I’m a very attack-minded player so, rather than get men behind the ball and concentrate mainly on keeping goals out, I prefer to take the game to my opponents from the first whistle. It’s a style of play I really enjoy and the one that seems to work best for me.
But, while my overall approach is generally the same, I fine-tune my game plan match-by-match depending on how my opponents set up, which is why I always take the time to have a look at their formation and starting eleven when they pop up on screen before kicking off a FUT match.
For me that team line-up screen is unmissable. In just a few seconds I can get an idea of what style of player I’m likely to be facing, where I should attack, what I need to look out for defensively and how I can counter.
This week we’re going to look at how I use my opponents’ formation to figure out where to focus my attacks, and how their team selection can help me prepare defensively.
One of the main reasons I use the 4-2-3-1 a lot in online games is that it’s very versatile, which allows me to adapt to my opponents’ formation without changing my own. I can play narrow or wide, use my full-backs or my wingers to attack, go for a possession game or look for quick counters. There’s no need for me to change my shape, just my attacking style and I decide on that as soon as I’ve seen my opponents’ formation.
It’s all about identifying where the space is likely to be.
Three At The Back
If I’m up against any formation with three centre-backs, like the still very popular 3-5-2, then I immediately concentrate on playing as wide as possible and getting my full-backs forward to join in with attacks. If I can get in behind the wing-backs then the CBs will get dragged over to cover and that creates more space in the box for my attacking players.
I avoid direct, central attacks unless I can launch them before my opponent has had a chance to get numbers back, as the 3-5-2 is very hard to break down through the middle when the central midfielders are goal side. It can also be difficult to keep possession in the middle because things can get really congested, so I mostly look to go wide when I play against three at the back.
This is another formation that I face many times a day in online play. My tactic with this one is to focus my attacks through the centre of midfield, because I should be able to outnumber my opponents in that area if I’m using 4-2-3-1. So I try to get my CDMs to advance a bit more, often by using an attacking mentality, and I tend to bring my wide players infield towards space when they get the ball, rather than heading to the wings where they are likely to be marked man-for-man. Against the narrow versions of this tactic I do the exact opposite and play wide.
Generally I go for wide attacks against most of the 4-3-3 formations, as that seems to cause the most problems. The wide attacking players in a 4-3-3 aren’t usually great defensively so I try to get the ball to my wingers as quickly as possible, only heading inside if my opponent brings a central midfielder out to cover.
Five In Midfield
If I’m facing a 4-5-1 player or someone mirroring the 4-2-3-1 I’m using then I play a more patient possession game. As we’ll be pretty evenly matched in terms of positioning, my game plan here is to move the ball around my team without rushing it, while keeping an eye out for spaces opening up. I think it takes a bit more work than when playing against a 3-5-2 or 4-1-2-1-2 because the spaces aren’t so obvious, but you can still create plenty of them with good possession play or well-timed, simple passing with pace.
With a good idea of where to focus my attacks, the next thing I try to work out is what I should expect defensively, and for that the clues are in the line-up.
As soon as the screen flashes up I scan all of the midfield and attacking positions to see who I’m up against, and the first place I look is at the striker or strikers.
If they’re quick then I know I can probably expect to face a lot of passes over the top of my defence, so I’ll keep in mind that I may have to play a little deeper than usual to reduce the space in behind. That’s especially true if I’m up against a pair of strikers who are both fast; when that happens I can be fairly sure the opponent will regularly look for one-twos or through balls, so dropping back will help me counter those. If only one of the strikers is fast then I’ll keep an eye out for his runs and again drop back to reduce the space when need be, but I’ll put pressure on his slower strike partner when he gets the ball as I can be confident that he won’t be able to turn and outpace me on his own. If both lack pace but are good in the air then I won’t have to worry too much about dropping back with my CBs, because it’s likely that my opponent will play a crossing game, so it’s the wingers I really need to watch.
If both wingers are quick and playing on the same side as their strong foot then I’m going to face a lot of crosses. To combat that I play deeper with my full-backs this time – taking care not to rush them forward too much when I have possession – to stop my opponent getting space behind them to cross the ball in.
When I’m playing against inverted wingers – left-footed players on the right and righties on the left – then I don’t expect to face too many crosses. It’s more likely the wingers will head infield, so I keep that in mind and work on crowding the middle rather than dropping deep out wide.
I’ll also look to see if I can recognise any of the wingers and strikers who have four or five star skills. If so then it’s likely I’m facing a player who likes to dribble and do skill moves, so I’m wary of rushing into tackles. Instead I’ll often fake a tackle – making it look like I’m going to charge in before slowing down and backing out – to encourage my opponent to go for the skill move or dribble, which gives me a good chance of winning the ball back.
Finally I check the centre of midfield to see what type of players I’m up against there. Is there someone with a good long shot who I’ll need to keep on his weaker side? Am I facing creative, passing-based players, dribblers or powerhouse CMs? All of those things help me work out what to expect and identify what I should do to counter.
That’s why I think it’s always worth having a look at your opponents’ formation and line-up. In just a few seconds you can get enough info to really increase your chances of winning.
Thanks for reading,