FIFA is not an easy game to play from a defensive point of view, and in FIFA 18 it's even slightly more difficult than it was in FIFA 17. That's why we're here to provide you with some, hopefully, helpful tips. Truth be told, much of what applied to FIFA 17 also applies to FIFA 18, so there are many similarities between this guide and last year's, but we'll also leave you with some new advice. Also, at the bottom of the page, you can watch a video where we show some you some of these tips in action.
Tactical Defence vs Legacy Defence: There are two types of defence in FIFA 18, as has been customary for several years now. By default you will be using Tactical Defense, but in the controller settings menu you can change it to Legacy. Many players find Legacy slightly easier since it's less demanding in terms of timing, but be warned, if you want to play online, you will only be able to use Tactical Defence.
Cross/A: The player runs automatically towards the opponent with the ball. It is a good option to position your player, but when close enough, release the button and regain control.
Circle/B: Depending on the direction of the player with the ball, your footballer will try to take the ball, gain possession with the body, or pull the opponent.
Square/X: The typical slide tackle. Good for intercepting passes and shots, or for taking the ball from an opponent with the ball in front of them, but it can also be dangerous, especially if done from behind.
Triangle/Y: Forces the goalkeeper to run towards the ball. Use this if you realise that your opponent is going to be running clear into the penalty box.
L2/LT: The player uses a "jockey" movement, taking a position to intercept the ball. Excellent to approach the opponent while keeping the passing lines closed.
R1/RB: A second player controlled by artificial intelligence will put pressure on the ball carrier. Good for increasing pressure, but be careful not to get that player out of position.
Tactics and Formation
To defend properly you must first consider the type of tactics your team is using. If the team has orders to stand back and wait for the opponent, don't be surprised when you try to pressure high and your AI-controlled teammates stay back. On the other hand, you must also know the type of defenders you have. If you have defenders with poor attributes, don't expect marking or offside tactics to go smoothly. Spend some time setting up the tactics you want, and then play accordingly. Don't try and do something that your team is simply not capable of doing.
Formation can also play a big part on how well you defend. If you're having difficulty defending, try a formation with two centre midfielders with defensive attributes, preferably strong and tall. It's almost guaranteed that a double pivot in defensive midfield will improve your defence.
Containment and Pressure
Many players wrongly rush to the attacker, both leaving an opponent free to get the ball, and facilitating a dribble from their adversary. The priority should be contain the ball carrier's progress, and pressing the A (Xbox) or Cross (PlayStation) button will automatically place your defender in the opponent's path. However, you should only use this option to approach the opponent, and when you are close, switch to LT (Xbox) or L2 (PlayStation). This button allows you to keep the opponent in check, but gives control back to you. When you are close to the opponent, try to look for an opportunity to make a tackle while cutting out any pass they want to make. However, don't rush it or they will spin past you.
With the opposing player contained, you must focus on two priorities; avoiding danger from both shots and crosses. Sometimes you must sacrifice some positioning, but it's always better to push them wide than let them attack through the middle. On the other hand, it is always better to let the winger pass the ball back to a colleague rather than them crossing into the area or even running towards goal. Sometimes you just can't cover all the angles, so make priorities and choose wisely.
Good pressure on the ball carrier and good coverage of the passing channels may be enough. The AI will try to make riskier passes if you have reduced its options, and that way it's more likely to misplace a pass or get intercepted by one of your players. Just be careful: FIFA 18 includes an improved dribbling system, which further distinguishes skilled players from the rank-and-file. A player with good dribbling and acceleration can be difficult to predict, more so than in FIFA 17. Take that into consideration, or you'll be left behind with ease.
Don't underestimate training
Skill games in FIFA 18 are excellent, and there are a few new ones to try out. They can help you to greatly improve your defensive capabilities. Some challenges may be difficult, even frustrating, but if you want to improve your defence, you need to keep at it. Only after performing well repeatedly in the defensive Skill Games section can you expect to defend properly on the pitch proper.
Pro Tip 1: With LB (Xbox) or L1 (PlayStation), you may request the assistance of an AI-controlled teammate, who will pressure the ball carrier. This technique is a good choice when you have your opponent contained, but is particularly effective in midfield when you are trying to exert strong pressure. In defence this technique has to be used very carefully, or it will pull a defender from their position, and that can have catastrophic consequences for your goal difference. Try to limit the use of assistance to the sidelines or near the middle of the pitch.
Pro Tip 2: With the right analog stick you can use the 'first touch', a technique that many consider offensive, but it can also be useful when defending. When you're trying to get to a loose ball at the same time as your opponent, you can use the right analog stick as soon as you get to it to change its direction away from the opponent. This will give you precious time to pass the ball out of danger.