To get consistently good performances from your team you will need to make tactical changes according to the different scenarios that occur during each match. Provided below is advice on how to watch a match and assess your tactic, how to react to different match events and when to make substitutions.
Using This Guide
As in the Tactical Planning guide, the tactics detailed below are only general suggestions that you may want to consider. You should decide for yourself which of them, if any, are appropriate and whether they suit the types of players you have available, including any substitutes that you may be able to bring on. You may decide that allowing your players to continue playing with your current tactic is all that is required until the situation changes, for example, due to a goal being scored or time running out, while you may want to make alternative tactical changes to those suggested here.
You should also bear in mind the following:
- Where a tactical style is suggested, you may only want to adopt a certain aspect of that style, for instance by changing one or two specific team instructions or changing mentality. If you are already using a suggested style then you may want to exaggerate an aspect of the style by using an appropriate specific team instruction or adjusting the mentality.
- Your team should ideally have a good level of tactic familiarity for any tactic that you choose to switch to. You should therefore try to prepare tactics that you believe are likely to provide you with the most useful alternatives.
The Tactical Styles guide suggests appropriate specific team instructions for each of the tactical styles referenced below, and also details whether each style suits a more defensive or a more attacking mentality. The Match Preparation Training guide discusses how to prepare alternative tactics.
Watching the Match
To help you to properly analyse the action and decide upon appropriate tactical changes it is recommended that you watch each match using one of the 2D cameras or an aerial 3D camera. This allows you to see the positioning of all players on both teams at all times. Once you have gained experience in analysing matches you may prefer to use a different camera.
Pausing at various moments throughout each match can also be very useful in helping you to assess the positioning of players. In particular, it is useful to check the positions of players on both teams in the different phases of play; when the opposition is attacking, when the opposition has just won possession, when your own team has just won possession and when your own team is attacking.
In addition, it is advisable to watch Full Match, Comprehensive or Extended highlights during a match, at least until you are happy with how the match is progressing. The more of the action that you see the more you will be aware of how your tactics are working, how your players are performing and how the opposition team may be causing your players problems.
Assessing Your Tactic
When watching a match the key thing to try to assess is your tactic, in terms of both how well it is being carried out by your players (tactic operation) and how well it is working against the opposition team (tactic effectiveness).
To properly assess this you firstly need to take into account your chosen tactical style, as this determines how you want your team to be playing; in particular, how you intend chances to generally be created (your attacking style) and how you intend opposition chances to generally be prevented (your defending style).
As such, the things that you should consider when assessing both tactic operation and tactic effectiveness, and their relative importance, depend greatly on your tactical style. For example, possession and finding space off the ball in attack are important for almost all attacking styles, but they are of even greater importance for possession based attacking styles such as the Passing Through The Defence and Attacking With Creative Wingers styles.
Nethertheless, important general points that it is recommended to consider are listed below.
You should pay particular attention to how well your tactic operates in practice when in the process of testing and developing a new tactic that you have implemented. Even once you have spent time fine-tuning your tactic, an assessment of tactic operation during a match can still be beneficial in helping you to judge the performance of your team and the performances of individual players, enabling you to make substitutions or other tactical changes accordingly.
Things to consider when assessing how well your tactic is being carried out by your players include:
- Whether the positioning of your players when your team is in possession is well staggered (players standing in different horizontal lines rather than in flat lines) and appropriately spaced apart – The player on the ball should have sufficient support and passing options in different directions (both forwards and backwards) to allow for effective link-up play between players. You should look for triangles created between groups of three players, as these are important to enable passing options to always be available each time the ball is moved on. Players, especially attacking players, should have sufficient attacking support and not be isolated.
- Whether the positioning of your players when your team is defending is well staggered and appropriately spaced apart – The different zones of the pitch should be well covered but without sizeable gaps being apparent, allowing less space to be exploited by opposition players. Players, especially defensive players, should have sufficient defensive support so as not be be vulnerable to an opposition attack in their zone.
The positioning of a player is determined largely by his position and duty, and so you may need to adjust these accordingly. A role also affects how defensive or attacking a player’s behaviour is and so impacts on his positioning.
- Whether each player is performing his tactical role effectively in order for the tactical style to operate as desired, and whether these roles appear well balanced – You should ensure that your players are performing the tasks that you expect of them. For example, in a typical balanced midfield and attack a runner should be making runs off the ball to find space, create space for teammates, or provide attacking or defensive support to teammates, a creator should be staying deeper so he can receive the ball and then create chances for players ahead of him and a holding midfielder should be staying deep to protect the defence and provide an option for recycling possession. On the flanks, you may want a more attacking wide player to be staying near the touchline to provide a wide passing option to help your team to stretch play and perhaps get crosses into the penalty area. In central attack, you may want a target man with good aerial or physical presence to have close support from an attacking teammate.
The Roles & Duties guides discuss how to select balanced roles and duties for your players that suit your tactical style.
The effectiveness of different tactical styles can vary against different opposition teams. You may have already accounted for this in your tactical planning. However, it may be that you did not carry out such planning or that the opposition team plays differently to how you expected, while in most matches the opposition team will make changes during the match that you will need to react to. Therefore, an assessment of tactic effectiveness can be vital in helping you to identify tactical problems that need to be solved.
Things to consider when assessing the effectiveness of your tactic against the opposition team include:
- Whether your players are able to find space to receive the ball – If your players are being marked out of the game then they do not provide effective passing options, making it difficult for your team to attack. If an individual player is being well marked then this may not be a problem as long as he is using appropriate off the ball movement to try to create space for teammates, whether through forward runs or roaming, and has good enough mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) and attacking movement (Anticipation and Off The Ball) for this to be effective. In particular, creators need to find space so that they can receive the ball and create chances for teammates, but there should always be sufficient passing options for the player on the ball. The triangles discussed above will be ineffective if each of the three players in the triangle is well marked by an opposition player. However, in some cases a player being marked may be a good thing. For example, you may have an attacker whose tactical role primarily involves him using his aerial or physical presence to win physical tussles with his marker, therefore taking his marker out of the game and potentially creating space for teammates.
If a creator in particular is not finding enough space then you may want to try to focus play through a different creator, or you may want to instruct him to Roam From Position (as long as he is not a holding midfielder) so that he can at least open up space for others, preferably including at least one other player in a fairly creative role, by dragging away opposition players. If players in a particular area are struggling to find space then you may want to focus passing elsewhere. For example, you could use the Attacking The Flanks style if your wide players are generally available, perhaps after instructing them to Stay Wider. If your players in general are having difficulty finding enough space then you may want to use an attacking style that relies less on space, such as the Playing To A Target Man style, or that is more effective at creating space, such as the Counter Attacking, Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers styles.
- Whether your players are being given time on the ball – If your players are closed down quickly then they may be rushed into making a decision that could be ineffective. If an individual player is being closed down quickly then this may not be a problem if he has good enough focus (Composure) and intelligence (Anticipation, Decisions, Flair, Teamwork and Vision) to make good decisions under pressure, or good enough dribbling ability (Dribbling, Technique and Flair) to take the ball past an opposition player. Again, if a creator is struggling with opposition players closing him down then this can be a particular problem.
If an individual player is not being given enough time on the ball then you may want to simplify his role, for example, by instructing him to Pass It Shorter and make Fewer Risky Passes. Although, if this is a problem for a creator or a group of players in an area then you may want to try similar adjustments to those discussed above for marked players. If your players in general are having difficulty against an aggressive defending style then you may want to consider using a deeper, more patient attacking style such as the Passing Through The Defence or Attacking with Creative Wingers styles to try to exploit the space behind the opposition team. In particular, the Counter Attacking style can be useful against an aggressive defending style.
- Whether opposition players are being given too much space – Likewise, you should try to ensure that opposition players who are off the ball are being either marked or covered for. If you want particular opposition threats, such as creative players, to be closed down more quickly, tight marked or specific man marked then you should check that this is being done effectively and is not causing problematic gaps to appear.
If a player is not being picked up then you may want to adjust the duty, or possibly the position, of an appropriate player, or to give an appropriate player a specific man marking instruction. Further advice on how to defend against particular opposition threats is given in the Tactical Planning and Opposition Instructions guides.
- Whether your players are able to perform your attacking style effectively given the tactic of the opposition team and individual opposition player abilities and performances – For example, controlling possession with the Passing Through The Defence or Attacking With Creative Wingers attacking styles may be difficult against an opposition team that has a number of players or high quality players in central midfield. Exploiting defensive vulnerabilities with the Counter Attacking attacking style may be difficult if the opposition team does not venture forward or has very good mobility (Acceleration, Agility and Pace) in defence. Taking advantage of an attacker with good aerial presence (Jumping Reach) or physical presence (Balance and Strength) with the Playing To A Target Man attacking style may be difficult if the opposition defence has the physical abilities to deal with him or if the opposition pushes up and uses a high defensive line. Making good use of wide play and crosses with the Attacking The Flanks attacking style may be difficult if the opposition defence is able to comfortably deal with crosses or prevent your wide attackers getting crosses in, or if the opposition pushes up to keep your wide attackers in deeper areas. Making good use of direct dribbling with the Running At The Defence attacking style may be difficult if the opposition defenders stay rigid and hold off your attackers or if they have the defensive abilities to easily win the ball off your attackers.
- Whether your players are able to perform your defending style effectively given the tactic of the opposition team and individual opposition player abilities and performances – For example, a more cautious defending style may be ineffective against an opposition team that plays direct to an attacker with good aerial presence (Jumping Reach) or physical presence (Balance and Strength) or focuses play down the flanks to make crosses from the byline, while a more aggressive defending style may be ineffective against an opposition team that moves the ball well along the ground and finds space in the gaps created, counter attacks quickly into the space left behind your players or uses direct dribbling to advance through your defence.
If your tactical style proves to be ineffective against the opposition team then you may need to adjust it accordingly or even change to a different style.