Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at what you can do to counter a high pressure tactic in online games…
High pressure is a very effective tactic both in real life and in the game when it’s used well, and over the years of playing FIFA I’ve lost many matches to opponents that were excellent at applying lots of pressure whenever I had the ball.
I felt rushed against very good pressers and would often end up either forcing a forward pass that wasn’t really on or trying an aimless hit-and-hope long ball, both of which almost always resulted in me losing possession. Constantly giving the ball away meant facing wave after wave of counter-attacks from my opponents, so it was difficult for me to get results.
But as the games went on I eventually worked out that the key to countering high pressure in FIFA was to keep the ball moving around the pitch while looking out for gaps opening up in my opponents’ teams, which would usually happen after fairly short periods of time because they were pressing the ball so aggressively and wandering out of position.
There are of course still plenty of times now when I get caught out by high pressure players, usually because I’ve made a poor decision, hit a bad pass or taken too long on the ball. But generally speaking I do a lot better against this kind of tactic than I used to, so in this week’s Backpage we’re going to look at some of the things that help me to keep the ball moving, avoid tackles, open up space and create better chances in attack.
If you’ve been struggling to counter high pressure players then I recommend giving these a go, as the tips here have certainly helped my game.
Once I notice that I’m up against a player that’s going to consistently press or double press me, I immediately try to limit the amount of touches I take on the ball – especially at the back – and concentrate on moving it around my players to keep the other team chasing while I steadily try to advance into an attacking position.
If I can control the ball with my first touch and play a pass with my second then I will do. There’s no room for overplaying against good pressing teams or trying to fool them with a turn because that’s how they catch you, so I find it helps to almost stick to a two or three touch rule until I can work the ball into an area where I have space to take my time and be more creative. So my passing style in games like this is quicker than usual but never rushed – although the ball may be moving pretty quickly from player to player I’m not trying to go forwards with every pass.
It’s about playing simple passes to team-mates in space, even if they’re to the side or behind you, rather than trying rushed or speculative forward passes that have a smaller chance of success. Often just passing the way you’re facing or returning the ball straight back to the team-mate that just played it can be enough to help avoid the pressers and keep possession while plotting your next move.
And spotting your next move is absolutely crucial when you’re up against an excellent pressing team.
As the ball is travelling from one of your team-mates to the next, scan as much of the pitch as you can to identify where your players are and what is happening around them. Are they in enough space to receive a pass, and will they have somewhere to play it next?
You’re not just trying to spot who to pass to with your next pass, but who you’ll pass to after that, too. I often used to make the mistake – and still do sometimes – of passing the ball forward to a team-mate that was in enough space to receive it, only to find that he had nowhere to go because his team-mates weren’t close enough to help out. I was effectively isolating him, which just made it even easier for the pressing team to win the ball back.
It takes a fair bit of concentration and composure, but if you can think a pass or two ahead of yourself then you’ll find it much easier to keep that ball moving, avoid the advancing defenders and create space elsewhere on the pitch.
As well as having a good scan around the screen it also really helps to take regular looks at the radar.
USING THE RADAR
There are two main reasons why I think the radar is such a big help against teams playing with high pressure.
Firstly it allows you to identify where your off-screen team-mates are, which can be invaluable when you’re working to keep possession before you can advance into an attack. Even if you’re excellent at playing quick passes and keeping the ball moving, it only takes one poor pass or extra touch to find yourself suddenly under close pressure, and that’s when it’s good to know that you have a team-mate on the other side of the pitch in space that you can find with an accurate long or driven pass.
Secondly, the radar will show you where the gaps in the opponents’ defence are, or where they will soon be. If two opposing players are closing the ball down then there’s a gap somewhere and if you can’t see it by looking around on screen then the radar should have the answer. That space is what you’re ultimately looking for when trying to counter a high pressure player. That’s where you need to focus your attack.
Against the best pressure players you will still get caught in possession from time to time. When you find yourself half a second away from being tackled with no out ball to play, there are still a handful of things you can try that can help you keep the ball.
Sometimes you can use the momentum of the pressing player to create the space you need. For example, I’ll often hit the sprint button to try a very short burst in the direction I’m facing, which can be enough to accelerate just ahead of the path of the defender who is moving too quickly to react and change direction. There’s no turning involved on my part as that slows me down, it’s just a very quick press of sprint to buy me an in-game yard or two.
Using face-up dribble can really help here, too, in the opposite way. When you enter a face-up dribble by holding both triggers or L2 and R2 then your player will slow slightly and you’ll be able to move quickly and precisely with the left stick. Doing this just before the pressing player gets to you can help you move inside his run path rather than accelerating ahead of it with a sprint burst, again using the presser’s own momentum to beat him.
If the opponent anticipates this and slows his approach – reducing your chance of using his momentum against him – then using the new Protect The Ball feature can help you to keep possession long enough for team-mates to get into a position to offer support. As soon as you spot a pass away from immediate danger, go for it and start moving the ball again while looking out for the gaps.
All of the above are definitely things that I still take every opportunity to practice and improve on whenever I can, and of course the best way to do that is in a competitive match against an opponent that’s using a high pressure tactic.
There are also a couple of skill games that I find really useful for practicing quick, simple passing and movement. The Ground Pass Gold drill helps you work on the speed of your passing, as you’ll score more points the faster you can get the ball into the target goals, and the Skills Challenge is great for working on playing one-touch passes under pressure. Both drills are set to manual passing so they’re pretty tough – the Ground Pass Gold drill took me ages to complete, but it was all great practice for game situations.
The tips we’ve just covered have all helped me counter high pressure, but I’m sure many of you reading this will have your own tactics and ideas that have worked for you, so please share them with your fellow FIFA fans by commenting below or tweeting me @darren_cross
Thanks for reading, and I hope to see you back here again in the New Year.