Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at what you can do to stop fast forwards in FIFA 13…
Pace is one of the toughest attributes to defend against in football, both in a real game and in FIFA 13, and that’s because it’s a constant threat.
Even when it’s not being used directly, like in a one-on-one race to the ball, you still have to defend against the threat of pace just in case. Drift slightly out of position for a second, miss a tackle or leave too much space behind your back four and you know your faster opponent will take advantage, so you must concentrate from the first minute to the last.
You have to work hard against pace, but there are loads of things you can do to really help you combat it and in this week’s Backpage we’re going to take a look at them.
As soon as you realise you’re up against a team with rapid forwards, the first thing you need to think about is keeping the space between your back line and your goalkeeper to a minimum when you’re defending.
Space is the friend of pace.
If there’s a big gap between your defenders and your goal then you’re just asking for a through ball over the top, and once you’re into a straight race with a quicker player who has half a pitch to overtake you, there’s only going to be one winner. Reducing the amount of space available by playing closer to your goal will give your opponent fewer opportunities to use his pace, and there are a number of ways you can do this.
Firstly, you can create a custom formation and tactic that you can quickly switch to once you know you’re about to face very quick strikers. This allows you to do things like manually edit the starting position of your team – so you can move them closer to your own goal – make the back line play narrow and set their instructions to ‘cover’ rather than ‘offside trap’.
Keep in mind here that if you do drop your defence deeper with a custom formation then you’ll want to move the midfield and strikers back a similar distance, otherwise you’ll have huge gaps between your lines and that will make it more difficult for you to use the ball when you win it.
An alternative way to quickly move your whole team deeper in-game is to use a defensive or ultra-defensive mentality. Press left twice on the D-Pad to go defensive and move the team back slightly as a unit, or press it three times to go for ultra-defensive and retreat further.
A custom formation, tactic and defensive mentality will make it easier for you at the back against pacey teams, but I’m not suggesting that you park the bus for the whole game as soon as you spot a speedster in your opponent’s line-up. It’s important to give the other team something to think about when you do get the ball back by hitting them with effective counter attacks, and the D-Pad can help you with that too. Pressing down twice will tell your players to counter, and you can quickly switch to a more offensive approach by pressing right to select attacking or ultra-attacking mentalities.
Personally, I prefer to control the space between my back line and goalkeeper by selecting defenders and manually moving them back quickly when I lose the ball. For example, if my centre-backs are pushed up because I’m on the attack then I will select one of them and begin the retreat as soon as the move breaks down. This gives me some protection against a quick ball over the top when there’s lots of space behind my defenders for a striker to burst into.
It can take some getting used to at first, because it’s tempting to keep the defenders high up the pitch so you can try to win the ball straight back if it’s played into the feet of an opposing striker, but against faster players that’s a bad idea as a sharp turn or quick one-two can instantly take your defenders out of the game.
While you’re dropping back manually you must get your AI-controlled team-mates to help out by putting the player in possession under pressure, which brings me on to my next tip for defending against pace…
Cover And Press
As you track back towards your own goal you can get your teammates to press the ball by holding the teammate contain button, which is RB on 360 and R1 on PS3.
This allows you to concentrate fully on controlling your deepest defender while an AI player – preferably a midfielder – slows the opposition player in possession. That pressure from the AI is vital, too. If you solely focus on the player you’re controlling and forget about using teammate contain then you’ll give the opposition more time and space to pick out a pass over your defence, which is exactly what you don’t want if you’re not yet deep enough.
While this is happening, keep an eye on the movement of the opposition’s strikers and track their runs by staying in line between them and the goal at all times. This is important because if you’re not in line with the attacker then you’re effectively giving him a free run to accelerate towards your goal, which is when his pace is going to beat you.
Use Your Body
By staying in the path of the attacker you become a physical barrier between him and the space he wants to sprint into, and this is where your defender’s size and strength can be an advantage if the ball does get played through.
Use the left stick to ensure you mirror the forward’s movement and slow his progress by basically being in the way, which could buy you a second or two that means your keeper gets to the ball first.
Take No Risks
With quick strikers for company the last thing you want is to get caught in possession with your last man or completely miss a tackle, so take absolutely no risks in defence.
Always deal with any high balls quickly and emphatically by using the shoot button to clear them away from danger when there’s a fast striker lurking nearby. I know that doesn’t exactly sound like total football, but you will definitely make fewer costly mistakes against pacey teams that way.
Similarly, don’t commit to standing or sliding tackles with your last man if you’re not as certain as you can be that you’re going to win the ball. Bide your time, track the runs and see if you can use the left stick to get your body between the attacker and the ball so you can take possession while on your feet.
Match Pace With Pace
If the opposition’s fastest striker is playing on the right of a front two, make sure your quickest centre-back is at LCB.
It’ll only take you a few seconds to make a change like that pre-game or from the pause menu, and it could again be the difference between getting to the ball first or not.
Sweep With The Keeper
Finally, always be ready to bring your keeper out to pick up any through balls that he could get to before anyone else.
You’ll have to quickly judge whether or not a pass is heavy enough to be in keeper territory, and if you get it wrong then you’ll almost certainly concede, but it can really help you defend against pacey forwards once you get used to it.
Okay, that’s it for this week.
As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to comment below or tweet me @darren_cross if you’ve got any extra tips for defending against pace that you’d like to share with the community.
FIFA 13 is availble to buy now on Origin for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC.