Tactical styles were introduced in the Assessing Your Team guide where some suggested styles were given. The Mentality guide then explained that each tactical style suited either a more defensive or a more attacking mentality, while the Team Shape guide suggested suitable team shapes for each style.

Having looked in detail at the effects of each of the specific team instructions, the tactical styles can now be developed further by considering which of these instructions can be added to your mentality and team shape to achieve each style. Some additional defending styles that you may want to use as alternatives to the basic defending styles introduced earlier are also included.

Each style can be applied in various different ways depending on your desired approach. To reflect this, several possible alternative instructions are suggested for each style along with brief explanations, where considered necessary, of why you might want to use a particular instruction in the style.

However, it is important that you think carefully about the instructions you choose and how they affect your tactic, rather than simply selecting the suggested instructions. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you read the rest of the Tactics guide up to this point if you have not already done so and if you do not already have a good understanding of how tactics work. It is also recommended that you develop your tactical style gradually by taking a trial and error approach and observing the effects of different instructions on your team during matches.

Some of the suggested instructions for each style are classified as related to mentality. This means that their effects are already set to some extent by the related mentality type (more defensive or more attacking). These instructions can be used where a more explicit adoption of the style, or aspect of the style, is desired, or to adopt the style when not using the related mentality type. Similarly, you should also take into account how your team's creative freedom may have already been affected by your chosen team shape before using the Be More Expressive or Be More Disciplined instructions.

Remember that tactical styles are made up of both attacking and defending styles. It is suggested that you choose a mentality to suit your desired attacking style, then use specific team instructions to define this attacking style and, if necessary, ammend the basic defending style set by your mentality to achieve your desired defending style.

For general recommended player attributes for each style see the Assessing Your Team guide. For a more detailed selection of suggested attributes look up each of the instructions used in your style in the Specific Team Instructions guide.

Suitable roles for each attacking style will be suggested in the Roles and Duties guides.

Remember that this is not a comprehensive list of styles and you may want to come up with your own or combine aspects of the different styles suggested here.

1. Attacking Styles

1.1. More Defensive Mentalities

The following attacking styles naturally suit more defensive mentalities.

1.1.1. Counter Attacking

  • Main characteristics: plays more cautiously and attacks on the break.

Your team will use quick attackers to break through the opposition defence by playing deeper, keeping more players behind the ball and using shorter passes among those players in more advanced positions to encourage the opposition forward, before using more direct passes from deep to release the attackers into the space created. A strong attacker may also be used to receive these passes and allow your other players to move forward and into space when necessary.

The Cautious defending style (discussed below) is typically used with the Counter Attacking style to encourage the opposition forward when your team is not in possession. Either style can also be combined with other attacking styles to incorporate an element of counter attacking play.

Suggested Instructions
  • Team shape: Flexible, structured or highly structured.
  • Related to mentality: Play Narrower, Drop Deeper or Much Deeper Defensive Line, Stick To Positions, Lower Tempo or Much Lower Tempo.
  • Recommended adaptations to mentality: none.
  • Also recommended: Be More Disciplined (to encourage safer use of the ball and to follow a precise attacking strategy).
  • Alternative passing options: Go Route One or More Direct Passing (to get the ball forward more purposefully to quick attackers, perhaps via a strong attacker, rather than trying to draw the opposition forward) or Retain Possession or Shorter Passing (to play more cautiously or to draw the opposition even further forward), Pump Ball Into Box or Clear Ball To Flanks (to get the ball forward even more directly from deep to a strong attacker).
  • Passing focus options: Exploit The Flanks (to release quick wide attackers on the break who are less likely to be caught offside than central attackers, or to use strong wide attackers to hold up the ball) or Exploit The Middle (to release a quick central attacker on the break or use a strong central attacker to hold up the ball). Alternatively, target man roles can be used to focus passes to strong attackers.
  • Additional options: Work Ball Into Box (to help your team keep possession) or Shoot On Sight (to make the most of opportunities when your team has the ball), Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses (depending on players).

1.1.2. Passing Through The Defence

  • Main characteristics: controls play in the higher areas of the pitch, plays through the opposition using central attackers.

Your team will mainly use creative players in more advanced central positions to break through the opposition defence by playing deeper, keeping more players behind the ball, building up play carefully with short passes from the back and playing with more width. This will allow your players to get the ball forward before patiently passing it around the pitch and making off the ball runs until space is created which your creative players can exploit.

Suggested Instructions
  • Team shape: Flexible, fluid or very fluid.
  • Releated to mentality: Lower Tempo or Much Lower Tempo.
  • Recommended adaptations to mentality: Play Out Of Defence, Play Wider, Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up.
  • Also recommended: Work Ball Into Box (to allow build-up play to develop).
  • Alternative passing options: Retain Possession or Shorter Passing (to build up play in advanced areas in an even more controlled manner and give more responsibility to particular creative players to unlock the defence), Pass into Space (to give more responsibility to all players to unlock the defence).
  • Passing focus options: Exploit The Middle (to encourage build-up play through creative central players or to use central players with good off the ball movement to penetrate the defence). However, this may lead to an under-utilisation of wide players to help penetrate the defence. Alternatively, playmaker roles can be used to focus play through particular creative central players.
  • Additional options: Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses (depending on players), Run At Defence, Roam From Positions, Be More Expressive (any of these three to incorporate more variety, unpredictability and dynamic movement), Look For Overlap (to help penetrate the defence by overloading the flanks).

1.1.3. Attacking With Creative Wingers

  • Main characteristics: controls play in the higher areas of the pitch, plays through the opposition using wide attackers.

Your team will mainly use creative players in more advanced wide positions to break through the opposition defence by playing deeper, keeping more players behind the ball, building up play carefully with short passes from the back and playing with more width. This will allow your players to get the ball forward before patiently passing it around the pitch and making off the ball runs until space is created which your creative players can exploit.

Suggested Instructions
  • Team shape: Flexible, fluid or very fluid.
  • Related to mentality: Lower Tempo or Much Lower Tempo.
  • Recommended adaptations to mentality: Play Out Of Defence, Play Wider, Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up.
  • Also recommended: Work Ball Into Box (to allow build-up play to develop).
  • Alternative passing options: Retain Possession or Shorter Passing (to build up play in advanced areas in an even more controlled manner and give more responsibility to particular creative players to unlock the defence), Pass into Space (to give more responsibility to all players to unlock the defence).
  • Passing focus options: Exploit The Flanks (to encourage build-up play through creative wide attackers). However, this can affect the passing decisions of these wide players when they cut inside. Alternatively, playmaker roles can be used to focus play through creative wide attackers.
  • Additional options: Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses (depending on players), Run At Defence, Roam From Positions, Be More Expressive (any of these three to incorporate more variety, unpredictability and dynamic movement).

You may be tempted to use Look For Overlap to instruct your wide defenders to get forward and provide width, but this can have the undesired effect of making your creative wide attackers play with less attacking intent. This instruction is more appropriate when using less creative and skilful wide attackers. Instead, appropriate roles and duties for your wide defenders can be used.

1.2. More Attacking Mentalities

The following attacking styles naturally suit more attacking mentalities.

1.2.1. Playing To A Target Man

  • Main characteristics: plays direct to a strong central (or wide) attacker.

Your team will mainly use a strong attacker to break through the opposition defence by playing higher up the pitch, getting more players ahead of the ball and aiming more direct passes towards the strong attacker. This will allow him to more effectively set up chances close to goal using his physical power and simple passes to teammates giving him close support. Depending on whether the strong attacker is central or wide, an appropriate team width will enable his teammates to give him even closer support.

Suggested Instructions
  • Team shape: Flexible, structured or highly structured.
  • Related to mentality: Play Wider (if using a strong wide attacker), Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up, Much Higher Tempo or Higher Tempo.
  • Recommended adaptations to mentality: Play Narrower (if using a strong central attacker), Stick To Positions.
  • Also recommended: Go Route One or More Direct Passing (to get direct passes forward to a strong attacker), Hit Early Crosses (to deliver crosses from deep to a strong central attacker), Float Crosses or Whipped Crosses (to deliver high crosses to a strong central attacker).
  • Alternative passing options: Pump Ball Into Box or Clear Ball To Flanks (to get the ball forward even more directly to a strong central or wide attacker even closer to goal).
  • Passing focus options: Exploit The Flanks (to focus passes to a strong wide attacker) or Exploit The Middle (to focus passes to a strong central attacker). Alternatively, target man roles can be used to focus passes to strong attackers.
  • Additional options: Work Ball Into Box (so players get the ball close to goal before shooting) or Shoot On Sight (to instruct more speculative shots in addition to just getting the ball into the area), Be More Disciplined (to follow a precise attacking strategy).

1.2.2. Running At The Defence

  • Main characteristics: pins back the opposition defence, plays through the opposition using central attackers.

Your team will mainly use quick, skilful attackers to break through the opposition defence by playing higher up the pitch and getting more players ahead of the ball. This will allow your attackers to more effectively use their speed and skill to run at the opposition defence and create chances close to goal.

With a shorter passing specific team instruction selected, this style can also be thought of as a quicker, more attacking version of the Passing Through The Defence style, with dribbling used as an alternative threat.

Suggested Instructions
  • Team shape: Flexible, fluid or very fluid.
  • Related to mentality: Play Out Of Defence, Play Wider, Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up, Much Higher Tempo or Higher Tempo.
  • Recommended adaptations to mentality: none.
  • Also recommended: Run At Defence (to use more runs on the ball to try to break through the opposition, so as not to rely too much on quick passes and runs off the ball which might easily lead to possession being lost).
  • Alternative passing options: Go Route One or More Direct Passing (to get the ball forward more directly to skilful attackers, ideally via a strong central or wide attacker) or Retain Possession or Shorter Passing (to use quick passes along the ground to destabilise the opposition's defensive structure), Pass Into Space (to combine runs on the ball with creative, risky passes from all players, rather than just particular creative players).
  • Passing focus options: Exploit The Flanks (to encourage the use of wide players who can make runs on the ball into central areas) or Exploit The Middle (to encourage on the ball runs through central players). However, the latter may lead to an under-utilisation of wide players to help penetrate the defence. Alternatively, playmaker roles can be used to focus play through particular creative and skilful central players.
  • Additional options: Work Ball Into Box (so attackers take the ball closer to goal before shooting) or Shoot On Sight (to incorporate more shots into a generally direct approach), Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses (depending on players), Roam From Positions, Be More Expressive (any of these two to incorporate more variety, unpredictability and dynamic movement).

1.2.3. Attacking The Flanks

  • Main characteristics: pins back the opposition defence, plays through the opposition using wide attackers.

Your team will mainly use quick, skilful wide attackers to break through the opposition defence by playing higher up the pitch and getting more players ahead of the ball. This will allow your wide attackers to more effectively use their speed and skill to run down the flanks and provide crosses to teammates getting into the opposition penalty area.

Suggested Instructions
  • Team shape: Any, depending on your players and desired approach.
  • Related to mentality: Play Out Of Defence, Play Wider, Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up, Much Higher Tempo or Higher Tempo.
  • Recommended adaptations to mentality: none.
  • Also recommended: Exploit The Flanks (to focus passes to skilful wide attackers).
  • Alternative passing options: Go Route One or More Direct Passing (to get the ball forward more directly to skilful wide attackers, perhaps via a strong central attacker) or Retain Possession or Shorter Passing (to build up play with quick, short passes along the ground in advanced areas), Pass Into Space (to instruct creative, risky passes from all players, rather than just particular creative players, including wide attackers).
  • Additional options: Work Ball Into Box (so players focus even more on getting the ball to the flanks rather than shooting) or Shoot On Sight (to incorporate more shots into a generally direct approach), Float Crosses, Whipped Crosses or Low Crosses (depending on players), Run At The Defence (to encourage on the ball runs from all attackers, not just wide attackers), Roam From Positions, Be More Expressive (any of these two to incorporate more variety, unpredictability and dynamic movement).

2. Defending Styles

2.1. More Defensive Mentalities

The following defending styles naturally suit more defensive mentalities. However, the suggested instructions can still be used to adapt the basic defending style set by more attacking mentalities if desired; for example, to achieve a direct attacking style that also allows for some element of counter attacking play.

2.1.1. Cautious

This is the basic defending style set by more defensive mentalities which was discussed in the Mentality guide.

It should be combined with the Counter Attacking attacking style if you want to achieve a pure counter attacking approach as it will allow your players to encourage the opposition forward when your team is not in possession.

  • Related to mentality: Play Narrower, Drop Deeper or Much Deeper Defensive Line, Close Down Less or Close Down Much Less, Stay On Feet.

2.1.2. Defending The Middle

This is for use against opposition playing with a narrower formation than yours.

Your players will tighten up and hold their defensive positions. After winning possession they will attempt to play counter attacking passes into the wide areas where there will be more space and less possibility of being caught offside.

  • Related to mentality: Play Narrower, Drop Deeper or Much Deeper Defensive Line.
  • Also recommended: Exploit The Flanks.
  • Additional options: Use Tighter Marking.

2.1.3. Keeping Possession

This is a way of defending when in possession by slowing down the game.

Your players will stay tight and try to keep hold of the ball, rather than trying to penetrate the opposition. This can help them conserve energy, while a technically capable team can use it to prevent the opposition from getting any of the ball and to tire them out, before later attacking with more purpose. Alternatively, a technically capable team can use this style to waste time when in the lead.

  • Related to mentality: Retain Possession, Play Narrower, Stick To Positions, Lower Tempo or Much Lower Tempo.
  • Also recommended: Work Ball Into Box, Take A Breather, Be More Disciplined.
  • Additional options: Waste Time (with the defensive or contain mentalities).

2.1.4. Time Wasting

This is a way of defending when in possession by employing time wasting tactics.

Your players will try to waste as much time as possible. This can be a more effective way of running down the clock for technically poor teams than trying to keep possession.

  • Related to mentality: Stick To Positions, Waste Time (with the defensive or contain mentalities).
  • Also recommended: Clear Ball To Flanks, Shoot On Sight, Play Even Safer (with the contain mentality), Be More Disciplined.

2.1.5. Clearing The Danger

This is a way of defending when under heavy pressure.

Your players will attempt to clear the ball quickly into safer areas, perhaps with some intention to counter attack.

  • Related to mentality: Play Narrower, Drop Deeper or Much Deeper Defensive Line, Close Down Less or Close Down Much Less, Stay On Feet.
  • Adaptations to mentality: Much Higher Tempo or Higher Tempo.
  • Also recommended: Go Route One, Clear Ball To Flanks.

2.2. More Attacking Mentalities

The following defending styles naturally suit more attacking mentalities. However, the suggested instructions can still be used to adapt the basic defending style set by more defensive mentalities if desired; for example, to achieve a possession-based style that presses high up the pitch.

2.2.1. Aggressive

This is essentially the basic defending style set by more attacking mentalities which was discussed in the Mentality guide.

It should be combined with an attacking style that suits a more attacking mentality if you want to achieve an aggressive overall approach.

This style is not recommended if you want to achieve a pure counter attacking style as it will not allow your players to encourage the opposition forward when your team is not in possession.

  • Related to mentality: Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up, Close Down More or Close Down Much More, Get Stuck In.
  • Also recommended: Prevent Short GK Distribution.
  • Additional options: Use Tighter Marking.

2.2.2. Playing Offside

This involves your defence playing the offside trap.

Your defensive line will stay higher and your defenders will step up when there is an opportunity to catch an opposition attacker offside.

  • Related to mentality: Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up.
  • Also recommended: Use Offside Trap.

2.2.3. Defending The Flanks

This is for use against opposition playing with a wider formation than yours.

Your players will reduce space in the wide areas and keep the opposition’s wide attackers deeper, where they should be less effective, by defending higher and wider. After winning possession they will attempt to play counter attacking passes into the central areas.

  • Related to mentality: Play Wider, Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up.
  • Also recommended: Exploit The Middle.

2.2.4. Defending In Wet Conditions

This is for use on a poor pitch in wet conditions.

Your players will defend higher up and more aggressively, keeping the opposition further away from goal and attempting to counter attack quickly into the wide areas where the pitch is less muddy.

  • Related to mentality: Play Wider, Much Higher Defensive Line or Push Higher Up, Close Down More or Close Down Much More, Get Stuck In, Much Higher Tempo or Higher Tempo.
  • Also recommended: Go Route One or More Direct Passing, Clear Ball To Flanks.