Defensive Football

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This starter guide will take you through the process of creating defensive football tactics for your team. It includes:

  • How defensive football works – a brief description of the mechanics of defensive football tactics, as well as important player attributes, to help you to decide whether defensive football suits your team and your preferences.
  • Suggested formations for defensive football – tips for choosing a formation to use with defensive football tactics, along with a list of suitable formations. The formations are listed in order of how defensive they are, with deeper playing positions being considered to be more defensive.
  • The recommended team instructions for defensive football – these are the team instructions that are typically used in defensive football tactics.
  • Other suggested team instructions for defensive football – these are additional team instructions suitable for defensive football tactics that you may want to use. However, it is recommended that you choose your player roles and duties before deciding upon additional team instructions.
  • Useful player instructions for defensive football – these are player instructions suitable for defensive football tactics that you may want to look for in the player roles and duties that you choose.
  • Balancing risk in defensive football – advice on how to balance your use of team instructions and player instructions.
  • Suggested transition tactics for defensive football – these are additional transition team instructions suitable for defensive football tactics that you may want to use.
  • Suggested player roles and duties for defensive football – these are player roles and duties suitable for defensive football tactics that you can choose from. Different responsibilities in different positional areas are covered separately, with a list of roles/duties given that can be used to perform each responsibility. Selecting one or more appropriate roles/duties to perform each responsibility in each positional area should give you balanced combinations. Shown next to each role/duty is a brief description of its own natural playing style. The word “defensive” in these descriptions indicates suitability of the role/duty’s player instructions for defensive football, and the roles/duties are grouped in order of how suitable they are in this respect.
  • Overall forward movement – this is an advised method for checking that the forward movement of your players is balanced. It involves adding up a few different scores for your roles/duties and checking that the totals meet suggested targets.
  • A defensive football example tactic – this is a defensive football tactic that applies the advice given in this starter guide to select team instructions and player roles and duties. You may want to use this tactic for your own team or modify it to suit your own players or your preferences. Reading the rest of the tactics guides can help you to do this.

How Defensive Football Works

With defensive football your team will take a low risk approach by playing in deeper areas; patiently keeping possession and retaining solidity when in possession, and protecting space when out of possession, therefore inviting more pressure from the opposition team and allowing available space to open up behind opposition players which can then be penetrated.

Attacks will be developed more directly, with the earlier stages of build-up play involving relatively longer passes from your more defensive-minded players in order to help your team to penetrate the space behind the opposition before they re-organise.

The following variants of defensive football have their own starter guides for you to use instead:

Important player attributes:

  • Good mobility (Acceleration, Agility, Balance, Pace) – for M/AM(C/R/L)s and STCs in particular
  • Good physical presence (Strength) and aerial presence (Jumping Reach) – for D(C/R/L)s, DMCs and STCs in particular

Suggested Formations for Defensive Football

Tips for choosing a formation:

  • More defensive formations make it easier to invite opposition pressure before penetrating space behind opposition team players.
  • Formations with with three DCs and three DM/M(C)s make it easier to retain solidity in central defence and central midfield, which are the two most important areas to protect.
  • Formations with D/WB(R/L)s and M/AM(R/L)s make it easier to both retain solidity on the flanks and penetrate space behind opposition D/WB(R/L)s. However, formations with only WB(R/L)s on the flanks (and three DCs) make it easier to invite opposition pressure on the flanks and can still be effective at penetrating space behind opposition D/WB(R/L)s while also retaining solidity effectively. Formations with only D(R/L)s on the flanks (and only two DCs) make it difficult to combine penetrating this space with retaining solidity.
  • Formations with two AM/ST(C)s are easier to choose balanced roles/duties for. However, they also encourage the opposition team’s deeper central players to stay back.

Suitable formations include:

  • 5-1-3-1 DM WB – very defensive
    • 3 DCs / 2 WBs / 1 DMC / 3 MCs / 1 STC
  • 4-1-4-1 – very defensive
    • 4 Ds / 1 DMC / 4 Ms / 1 STC
  • 4-4-1-1 2DM – very defensive
    • 4 Ds / 2 DMC / 2 M(R/L)s / 1 AMC / 1 STC
  • 5-4-1 Diamond WB – fairly defensive
    • 3 DCs / 2 WBs / 1 DMC / 2 MCs / 1 AMC / 1 STC
    • Instruct MCs to Stay Wider to provide support to the flanks
  • 4-5-1 – fairly defensive
    • 4 Ds / 5 Ms / 1 STC
  • 4-2-1-3 DM Wide – fairly defensive
    • 4 Ds / 2 DMCs / 1 MC / 2 AM(R/L)s / 1 STC
  • 4-2-2-2 DM – fairly defensive
    • 4 Ds / 2 DMCs / 2 M(R/L)s / 2 STCs
  • 5-3-1-1 WB – neutral
    • 3 DCs / 2 WBs / 3 MCs / 1 AMC / 1 STC
  • 5-1-2-2 DM WB – neutral
    • 3 DCs / 2 WBs / 1 DMC / 2 MCs / 2 STCs
    • Instruct MCs to Stay Wider to provide support to the flanks
  • 4-4-1-1 – neutral
    • 4 Ds / 4 Ms / 1 AMC / 1 STC
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Wide – neutral
    • 4 Ds / 1 DMC / 2 MCs / 2 AM(R/L)s / 1 STC
  • 4-1-4-1 DM Asymmetric AM (R/L) – neutral
    • 4 Ds / 1 DMC / 1 off-centre MC / 1 asymmetric M(R/L) / 1 off-centre AMC / 1 asymmetric AM(R/L) / 1 STC
  • 4-2-3-1 DM AM Wide – neutral
    • 4 Ds / 2 DMCs / 1 AMC / 2 AM(R/L)s / 1 STC
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