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Opposition instructions can help your team to defend against the individual threats posed by particular opposition players. They do this by acting as an extension to the player instructions given by your tactic that only apply to specified opposition players.

You can set opposition instructions on the Opposition section of the match day Tactics tab. They can be set before the start of a match and can also be altered at any point in response to substitutions and formation changes made by the opposition, or to deal with players causing problems who were not identified pre-match.

If you prefer then you can ask one of your coaches to set these instructions for you by using the Apply Advice To Team button after selecting the coach from the drop-down. You can also ask your assistant manager to set them automatically by assigning him this responsibility on the Responsibilities tab of the Staff screen. The best advice is more likely to come from a coach with a good Tactical Knowledge attribute, while Judging Player Ability is also important. In addition, a coach's playing mentality, as shown on his profile, may influence the opposition instructions that he suggests. All of these qualities are shown for the currently selected coach on the Opposition Instructions screen.

A coach may not be able to advise on opposition instructions if he does not have sufficient Tactical Knowledge.

The advice discussed in this guide will help you to set opposition instructions yourself that can enable your team to defend against different opposition threats more effectively, although you may wish to use the advice of a coach as a starting point before modifying the instructions as you see fit.

Each opposition instruction is analysed below. Provided for each instruction is:

  • a brief description of how it affects your players;
  • other general advice about using the instruction.

1. Types of Opposition Instruction

Opposition instructions can be set for tight marking, closing down, tackling and show onto foot. Any tight marking, closing down and tackling opposition instructions that you set adjust or override the related player instruction, while the show onto foot opposition instruction is unrelated to other tactical instructions. If left unset (-), an opposition instruction has no effect on your tactic.

Opposition instructions can be applied in two different ways; either as player opposition instructions or as position opposition instructions. Player opposition instructions are set for the selected opposition player regardless of any changes to his position made by the opposition, while position opposition instructions are set for any player the opposition chooses to play in the selected position during the match. If conflicting instructions are set for an opposition player then the player opposition instructions take precedence. You can toggle between player and position opposition instructions using the Show Players / Show Positions button.

Player opposition instructions can be used to adjust how your team defends against particular opposition players according to the type of threat that they pose.

Position opposition instructions can be used to adjust how your team generally defends against opposition players in a particular position (you can still use alternative player opposition instructions to override these instructions for particular opposition players when desired). They can be especially useful in helping your team to defend against an opposition player whose position is not naturally covered by your own formation, such as a central attacking midfielder if you do not use a central defensive midfielder.

You can set default position opposition instructions to be used in all matches on the Opposition Instructions tab of the (non-match-day) Tactics screen.

The recommendations for each opposition instruction given below refer to player opposition instructions unless specified as position opposition instructions.

2. General Considerations

You should ideally consider the defensive abilities of the player or players on your team who are playing in the same area of the pitch as the opposition player an instruction is being applied to, as they will be the players most affected by the instruction. For example, if you have a player with poor tackling ability then it may be risky to instruct your team to hard tackle his direct opponent.

In addition, it is important to consider the effects of the tight marking, closing down and tackling opposition instructions on the defending instructions given by your tactic. Setting these instructions for too many players can completely change your desired defending style, and so it is advisable to instead restrict your use of these instructions to just a few opposition players as appropriate. For example, if your tactic uses a cautious defending style then instructing your players to tight mark, close down, or hard tackle too many opposition players will cause your team to lose its defensive shape and discipline.

3. Tight Marking

This affects how closely your players stay to the opposition player when marking him.

  • Related instructions: Use Tighter Marking (team), Mark Tighter (player).

3.1. Always

Can be useful:

  • Against a player with good creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision), and good passing ability (Passing and Technique) or crossing ability (Crossing and Technique), or a player with good long range shooting ability (Long Shots and Technique) - To restrict his availability and force him to move into less dangerous positions to receive the ball or simply have less space when he receives the ball, therefore reducing his effectiveness. If a player has good dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) then he may be able to take the ball past his marker more easily, but tight marking can still be preferable to giving him too much space to receive the ball. However, you should consider the mobility of the player, as explained below.
  • Against a dangerous goal-scoring attacker.
  • Against an attacker with good aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength) if his usual markers have better or similar aerial and physical presence.
  • As a position opposition instruction against a central attacking midfielder if you are not using a player in the central defensive midfield position.

Those players in the same area of the pitch as the opposition player should ideally have good marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Decisions and Positioning) and tackling ability (Tackling), as otherwise tight marking the opposition player may be ineffective. You should also take into account relative aerial presence (Jumping Reach), physical presence (Balance and Strength) and mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace). If the opposition player is able to win a physical tussle or aerial challenge with his marker or quickly move away from him into space then he will be able to take him out of the game.

You should not use this instruction against too many players as it can cause your own players to be dragged out of position, creating gaps and space for the opposition team to exploit, while it can also result in your players having less space when your team wins back possession.

3.2. Never

Can be useful:

  • Against an attacker with much better mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) than his usual markers or good attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) - So that he does not move away from your players into space so easily.
  • Against an attacker with much better aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength) than his usual markers - So that he does not take your defenders out of the game so easily by winning physical tussles or aerial challenges. Such a player can instead be dealt with by using a closing down always instruction.
  • Against a player with poor creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision) and passing ability (Passing and Technique) - To give him more space to receive the ball and encourage the opposition to play through him.
  • In combination with a closing down always instruction against a player with poor control (First Touch and Technique), dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) and mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace), or a player with poor focus (Composure and Concentration) - To encourage the opposition to play through him but make him less effective when on the ball.
  • In combination with a tackling hard instruction against a player with poor endeavour (Aggression, Bravery, Determination and Work Rate) and physical presence (Balance and Strength), or a player with poor morale - Again to encourage the opposition to play through him but make him less effective when on the ball.

You should not use this instruction against too many players as it can make it too easy for opposition players to find teammates in space.

4. Closing Down

This affects how early your players close down the opposition player when he is on the ball.

  • Related instructions: Close Down Much More, Close Down More, Close Down Less and Close Down Much Less (team and player). Mentality also affects closing down.

4.1. Always

Can be useful:

  • Against a player with poor mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace), control (First Touch and Technique) or dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair), or a player with poor focus (Composure and Concentration), particularly if other abilities such as good creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision), passing ability (Passing and Technique), crossing ability (Crossing and Technique) or long range shooting ability (Long Shots and Technique) make him a threat - To make him less effective when on the ball by putting him under pressure.
  • Against a player who has stops play or dwells on ball as a preferred move.
  • As a position opposition instruction against wide players in the full back positions or wing back positions if you are using a formation without wide players in the wide midfield or wide forward positions, or similarly against wide players in the wide midfield or wide forward positions if you are using a formation without wide players in the full back or wing back positions - To help to prevent these players having too much time and space on the ball in wide areas.
  • As a position opposition instruction against defenders with poorer creativity and passing ability, or with poor focus (Composure and Concentration) - To prevent the opposition team from building play from deep and instead encouraging them to attempt direct passes out of defence, or simply to put extra pressure on the opposition's defence and increase the likelihood of defenders making mistakes. You should ensure that your team's defence is able to deal with direct passes effectively. For example, the threat of an attacker with good aerial and physical presence can be reduced by using a high defensive line or a defender with good aerial and physical presence, while the threat of attackers with good mobility who could run onto long balls can be reduced by using a deeper defensive line or defenders with good mobility.
  • As a position opposition instruction against a lone striker with no support from central attacking midfield - To take advantage of his lack of support and make it difficult for him to hold up the ball or take it forward.

Those players in the same area of the pitch as the opposition player should ideally have good closing down ability (Aggression, Work Rate, Acceleration, Agility, Pace and Stamina), as otherwise closing down the opposition player may be ineffective.

You should not use this instruction against too many players as it can create gaps and space for the opposition team to exploit as well as tiring your players out, especially if they do not have good Stamina.

Furthermore, it is generally advisable not to use this instruction against strikers or central attacking midfielders, unless the opposition is playing a lone striker with no support from central attacking midfield. This is because it will often be your centre backs who take on the instruction to close down earlier which can leave too much space between them and the goal, as well as creating dangerous gaps that may be exploited.

A central attacking midfielder can be instead dealt with by instructing a defensive midfielder or central midfielder to specific man mark him. Both central attacking midfielders and strikers can also be dealt with using tight marking always instructions, as detailed above.

4.2. Never

Can be useful:

  • Against a player with good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) or dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) but poorer creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision), passing ability (Passing and Technique), crossing ability (Crossing and Technique) and long range shooting ability (Long Shots and Technique) - To make it more difficult for him to take the ball past your players into space.
  • Against a player with generally poorer attacking ability in a team with particularly dangerous attacking players in other positions - So that your own players concentrate on marking his more dangerous teammates to restrict their availability.

You should not use this instruction against too many players as it can give opposition players too much time on the ball, making it easy for them to make and execute decisions.

5. Tackling

This affects how early your players attempt to tackle the opposition player when they are with him and he is on the ball.

  • Related instructions: Get Stuck In and Stay On Feet (team), Tackle Harder and Ease Off Tackles (player). Mentality also affects tackling.

5.1. Hard

Can be useful:

  • Against a player with poor endeavour (Aggression, Bravery, Determination and Work Rate) and physical presence (Balance and Strength), or a player with poor morale - To make him less effective when on the ball by discouraging him from advancing with the ball and dribbling at your players.
  • Against a player with good creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision), and passing ability (Passing and Technique) or crossing ability (Crossing and Technique), but poorer mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) and dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) - To make him less effective when on the ball by making it harder for him to create chances.
  • Against a player who is tired, has already picked up a knock or who you know to be injury prone - To increase the likelihood of him picking up an injury.

Those players in the same area of the pitch as the opposition player should ideally have good physical presence (Balance and Strength) and tackling ability (Tackling, Anticipation and Decisions), as otherwise hard tackling the opponent may be ineffective.

You should not use this instruction against too many players as it can lead to poor discipline and opposition players dribbling past your players into space.

You may want to increase the number of opposition players that you target with this instruction slightly when the match referee is lenient or when you desperately need a goal and so need to win possession back quickly, and reduce it slightly when the referee is strict or you need to hold on to a result. Alternatively, you may prefer to use the related team and player instructions in such situations.

You can assess the strictness of the referee by checking how many yellow and red cards he has shown per match on the Match Preview screen before confirming your team selection.

5.2. Easy

Can be useful:

  • Against a player with good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) or dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) - To hold up his progress when he is on the ball and make it more difficult for him to take the ball past your players into space or draw a foul.

5.3. Normal

Can be useful:

  • If you want to alter tackling instructions on a player by a smaller amount - For example, you may be using the Get Stuck In specific team instruction but want tackling to be slightly easier on a particular opposition player.

6. Show Onto Foot

This tells your players which side to attempt to show the opposition player onto when they are close to him and between him and your goal.

6.1. Left Foot/Right Foot

These can be used to show the opposition's wide players, in particular its wide attackers or lone wide players, either outside (down the flank) or inside (towards the goal). For a left-sided player, selecting left foot will show him outside and selecting right foot will show him inside, with the opposite being the case for a right-sided player.

Can be useful:

  • As a position opposition instruction to show wide players outside - A wide player is likely to be less of a threat if he is kept on the flank as he will be restricted to attempting crosses or making simple passes to supporting teammates. However, your defence will still need to be capable of dealing with the threat posed by the opposition's other attackers from crosses. In particular, crosses from wide can be difficult to defend against if the wide player is playing on the side of his strongest foot and the opposition's attackers have better aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength) than your defenders.

6.2. Weaker Foot

Can be useful:

  • As a position opposition instruction against central midfielders and strikers - To reduce the effectiveness of their passes and shots. You may want to use a player opposition instruction to override this for players who are fairly strong on their weakest foot.
  • Against a wide player who is playing on the side on his strongest foot if the opposition's strikers have better aerial and physical presence than your central defenders - So that he will be less likely to attempt dangerous crosses from wide with his stronger foot. However, since this would show the wide player inside it is still quite risky, and not advisable if the attacking ability of the wide player makes him particularly dangerous or if the opposition's central attackers have good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) or attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball).

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