In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at how the 3-5-2 formation could be your key to FUT12 success…

In this week’s Backpage, football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at how the 3-5-2 formation could be your key to FUT12 success…

I hate playing against good 3-5-2 players.

Facing Napoli and their default 3-5-2 was always a struggle in H2H Seasons mode, and recently I’ve been plagued by it in Ultimate Team too.

Eventually I came up with an edited formation for H2H Seasons that was so attacking it overwhelmed a back three (you can read about that here: The Backpage | FIFA 12 4-1-5 ANYONE?) and forced my opponent to make tactical changes, so everything was okay there. But you can’t use fully customised formations in Ultimate Team and that’s been very bad news for me.

After playing loads of H2H Seasons I decided to give that game mode a bit of a break over the Christmas period so I could get stuck into FUT12. I put a cracking silver team together with the maximum amount of chemistry bonuses – more on that in a future Backpage – and immediately began to get good results. I won all of my first eight games, picking up two trophies along the way, and I was starting to feel like my team were invincible… then my next pre-match screen flashed up and showed an opponent playing 3-5-2 with 100 chemistry of their own and green lines in all the right places.

I remember thinking ‘uh-oh’ as memories of being torn apart by Napoli came flooding back. But I told myself that my team could cope with it even though I was using 4-1-2-1-2, and so headed into the game determined to take another win.

After 24 minutes I was 5-0 down.

That’s 5-0 down after convincingly winning eight games in a row remember. This was a shock to the system.

There are two reasons why I struggle against 3-5-2. First off my opponent’s numerical advantage in the middle always seems to work really well against me. That gives them the edge in this vital area of the pitch because the vast majority of my key attacks come through the centre of my narrow 4-1-2-1-2, but against 3-5-2 the midfield can become so packed that it’s very difficult to build up any attacking momentum. Then, when the other team get the ball, I haven’t got enough players to pick everyone up, which means I often concede possession for longer periods than I’m used to.

So the packed midfield is one reason.

The other is that, believe it or not, two strikers in a 4-1-2-1-2 are less effective against a back three than a lone front man, so I’m at a disadvantage here too.

The reason playing with two strikers doesn’t work against 3-5-2 is because they are marked by two of the defenders, leaving one spare to mop things up. Favourable odds for the defending team.

But a formation that features a lone striker, like 4-5-1, occupies two defenders – one to mark and one to cover – which makes the third defender completely redundant. There he is, standing around in an important area of the pitch doing absolutely nothing at all.

The attacking team’s wingers then push on to occupy the defending wing-backs, and the three central players for each team cancel each other out so it’s basically five against five. Then the attacking team takes the advantage by bringing one of their full-backs up, who can now advance unmarked because everyone else already has an opponent to mark. The only defending player who is spare is the third centre-back, who is now exposed as being useless because he’s too far away from the attacking team’s full-back to pick him up.

That’s the real-world theory of why a 4-5-1 is the most effective counter to a 3-5-2. But back in FUT12 world and 5-0 down I wasn’t convinced I could get the best out of switching to a 4-5-1 as, unlike other game modes, Ultimate Team doesn’t let you tinker with the positioning or mentality of individual players. If my full-backs weren’t going to press forward and join in, there would be no advantage for me.

So now I had to decide whether to stick it out and hope my chemistry and formation bonuses would get me back into the game, not likely after the showing in the opening half an hour of the match, or do the only other thing I knew would give me a small chance – switch to a 3-5-2 myself.

Obviously this would mean losing some of my bonuses as all of my players have the 4-1-2-1-2 as their preferred formation, but at least I knew I’d have players in all the right areas and I could give myself a fighting chance. As opposed to absolutely no chance.

I won the second half 2-1, which is really a nicer sounding way of saying I lost 6-2, but matching the 3-5-2 definitely gave me more control than I had in the first half of the game. After the match I kept thinking about how a team with high chemistry and players who all had 3-5-2 as their favourite formation could be a real force in FUT12, especially as so few FIFA players use a lone striker – the potential Achilles’ Heel of the 3-5-2.

So now I’m building a reserve squad of players who love 3-5-2, and the point of this week’s Backpage is really to suggest that you try the same thing. There are a lot of advantages to this formation, the chief one being that hardly anyone seems to know how to stop it.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, right?

See you next week.

twitter: @Darren_Cross

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