FIFA 21 Defending and Attacking – Top Gameplay Tips

FIFA 21 Gameplay Tips

We know that many of you are trying hard to adapt to the new defending system of FIFA 21. It’s not easy. That’s why we decided to publish something to help you. We brought all the tricks drpoplove shared on his twitter and compiled them all in a single page. Who else better than a former top FIFA player, now working as a FIFA producer, to share some gameplay tips? Start taking notes if you want to reach the next level.

Disclaimer: the texts of this page were taken from the drpoplove personal twitter

FIFA 21 Defending and Attacking

Top Gameplay Tips for FIFA 21

Directed Pass and Go

Start experimenting with the Directed Pass And Go. This is something new in FIFA 21 that can help you create movement and space in ways that haven’t been possible before. Here is how to do it and some pointers on when you might want to try it.

Pass the ball then quickly flick your right stick in any direction. The player that passed the ball will run in that direction.
Potential Scenario 1
You’re in the opponent’s half & want to create chaos at the edge of the box. You pass to a striker on the edge & keep your CM/CAM running into the box at any angle you want. Who will the opponent going to mark? One of your STs? The runner? A wide player? If you don’t lose the ball after the initial pass, you’ve just opened up new scenarios that could result in a goal or more openings. Or maybe you pass with that striker and do another run to cause even more dynamic movement that can confuse your opponent.

Potential Scenario 2
You pass early to a striker or winger. You then do a diagonal Directed Pass and Go with this player. Will your opponent let them run free? Will they move a defender out of position to track your run? Will they do something else entirely?

These are just 2 “basic” examples of what you can do. With these types of passes and runs, you can create dynamic and free-flowing attacks in whatever shape you like, be it triangle, square, etc. Keep learning and experimenting, you’ll find lots of new ways to use movement & space.


Strafe Dribble

What we’re going to look now can enable you to quickly attack small pockets of space and it’s fairly easy to practice. Plus it’s super fun IMO. I’m talking about the sprint exit out of a Strafe Dribble.

Hold L1/LB when you have the ball.
Quickly change your left stick direction and at the same time do this:
A) Hold down Sprint (R2/RT) + B) Let go of L1/LB

If you time the inputs right, your player will burst towards where you’re aiming your left stick in a way that can help you take control of that space. If you can’t get the timing down, practise the inputs on the controller when not playing the game in order to get more comfy. This sprint exit out of a Strafe Dribble works best for players who have a very high average of the Balance, Dribbling, and Agility Attributes. Don’t expect too much if you’re using someone with a low average for those 3 Attributes.

Now here’s just one example of how you can use this sprint exit to your advantage. I’ve always called this sequence the Pop Bait and Switch in my head but maybe I shouldn’t admit that out loud. You have the ball out wide and are sprinting in a straight line. You are getting close to the opponent’s full-back. You start slowing down by not sprinting. You hold L1/LB and aim diagonally (towards the center of the goal-ish) as the defender approaches from your front. You can also take a few diagonal steps here if you have the time/space. Right before the defender gets on top of you, do the sprint exit diagonally towards the corner flag (ish) or towards the far post. If you timed it right, you just got past the defender and created lots of space for yourself. Stuck in a situation where the defender isn’t actually coming at you? No problem, come to them and then do the Pop Bait and Switch.

If you can’t get the timing down at first, don’t worry, just practice a lot. You can always head into Kick-Off to practice your mechanical execution if you’re struggling to do it against other players online.


Custom Tactic

Finding your Custom Tactics will take a while, it’s an evolving process. YouTubers/pros can give you good and bad tactics, but they don’t always fit your squad and style.

Pick a formation that you find interesting or useful based on what you like in real football, or based on past FIFA experience. Stick to default everything. Play 5 – 10 matches in the mode that you usually play in. Pay attention to how you score and concede goals. Also, try to think about how you pass and move usually. After 5-10 matches, make 2 or 3 small adjustments to start with.

I recommend starting with Player Instructions. Make a few changes to a problem area and to an area that could be even better. Maybe you want one of your strikers to Get In Behind to cut through defences. Maybe you want a CM to Stay Back When Attacking to maintain shape. Maybe you want something else. Think about what causes you to concede goals and about what causes you to score them. Make adjustments based on how you feel about that. Play another 5-10 matches. Keep in mind that if you’re ranking up online, you’ll get harder opponents.

Not happy with your instructions? No problem, tweak them again based on the logic above. Happy with them? Start thinking about the Custom Tactics themselves. Maybe you want faster build-up and more options on corners. Maybe you want something else. Make 2-3 adjustments to start. Not happy with your changes? Repeat the process above. Happy? Time to start making offensive and defensive variants. Pick another Custom Tactics slot and start repeating everything from above.

In most cases, you’ll go through several cycles of this whole process per 1 tactic. This means that you’ll end up potentially playing quite a few games while you figure out your preferred tactic. This is necessary because you’ll always have different opponents. You might end up playing 15-45 matches before you call a tactic complete even! This is much better than copy/pasting someone else’s tactics because they’re not built with you in mind. You might see some short term results, but you’ll see little long term benefit if a tactic doesn’t properly suit you. By the way, you might have to repeat the process when you make significant changes to your starting 11. What works for one squad isn’t guaranteed to work for another.


Instant Hard Tackle

This tip focuses on something that is easy enough for anyone to use, but it requires a lot of practice and patience. Unfortunately, you will concede goals while you get used to it, you have to accept that.

Hold R1/RB and press Circle/B. This will give you a powerful tackle with a healthy amount of reach, and it’s a great way to win the ball back or to make blocks. This bypasses you having to charge your by holding O/B.

My advice is to start using the Instant Hard Tackle often. You’ll get familiar with the performance that comes from it, and you’ll start recognizing how to position yourself so that you’re in a good spot for an Instant Hard Tackle. It can help make you a more decisive defender. Again though, the only way to get good at this is through a trial by fire over dozens of matches. You will make lots of mistakes and concede a lot of goals while you get used to it. If you can accept that, you’ll be golden. But the thing is, the Instant Hard Tackle allows you to take the game to the attacking player when you feel confident enough, and it allows you to make some last ditch saves in desperate situations. As you make mistakes, you’ll learn when and where to make these tackles.

The Instant Hard Tackle is most effective when you’re face to face with an attacking player. It can also work from the side fairly well, but that’s riskier. Tackling from behind is always a massive risk, just like in real football. Just remember, positioning and timing are key when using the Instant Hard Tackle. If you get this wrong, you take time to recover and the attacking player can punish you. Practice practice practice! Do it offline if you don’t feel confident online just yet.

Follow these gameplay tips and we are sure that FIFA 21 Defending and Attacking will become much easier to you.



I will cover now some tips on dribbling in FIFA 21. Just to be super clear, I’m not referring to Skill Moves here.

The “secret” to being a good dribbler is to understand what your opponent is doing with their defender. More on that later, first let’s look at a new controller setting that is bound to divide some people’s opinions. The Contextual Agile Dribbling setting can be toggled on and off. When on, your players may perform Agile Dribbles in some specific situations that might be beneficial, just from you using the left stick. The way you enjoy the game is up to you of course, but I personally recommend leaving it on to start with. It pairs nicely with Strafe Dribbling, and it can help you generate lots of space. Let’s dig deeper into what I mean.

When you hold or even continuously tap L1/LB to Strafe, you can make small or large motions on the left stick in order to get dribbling animations that can outwit your opponent. It’s a great tool for going up to a defender, changing direction, and getting them to overcommit. But what happens when you immediately need to deal with another defender or with a crowded space? What happens if you need to let go of the Strafe do to your positioning and your opponent’s? What happens if you don’t have time for another half or quarter circle Strafe motion? That’s where, in my opinion, Contextual Agile Dribbling shines. It certainly takes a while to get used to it and to recognize in which situations it could happen… but being able to JUST use the left stick in some situations, especially after Strafing, is super handy. So one of my tips in this thread is to start with it on and to leave it on for a while. Pay attention to how and when it happens, and what sorts of animations you get from your current squad. This also helps you learn the system, even if you disable the contextual aspect of it. Another main tip is to attack defenders head on with Strafes, as explained before. A Strafe Dribble has SO much potential. You can suck opponents in, get past them, generate new space, exploit a small space, etc.

And finally, the “secret” behind all of what I said above is to pay attention to your opponent. You can’t just spam this stuff and expect to be good, a good defender will figure you out quickly. Pay attention to how they are positioned and when they go in for a challenge. Do they overcommit? Easy, just Strafe to a side and sprint out if you need to. Do they swarm you with players or bunch up? A mix of Strafing and Contextual Agile Dribbling can help. Practice dribbling against human players whenever you can, and you’ll improve over time. You need to be able to recognize what the defender is doing in order to outsmart them with your dribbling. This comes with lots of practice over time and some confidence to take the game to your opponent. Just keep in mind that you want to generally be dribbling with players who are good on the ball.

A guy like Neymar is obviously going to be a much better dribbler than some lower-rated CDM. Don’t expect your entire squad to dribble like the best in the world.



Possession is only useful if you actually do something with it. If you’re always waiting for that perfect pass or that guaranteed opening, you’re severely limiting your attacking options. Most football goals are scored because the defending side makes a mistake when reacting to the opponent. f you just hold on to the ball and repeat the exact same passages of play, you will get diminishing returns as your opponent adapts to your play. This style is more beneficial if you and your opponent know each other to begin with.

You should try different movements, passes, and patterns on the attack. I highly recommend you worry less about possession and think more about how you can make diverse attacks. There’s a time and place for most things in football, but keeping the ball without doing anything will hurt you more than it does your opponent over 90 (real and virtual) minutes.