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FIFA 21: Tactics Guide to Keep Your Opponents Guessing

‘Meta’ tactics always emerge and are difficult to deal with, but you can beat them and rise to the top with these top tips for custom tactics, players and more with this FIFA 21 tactical guide. Despite criticism that FIFA never changes year after year, the way the game is played is ever-changing.

FIFA 21: Tactics Guide to Keep Your Opponents Guessing Cover

Sir Alex Ferguson was such a great coach because he could adapt with the times of modern-day soccer; this is the only similarity between the greatest coach of all time and FIFA players. The less talented players use ‘meta’ systems and players such as Joe Gomez (CB), Ferland Mendy (LB) and Rodrigo (ST), with players figuring out the best formations to put them in.

At the moment, 4-2-3-1 is considered the meta formation alongside 4-4-2, with defence being totally thrown out the window to create 5-striker formation tactics, with players sending even their defensive midfielders forward. It’s overwhelming and it’s hard to deal with – but there are weaknesses that you can exploit with these top tips to improve your FIFA 21 tactics and FUT Champions ranking.

Player Roles

In order to find balance in most formations, you must tick all of these boxes when building your roster of FIFA 21 Ultimate Team players:

Sweeper Keeper

Your goalkeeper has to be quick when running from his line, a good shot-stopper and strong passer. Good options are Jan Oblak (A. Madrid), Allison (Liverpool), Manuel Neuer (B. Munich) and Peter Gulasci (RB Leipzig).


Having versatile full-backs who can play two or three positions is the most ideal scenario to be in, having a player who can play as a RB, RM and/or CB is really useful. Kyle Walker is number one on the list and plays these roles in real life. There aren’t many like him but other good options are Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), James Tavernier (Rangers) and Raphael Guerreiro (Dortmund). 

Kyle Walker and Youcef Atal (Europa League Road to the Final) FIFA 21 cards.

Kyle Walker and Youcef Atal (Europa League Road to the Final) FIFA 21 cards.

Youcef Atal (OGC Nice) and Alphonso Davies (B.Munich) are also good options, with Atal having a five-star weak-foot and a well-rounded card. He can play LB, RB, CM and as a winger, as can Davies. Their nations are difficult to link but there are plenty of players to link to their league.


Nice and easy. Your centre-backs must be fast and good at passing. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if they’re an amazing defender in this game. Pace and physicality is the key to defending in FIFA 21 and just being fast tends to be enough for any player to make a tackle. Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid) and Lukas Klostermann (RB Leipzig) are your best options here. 

FUT 21 | Official Trailer

Central midfield

There are three key roles in the midfield that you must have. A number 4 is a defensive midfielder who sits in front of the centre-backs and can even drop into defence to form a back-three. Our picks for this role are Flashback Sami Khedira (Juventus), Thomas Partey (A.Madrid/Arsenal) and Fabinho (Liverpool). If you’ve got a full-back who can play CB then you can pick someone who can swap with them or fit another midfield role. The work-rate should be medium/high.

The number 10 is an attack-minded midfielder who should be able to press the opposition but his main job is to link the attack with the wingers and strikers. Having a number 10 who can press the opposition and cause your opponent problems when attacking is the key to winning the midfield battles. The ideal work-rate ratio is medium/medium or high/medium with Paul Pogba (Man. United) probably being the best card to use with a ‘Shadow’ chemistry style. His brilliant finishing and passing coupled with great physicality and decent defending stats make for a great number 10.

Sami Khedira (Flashback) and Paul Pogba - FIFA 21 cards.

Sami Khedira (Flashback) and Paul Pogba – FIFA 21 cards.

Bruno Fernandes and Kevin De Bruyne are obvious contenders alongside converted strikers such as Wissam Ben Yedder and Kylian Mbappe who are also useful for their pace.

The number 8 is the man in-between. He is the box-to-box midfielder who can link defence to attack and support both the defensive and attacking midfielder. Paul Pogba can fit this role but it’s not his best. Leon Goretzka (B.Munich), Gini Wijnaldum (Liverpool), Federico Valverde (Real Madrid) and Marcos Llorente (A.Madrid) are great options among many. A medium/medium work rate works best for this role.

There are new cards coming out all the time so it’s best to stay up-to-date with new players that can fit into your FIFA 21 tactics. The EA Sports FIFA website has a database for all FIFA Ultimate Team players.

Wingers and Strikers

Nice and easy this one. Fast, good passing, good finishing. Hopefully, you can find a front three who are interchangeable to keep things fresh for your attack. Timo Werner (Chelsea), Wissam Ben Yedder (Lille), special Serge Gnabry (B.Munich) and Erling Haaland (Dortmund) are the more affordable options.

Serge Gnabry (FUT Freeze) and Timo Werner - FIFA 21 cards

Serge Gnabry (FUT Freeze) and Timo Werner – FIFA 21 cards

Formations 1.1 – Defending

If you’re going to beat the FIFA meta artists then your formation will have to be fluid with your team’s setup. The best way to get ahead of your opponent is to out-number them in as many places on the pitch as possible. 

Players using 4-2-3-1 have two options when going forward. The first is to keep their CDMs back to protect the defence while giving the full-backs license to go forward and support the four attackers. To deal with this it’s best to either match them or outnumber them, depending on how good a defender you are. Using a formation with two CDMs with full-backs then means that the centre-backs outnumber the striker 2-to-1 and the defensive midfielders outnumber the opposition CAM by 2-to-1. Plus, when they try to move the ball wide to take-on the full-back one-on-one, you have a spare CDM to outnumber their wide attackers and match-up if they send their full-backs forward.

The 4-2-3-1 formation allows for one CDM to cover the middle and the other to support the full-back.

The 4-2-3-1 formation allows for one CDM to cover the middle and the other to support the full-back.

The 4-1-4-1 formation with the CDM switching between midfield and defense.

The 4-1-4-1 formation with the CDM switching between midfield and defense.

Going with the 4-1-4-1 formation can also work but it will require more defensive work from your wingers and midfielders – including the attack-minded midfielder. Using the 4-1-4-1 formation mirrors the 4-2-3-1 formation’s midfield triangle and is best for players who are good at one-on-one defending. If your opponent is obviously attacking with their central players, this is the way to go as your defensive system will be more rigid and can mark the deep midfielders more easily.

When playing against a 5-3-2 or 3-5-2 it is best to play a 4-1-4-1 formation with the CDM instructed to drop-back into defence. This will have your number 4 switch between third centre-back and holding midfielder to screen the defence. Versatility is the key to winning the midfield battles and in-turn, FIFA matches.

If your opponent is using a two-striker formation with wing-backs and now wingers then it is crucial that you match them in the midfield. The full-backs can be dealt with one-on-one and can even be insignificant to the game due to the lack of numbers in wide areas. If you dominate the centre of midfield then you control the game from there.

When playing against 4-4-2 or other two-striker formations, playing with a back-three/five is the best way to go. Outnumbering your opponent’s striker(s) is crucial to defending well in a game that doesn’t reward good defending much. When you’re up against a two-striker formation with wingers then a 3-4-3 is the best formation to choose as you outnumber their strikers and you match their wide players. 

3-4-3 formation with interchangeable positions.

3-4-3 formation with interchangeable positions.

Formations 1.2 – Attacking

This is the fun part of playing FIFA 21. The game’s defensive mechanics aren’t great and the benefit tends to go to the attacking players. Now that you’ve got a defensive base, attacking your opponent is where you can get creative and try to score the best goals possible. 

When playing with a back-four, you should set your full-backs to stay back while attacking and set their interceptions to ‘aggressive’. They will sit high and give your wingers extra support but for the sake of defensive stability, we don’t want our full-backs to go further forward than our wingers. If you’re playing with wing-backs then they’re positioning should be balanced.

The number 4 should also stay back while attacking and cover the centre when defending with aggressive interceptions. The number 8 should be completely balanced and cover the wide areas and also intercept the ball aggressively. The number 10 should get forward, cover wide areas and intercept aggressively too.

Your wingers should get into the box when crossing and have a balanced width while making runs in behind the defence. When making instructions for your striker you need to play to their strengths, if they’re tall and good at winning headers then they should stay central and play as a ‘target man’. If they’re fast (which is the best option) then they should have a balanced width and make runs in behind the opposition defence. If you decide to play with two strikers then one should stay central and one should drift wide.

Set-up multiple formations and tactics in the game plans menu.

Set-up multiple formations and tactics in the game plans menu.


Sticking to these roles and instructing them appropriately puts you in the best place to win games in FIFA 21. Players using ‘meta’ tactics can be unbalanced and vulnerable on the counter-attack. FIFA 21 is hugely different from real-life soccer as control doesn’t really exist when it comes to possession. It’s 100-miles-per-hour and end-to-end stuff, but your opponent isn’t likely to play the game as a proper soccer team would.

They’ll pass around the back, they’ll pile men forward and overcrowd your penalty area and they’ll wait and wait on the edge of your box until something opens up. This guide doesn’t guarantee that FIFA will be nice to you, but it’s the best way to tame the ever-changing beast that is FIFA 21.