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To create an effective tactic for your team, as discussed in the Tactics guide, you should primarily consider the strengths and weaknesses of your players. It is then quite possible for you to achieve success over the course of a season by going into each match with this same tactic, and making tactical changes according to the different scenarios that occur during the match.

However, the possible benefits of proper tactical planning before a match should not be underestimated. By identifying weaknesses and strengths in each of the opposition teams that you face, along with other possible influencing factors, and adapting your tactics accordingly, you can increase your chances of getting good performances from your team consistently from match to match.

The easiest way to indentify the weaknesses and strengths of your team's next opposition is to analyse an opposition team report. The use of these reports is explained briefly below, and examples of what to look for are given. Following your assessment of an opposition team you will need to decide whether and how to adapt your tactics for the match to exploit the weaknesses and counter the strengths that you have found. To help you with this, various possible opposition weaknesses and strengths are listed, along with suggested tactical changes for each.

Finally, a few other factors that you may also want to consider are discussed. These include weather and pitch conditions, pitch dimensions and referee strictness.

0.1. Using This Guide

The tactics detailed in this guide 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 that you have available, or whether you would prefer to simply use your usual tactic that suits your own players' strengths and weaknesses.

You should also bear in mind the following:

  • Weaknesses and strengths of opposition players should be considered relative to those players who will be playing directly against them. For example, the mobility of the opposition defenders should be considered against the mobility of your attackers. This may include players who you plan to bring into the starting line-up specifically to exploit a weakness or to counter a threat.
  • 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.

1. Opposition Team Report

If you have assigned a scout to report on your team's next opposition then he will prepare you with an opposition team report a few days before the match. You can also ask one of your scouts to provide you with a team report on any team at any time.

Setting up scouting assignments on opposition teams and viewing team reports is explained in the Scouting Assignments guide.

A team report can draw your attention to any particular weaknesses and strengths that the opposition team may have. For example:

  • The Squad Depth section shows you the ability star ratings for the team's players according to your scout - This can highlight the team's best and worst players, giving you a starting point for assessing the abilities of individual players in more detail.
  • The Tactics section shows data about the formations the team has played with and against - This can give you an idea of the team's likely formation and how successful it has been when playing against your own team's prepared formations.
  • The Last Match section shows stats from the team's last match and provides a link to view the match - This can allow you to assess how the team set up and performed in its last match, in particular the formation, roles and duties that it used as shown on the Formations section of the Analysis tab when viewing the match. You can also view the team's other recent matches on its Schedule tab, which can be especially useful in checking how it set up against teams of a similar quality to your own team.
  • The Goals section displays data about the types of goals the team has scored and conceded - This can provide clues as to how the team attacks and the sort of attacks it may be more vulnerable to.
  • The Comparison section shows how the team rates in certain important attributes relative to your own team - This can highlight where your team may have an advantage or disadvantage in relative abilities.

1.1. Opposition Match Analysis

Perhaps the most useful part of a team report though is the Match section. This allows you to analyse different events in the team's recent games and can provide you with further details of how the team plays that you cannot gain simply through looking at its formations, roles and duties. For example, you can assess:

  • The average positions of the team's players - This can show how the team's formation is used in practice; for example, whether it tends to be wide or narrow, how attacking certain players tend to be in their position and whether certain players, such as a striker, tend to be fairly isolated or have support.
  • Where mistakes were made and who made them (on the Movement view) - This can indicate the extent to which the team tends to concede possession, as well as which players tend to concede possession more and so could perhaps be put under more pressure.
  • Where tackles and interceptions were attempted and who attempted them, as well as where fouls were committed and who by - This can indicate where the team's strengths and weaknesses tend to be in defence.
  • Where aerial challenges were won or lost and who won or lost them - In attack this can indicate the extent to which the team tends to use direct passes, as well as which players tend to be the most likely recipients of direct passes. In defence this can indicate how well the team tends to defend against direct passes and how successfully specific defenders tend to defend against direct passes.
  • Which players completed the most passes and, in particular, which players made the most key passes (on the Stats tab of the Passes view) - This can indicate which players tend to pose the greatest passing threat and so could require particular attention.
  • Where runs were made and who made them (on the Movement view) - This can indicate the extent to which the team tends to use direct dribbling, as well as which players tend to dribble more and so could require particular attention.
  • Where crosses were attempted from and who attempted them - This can indicate how often the team tends to use crosses on each flank and therefore how likely you are to need to defend against crosses from each side.
  • Where shots were taken from and who took them - This can indicate the extent to which the team tends to shoot from distance, as well as which players tend to shoot the most and so may require particular attention.
  • Where scoring chances were had and who had the chances - This can indicate the extent to which the team tends to create chances and how good the chances tend to be, as well as which attackers tend to have the most chances and so could require particular attention.

If you use such an analysis to assess an opposition team, however, then it is advisable to examine at least a few recent matches to ensure that you gain a fuller picture of the team's tactics and performances. Again, analysing its matches against teams of a similar quality to your own team is especially useful.

2. Opposition Weaknesses & Strengths

Listed below are some general weaknesses and strengths that you may want to look for in the opposition team, along with some suggested changes that you can make to your team’s line-up, formation or tactical style.

2.1. Exploiting Opposition Weaknesses

Lack of players in the central midfield and defensive central midfield positions (for example, only two players in these positions with little support from central attacking midfield), or poor general defensive abilities in these areas.

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team plays very wide.

  • A more patient attacking style with shorter passing focused mainly through the centre using Exploit The Middle, such as the Passing Through The Defence style. This can help your team to gain control in the middle of the pitch.
  • Alternatively, a quicker attacking style with shorter passing focused mainly through the centre using Exploit The Middle, such as the Running At The Defence style, especially if the opposition team lacks both numbers and general defensive abilities in central midfield.
  • Play Narrower to help your team to dominate play in central areas.
  • Three or more players in the central midfield and attacking central midfield positions.
  • A player in central attacking midfield, especially if the opposition team has no central defensive midfielder.

Defenders and defensive players who have poor mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace).

  • A more patient attacking style, such as the Counter Attacking, Passing Through The Defence, or Attacking With Creative Wingers styles. This can encourage the opposition team forward, allowing your players more space to attack into behind the defence.
  • Alternatively, a quicker attacking style, such as the Running At The Defence or Attacking The Flanks styles, to more frequently test the mobility of the defence.
  • One or more attackers who have good mobility and attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) in areas where the opposition defence has poor mobility. A more attacking player behind a supporting player can help to create overloads in these areas.
  • Passing focused to the area where the opposition defence has poor mobility; for example, using Exploit The Middle or Exploit The Flanks.

Defenders and defensive players who have poor aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength).

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team tends to defend poorly against direct passes.

  • An attacking style with more direct passing focused to the area where the opposition defence has poor aerial and physical presence or tends to defend poorly against direct passes (for example, using Exploit The Middle or Exploit The Flanks), such as the Playing To A Target Man or Attacking The Flanks styles.
  • Alternatively, a more patient attacking style and Exploit The Flanks to encourage more crosses to be made.
  • One or more attackers who have good aerial and physical presence in the areas where the opposition defence has poor aerial and physical presence or tends to defend poorly against direct passes, along with sufficient support for these attackers.
  • Float Crosses or Whipped Crosses to take advantage of the better aerial and physical presence of your attackers.

Central defenders who have poor general defensive abilities.

Your analysis indicates defensive weakness in the central areas or defensive strength in the wide areas.

  • At least one central attacker who has good attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) or dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair). Good attacking movement can be particularly effective against a defender with poor marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning), while good dribbling ability can be particularly effective against a defender with poor tackling ability (Tackling and Decisions).
  • Three or more players in the central attacking midfield and striker positions to try to overload the opposition team's central defenders. A more attacking player behind a supporting player can help to create overloads
  • Exploit The Middle.
  • Low Crosses or Whipped Crosses to take advantage of the opposition defenders' poor marking ability.

One or both wide defenders have poor general defensive abilities.

Your analysis indicates defensive weaknesses in one or both wide areas or defensive strength in the central areas.

  • A wide attacker on the appropriate flank (or two wide attackers) who has good attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) or dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) and who stays wide rather than cutting inside. Good attacking movement can be particularly effective against a defender with poor marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning), while good dribbling ability can be particularly effective against a defender with poor tackling ability (Tackling and Decisions).
  • One or more overlapping wide defenders who have good attacking movement or dribbling ability to try to overload the opposition team's wide defenders, perhaps in combination with Look For Overlap.
  • Exploit The Flanks, possibly as part of the Attacking The Flanks style.

Attackers who have poor mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace), attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) and dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair).

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team's attackers do not tend to make a lot of successful runs.

  • A higher defensive line, possibly as part of a more aggressive defending style. This can keep the opposition attackers further away from your team's goal where they are likely to be less effective, and allow your defence to provide better support to your midfield. Use Offside Trap may not be necessary if your team's defenders have better mobility than the opposition attackers since they should be able to catch them if they get behind the defensive line. In fact, playing the offside trap can instead make it more difficult for your team's defenders to get back quickly enough if the trap is beaten.

Wide attackers who have poor mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) and general attacking abilities, wide players who have more defensive roles and duties, or no players in the winger positions.

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team's wide players take up less advanced positions.

  • Wide defenders who have good general attacking abilities and more attacking roles and duties (on the appropriate side if only relevant to one of the opposition team's flanks). This can be particularly effective against lone wide players or wide defenders with little support from their wide partners.
  • Wide defenders who have good endeavour (Work Rate and Stamina) and who can contribute to attacking play but still track back to help defend when needed.

Attackers who have poor aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength).

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team tends to play unsuccessful direct passes.

  • Prevent Short GK Distribution to encourage the opposition team's goalkeeper to use longer distribution which can be more easily dealt with by your defence.
  • Close Down More or Close Down Much More specific player instructions for your attackers or close down alwaysopposition instructions for opposition defenders to encourage the opposition to make more direct passes from deep areas.

Generally poor focus (Composure and Concentration), mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace), control (First Touch and Technique) and dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair).

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team often concedes possession.

  • Close Down More or Close Down Much More, possibly as part of a more aggressive defending style.
  • Closing down always opposition instructions for those players who have poor ratings in these attributes or who have been identified as often conceding possession.

Generally poor endeavour (Aggression, Bravery, Determination and Work Rate) and physical presence (Balance and Strength).

  • Get Stuck In, possibly as part of a more aggressive defending style.
  • Hard tackling opposition instructions for those players who have particularly poor endeavour and physical presence.

A very defensive formation or very poor overall ability.

  • A more patient attacking style, such as the Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers styles. This can help to create gaps and space against an opposition team that is likely to sit very deep and defend extremely cautiously, often referred to as “parking the bus".
  • 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 it more vulnerable defensively 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 team, as well as to try to force and exploit mistakes.

2.2. Countering Opposition Strengths

For a particularly dangerous opposition player you may want to use a specific man marking instruction. This tells one of your players to shadow the opposition player wherever he goes on the pitch in order to restrict his availability to his teammates when he is off the ball and his time and space when he is on the ball, therefore limiting his ability to influence the match. For such marking to be effective your player should have good marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning), and preferably good tackling ability (Tackling and Decisions) and physical presence (Balance and Strength).

However, the nature of man marking means that the marker can easily be dragged out of position, and so the instruction should be considered carefully. It is advisable not to give specific man marking instructions to more than one player in the same area of the pitch, or to central defenders as it is important for them to stay in their positions.

You can give a player a specific man marking instruction by accessing his specific player instructions at any time during or immediately before the match (after confirming your team selection) and using the Mark Specific Player drop-down list in the Defending category.

A defensive formation with five or more players in the central midfield, defensive central midfield and central defender positions, or very good general defensive abilities in these areas.

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team plays very narrow.

  • A more patient attacking style, such as the Counter Attacking, Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers styles, using a deep midfield playmaker. This can encourage the opposition team forward, allowing your players more space to attack into behind the defence.
  • Alternatively, a quicker attacking style that bypasses central midfield, such as the Playing To A Target Man or Attacking The Flanks styles.
  • Exploit The Flanks where the pitch is likely to be less congested.
  • One or more overlapping wide defenders who have good attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) or dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) to try to overload the opposition team's wide defenders, perhaps in combination with Look For Overlap.
  • Play Wider to give your players more space.
  • Float Crosses if the opposition defenders have good marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning), unless they also have better aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength) than your attackers.

Attackers who have good aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength).

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team tends to play successful direct passes.

  • A higher defensive line, possibly as part of a more aggressive defending style. If the opposition attackers also have good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) then Use Offside Trap or using defenders who have good mobility can help to reduce the risk of a high defensive line.
  • One or more defenders and defensive players who have good aerial and physical presence in the areas where the opposition attack has good aerial and physical presence or tends to play successful direct passes to.
  • A tight marking always opposition instruction for an attacker who has particularly good aerial and physical presence or who tends to win aerial challenges often, as long as you are confident that he will be competing against a defender who has better or similar aerial and physical presence. You should keep checking the position of the attacker throughout the match in case you need to change the position of his marker. Otherwise, tight marking never and closing down always opposition instructions can be used.
  • Specific man marking of an attacking midfielder who has particularly good aerial and physical presence or who tends to win aerial challenges often by an appropriate midfielder who has better or similar aerial and physical presence.

Defenders and defensive players who have good aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength).

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team tends to defend well against direct passes.

  • A more patient attacking style with shorter passing, such as the Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers styles. Your team will be more likely to keep the ball on the ground and so less likely to lose possession with unsuccessful aerial passes.
  • Alternatively, a quicker attacking style with shorter passing, such as the Attacking The Flanks or Running At The Defence styles.
  • Low Crosses or Whipped Crosses to reduce the use of high crosses that are likely to be headed away.
  • Exploit The Flanks to avoid aerial balls into central areas, especially if using an attacking style with more direct passing. If you are using an attacking style with shorter passing then Exploit The Middle can be used to reduce the number of crosses attempted.

Attackers who have good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace), attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) or dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair).

Your analysis indicates that opposition attackers tend to make a lot of successful runs.

  • A more cautious defending style.
  • If instead you use a high defensive line then Use Offside Trap can help to reduce the occurrence of situations where your defenders have to chase opposition attackers who get behind the defensive line. However, opposition attackers who have good attacking movement are more likely to beat the offside trap.
  • One or more defenders and defensive players who have good mobility and general defensive abilities, and more defensive roles and duties, in the areas where the opposition attack has good mobility, attacking movement or dribbling ability, or where opposition attackers tend to make at lot of successful runs.
  • Specific man marking of a player who has particularly good mobility, attacking movement or dribbling ability, or who tends to make a lot of successful runs, by a player in an appropriate position who has good mobility and general defensive abilities. For on the ball runs tackling ability (Tackling and Decisions) is particularly important while for off the ball runs marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning) is particularly important.
  • A tight marking never opposition instruction for a player who has particularly good mobility or attacking movement or who tends to make a lot of successful off the ball runs, and closing down never and easy tackling opposition instructions for a player who has particularly good mobility or dribbling ability or who tends to make a lot of successful on the ball runs.

Wide players who have good mobility or general attacking abilities, or wide players who have more attacking roles and duties.

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team's wide players take up advanced positions.

  • Wide defenders who have good general defensive abilities and more defensive roles and duties (on the appropriate side if only relevant to one of the opposition team's flanks).
  • A holding midfielder playing off-centre to give extra protection on one side, either because of a bigger threat on that side or a wide defender who has poorer general defensive abilities or a more attacking role and duty.
  • If the opposition winger on one side is less of a threat then a holding midfielder playing off-centre can be used to help to protect that side instead of a wide defender who has good general defensive abilities or a more defensive role and duty, allowing this defender to provide more attacking support.
  • The Defending The Flanks defending style, especially if your team has a narrower formation than the opposition team.

Three or more players in the central attacking midfield and striker positions or central attackers who have good general attacking abilities.

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team's central players take up advanced positions.

  • Ideally, one player in either central defence or defensive central midfield, or a holding midfielder in central midfield, for each opposition player in these areas. However, wide defenders can also help defend against off-centre attackers in a narrow opposition formation.
  • Defensive and supporting players who have good general defensive abilities in central positions.
  • The Defending The Middle defending style, especially if you are using a wider formation than the opposition team.

A midfielder or attacker who has good creativity (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision) and passing ability (Passing and Technique), especially if he has a playmaker role, or possibly a wide player who has good crossing ability (Crossing).

Your analysis indicates that a player poses a passing threat or attempts crosses often.

  • Specific man marking of the player by a player in an appropriate position, who preferably has good endeavour (Aggression and Work Rate), physical presence (Balance and Strength), Stamina and general defensive abilities, to make it harder for him to distribute the ball dangerously. This can be particularly useful if the opposition team uses a deep midfield playmaker, since such a player tends to otherwise receive a lot of space, while he will not be able to create space for attacking teammates by dragging his marker (a more attacking midfielder) out of position.
  • Tight marking always, closing down always and hard tackling opposition instructions for the player.
  • If your defenders are capable of dealing with the opposition team's crosses then you may prefer not to focus on preventing crosses being made. To help you to decide whether this is the case you can consider your defenders' aerial presence (Jumping Reach) and physical presence (Balance and Strength) if the opposition attackers have good aerial and physical presence, and their mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) and marking ability (Marking, Anticipation, Concentration and Positioning) if the opposition attackers have good mobility and attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball).

Midfielders or attackers who have good long range shooting ability (Long Shots and Technique).

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team tends to attempt a lot of successful shots from distance.

  • Tight marking always and closing down always opposition instructions for one or two players who have particularly good long range shooting ability or who attempt a lot of successful shots from distance.

A very attacking formation with four or more players in the wide and central attacking midfield and striker positions, or very good general attacking abilities in attack.

Your analysis indicates that the opposition team tends to have a lot of good chances against teams of a similar quality to your own.

  • A more cautious attacking style, such as the Counter Attacking style.
  • A more cautious defending style.
  • Supporting and defensive players who have good general defensive abilities.
  • A tight marking always opposition instruction for a particularly dangerous attacker who tends to have a lot of good chances.

A good scoring record or threat from free kicks.

  • You may want to instruct your team to Stay On Feet, possibly as part of a more cautious defending style.

3. Other Factors

In addition to the strengths and weaknesses of both your own team and the opposition team, when planning your tactics you might want to consider the effects of the weather and pitch conditions, the pitch dimensions and the strictness of the match referee. All of these factors can have slight effects on the success of different types of tactics.

3.1. Weather and Pitch Conditions

Adapting to certain weather and pitch conditions can potentially offer a small benefit, especially in cases where the conditions are more extreme. Therefore, you may want to slightly adapt or even switch your tactical style if it is not suited to the conditions faced by your team.

Wet weather and a poor pitch, especially when combined together, can make short passing more difficult. The centre of the pitch in particular is likely to be most affected by such conditions. Therefore, you may want to use an attacking style that avoids this area, such as the Attacking The Flanks or Playing To A Target Man styles.

In particularly hot conditions on the other hand, a more patient attacking style with shorter passing, such as the Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers styles, can help your players to conserve energy and keep up performance levels for longer. Furthermore, if your team can keep possession well then the opposition players may become exhausted from chasing the ball.

The expected weather for a match can be seen on the Home screen and on the Senior Fixtures tab of the Schedule screen, and is best checked on match day for more accuracy. A stadium's pitch condition can be checked by clicking the stadium name on the Senior Fixtures tab. Both are also shown on the Match Preview screen before you confirm your team selection.

3.2. Pitch Dimensions

Pitch dimensions only have a minor effect on the success of a tactic and do not tend to vary greatly between teams in a league division. Therefore, they can generally be ignored. It can, however, be worthwhile to consider your usual tactical style when choosing your club’s pitch dimensions before the start of the season. You may also find that your team occasionally faces an opposition team that has noticeably different pitch dimensions to those that your team normally plays on.

If a pitch is short or narrow then a more patient attacking style with shorter passing is most effective. Also, on a narrow pitch playing wider will help give your players more space, while passing is best focused through the middle.

If a pitch is long or wide, including if it is both long and narrow, then a quicker, attacking style with more direct passing is most effective, unless the pitch is both wide and short. On a wide pitch, playing narrower is advisable so that there is not too much space between players, while passing is best focused down the flanks.

A stadium's pitch dimensions can be checked by clicking the stadium name on the Senior Fixtures tab of the Schedule screen. You can also compare pitch dimensions for all the teams in the league division that your team competes in on the Stadiums section of its Overview tab.

3.3. Referee Strictness

If the match referee is particularly strict then you may want to use the Stay On Feet specific team instruction to reduce the likelihood of fouls being committed, possibly as part of a more cautious defending style.

On the other hand, if the referee is lenient then you may want to take advantage by using the Get Stuck In specific team instruction, possibly as part of a more aggressive defending style.

However, other factors, such as the abilities of your players and of the opposition players, are more important when deciding on your defending style. Therefore, if you do wish to adapt your team's tackling to the strictness of the referee then it is advisable to only make slight changes using specific player instructions and opposition instructions. This allows you to gain more control over tackling according to the abilities of both sets of players.

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