will encounter in matches, along with some suggested tactical changes that can be made in each.

You want to protect the current scoreline or defend against a very attacking opposition formation, but also make the most of attacking opportunities

  • A slightly more defensive mentality.
  • The counter attacking style.
  • A more cautious defending style.
  • A more defensive formation, such as one with one or two players in central defensive midfield, or with full backs instead of wing backs.
  • More defensive duties for your wide defenders, especially if the opposition moves their wide attackers forward.

You want to hold onto the current scoreline or defend against a very attacking opposition formation, and make little or no attempt to attack when in possession

  • A more defensive mentality.
  • A much more cautious defending style.
  • The keeping possession, time wasting or clearing the danger defending styles.
  • A more defensive formation, with at least one central defensive midfielder.
  • More defensive duties for your wide defenders, and possibly some other players.

The opposition team is sitting deep, possibly because they are holding onto a result or are a much weaker team

  • A more defensive mentality.
  • A more cautious defending style.
  • The passing through the defence or attacking with creative wingers attacking styles.
  • More attacking duties for your wide defenders.


  • A more attacking mentality.
  • The attacking the flanks or playing to a target man attacking styles.

You need to score quickly

  • A more attacking mentality.
  • A more aggressive defending style.
  • The attacking the flanks, running at the defence or playing to a target man attacking styles.
  • A more attacking formation.
  • More attacking duties for your wide defenders, and possibly some other players.

Changes Made by the Opposition

In addition to considering tactical alterations in the general scenarios given above you should look out for any formation changes and substitutions made by the opposition. Whenever such changes are made you may want to consider whether a different tactical approach could be beneficial, while you should also make any necessary updates to your opposition instructions. The suggestions made in the Opposition Weaknesses and Strengths section of the Tactical Planning guide can help you to decide what types of tactics may be suitable if the opposition makes fundamental changes to their set-up.

Opposition Player Performance

You should try to assess the performance and influence of opposition players while watching the match, paying particular attention to the space they are getting when both off and on the ball and the level of threat that they are posing when on the ball. You should also keep a regular check on the player ratings for the opposition team. This can be done using the opposition’s Team Ratings widget, which is accessed from the Match Day Information button in the bottom right-hand corner when watching the match in the Full Pitch view. As well as showing individual player ratings, this widget will allow you to see if any particular opposition player is carrying a knock.

If a particular opposition player is performing well or causing problems for your team then you may want to make tactical changes to restrict his threat if you did not do so pre-match. You can do this by:

  • giving a specific man marking instruction to a defensively capable player who is able to play in a position near to the target, as explained in the Tactical Planning guide;
  • setting appropriate opposition instructions for him;
  • changing your formation slightly to help deal with the player, for example by using an extra central defensive midfielder if he is a central attacking player;
  • giving a more defensive duty to your player who is best positioned to defend against the targeted player, regardless of whether you give him a specific man marking instruction, so that he stays back to cover.

If a particular opposition player is performing badly, then you may want to make tactical changes to exploit this weakness if you did not do so pre-match. You can do this by:

  • using a player whose qualities can exploit his weaknesses the most, for example a player with good Anticipation, Off The Ball, Acceleration and Pace against a player with poor Anticipation, Positioning, Acceleration and Pace, or a player with good Bravery, Work Rate, Jumping Reach and Strength against a player with poor Bravery, Work Rate, Jumping Reach and Strength;
  • changing formation and/or player duties so as to create overloads in that player's area of the pitch.

If a particular opposition player is tired or carrying a knock, then you may want to assign him a hard tackling opposition instruction to increase the chances of him picking up another knock, coming off injured or suffering a further fall in condition.

Red Cards and Injuries

If your team goes a man down following a red card or injury then it is advisable to try to keep your formation defensively solid by forfeiting an attacking player.

You may also need to revise your expectations for the match; for example, a draw may become acceptable even if you originally aimed to win. Therefore, you may need to consider using more defensive tactics in an attempt to protect the current scoreline as suggested above, or even to simply try to keep your team in the match before potentially switching to more attacking tactics later on if there is still a chance to salvage a result.

If the opposition team goes a man down then you may want to make changes to exploit this, such as switching to a more attacking formation or giving more attacking duties to your wide defenders. However, a more direct attacking style with a more attacking mentality will not necessarily be the best option as the opposition may choose to defend deep, which may require a more patient attacking approach as suggested above.

Making Substitutions

You can request to make a substitution at any point during a match from the Overview section of the Tactics screen by dragging the player you want to replace down to the player you want to bring on (you can minimise the Pitch panel to make this easier). After clicking Confirm Subs and giving an individual team talk if you wish, the substitution will take place during the next break in play. Alternatively, you can click the Make Substitution button when on the Full Pitch view.

You should generally try to substitute off your most tired players if possible. This will freshen up the team and also help to prevent injury, as well as jadedness later in the season if combined with effective squad rotation. A fresh substitute can be especially effective if he is up against a particularly tired opposition player. You can keep track of the condition of your players while watching the match using your side's Team Ratings widget.

In addition you should regularly check player ratings using this widget and try to replace under-performing players. Any player with a rating of 6.7 or below could be considered to be playing poorly, but this depends on how the rating compares to those of your other players. It is generally advisable to wait until the second half to bring off such players, since you may be able to inspire them with your half-time team talk. If they are still playing poorly after 55 to 60 minutes, react badly to your half-time team talk or have a rating below 6.0 at half time then it would be advisable to make the substitution.

You should be prepared to change your formation slightly to accommodate a substitute in some cases, for example if one of your strikers is under-performing and you have a particularly good attacking midfielder who could replace him.

In addition to bringing off tired or under-performing players, substitutions can be effectively used in the following circumstances:

  • When exploiting a weakness in the opposition, such as a vulnerable area created following a change in their formation, or an under-performing or partly injured player, by bringing on an attacking player in the appropriate position.
  • When possession is poor, by bringing on a midfielder with good First Touch, Passing, Technique, Decisions and Teamwork.
  • When struggling to create chances, by bringing on a creative midfielder or striker with good Passing, Technique, Creativity, Decisions, Flair and Teamwork.
  • When responding to a change to a more defensive approach by the opposition, by bringing on an attacking player.
  • When the opposition is reduced to ten men, by bringing on an attacking player to exploit your numerical advantage.
  • When changing to a more defensive mentality and looking to play on the counter attack, by bringing on quick wingers or strikers.
  • To deal with a particular player causing your team problems, by bringing on a defensively capable player in the appropriate position.
  • To deal with a quick attacker or an attacker with good aerial ability brought on by the opposition, by bringing on a defender with the appropriate qualities.
  • When responding to a change to a more attacking approach by the opposition or a need to hold on to the current scoreline, by bringing on a defensively capable player.
  • When your team is reduced to ten men, by bringing on a defensive player to ensure your formation remains defensively solid.

Further Reading

Inverting the Pyramid - guaranteed to give you a greater tactical knowledge and understanding.

Coaching the Tiki Taka - learn about the tiki taka style in detail.

The Manager: Inside the Minds of Football's Leaders - learn how to think like a football manager.

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