Mastering Both Sides of ‘FIFA 21’s ‘Aggressive Defence’ Tactic

Jeremy Ray
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FIFA might not change much from year to year, but there are so many different skills to learn that it’s impossible to master everything. Even the best players in the world tend to pick a style and excel at it — and it’s a testament to the quality of the game that with some knowledge of football, you can score against a good player with just two buttons: Pass and shoot.

There are some new minor features in FIFA 21 to look at, but they aren’t game-changing. If you’re looking to up your game, your best bet is to revisit the fundamentals, and get a good grasp of which players and teams are in form.

That’s where we come in. Below we’ll walk you through a more high-level approach to improving. It’s the type of thing even players with hundreds of games under their belt would do well to think about. We’ll start with the low-hanging fruit…

High-Pressure Defending

Most players can’t deal with an aggressive defender. Even experienced players are put on the backfoot while they remember how to pass around it. And while some players do this constantly all match, it’s most effective when kept in your pocket and used to surprise them.

Here’s the move: Charge at the attacker, then switch to a nearby player and charge with them as well while holding right bumper. The right bumper will continue the pressure from the first attacker. Practice this so that each player approaches from either side, without giving them room to dribble between the two.

This presents a problem they have about one second to solve. If they try to turn away from the first attacker, they’ll run directly into the second. If they delay, they get tackled. Dribbling usually isn’t possible unless it’s backwards.

If your opponent figures out how to pass around it, you can switch up your defence again. But sometimes they’ll just lose possession over and over, getting more and more ready to throw the controller. Be ready for your opponent to say things like “Ugh, that defender’s just too fast/strong/smart!”

Just as you’ve conditioned your enemy to offload the ball as soon as they see trouble, you can switch to intercepting. Press the right bumper to keep a player pressuring them while the player you control rushes to block their most obvious pass. Here you have a decision — you can play it safe by intercepting any passes to would-be attackers, or you can cut in deeper to intercept their “safe” pass.

At high levels of FIFA play, people usually take the safe option. But you might want to switch it up, just like you’ll switch between interceptions and aggressive double-tackling. And you’ll definitely want to know what to do if they try this on you…

What Kind of Defender Are They?

It’s worth taking a beat to analyse what kind of player you’re up against. And I mean, literally after you gain possession, stop dribbling and watch what your opponent does.

Do they charge you blindly? With one or two defenders? Do they use the second man to block passes? Do they leave marking to the AI? Do they use the D-Pad for commands like a high defensive line?

If two players sprint at you, switch into one-touch pass mode and go around them, even if you have to pass backwards. If your pass is blocked, use a low-power cross to get it over their heads. Left bumper and Y/Triangle can also be used to loft a through-ball over their heads.

Keep passing around and over them, and if they keep chasing, try to drag them out of position. Dribble and backwards until they’ve followed you farther than they should then pass into the open space created.

The type of defender who blocks passes while also applying pressure is a tougher nut to crack. Here, you’ll have to look for the cues from players as they dart between the lines and create opportunities. Notice how they’ll start making a run and point forward — that’s your signal. (You can also force this move with the left bumper.) Then use Y/Triangle to lead their run with a pass.

FIFA 21 now allows you to direct the run they make as well, if you want absolute control. Press left bumper to trigger a through ball, and then flick the right stick in the direction you want them to run. This also works when you call a man short with the right bumper. Use this to create passes if your team isn’t giving you any escapes.

Master One Shot

Messi isn’t only dangerous because he can put the ball in the net. He goes through periods of being a primary striker, a False Nine, and more of a support player. That’s because teams prepare for one kind of Messi and get another — assigning two or three players to man-mark only opens up space for Messi to tally up assists to other strikers.

Even if you’re not playing with the world’s best, you can still use this idea. If you can master one shot, to the point of reliably scoring with it against a human opponent, this gives you the same tactical advantage as Messi. Suddenly your opponent knows they can’t give you any space in that part of the pitch. They become reckless. They tackle early. They pull players out of position, and that opens up space.

Our favourite for this is the corner curler shot just outside of the box. Hold right bumper for finesse, then hold the shoot button for just over medium power, and use the left stick to draw a path curling into the goal — from outside, curling in.

It’s worth spending time in practice mode to really nail this — playing against friends doesn’t count as “practice” here. Once perfected, it’s a major tool in your toolbox. We’ve won FIFA competitions purely because opponents gave us a bit of space at the edge of the box, and that was the final nail in their coffin.

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Jeremy Ray
Decade-long games critic and esports aficionado. Started in competitive Counter-Strike, then moved into broadcast, online, print and interpretative pantomime. You merely adopted the lag. I was born in it.