Default specific instructions will have been set by your chosen strategy. However, it is advisable to make your own adjustments. These settings will determine how your team plays as a whole but will not change individual player instructions.
It will often be appropriate to adjust your specific instructions according to the nature of the opposition you are set to face, the situation at a particular point in the game, the pitch dimensions or the weather conditions. However, when changing width or tempo your team's familiarity with the tactical system will be affected. You should therefore ensure that backup tactics are prepared using suitable alternatives for these instructions.
Read Inverting the Pyramid to further improve your tactical knowledge and understanding.
The more attacking your strategy is, the higher the default defensive line will be, that is, the further up the pitch your defensive players will advance when your team is in possession and be positioned when the team is not in possession. The default defensive line will also be higher if you have instructed your team to close down more, while it will be deeper if you instruct your team to close down less or if you position a player in defensive midfield.
A high defensive line is generally used in attacking strategies, often along with more closing down and harder tackling, to harry the opposition and win the ball back higher up the pitch. Since there will be a smaller gap between defence and midfield attacks can then be started more easily as well as from closer to goal. You will require fairly quick defenders with good Anticipation and Positioning to help stop through balls played behind the defensive line and to keep up with the opposition's attackers. A sweeper keeper would also be useful if you have a goalkeeper capable of playing this role. A deep defensive line suits defensive strategies as the defence will be harder to break down and there will be less space between the defence and the goal for the opposition to exploit. It therefore works well with less closing down and easier tackling. However, since it will invite pressure on to your defence it would be advisable to play with a defensive midfielder to cover the space behind the midfield.
The defensive line often needs to be adjusted according to the opposition faced and their style of attack. With a high line you will be vulnerable to opposition attackers getting behind your defence, particularly if they are quick and skillful. Therefore, it would only be advisable to play with a high line if your defenders are quick enough to keep up with the opposition's attackers. On the other hand, a deep line is vulnerable when playing against a team who use a direct passing style with a tall, strong target man up front, since he will be able to provide lay-offs and flick-ons to his teammates closer to your goal. Therefore, as long as your defence has enough Acceleration and Pace to cope with the other players in the opposition attack, you should consider pushing up your defensive line more when playing against such a team. Furthermore, if your defence is quick enough, a high line can be useful against opposition who use a shorter passing style as this will reduce their space and keep their attack further away from goal.
You should also take into account your pitch dimensions when setting your defensive line, as well as making adjustments according to the opposition's pitch dimensions for every away match. On a long pitch you should play with a higher line. This will reduce the gap between your defence and midfield that could otherwise be exploited by the opposition and your defenders will not be required to make passes over such long distances. Your defenders will also have more time to catch any opposition attackers that break clear behind your defensive line. On a short pitch you should play with a deeper line, thus reducing the chances of your defence conceding possession to pressing opposition attackers or being caught out by attackers breaking behind the line.
Width dictates how close to the touchlines your players, including those in central areas, will position themselves, particularly when attacking. It has less effect when your team is defending as defensive positioning settings such as marking and closing down will be of greater importance. More defensive strategies will play narrower to limit space for the opposition, with these defensive positioning instructions being used to deal with any threats down the wings. More attacking strategies will play with wider width by default, giving your team the extra space and options that will be required to play through the opposition.
However, you should generally adjust width to suit your formation and other tactical instructions. When using a formation with a number of players in central midfield and no natural wide players, playing wider can help give your team more space in midfield, whereas playing narrower would give very little options for your midfield players. In contrast, if your formation only has two players in central midfield then playing narrower will mean your centre midfielders will be given more support by your wide players, helping your team dominate possession in midfield or simply to compete against opposition flooding the centre of the pitch.
If you a playing a shorter passing style, particularly if your passing focus is mixed or through the middle, then playing wider will help give your team more space to pass around the opposition's players. With a more direct passing style that sees balls aimed to a tall, strong target man or wingers you could benefit from playing narrower. For instance, if you a playing direct to the head of a target man then teammates will be playing closer to him giving him more options to lay the ball off to, while if playing direct and focusing passing down the flanks then there is likely to be more space to play the ball in to for quick wingers to exploit.
A further factor to consider is your pitch dimensions. Narrow width will suit a wide pitch since gaps between players will otherwise be too large, while playing with more width will suit a narrow pitch. Generally, you would change the dimensions of your pitch at the start of the season to suit the tactics you normally play, however, this will not be possible if you do not own the stadium or you join a club in mid-season. In these cases you should check your pitch dimensions in the Facilities section of your club's Information tab.
For more attacking strategies, the default tempo will be quick, meaning that the team will play the ball forward more urgently with more attacking passes, while defensive strategies will use a slow tempo by default with the team passing the ball around more and building attacks more gradually. Generally though, your tempo should be adjusted to suit your passing style.
A Slow tempo suits a shorter passing style, as players will need more time to move the ball around and look for opportunities to play through the opposition. This will create fewer, but better, chances. A quick tempo will see the team attempt to attack more quickly, but when combined with shorter passing will often see mistakes made or the ball played to strikers before a proper opportunity has arisen. A fast, talented team with very good First Touch and mental attributes can achieve success playing a quick passing game with a more attacking strategy, controlling the game high up the pitch and creating more opportunities than with a slower tempo. However, for other teams it is normally not advisable. Tempo will be automatically reduced by selecting a shorter passing style, however, it may be necessary to reduce this further for more attacking strategies.
A quick tempo typically suits a more direct passing style with players attempting passes to advanced teammates earlier and from deeper positions. You should consider the Stamina and Work Rate of your players, as the quicker the tempo the harder your players will have to work and the easier they will tire. Equally, however, the opposing team will have to work harder and so a quick tempo can be useful if playing against tired or unfit opposition, or players with low Work Rate and Stamina. A quick tempo can be combined well with closing down more, as the quick tempo is retained when defending and the opposition is forced to match your side’s tempo even when in possession.
It will often be appropriate to change your tempo according to the situation faced in a game. For example, slowing the tempo when holding on for a result or quickening the tempo when chasing the game. Also, if playing against very defensive opposition you may need to slow your team's tempo to try and break down the defence.
Furthermore, you should consider the weather before each match. In hot conditions you may want to instruct your team to play with a slower tempo to help your players to conserve energy.
Default time wasting is set to be less frequent the more attacking your strategy is, as a team with an attacking mentality will want to focus on creating chances, while a defensive-minded team will look to run down the clock and frustrate the opposition. When designing your tactics this can be left at the default setting, although it will often need to be adjusted during matches, for example, after going behind in a game or when holding on to a narrow lead.
This is set to mixed by default but you should consider your formation, the relative quality of your wide players and central players, your team width setting, your passing style and the pitch dimensions.
If you are playing with quick, talented wide players it would be appropriate to focus passing down both flanks, while if your midfield and attack are stronger in the centre then it would be appropriate to focus passing through the middle. If you have one very talented wide midfielder or winger then you may want to focus passing down that player's particular flank so as to utilise their quality more, although it would be advisable to try and ensure you have quality on both flanks if possible. A mixed passing focus could be effective if you feel your attack is strong in all areas, in order to give more variety and unpredictability to attacks. In particular, a mixed focus will suit wide, slow tempo, shorter passing style tactics where the team passes amongst themselves looking for the best opportunities to create chances. This can also be a useful tactic if you do not feel any area of your midfield is particularly strong and do not have players suitable for using a more direct passing style. If focusing passing through the middle with a shorter passing style then playing wider can be effective in stretching the opposition and making it easier for your central midfielders to create chances.
If you are playing with a more direct passing style then you should consider the qualities needed by those attackers who will be targeted according to your passing focus. For example, if playing direct and through the middle you should have strikers with good First Touch, Heading, Jumping and Strength, such as a target man, in order to receive and hold up the ball, or good Off the Ball, Acceleration and Pace, such as a poacher, to chase long balls over the top. Whereas if focusing passing down the flanks it will more often be your wingers who receive direct balls and require such qualities.
In terms of pitch dimensions, focusing passing down both flanks will suit a wide pitch while focusing passing through the middle will suit a narrow pitch.
You may want to adjust your usual passing focus for a particular match if you feel the opposition is weak in a certain area of defence or if your scout's opposition team report suggests that they concede more goals from a particular area. If the opposition plays with a narrow formation then you may be able to exploit the extra space out wide by focusing passing down the flanks. Furthermore, changing passing focus during a match can be effective if a particular opposition defender is playing badly or picks up a knock.
Counter attacking will see your team try to make the most of their possession after winning the ball by attacking the opposition quickly whilst opponents are still out of position. If a counter attacking opportunity appears to be a possibility after your team gets control of the ball then they will temporarily play with a quicker tempo, with more players committed to attack, regardless of your normal tactical instructions. As such it is most useful when playing with a more defensive strategy, such as counter, for which it is a default setting, or defensive. These strategies will see your team sit deep and invite the opposition forward, leaving fewer opposing players back in defensive positions and so making them more vulnerable to a quick attack if they lose possession. Counter attacking is also a default setting for the overload strategy where your team will look to play quick, attacking passes at every opportunity.
Counter attacking is likely to be ineffective when using a more attacking strategy, such as control, against very defensive opposition that sit deep and keep a lot of men behind the ball, because a slower tempo will often be needed in order to create chances. Although, with a counter strategy you may be able to encourage such opposition forward more leaving some space for your side to counter attack into. Similarly, using the counter attack is unsuitable if you want your team to keep hold of possession.
When used with a more defensive strategy, counter attacking should normally be combined with a more direct passing style as this will more easily exploit the lack of opposition players in defensive positions when possession is won. However, it can also be effective to instruct your defensive players to pass the ball short to a deep-lying playmaker who can then launch killer balls to your attackers. Those players instructed to make mixed or direct passes will need good Passing, Technique, Creativity and Decisions. Your attacking players will require good Off the Ball, Work Rate, Acceleration, Pace and Stamina. They will typically need to be capable of chasing balls played behind the opposition's defensive line.
Regardless of your strategy, if you are using the counter attack you may want to ensure that your attacking players are given zonal marking and loose marking instructions so that they are better positioned for quick breaks.
When using the counter attack you should bear in mind that your tempo setting determines the urgency that the team will play at when not counter attacking. Therefore, you may want to use a fairly slow tempo, as set by default for the counter strategy, so that build-up play is more patient whenever your team is in possession but a counter attacking opportunity is not considered to be on.
If your team generally lacks Pace, along with the other attributes required, then counter attacking is likely to be ineffective. For example, if you are using counter attacking with the defensive strategy without the players required to effectively carry out a counter attack, this strategy could be rendered useless if possession is lost and the opposition themselves counter quickly. However, you should consider how your other tactical instructions will affect how the counter attacks take place. For example, if your tactics involve playing short passes to a creative midfielder (your team's playmaker), who will look to make direct through balls to a poacher (your target man), then it will mainly be your poacher who will need to be quick, with good Off the Ball, in order to chase down passes behind the opposition defence. If playing the ball direct to a strong target man or to quick wingers, then the rest of the midfield will need to be quick enough to keep up with play to support them. If you are counter attacking with quick, short passes then the speed of the whole team should be considered.
Playing the offside trap can be a useful method of bringing opposition attacks to a standstill. If done well, it is particularly useful when playing with a high defensive line as it will help reduce the chances of opposition attackers getting into the space behind your defence. Furthermore, playing with a high line will make it easier for your defence to catch opponents offside by pushing slightly further up and will also give your defenders a better chance of catching any opposition attackers who break the trap.
The offside trap will be more effective with an intelligent, well organised defence, made up of players who have played together for a long time and so are very familiar with each other. Your defenders will also need good Pace and Acceleration in case an opposition striker beats the trap. Good Anticipation, Concentration, Decisions, Positioning and Teamwork are essential, and it would also be worth considering if your defenders can speak a common language. A zonal marking system in defence and identical duties for both centre backs would suit the offside trap as the defensive line is likely to be better positioned as a result.
In particular, playing the offside trap can be useful when facing opposition who use a more direct passing style, especially if they are playing balls to a target man with good physical presence and aerial ability but poorer Pace. However, using the offside trap against fast strikers with good Off the Ball is a very risky strategy as they will be more capable of beating the trap and will be less likely to be caught by your chasing defenders. You should therefore take account of the relative speed of the opposition attack compared to your defence for each game in which you are considering the use of the offside trap. If, on the other hand, the opposition are using a shorter passing style then you can attempt to force them to play longer passes by closing down more often. However, as discussed in Playing Style, you should be careful not to do this against technically and mentally superior teams who will be able to either pass and move around or dribble past any players closing them down, while your centre backs should still be instructed to close down only in their own area.
Inverting the Pyramid - guaranteed to give you a greater overall tactical knowledge and understanding
Soccer Strategies - looks at the advantages and disadvantages of using different formations in defence and attack
Soccer Systems and Strategies - examines different tactical strategies
Transition and Counter Attacking - teaches you how to play against different opposition systems
Match Strategy and Tactics - discusses how to adapt your tactics to the opposition and different match scenarios