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FIFA 11 Strategy Guide - Part 3 - Custom Tactics

Does Your Team Play The Way You Want?

One of the best and most overlooked ways to have a good advantage over any opponent is the FIFA 11 Custom Tactics menu. The menu can be accessed from the home screen / main menu, just before starting every match and during a match anytime you can pause the game. It's in the Team Management section under My FIFA 11 at the home screen. Like this hub, It's split into 3 sections: Build-Up Play, Chance Creation and Defense, each with it's own control over the influence of it's respected topic. Don't be put off by the length of this hub, if you've seen the Custom Tactics screen you'll notice that it isn't very long and there are only about 10-12 actual options to adjust. As a start, here are a couple things to take into a account when making any tactical adjustments.

  • Each element has a slider from 0-100, with 3 'notches' that will change the tactic you're working on. Anything less than 34 will be one, anything above 66 will be another, anything in between will be the middle ground.
  • This entire hub is devoted to what I will from here on call 'tactical strategy' which you access by pressing DOWN on the D-pad. When you press UP on the D-pad, you select what I will call from here on a 'tactical action'. You can have 4 tactics on your quick select which you choose, but the 4 action tactics don't change.
  • Changing team tactics from the home menu and saving them will affect your AI opponents in offline matches, as well as the AI on your team whenever you're using it [Online or Locally].
  • You can and should look at the default tactics of clubs that often defeat you or interest you to best learn how they play. You can actually learn a lot about what you prefer if you look into a club who's style you're familiar and tactics you want to reproduce for yourself.

Section 1 - Build-Up Play

The Build-up play tactics section only affects play in the first two thirds of the pitch when you have possession. Nothing here affects how your defenders will perform anywhere, only how the AI will try to help you literally build up your play. If you lose possession, the tactics switch to those you've assigned for the defensive part of your custom tactics, which I will talk about later in Section 3.

Speed - The speed setting controls whether or not your squad will look for quicker, risky build-up that can quickly turn into a counter-attack if you over-do it. You should find a good balance that works well with you between comfort and necessity.

  1. Slow - Remember, anything less than 34 will trigger this setting to go into the 'slow' category of speed. Slow speed is best suited towards people who want to enjoy possession using back passes and more secure passes to one another. Expect players to get into a position to receive the ball but not necessarily make a run with it, which means more passes to feet and less into space.
  2. Balanced - Like all of the middle grounds of the settings, anything above 34 and below 66 will yield mixed results between the extremes of the current tactical aspect. Use 50 if you don't have a preference, anything above or below won't differ too much but will lean towards one or the other.
  3. Fast - Values above 66 will put your passing into the fast category of speed. This puts more emphasis on your forwards and advanced midfielders (still affecting the first two thirds) and less on your defenders. Leaving this too high may result in more counter attacks or having your opponents lob passes over you. The AI will make more runs, but your passes might become easier to block or anticipate.

Passing - Try to understand this setting as more of a control over what the AI will expect from you, when you're on the ball. Tactical adjustments like these almost operate as an extension of the game's programming; allowing for you to program the AI to be proactive in their positioning based on your personal preferences. The most important factor to be aware of when modifying this is your average passing distance so that the AI can properly ready the players you're likely to pass to.

  1. Short - Don't expect support from your forwards if you're dribbling with a defender. Surrounding defenders and DM's will look to position themselves to take the pressure off of you, and redistribute it to other nearby players. Further off-the-ball players won't really do much beyond what the rest of the tactics dictate for them to do, so your advanced striker will probably just continue to be on the shoulder of the last defender instead of tracking back to pick up a potential layoff.
  2. Mixed - The same +/- 50 effect that all the other stats will have. I'm going to skip the future middle grounds until the defense section, where they actually matter.
  3. Long - If you often pass from CB to CAM/CF or from CDM to Wings/ST, then you probably should try this setting. Otherwise, those positions will remain fairly idle when your deeper players have the ball. If you put this all the way to the end, your forwards will probably spend a bit of time offside and tracking back if they didn't get the pass. Also leaves you vulnerable to offside-traps if you're not careful, most camera angles don't allow you to see your oppositions defense.

Long Pass Demonstration


The above photo demonstrates the Long Passing tactic. It's quite large so you can see each individual picture, so definitely give it a click and view it separately Here is a list of what's happening in each figure:

  1. From a goal kick, my right CB receives a short pass and turns quickly to give a very long pass all the way up front to my ST.
  2. This is the same frame as before, from a different angle where you can see my ST (highlighted in red). The pass is aimed for the space between the two defenders, which is literally on the opposite end of the field, mirrored to exactly where I'm passing from.
  3. This is the left side of the pitch, immediately after the pass, as you can see from where the ball is.
  4. This is the same frame from the right side of the pitch. Note how the ball is barely left the CB but my ST is already reacting to it and has began to ran into the space where the ball will land.
  5. This is where the pass lands, before a large bounce. My ST is now in a good position to receive the pass and the defender marking that zone is the last man. I'm forcing him to create space between the other defenders and go after the ball.
  6. The defender marking actually went for the ball on the bounce but missed, but either way; my ST is taking the ball down on his chest (from the bounce) and with nobody around, I can go wide from here or take it into the box and shoot. I have many options and this is the successful result of a pass from my keeper to the closest defender and almost directly into the box, completing penetrating the defense.

Positioning - Both the BUP and CC sections have a positioning option at the end of them, with the only choices being 'free form' or 'organized'. Which you choose lies solely within you, just be sure not to pick one that may conflict with your other tactics.

Free Form VS Organized: Free Form is best for formations with 5 at back, or two banks of 4. If you have a lot of players in the first two thirds and they can interchange positions, this is good. If you have a formation that places members of your squad in specific roles that you want them to keep. Organized positioning will maintain a rigid build-up where you can rely on your players being where they should, where Free Form can create confusion amongst teams and leave your CDMs playing CB or your LWB playing LM and your LM trying to defend for you.

Section 2 - Chance Creation

Chance Creation focuses on how your team will progress into the final third and the goal scoring chances that accompany that. You'll benefit most by ensuring the adjustable values in this section compliment one another in a manner that suits your general style of play. If you probe the area and secure your position before pulling the trigger, you should lean toward safe passes, little shooting and little crossing. Remember, you control when you'll shoot, cross and pass; so don't be afraid to leave these values at a low number. You can always modify this to better suit you if you feel your squad isn't acting according to your taste.

Passing - The chance creation passing tactic plays a large role in the off-ball player creativity when you have possession. When entering the final third you'll likely have several players or few, depending on your formation. If you have many players around to choose from, you can probably rely on them to get into a favorable position regardless of what type of tactic you apply. If you have less forward players, as in a 4-2-2 or a 4-3-1-2, than you may need to adjust your settings for slightly riskier or more frequent creation.

  1. Safe - I wouldn't necessarily call this type of passing play 'safe' as much as I would call it conservative. This pairs well with slow build-up play using cross-field passes, back passes and passing more around defenders than through or over them.
  2. Risky - Your players will look to make runs into or around the box, create overlaps if you're using wing backs, even if it means potential dispossession or an offside call. Use at your own discretion, generally better suiting formations with less players in the final third.

Crossing - This is one of the most straight-forward settings to adjust. You literally will adjust the amount of crossing to be expected from you, with the value you select aiding the AI to make moves toward the more traditional wide crosses in for a header on goal to early crosses involving players just entering the box as the ball is crossed from beyond the 18 yard line and anywhere in between.

  1. Little - Less crossing is the obvious choice for squads consisting of poor crossers or those who have better dribbling and finishing than longer passing or crossing ability. You'll notice the players on you squad in the ST,CF or Winger positions [varies by formation] only really positioning themselves for a header (with you playing winger and delivering your cross) or getting into a wide position to await your pass (from your CM/CAM/CF playing the ball wide for the same).
  2. Lots - Using lots of crossing assumes you have the appropriate formation to suit it, usually. If you're playing a 4-4-1-1, you probably will have less bodies in the box than you would say a 3-5-2, 4-3-3 or a 4-1-2-3. The AI will attack often, even without the use of the Attacking of Ultra Attacking setting. Try this if you like early crosses from outside the 20 yards or further from the end of the pitch (not 20 yards from the goal).

Shooting - The shooting section will adjust the squad from constantly working the keeper or saving opportunities on goal being accurate and calculated. Try to keep in mind whether or not you think you'll be shooting more often due to a strong forward line up, or if you're going to try to save it for specific players or plays.

  1. Little - Long shots being somewhat of a rarity, this focuses more on a passing build-up to a clean shot more often resulting in a goal than not. Squads with poachers or those usually shooting from within 10-15 yards from the goal will benefit from this.
  2. Lots - If your full time stats include 25 or more shots after playing 6 minute halves or less, you take a lot of shots. It's not at all a bad thing, hopefully most are on target. Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to this; Quickly depleting stamina, confusion amongst players who don't naturally shoot often and some others. Be sure to have at least 2 players with high stats in Long Shots, Finishing, Reactions, Positioning and Volleys.

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Positioning - This is very similar to the BUP positioning in that it's still quite relative to your formation, using free-form can still help or hinder any squad (it's still just a game, silly things do still happen) but can be helpful with your attack instead with overlapping play from wing backs, alternating wingers for crossing or shooting. Unlike the BUP positioning, you don't have to worry as much about counter-attacks when selecting this time since this addresses your 2nd to final third play.

Section 3 - Defense

The defense section refers to a number of important features of your squad. It will help determine your general defensive philosophy, the stage at which you're defenders begin to apply pressure and how the squad will react and function when you do not have possession. Unlike the first two sections, the middle ground of the two extremes in each value you can adjust actually play a unique role.

Pressure - This setting will loosely decide how far up the pitch your defensive line will linger when you're attacking, and how deep into your first third they will fall back when you're defending or at midfield.

  1. Deep - Your defenders will rarely cross the midfield line, and will remain further back for the most part. If you're running a midfield heavy formation and narrow team width, this can create a bunch-up of players in the first two thirds which can work against you in ways.
  2. Medium - Your defenders won't push very far into the opponents half but they won't be shy of the midfield line either. This is suitable for most squads and can be considered a default if you're unsure about where you want to place them.
  3. High - Too much space between the keeper and the defenders can create a very risky gap. Players with high acceleration and sprint speed can be a serious problem if all of your defenders (specifically your last man) don't have good tactical awareness. However, most 5 star clubs can manage this, but any player with a little experience can exploit this using through lobs.

Aggression - This is a somewhat misleading title to a category that actually has most of it's influence in the amount of space the AI gives opponents before going for a tackle. You probably notice how sometimes you have those players who seem to be anticipating every pass and tackle before you can even turn with the ball. They usually have very high aggression stats but if the squad's tactics are set to contain, that player is very less likely to actually do that.

  1. Contain - Generally allowing passes, view this as a zonal marking style of defending. This is most effective with your BUP and CC positioning set to Organized. If you're playing free-form, this might be counter-productive.
  2. Press - You can expect the AI to anticipate passes to some degree, sometimes to intercept but very unlikely to chase down anyone beyond their position's area.
  3. Double - Choose your subs on the bench carefully, because you'll definitely be fouling often enough to get cards even from a lenient ref. You may or may not win the ball half the time, and when you don't, the space left behind is very easy to exploit. I would advise avoiding the double setting unless you have exceptional tackling stats and pace in your defenders. If you don't, they'll tackle from behind frequently or make a poor tackle resulting in a foul.

Team Width - This is actually fairly close to each of the positioning options in the previous sections. I really don't think I actually use anything other than different levels of Wide in any of the several custom tactics I've made over some time. Be sure to watch the animations here to see how it'll effect the squad.

  1. Narrow - Similar to free form, players tend to gravitate more towards the ball and action and out of their normal positions.
  2. Medium - This is that same ol' in between factor from before.
  3. Wide - Similar to Organized, your squad keeps shape and defenders more as a unit. I personally dislike pulling my players from their positions without specific clubs that I rarely would use to begin with. Wide defense allows for a rigid team that you can rely on being successful with passing and retaining possession.

Defender Line - This is the actual defensive version of each of the previous Positioning options before. Theres only two choices, and they both have a direct effect just like the Free-Form and Organized did.

  1. Cover: This is the free-form setting for your defense. Your back line will play narrow and compress slightly to the side of the pitch that the ball is on. This is another that I rarely use as it creates space where the defenders go down or forces midfielders to cover that space.
  2. Offside Trap: Extremely straight forward, your back line will stay aligned in their coverage. I use offside trap often and you don't nearly as often have them be affective if you don't have this defensive characteristic.

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soccerfeen on June 23, 2012:

i am tried of losing online can any one give me a good custom tactics for real madrid and man u i really want to win some games and feel happy

Astro on May 10, 2012:

Cool, This helped me a lot in FIFA 12, plus I also bought the FIFA 12 Ultimate Guide and with yours and this eBook to help me, FIFA hasn't been the same, I'm totaling killing people online and now Im in a club, I feel like a pro. Check it out,

chaks on March 21, 2012:

tell me the best custom tactics for real madrid???? its urgent???

nazzi on April 26, 2011:

thanks you,now i can use my favorite players 100%

dudu on April 04, 2011:

thank you soo much!

ben on March 30, 2011:

what's ur custom tactic m8

wloskipaw on March 25, 2011:

Outstanding articale. This is huge help for me. Best regards.

Cogitationalist (author) from New York City, NY on March 16, 2011:

Thanks for reading, feel free to ask any questions about any aspect of my hubs.

Emma from Houston TX on March 11, 2011:

Nice article,thanks for writing.

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