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To get consistently good performances from your team you will need to adapt your tactics to the different scenarios that occur during each match. Provided below is advice on how to watch a match and assess your tactic, how to react to different match events and when to make substitutions.

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 tactics detailed below are only general suggestions that you may want to consider. You should decide for yourself which of them, if any, are appropriate and whether they suit the types of players you have available, including any substitutes that you may be able to bring on. 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 running out, while you may want to make alternative tactical changes to those suggested here.

You should also bear in mind the following:

  • 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 or changing mentality. If you are already using a suggested style then you may want to exaggerate an aspect of the style by using an appropriate specific team instruction or adjusting the mentality.
  • Your team should ideally have a good level of tactic familiarity for any tactic that you choose to switch to. You should therefore try to prepare tactics that you believe are likely to provide you with the most useful alternatives.

The Tactical Styles guide suggests appropriate specific team instructions for each of the tactical styles referenced below, and also details whether each style suits a more defensive or a more attacking mentality. The Match Preparation Training guide discusses how to prepare alternative tactics.

Watching the Match

To help you to properly analyse the action and decide upon appropriate tactical changes it is recommended that you watch each match using one of the 2D cameras or an aerial 3D camera. This allows you to see the positioning of all players on both teams at all times. Once you have gained experience in analysing matches you may prefer to use a different camera.

Pausing at various moments throughout each match can also be very useful in helping you to assess the positioning of players. In particular, it is useful to check the positions of players on both teams in the different phases of play; when the opposition is attacking, when the opposition has just won possession, when your own team has just won possession and when your own team is attacking.

In addition, it is advisable to watch Full Match, Comprehensive or Extended highlights during a match, at least until you are happy with how the match is progressing. The more of the action that 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 players problems.

Assessing Your Tactic

When watching a match the key thing to try to assess is your tactic, in terms of both how well it is being carried out by your players (tactic operation) and how well it is working against the opposition team (tactic effectiveness).

To properly assess this you firstly need to take into account your chosen tactical style, as this determines how you want your team to be playing; in particular, how you intend chances to generally be created (your attacking style) and how you intend opposition chances to generally be prevented (your defending style).

As such, the things that you should consider when assessing both tactic operation and tactic effectiveness, and their relative importance, depend greatly on your tactical style. For example, possession and finding space off the ball in attack are important for almost all attacking styles, but they are of even greater importance for possession based attacking styles such as the Passing Through The Defence and Attacking With Creative Wingers styles.

Nethertheless, important general points that it is recommended to consider are listed below.

Tactic Operation

You should pay particular attention to how well your tactic operates in practice when in the process of testing and developing a new tactic that you have implemented. Even once you have spent time fine-tuning your tactic, an assessment of tactic operation during a match can still be beneficial in helping you to judge the performance of your team and the performances of individual players, enabling you to make substitutions or other tactical changes accordingly.

Things to consider when assessing how well your tactic is being carried out by your players include:

  • Whether the positioning of your players when your team is in possession is well staggered (players standing in different horizontal lines rather than in flat lines) and appropriately spaced apart - The player on the ball should have sufficient support and passing options in different directions (both forwards and backwards) to allow for effective link-up play between players. You should look for triangles created between groups of three players, as these are important to enable passing options to always be available each time the ball is moved on. Players, especially attacking players, should have sufficient attacking support and not be isolated.
  • Whether the positioning of your players when your team is defending is well staggered and appropriately spaced apart - The different zones of the pich should be well covered but without sizeable gaps being apparent, allowing less space to be exploited by opposition players. Players, especially defensive players, should have sufficient defensive support so as not be be vulnerable to an opposition attack in their zone.

The positioning of a player is determined largely by his position and duty, and so you may need to adjust these accordingly. A role also affects how defensive or attacking a player's behaviour is and so impacts on his positioning.

  • Whether each player is performing his tactical role effectively in order for the tactical style to operate as desired, and whether these roles appear well balanced - You should ensure that your players are performing the tasks that you expect of them. For example, in a typical balanced midfield and attack a runner should be making runs off the ball to find space, create space for teammates, or provide attacking or defensive support to teammates, a creator should be staying deeper so he can receive the ball and then create chances for players ahead of him and a holding midfielder should be staying deep to protect the defence and provide an option for recycling possession. On the flanks, you may want a more attacking wide player to be staying near the touchline to provide a wide passing option to help your team to stretch play and perhaps get crosses into the penalty area. In central attack, you may want a target man with good aerial or physical presence to have close support from an attacking teammate.

The Roles & Duties guides discuss how to select balanced roles and duties for your players that suit your tactical style.

Tactic Effectiveness

The effectiveness of different tactical styles can vary against different opposition teams. You may have already accounted for this in your tactical planning. However, it may be that you did not carry out such planning or that the opposition team plays differently to how you expected, while in most matches the opposition team will make changes during the match that you will need to react to. Therefore, an assessment of tactic effectiveness can be vital in helping you to identify tactical problems that need to be solved.

Things to consider when assessing the effectiveness of your tactic against the opposition team include:

  • Whether your players are able to find space to receive the ball - If your players are being marked out of the game then they do not provide effective passing options, making it difficult for your team to attack. If an individual player is being well marked then this may not be a problem as long as he is using appropriate off the ball movement to try to create space for teammates, whether through forward runs or roaming, and has good enough mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) and attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) for this to be effective. In particular, creators need to find space so that they can receive the ball and create chances for teammates, but there should always be sufficient passing options for the player on the ball. The triangles discussed above will be ineffective if each of the three players in the triangle is well marked by an opposition player. However, in some cases a player being marked may be a good thing. For example, you may have an attacker whose tactical role primarily involves him using his aerial or physical presence to win physical tussles with his marker, therefore taking his marker out of the game and potentially creating space for teammates.

If a creator in particular is not finding enough space then you may want to try to focus play through a different creator, or you may want to instruct him to Roam From Position (as long as he is not a holding midfielder) so that he can at least open up space for others, preferably including at least one other player in a fairly creative role, by dragging away opposition players. If players in a particular area are struggling to find space then you may want to focus passing elsewhere. For example, you could use the Attacking The Flanks style if your wide players are generally available, perhaps after instructing them to Stay Wider. If your players in general are having difficulty finding enough space then you may want to use an attacking style that relies less on space, such as the Playing To A Target Man style, or that is more effective at creating space, such as the Counter Attacking, Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers styles.

  • Whether your players are being given time on the ball - If your players are closed down quickly then they may be rushed into making a decision that could be ineffective. If an individual player is being closed down quickly then this may not be a problem if he has good enough focus (Composure) and intelligence (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision) to make good decisions under pressure, or good enough dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) to take the ball past an opposition player. Again, if a creator is struggling with opposition players closing him down then this can be a particular problem.

If an individual player is not being given enough time on the ball then you may want to simplify his role, for example, by instructing him to Pass It Shorter and make Fewer Risky Passes. Although, if this is a problem for a creator or a group of players in an area then you may want to try similar adjustments to those discussed above for marked players. If your players in general are having difficulty against an aggressive defending style then you may want to consider using a deeper, more patient attacking style such as the Passing Through The Defence or Attacking with Creative Wingers styles to try to exploit the space behind the opposition team. In particular, the Counter Attacking style can be useful against an aggressive defending style.

  • Whether opposition players are being given too much space - Likewise, you should try to ensure that opposition players who are off the ball are being either marked or covered for. If you want particular opposition threats, such as creative players, to be closed down more quickly, tight marked or specific man marked then you should check that this is being done effectively and is not causing problematic gaps to appear.

If a player is not being picked up then you may want to adjust the duty, or possibly the position, of an appropriate player, or to give an appropriate player a specific man marking instruction. Further advice on how to defend against particular opposition threats is given in the Tactical Planning and Opposition Instructions guides.

  • Whether your players are able to perform your attacking style effectively given the tactic of the opposition team and individual opposition player abilities and performances - For example, controlling possession with the Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers attacking styles may be difficult against an opposition team that has a number of players or high quality players in central midfield. Exploiting defensive vulnerabilities with the Counter Attacking attacking style may be difficult if the opposition team does not venture forward or has very good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) in defence. Taking advantage of an attacker with good aerial presence (Jumping Reach) or physical presence (Balance and Strength) with the Playing To A Target Man attacking style may be difficult if the opposition defence has the physical abilities to deal with him or if the opposition pushes up and uses a high defensive line. Making good use of wide play and crosses with the Attacking The Flanks attacking style may be difficult if the opposition defence is able to comfortably deal with crosses or prevent your wide attackers getting crosses in, or if the opposition pushes up to keep your wide attackers in deeper areas. Making good use of direct dribbling with the Running At The Defence attacking style may be difficult if the opposition defenders stay rigid and hold off your attackers or if they have the defensive abilities to easily win the ball off your attackers.
  • Whether your players are able to perform your defending style effectively given the tactic of the opposition team and individual opposition player abilities and performances - For example, a more cautious defending style may be ineffective against an opposition team that plays direct to an attacker with good aerial presence (Jumping Reach) or physical presence (Balance and Strength) or focuses play down the flanks to make crosses from the byline, while a more aggressive defending style may be ineffective against an opposition team that moves the ball well along the ground and finds space in the gaps created, counter attacks quickly into the space left behind your players or uses direct dribbling to advance through your defence.

If your tactical style proves to be ineffective against the opposition team then you may need to adjust it accordingly or even change to a different style.

Reacting To Match Events

General Scenarios

Listed below are some general basic scenarios that you will encounter in matches, along with some suggested tactical changes that you may want to consider making in each scenario.

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, perhaps combined with the Counter Attacking attacking style and a more cautious defending style.
  • A more defensive formation, such as one with one or two players in the central defensive midfield position, or with wide defenders in the full back positions instead of the wing back positions.
  • More defensive roles and duties for your wide defenders, especially if the opposition moves their wide attackers forward.

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

  • A more defensive mentality, perhaps combined with a very cautious defending style, such as the Keeping Possession, Time Wasting or Clearing The Danger styles.
  • A more defensive formation, with at least one player in the central defensive midfield position.
  • More defensive roles and duties for your wide defenders.

The opposition team is playing more defensively and sitting deeper to try to hold on to a result.

  • A more patient attacking style, such as the Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers styles, to help to create gaps and space.
  • Alternatively, a quicker attacking style that makes use of direct dribbling, such as the Running At The Defence style, to try to destabilise the opposition defence.
  • Alternatively, a quicker attacking style that uses attackers who have good aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength) to take advantage of a deep opposition defence, such as the Playing To A Target Man or Attacking The Flanks styles.

  • A more cautious defending style to try to encourage the opposition team forward when it has possession, making them more vulnerable when your team wins the ball back.

  • Alternatively, a more aggressive defending style to try to win the ball back quickly and give your team more time in possession to try to break through the opposition, as well as to try to force and exploit mistakes by the opposition.

  • More attacking roles and duties for your wide defenders.

You need to score quickly.

  • A more attacking mentality and a more aggressive defending style, perhaps combined with a quicker attacking style, such as the Attacking The Flanks, Running At The Defence or Playing To a Target Man styles.
  • A more attacking formation.
  • More attacking roles and duties for your wide defenders.

Changes Made by the Opposition

In addition to considering tactical alterations in general scenarios such as those listed above, it is advisable look out for any formation changes and substitutions made by the opposition team. Ideally, you should also watch the match attentively, as discussed above, to observe the effects of any opposition changes on your tactic.

Whenever such changes are made you may want to consider whether a different tactical approach could be beneficial, make any necessary updates to your opposition instructions, and maybe make appropriate substitutions as discussed below.

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 team makes fundamental changes to its set-up, while the Opposition Instructions guide provides advice on setting opposition instructions.

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 that they are getting when both off and on the ball and the level of threat that they are posing when on the ball.

You can also keep a regular check on the player ratings for the opposition team by using the opposition’s Team Ratings widget, accessed from widgets button at the bottom right of the Full Pitch screen. As well as showing individual player ratings, this widget allows you to see if any particular opposition player is carrying a knock. In addition, you can view both player ratings and the player statistics that contribute to each rating on the appropriate sections of the Stats tab.

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.
  • 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 role and 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 more 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 the Exploit The Flanks, Exploit The Left/Right Flank or Exploit The Middle specific team instruction as appropriate to focus passing into his area of the pitch.
  • Using a player whose abilities can exploit his weaknesses the most. For example, you might want to use a player who has good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) and attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) against a player who has poor mobility and marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning), or a player who has good endeavour (Aggression and Work Rate) and physical presence (Balance and Strength) against a player who has poor endeavour and physical presence.
  • Changing player roles and duties, and possibly your formation, so as to create overloads in that player's area of the pitch. A more attacking player behind a supporting player can help to create overloads.

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

Red Cards and Injuries

If your team goes a man down following a red card or injury then it is generally 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 targetted a win. Therefore, you may need to consider using a more defensive tactic to try to protect the current scoreline as suggested in the general scenarios above, or even just to try to keep your team in the match before potentially switching to a more attacking tactic later 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 using a more attacking tactic as detailed for the scenario listed above where you need to score quickly. However, a quick attacking tactic may 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 for such a scenario.

Making Substitutions

You can request to make a substitution at any point during a match by using the Make Substitution button. You have the option to give the player coming on an individual team talk if you wish, and the substitution will take place during the next break in play.

You should generally try to substitute off your most tired players if possible; that is, those who have the lowest condition. This will freshen up your team slightly and so help to keep up the performance level, while it will also reduce the likelihood of injuries occurring during the match. Furthermore, such an approach has additional fitness benefits during a season.

Advice on substituting tired players and details of the resultant benefits to fitness are provided in the Player Fitness guide.

In addition, it is advisable to try to replace those players who you believe are significantly underperforming relative to the rest of your team. As for opposition players, the best way to assess the performances of your own players is through watching the match, discussed in more detail above. However, you may prefer to simply check player ratings and to consider substituting those players who have a low rating compared to the average rating of your other players, while you can also check the player statistics that contribute to each rating.

As for opposition players, you can keep track of the condition and ratings of your own players while watching the match using your side's Team Ratings widget, while both player ratings and player statistics can be viewed from the different sections of the Stats tab.

When assessing a player's performance you should bear in mind the nature of his role within your tactic. For example:

  • A player in a less glorified position and role, such as a central defender or defensive midfielder in a dominant team, may have less involvement in a match and a less impressive rating despite not playing badly.
  • A striker, particularly in the poacher role, who relies to a large extent on service from teammates may have a quiet performance if your other players have not created chances for him effectively, despite him making good runs and finding space.
  • Similarly, a midfield creator, whose job is to create chances for your attackers, may struggle to do this if your attackers are not finding space effectively, perhaps due to a lack of movement or efficient defending by the opposition defence.
  • A creator or runner in midfield or attack may be being marked out of the game by an opposition player, but his off the ball runs or roaming into space may still be helping to create space for teammates to exploit.

It is also important that you consider whether a player's possible underperformance is actually a tactical issue that needs to be addressed. For example, the roles and duties of your players may lack balance, as discussed above, which may lead to one or more players not receiving enough support from teammates.

It is generally advisable to wait until the second half to bring off underperforming players, since you may be able to inspire them with your half-time team talk. If they are still playing poorly after, say, 55 to 60 minutes, react badly to your half-time team talk or have a rating below 6.0 at half time then it is advisable to make the substitution if you have an appropriate replacement.

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

  • When changing your tactical style or formation, to bring on a player more appropriate for your new tactic. For example, an attacker who has good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) when switching to the Counter Attacking style (or simply when adopting an aspect of this style, for example when changing to a more defensive mentality).
  • When identifying a weakness in the opposition team, such as an underperforming or tired player, or a vulnerable area created following a change in its formation, a substitution or a knock picked up by a player, by bringing on a player in the appropriate position who has abilities that could exploit the weakness effectively. For example, a fresh substitute with good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace), and perhaps either good attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) or good dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair), can be particularly effective if he is up against a tired opposition player or a player with poor mobility and marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning).
  • When possession is poorer than expected, by bringing on a midfielder who has good creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Teamwork and Vision) and passing ability (Passing and Technique) to help to dictate play. You should bear in mind how much possession you would expect your team to have based on the relative quality of the two teams and the importance of possession to your tactical style. For instance, the Counter Attacking style and direct styles such as Playing To A Target Man rely less on possession.
  • When struggling to create chances, by bringing on a midfielder or attacker who has good creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision) and passing ability (Passing and Technique) to find players making runs, or good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) and dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) to try to destabilise the opposition defence. Alternatively, it may be that you need an attacker with good mobility and attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) to make effective runs off the ball that can be used by your creative passers.
  • When the opposition team is reduced to ten men, by bringing on an attacking player to try to exploit your numerical advantage.
  • When you have identified a particular opposition player who is causing your team problems or when the opposition team has brought on a threatening player, by bringing on a player who has the appropriate abilities to play against him. For example, a defender who has good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) and marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning) against an attacker who has good mobility and attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball).
  • When your team is reduced to ten men, by bringing on a defensive player to ensure that your formation remains defensively solid.

You may need to switch players around or even change your formation slightly when making a substitution in some cases. For example, you may not have a like-for-like replacement on the bench for the player who you wish to bring off but you may be able to use a player already on the pitch in another position and bring a substitute on to replace that player instead.

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