FIFA 21 gameplay changes: Runs, headers, defending, shooting, more

David Purcell
Alexander-Arnold in FIFA 21 gameplay

EA SPORTS previously touted a whole host of game mode specific reveals for FIFA 21 during August, although many details on gameplay have already been confirmed by the developers. 

Ultimate Team, Career Mode, Pro Clubs, and just about everything has had a shakeup in FIFA 21. Gameplay was one of the top priorities for EA following continued criticism for the state of FIFA 20.

Players argued that FIFA 20 played too slow- heading wasn’t as effective as previous years, and defending was also criticized. FIFA 21 attempted to change all of that, though, so here’s everything that’s been tweaked.


FIFA 21 gameplay Fundamentals

Chelsea and Manchester City in FIFA
The “fundamentals” are set to change in FIFA 21.

The basics have been questioned in FIFA, possibly like no other time on the current generation of consoles. Passing, defending, shooting, and just about anything else you can think of was criticized in the previous title.

EA previously confirmed that an overhaul was on the way, though, posting some tidbits online for the community to see.

In an official statement, they said: “Informed by feedback from the community, revisions to the fundamentals of football in FIFA raise the game throughout the pitch, with manual headers, more balanced blocking, more intelligent passing, and increased responsiveness giving you more control on and off the ball.”

This sees all of the action in-game feeling much faster, and less like a strategy game in competitive modes.

Positioning personality defending and attacking

Van Dijk going for a header in FIFA 21
The goalposts are moved again in the battle between defense and attack.

There’s possibly nothing more frustrating than having a player in your team that doesn’t know what’s around them.

In FIFA 21, AI was tweaked again, with a new ‘Positioning personality’ system. But, what does that mean? Making defending and attacking feel a bit more fluid, generally speaking.

“New Positioning Personality raises the importance of positional awareness,” devs have revealed. “World-class forwards will hold their runs to stay level with the last defender to stay onside, playmakers will hunt for space to operate between the lines, while the best defenders will close down passing lanes more effectively to make it harder for the opposition to create opportunities.”

Creative runs

Erling Haaland skipping past a defender
Making runs at the right time is something you can perfect in FIFA 21.

Tom Caleffi, a gameplay producer for EA SPORTS FIFA, previously revealed a first-look at strikers taking full advantage of gaps in the defensive line.

This is something players have wanted for a long time.

As far as official descriptions go, for creative runs, things sound interesting, to say the least. It states: “Creative Runs give you new options for influencing your team’s movement off the ball, revolutionizing attacking build-up play in FIFA 21 and providing you with more ways to break down the defense.”

New ‘Agile dribbling’ system

Kylian Mbappe in FIFA Ultimate Team
Dribbling is a big part of breaking down walls of defense.

Passing around opponents is all fun and games until somebody just tits tight with two banks of four.

That’s where dribbling and skill come in. For those interested to hear how dribbling will be different this time around, EA have posted some clues online, with a much grander reveal expected as part of their August plans.

“Explode past defenders with the new Agile Dribbling system. Faster footwork gives you more control and responsiveness in one-on-one situations, and new skill moves like the bridge dribble and ball roll fake turn provide you with the means to explode past defenders.”

Competitor mode

FIFA 21 game cases with Kylian Mbappe on the front
What edition have you bought – FIFA 21 Standard Edition, Champions Edition, or Ultimate Edition?

Being competitive is everything for a FIFA player. That’s why people buy the best in Career or save up for the top-rated cards in Ultimate Team.

FIFA 21 have introduced a new Competitor Mode, so that makes things even tougher for players coming up against the computer.

“Replicating the play style of the best FIFA players in the world, the Competitor Mode setting gives your opposition a better grasp of skill moves, dribbling types, and tactics to give you a more challenging and rewarding opponent to match up with on Legendary and Ultimate difficulty.”

New Celebrations

Football, just like anything else, is a sport that lives off of trends.

Trends can decide a lot of things in this sport. Everything from how kits look from one year to the next, to how players act on the pitch.

Some of the world’s most popular footballers are coming up with their own trademark celebrations, and the game includes some. Erling Haaland’s sit-down showboating will be added alongside Kylian Mbappe’s famous crying celebration.

To learn more about all the celebrations available, check out our handy FIFA 21 guide!