Several players are complaining that it is particularly difficult to defend in FIFA 15 - and we agree. In part, this appears to be due to an oversight by EA Sports in this area of the game. While the attacking mechanics were improved with a more unpredictable dribbling system and a greater level of control over the ball, the defence system seems to have gotten more unreliable. Consequently, it's now more difficult to defend.
The good news, especially if you play online, is that everyone is in the same boat, and although it's more difficult to defend, you can still learn how to raise a good defensive barrier, without resorting to parking Mourinho's bus (although that does help in extreme cases). This article therefore intends to offer some tips that can help you improve your defensive game, but you should be aware that it will require patience and practice.
In FIFA 12, EA Sports made one of the bravest changes to their football simulator - they completely revamped the defensive mechanics. Before that, defending was not an action that would require great care or skill. Any player with a minimal understanding of the systems and controls could defend without major problems - it was the quality of the athletes on the field that mostly determined the success or failure of a tackle.
With the shift to manual defence, EA Sports has forced a new defensive mentality from the players. This scheme - Tactical Defending - turned standing tackles into a manual action. Basically, you need to press the standing tackle button with the right timing. It was very demanding in terms of precision, and required a change in the mentality of players. It needed greater positional play relative to your opponent, more attention paid to passing lanes, and improved timing in the tackle. Players that don't like this system can still change to the old one, dubbed "Legacy Defending" in the settings, but this will only apply to offline games, so the best thing is to get used to Tactical Defending if you ever want to venture online for a competitive match.
Master the controls
First of all, you must learn and master the defensive control schemes. With Square (PS) or X (Xbox), you can perform a sliding tackle. That can be very effective, but it's also very dangerous. With Cross (PS) or A (Xbox), the defender will automatically assume a position of pressure in front of the ball carrier. The Circle (PS) or B (Xbox), has several available actions, which depend on the context - in front of the ball carrier, it will attempt to tackle the ball, while on the side or behind, it will either initiate a shirt pull, or attempt physical contact. All three are useful, but can also result in fouls if used carelessly. With L2 (PS) or LT (Xbox) players can contain an opponent, and here the defender is always facing the ball. Finally, the R1 (PS) or RB (Xbox) will let you call a second player to put pressure on the ball carrier.
One of the best places to practice these commands, and improve your overall defensive game, is via the Skill Games. On top of being entertaining, Skill Games teach the various nuances of the defensive game and promote the practice of timing in all the different kinds of tackling. Take your time in Skill Games, it will be worth it. As in almost everything in life, practice makes perfect; the same is true for FIFA 15.
Respect the game and the opponent
A player of FIFA, or any other football game, is always far more concerned with attacking than defending. The defence is just a transitional phase between attacks, and therefore players tend to try to steal the ball as quickly as possible. But this will not work in FIFA 15. Both in the higher difficulties when playing against the AI, but especially against online opponents, you must learn to respect the flow of the game.
It is inevitable that in certain periods of a match, your opponent will be on top of the game. They will press more, and control the ball in your midfield. You must learn to respect and accept this reality, and realise that at times it is necessary to focus all your efforts on defending, and controlling your opponent as they attempt to attack.
There are several factors that will influence the ebb and flow of a game. A losing team, for example, will almost always try to press forward and push you go back. Another factor, oddly enough, is how to coordinate your attack after you get the ball. If you are winning or for some reason you do not wish to raise your defensive line too far, try to attack fast and hard. This is also a great way of catching your opponent off-guard, with well-placed through balls and pacey attackers. On the other hand, if you wish to regain control of the match and take possession and territorial control, don't start attacking immediately. Exchange the ball with patience, pass it back or to the sides, giving your lines enough time to move forward on the field.
Tactics and Strategy
Get to know your team. Its weaknesses and strengths, and compare them to those of your opponent. Imagine you have a 3 star team and you are playing against a 5 star team. It would not be wise to play with two strikers up front, since this will leave your midfield unprotected. If you don't have great confidence in your defenders and midfielders, try more conservative tactics and strategies. Play more defensive midfielders and try to exploit fast counterattacks. And even if you are the one with a 5 star team, don't think you can play recklessly. A strengthened midfield is essential for any team, and it is the start of a good defence.
Patience and pressure
These are two essential rules for any self-respecting defensive players in FIFA 15. Run recklessly onto the ball carrier, and your are practically extending a red carpet for a goal. As it is now very easy to circumvent defences with slight changes of direction when attacking, you will need patience in order to contain an attack. Try to stop the progress of the opponent, holding them about a meter away. This will give you some security and allow for time to react. On the other hand, try to help and pressure take pressure away from a colleague.
If you press R1 (PS) or RB (Xbox), you will be asking for an AI companion to press the ball carrier. This can be a great help if used correctly, but can also result in disaster if used in the wrong situation. By requesting a second player, you will be leaving another opponent unmarked, and this can be dangerous. The situation can be even more serious if the AI decides to use a central defender as the second man, which would leave the opposition striker available to run at goal. More than in any other FIFA, this is a useful tool, but needs to be used properly and carefully.
Defending in FIFA 15 can be a frustrating experience, but with time and determination you can master it. It will require discipline, patience, attention and practice. But, eventually, defending will stop being a boring or frustrating part of the game, and instead it will become a challenging, exciting and rewarding element of FIFA 15. Just like it is in the beautiful game.