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FIFA 21 Defending: Areas that Need to Improve

Written by Stakester
7 Apr, 2021

There’s a plethora of things that have frustrated all of us when it comes to FIFA 21 defending. So, we’ve put together a short list of the defensive areas that we hope will change in EA’s next instalment. Not that they’ll listen (please, EA).


It feels like refs will give penalties if a player trips over his own shoelaces, but not even a yellow if you go through someone outside the box. FIFA 21 refs penalise plenty of perfectly good tackles due to a foul mechanic which seems broken this year. It’s not only unfair that games can be decided on these bad calls, but it also ruins the art of defending; players are put off attempting last ditch tackles in the area – when pulling one off is one of the best parts of the game.

Standing Tackles

We’ve covered this in a number of blogs already, but FIFA 21’s standing tackles are DREADFUL! Oftentimes, they’ll cause you more trouble than they are worth; you’ll take the man as well as the ball and give away silly fouls. In the real game, standing tackles are the bread and butter of any defender. This makes it even more frustrating when your 90 rated Van Dijk makes a 3 course meal out of a simple tackle.

It’s even more baffling, then, when your bang average defenders look like prime Maldini when slide tackling! There is no balance between the two methods and the slide tackle is very much part of the meta. We would like to see some sort of defensive equilibrium in FIFA 22 when it comes to tackling.

The Importance of Pace

An image of Mbappe's stats

Now we know this is going to be a contentious one; nobody wants to see defenders in FIFA outpacing Mbappe. However, attack versus defence shouldn’t always come down to a foot race – and this is usually the case in FIFA 21. It is most evident in Ultimate Team, with pacey CBs like Varane being meta and costing a fortune, whereas other world class defenders are left on the sidelines due to lack of gas.

The best way to attack in this year’s game is to play quick through balls in behind. Similarly, the best way to defend these through balls is by having the pace to keep up with them. In FIFA 22, we want to see the importance of defensive awareness and interceptions increase, that way our slower defenders would have more of an impact when trying to win the ball.

Defensive AI

Defensive AI in this game is very hit and miss, one minute it can feel overpowered and the next it could cause you to concede. The problem we have noticed is that forward thinking through balls are not made possible by impressive offensive AI runs or by a player using clever skill moves, but instead these cutting balls are only made possible thanks to silly ‘lapses in concentration’ by the defensive AI. You’ll feel your back line is in a commanding position and then an AI defender will randomly move away from the player it is marking.

Italian Stallion does a good job of explaining it in this video:

The Dreaded 1 Depth Drop Back

A lot of people have turned to playing this way – and everyone else is saying it’s killing the game! When your opponent changes their custom tactics to 1 depth, with drop back you’ll find that it is impossible to find space in the box. You’ll find yourself sitting on the edge of the area, passing the ball waiting for a gap that will never appear. On top of this, the AI auto block is very successful, meaning long shots won’t worry your opponent either.

Meanwhile, your opponent will be waiting for the opportunity to sting you with a quick counter attack. This makes the setup even more meta when they have world class wingers on their team; for anyone wanting to have a fast flowing game of FIFA, this setup will ruin your chances. In FIFA 22, we would like to see a time limit applied to this custom tactic – much like what happened to the team press.

FIFA 21 Defending: A conclusion

Overall, FIFA 21 defending leaves us wanting. We believe there are some fundamental issues which can be exploited in-game. As such, we hope to see changes made in the upcoming FIFA 22 which ensure that defending is a more well rounded experience, more similar to what we see in the real world.

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