In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross reveals his top tip for FIFA 12 success, and how you can use it to win more games…
Whenever I'm struggling in a game of FIFA, I make a real effort to slow everything down and play a simple, patient game, both when I'm defending and attacking. I think it must be my FIFA equivalent of the clichéd 'going back to basics', which you often hear managers say they’ll do in the real world when their teams can't seem to get it right on the pitch.
Lately I've been going back to basics quite a lot. I had a few weeks of playing hardly any FIFA 12, because I'd been addicted to World Tour mode in FIFA Street, so I found my first few comeback games very tough after getting used to the brilliant, fast-paced end-to-end action of Street.
After a few initial ropey moments the tactic paid off and I was able to rescue most of those games and get back to the point where playing a patient, possession-focused game felt natural again, but then it's a style of play that's always worked for me in FIFA 12. In fact I would go as far as to say that being patient in defence and attack is the number one reason why I win a lot more games than I lose, so in this week's Backpage we’re going to look at why it works so well, and how you can do it effectively.
Whether you’re new to FIFA or an experienced player, I’m confident there are a bunch of things here that will help improve your game.
There are two key things you can do defensively in FIFA 12 that will improve your chances of keeping a clean sheet. If you can bring both into your game, your defending will improve dramatically.
1. HOLD YOUR SHAPE
This is absolutely essential for effective defending, both in FIFA 12 and in the real world, but many players are too eager to win the ball back and they end up destroying the defensive shape of their teams by either following the ball too far with one player and dragging them way out of position, or by using the contain or secondary contain features at the wrong times or for too long.
If you chase the ball too far with one player instead of switching to the team-mate closest to the ball, that player will leave a huge gap in the space he’s left. This makes the job of the attacking team much easier, because it’ll only take a second or two to shift the ball back into the new space – the ball moves faster than the man. If that space is anywhere in your final third of the pitch, you’ve got a problem.
Even if you get away with it and win the ball back, you’ve still got a gaping hole somewhere in your formation so you’re going to find it much more difficult to make your own attacking move pay off because you’ll have less options. By destroying your team’s shape you make it harder for yourself in defence and attack.
To avoid doing this, pay attention to the different zones on the pitch for each position and switch to a team-mate when the ball enters his zone. For example, if I’m chasing an opposing CM with my own CM and he decides to head out to the right side of the pitch, I’m going to switch to my left midfielder and have him oppose the player. That way my central midfielder holds his defensive position, and should have space to receive the ball if I manage to win it back.
Constantly holding contain or secondary contain will completely ruin your shape, too. It’s tempting to automatically fall back on to the contain and secondary contain buttons, so it’s easy to use them too much, but you must make a conscious effort to avoid this, especially when you’re playing in the higher divisions in Head To Head Seasons.
By all means use contain for the one-on-one battles, that’s what it’s there for, but don’t automatically hold the button as soon as you switch players. Look at the options the attacking player has, work out where he’s likely to go, identify where you don’t want him to go then close the distance and begin containing.
Secondary contain is different and really will cost you goals if you use it too much or, even worse, at the wrong time.
Here’s a good example of the wrong time… there’s a striker running at you with the ball and you’re containing him with one of your centre-backs. The other centre-back is automatically tracking the run of his strike partner. As the player with the ball gets closer to your goal you panic and hold secondary contain, and so your other centre-back comes across to help out… leaving the striker’s team-mate totally free for an easy tap in.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen people do this in games. By panicking and rushing when they should have held their positions and kept their shape, the defending team actually creates space for the attacking team, making their job much easier. There’s a good example clip of this in an episode of PWNED I filmed a while back, which you can watch online.
2. DON’T RUSH TACKLES
Your first job as a defender isn’t to win the ball back straight away. It’s to slow down your opposing player and control his movement through your positioning.
If you get the opportunity to win the ball back then take it, but don’t make the mistake of being too keen to make a tackle. A mistimed standing or sliding tackle makes things very easy for your opponent, as your defender is effectively out of the game for that move.
Stay calm, avoid diving in and instead concentrate on getting into position first; putting your player in the area where you don’t want the attacker to go. Once you’re there you can begin to close the distance then go for a tackle when you know you’re close enough. If your opponent turns back and passes to a team-mate before you get a chance to tackle, don’t worry; your defender has done his job. Now switch to the next nearest player and repeat the process. It takes effort and concentration, but the rewards are worth it.
While we’re talking about tackling, I find the most effective way of winning the ball back is to manually jockey the attacker using LT on 360, then I let the AI handle the tackle for me – it does a good job of timing tackles for you automatically when you’re jockeying.
There are also two things to work on here that will help you score more goals.
1. KEEP THE BALL AT ALL COSTS
Even if you have to go sideways or backwards. If a pass looks risky and you’re not chasing the game or in need of a goal, back out and choose an easier option instead of gambling. Start your move again and work the ball into a different area of the pitch.
Now I’m not saying here that you should play the ball around your back four for 90 minutes, that wouldn’t be much fun for anyone. But if you’re in your opponent’s half then moving the ball around your team is going to create space for you. It’ll also tire their team out, as many players seem to constantly hold sprint when they’re defending, so you’ll have an advantage late-game, too.
And make sure you use the radar. It only takes a second to glance at it and spot where you’re off-screen players are positioned, and it’ll help you quickly identify whether or not a pass is too risky.
2. WATCH FOR SPACES
The great thing about keeping the ball and shifting it around the pitch is that your opponent will grow more impatient and more desperate to win the ball back. They’ll start doing the things we’ve just looked at avoiding, like chasing too far or secondary containing too often, and this is when you’ll start to get opportunities.
When you spot a gap, be ruthless.
The time for patience is over; go for it and make your advantage pay. That’s the other thing I really want to stress here. By suggesting that you play with patience I’m not saying that you should completely rule out fast, direct attacks. The point of building patient attacks with lots of possession is that you’ll eventually create gaps and opportunities, but if they’re already there after two passes then don’t mess about playing 22, go for it. Spotting these opportunities quickly is what will make you a better player.
One of my favourite tactics to create space in dangerous areas involves drawing one of the centre-backs out of position. I do this by playing the ball into one of my strikers, who turns away and heads back towards my own goal. Usually my opponent will be tracking him using contain and so his centre-back will often follow my striker up the pitch, leaving a hole behind him in the worst place possible. It’s a pretty simple thing then to play a one-two and move into the new space. If I wasn’t showing patience here I’d probably have ran at the defender, who would have had a decent chance of stopping me. By taking him out of the space, I give him no chance.
Okay, that covers everything for this week. Have a go at slowing your game down a bit and see how you get on, I really am convinced it’s the most effective way to consistently win games in FIFA 12.
As always, thanks for reading and see you next week.
READ PREVIOUS BACKPAGE ARTICLES:
Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross returns with more top FIFA 12 prospects for you to sign up!
Darren Cross looks at how the 3-5-2 formation could be your key to FUT 12 success.