EA Sports FC 24: How to defend

2023-10-02  Gaming

EA Sports FC 24, the new incarnation of the series previously known as FIFA, is a great football game, but one of the few issues marring the on-pitch action is how difficult it is to defend well, prevent opposition goals, and keep clean sheets. In this article I’ll share what I’ve learnt about how to keep things tight at the back.

EA-induced difficulty

I’ll start by saying that EA does not make defending easy in FC 24, and the game becomes all the more frustrating when you go on the attack and compare your own defensive woes to your AI opponent’s apparent ease at shutting you out.

The AI seems to make interceptions and blocks much more easily than you do, and even smaller teams can play intricate passes to cut into your box or smash long efforts into the top corner like some kind of prime Lampard-Gerrard hybrid.

If an opponent tries to play balls over or through your defence to run on to, it can feel impossible to catch up once they’re past your back line, and in one-on-one situations goalkeepers are prone to sliding at attackers’ feet, leaving an open goal.

Rethinking your defence

As a result, my defensive record was initially awful in Career Mode, and for my first week with the game I’d usually conceded the most goals of any team in the league. When I analysed my mistakes I realised I’d fallen into several bad habits that were costing me, and since addressing them my defence has kept regular clean sheets.

But before we jump in, there’s some groundwork to be done. First, make sure you’re aware which defending style you’re using in the settings. These range from Legacy to Advanced, with varying levels of control. On Legacy, for example, the player can control various aspects of pressing but has no standing tackle button.

I’d also suggest reviewing the AI proficiency sliders for both your and your opponent’s players. Giving your goalkeeper an edge and nudging down your opponent’s passing/shooting accuracy can make FC 24 much more enjoyable. Some would call this cheating, but a subtle tweak via these settings is much more rewarding than dropping down a whole difficulty level and winning every week.

Steps to more effective defending

With the above factors sorted, you’ve probably configured things as well as you can. With the game side of things taken care of, it’s time to focus on the football.

1. Set up your tactics

Take advantage of FC 24’s Game Plans, which enable you to swiftly change your strategy all the way from Ultra Attacking to Ultra Defensive in-game using the directional buttons. On more defensive settings, shift players’ roles (for example, move your wing-backs to full-back positions, or your CAM to CM).

Altering individuals’ intructions can also help - particularly when it comes to limiting runs by more defensive-minded players with the Stay Back While Attacking option. You could also consider a change to your overall team tactics (I usually set my Ultra Defensive Game Plan to Park the Bus to keep everyone behind the ball).

2. Be careful with your passing

They say attack is the best form of defence, and it’s certainly very difficult for your opponent to score when you have the ball. Think about your passes, particularly in your own half, and consider that playing a backwards pass and keeping the ball is usually preferable to losing possession to an attacker in a stupid area.

3. Stand off and slow down

My instinct from the FIFA days is to sprint around and launch into tackles, pressing high to win the ball for my team. But FC 24 is slower and more thoughtful. Slowing down and standing off your opponent helps to conserve energy and block passing avenues, while also reducing the risk your momentum will get you turned.

Taking this one step further, you can help your team to hold their shape and mark their men more effectively by switching to a player suited to the area of the pitch the ball is currently in. For example, switching to your defensive midfielder will allow your centre back to run back and slot back into his place in the defence.

4. Don’t abuse the secondary press

FC 24 has a new secondary press feature that lets you hold R1 to bring an AI-controlled defender into play to hassle the man on the ball, and one of the worst habits I’ve apparently retained from the glory days of PES is to hold this down for the bulk of my time off the ball in an attempt to squeeze them out of possession.

Again, EA Sports’ latest release is more tactical than previous football games, and this often left the AI to exploit space created by players I’d dragged out of position. Instead, let them mark their own men, and use this option very sparingly, only to apply pressure while you block a pass or mark a potential recipient.

5. Jockey when you get close

Jockeying - holding L2 to square up to the player in possession side-on - has been in FIFA for years, but in FC 24 it seems to be more effective than ever before. Not only are you more likely to make a block or interception while jockeying, but the AI appears to behave differently, slowing down and looking backwards with its passes.

So once your defender is close enough, be sure to jockey to hold up play and put yourself in a good position for a block or a standing tackle. Only go for the latter when your defender has an unobstructed path to the ball or you’ll give away a lot of free kicks, which is unnecessary when jockeying alone is such a powerful move.

Got something to say? Join the conversation