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FIFA 13 Tips | Positions & Attributes Part One: Defending

In the first of a two-part Backpage, football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at the key attributes and ideal players for each of the defensive positions in the game.

What attributes are most important for keepers? Is speed the number one thing to look for in a centre-back? Should full-backs be tall? What makes one CDM more useful than another? How do you decide which defensive players to sign in Career Mode?

If you've ever asked any of the above then keep reading because, in the first part of a two-part Backpage, we're going to look at the attributes I think are the most important for each of the defensive positions in the game when playing matches, rather than simming them. I'll also highlight the ideal players for the positions so that, even if you can't afford to sign the exact players here for your Career Mode team, you'll at least have a good example of the key attributes to base your search on so you can find alternatives that are the best match for your money.

As well as helping with EA SPORTS™ FIFA 13 – and in particular with Career Mode – I'm also hoping that a lot of what we're going to look at will still be relevant in FIFA 14. I'm yet to get my hands on CM in 14, but I'm confident many of the attributes I think are key to each position in FIFA 13 will prove to be just as important when the new game comes out at the end of September.

So take a look at this first part, and pop back next week when we’ll be covering the attacking positions.

GK
One of the main things I look for in a keeper is Height, and the taller the better. That doesn’t mean I’ll buy the tallest goalkeeper I can find regardless of their ability, but it is a big factor once I’ve found a stopper with the other key attributes I feel are important.

Tall goalkeepers just seem to be that bit harder to score against compared to shorter keepers of similar ability, and they certainly seem more dominant in the air, so I generally don’t sign GKs under six feet tall.

GK Reflexes and GK Diving are the next two attributes I look for good numbers in. GK Reflexes determines how quickly a keeper can react to the movement of the ball, and GK Diving is his ability to get to it, so they’re vital in my opinion. As with all attributes we’ll talk about here the numbers I look for depend on the division I’m playing in and how much I’ve got to spend, but at the highest level I’d need both of these to be around the high 80s.

The final thing I check when signing a goalkeeper is which Foot he is dominant with. Whether he’s left or right-footed makes no difference, but it’s worth knowing which one he is dominant with so you can make things easier for your GK when he has the ball; you don’t want to be rushing clearances with his weak foot when there are plenty of opposition players close by, for example.

Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich is the best goalkeeper in the game in my opinion. He’s the GK I find it most difficult to score against, so it’s no surprise that his best attributes after his kicking are GK Reflexes and GK Diving. He’s also 6ft 3in tall. If you can’t afford Neuer then I recommend looking for keepers within your price range that excel in the same areas.

RB, RWB, LB & LWB
A lot of FIFA players I know like to go with attacking full-backs, so they’ll base their transfer searches around pace and ability on the ball. I like my full-backs to join in with attacks too, but their first job is to defend so I look out for four qualities that I feel really support that.

The first is again Height. Full-backs often get drawn into aerial battles – especially when they’re covering at the back post – and I’ve conceded many goals because my right or left-back was out jumped, so in my experience it pays to have players in these positions that have enough height to make a difference in the air. I usually go for full-backs that are 5ft 11in or taller.

The next thing I look for is Acceleration. This doesn’t stick out as a defensive quality but I think it’s important for full-backs because it really helps with recovery. When your player has lost ground to a winger, it’s his Acceleration that will determine how quickly he can reach top speed, which can make all the difference when you only need to move a short distance to get back into position.

Strength is also high on my wanted list when I’m looking for a full-back. Strength will help with those aerial battles but it’s most useful when you’re side-by-side with an opponent and jostling for possession, because it’s usually the more powerful player that will win. Using strong players to win the ball back with their bodies like this is a great tactic, because you’re not committing to standing or sliding tackles.

Stamina is a desirable attribute here as full-backs generally cover a lot of ground, particularly if they’re playing more like wing-backs. Players with poor Stamina get tired quicker and that can really cost you late game, so I always make sure my right and left-backs have good numbers here. Again that is relevant to the level you’re playing at, but you should find that anything in the high 70s and above is great as long as you’re not constantly sprinting around.

Once I’ve found a player with those four attributes then I’ll look for Crossing,Dribbling and even the Early Crosser trait, which can all be very useful if you plan to have your full-backs join in with attacks. With that in mind, the final thing I make sure of is that I have a right-footed player at right-back and a lefty at left-back, as this means they’ll be crossing with their strongest foot so should be more consistently accurate.

There are loads of great right-backs with four of the key attributes here and some of the bonus ones so, rather than single just one out, here are my favourites: Lukasz Piszczek, Glen Johnson, Ignazio Abate, Abdoulay Konko and Danilo.

On the left the players I like best are Domenico Criscito, Filipe Luis, Jose Enrique and Alex Sandro. There are many left-backs with higher Overall ratings than these guys, but they’re all around 5ft 9in so can seem more open to attacks in the air.

CB
For me the most effective centre-backs are tall, strong and have the speed to recover, so I look for Height, Strength and Acceleration here too.

Central defenders face a lot of crosses from set pieces and in open play, so height definitely helps with those. I usually sign CBs that are 6ft or taller as they generally seem to win more in the air.

Again Strength can help your player win headers, but it’s useful at centre-back for many other reasons. As with the full-back position we looked at a moment ago, Strength will allow you to use your body to nudge your opponent out of position and away from the ball so you can avoid risky tackles, but it’s especially useful in the centre of defence because strong CBs can be a difficult physical barrier for quicker strikers to get past. If it looks like a striker might be about to get in behind my defence, I’ll try to track his run while I’m goal side so that he’s got to go around my player, which is going to be hard if my CB is a lot stronger. Using centre-backs like this can be a really effective counter against pace.

Having said that, it’s handy to have a bit of speed there when you need it, so I like my CBs to have 75 Acceleration or above if possible. For me it’s more important than Sprint Speed because most of the runs CBs need to make should be sprints over short distances. If you’re constantly finding your centre-backs being outpaced while running long distances towards their own goal, then work on getting them between the striker and the ball early on or move your defence deeper.

There are a bunch of centre-backs with these three attributes so I make my shortlist a bit shorter by picking out the ones that also have Jumping, Heading, Acc and Marking. A player’s Jumping attribute determines how high he can leap in the air, while Heading Acc deals with two things; his ability to get his head on the ball and how accurate that header will be. Accuracy is not so important as I always use the shoot button for defensive headers to clear the ball away – trying to pass with a header is too risky at the back – so it’s getting to the ball in the first place that’s of the most interest to me. The higher the number here, the more chance the player’s got of winning that aerial battle. His Marking ability will also affect two things; how good he is at tracking an attacker when the AI is in control of him, and how good he is at containing when you’re in control.

My top players here are Sergio Ramos, Thiago Silva, Giorgio Chiellini and I also like Martin Caceres.

CDM
When I’m using a formation with a CDM that player seems to cover more ground than any of his team-mates, as he’s always running between his own goal and the half way line, often with the sprint button held down. Although I do try to sprint only when necessary it always seems to be necessary with my CDM, so it’s essential that he has a very high Stamina rating.

CDMs are often in the thick of the action too, so Strength can really be an asset in this position. Again this gives you the advantage when locked shoulder to shoulder with an opponent, which happens a lot in the space between the midfield and defence, especially if the other team is using a CAM.

After Strength and Stamina I look for Ball Control. Although not a defensive attribute it does help cut down on the time it takes for your player to get the ball under control, and when you’re surrounded by opposition midfielders that extra half a second can be the difference between starting an attack or being dispossessed and conceding a goal. SHORT PASSING is another attribute I like here for a similar reason; the more accurate the CDM’s passing is the less he is going to give the ball away, and I start a lot of attacks from deep with my holding midfielder. Height also helps because CDMs will defend set pieces and crosses, and Accelaration is more useful than Sprint Speed because any runs CDMs make should be short bursts rather than long sprints.

Yaya Toure is probably the ultimate player for this position as he has all of the above, but I also like Luiz Gustavo, Paul Pogba and Arturo Vidal, who is a CM really but has all the skills to be a perfect CDM.

So they’re the attributes I look for in defensive positions. Come back next week when we’ll be looking at everything from CM to ST as we cover the attacking positions and the skills that make the difference.

Thanks for reading.

Darren Cross
@darren_cross