The ultimate FIFA 21 defending guide | How to defend better

The ultimate FIFA 21 defending guide

Published: 30/Sep/2020 15:55 Updated: 4/Feb/2021 14:30

by David Purcell


Defending is an art, no doubt about it. In FIFA 21, whether you play Ultimate Team, Career Mode, Seasons or Pro Clubs, knowing how to protect your goal like a pro is key. In this ultimate defending guide, we run through everything that Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC players need to know about to have their sides defending like a Jose Mourinho team. 

At times in FIFA 20, the game might have felt like a game of chess. The players were too deep by default and EA SPORTS’ dev team have been working to rectify those issues in their next installment. Time will only tell if the community approves.


What do we know is that there are a variety of manual controls to get to grips with.

This includes controlled tackling, player personality, standing tackle changes, defensive awareness, and aggression attributes. When playing, you’re going to have to master each of these if you want to play at a high level. Blocking has also been tweaked.

Erling Haaland skipping past a defender
Using your defense to hold off FIFA 21’s top strikers should be your priority.

FIFA 21 defending custom tactics and tips

Before we list all of the different defending features in FIFA 21, it’s important to be aware of some tips and custom tactics that can help the cause.

Defensive formations

In FIFA 21, the rigid 4-4-2 system can help shield your goal very well. Using tips from our custom tactics guide, we can see the following bars work the best.


FIFA 21 custom tactics 442
Two banks of four is a good move, defensively, so let’s jump into the FIFA 21 custom tactics that are best for it.


  • Defensive style: Balanced
  • Width: 5 bars
  • Depth: 3 bars


  • Offensive style: Balanced
  • Width: 5 bars
  • Players in the box: 6 bars
  • Corners: 2 bars
  • Free kicks: 2 bars

Player instructions and players to buy

Now, with player instructions you’re going to want to have fullbacks set as stay back when attacking. This means the back line will be secure even when you’re attacking, preventing wild counter attacks. In midfield, have them cover the center and stay back, too. Forwards and wingers set to stay forward.

From experience, this game looks – if not more than any other – like it’s a must to have fast fullbacks with high defensive awareness. A lot of meta formations have wide players and with the speed pegging back your defence, the last thing you want is two slugs protecting your centre backs.


Therefore we would recommend looking at affordable options to start out with, such as Sergio Reguilón at Spurs or Nico Schulz from Dortmund on the left side. Equally quick players on the right, if possible, and those can be upgraded over time.

Jesus man city fifa 21
Fast strikers are king again in FIFA 21, but having a good defence behind them is key.

It’s also very important to have a ball winner in midfield. You’re not going to survive without somebody to break up play, which might be a Wilfred Ndidi – for example. Alongside those, good passers and those with high longshots would be ideal to accompany them.

For strikers, you need to be looking at stamina, sprint speed, finishing, and composure when buying players.


How to defend in FIFA 21

In this section we are going to break down different features and control options available in FIFA 21. This includes standing tackles, instant hard tackles, and more.

Standing tackles

With this type of tackle, previous games have been quite inconsistent. Sometimes you can use a defender to push a player wider on the pitch, or step ahead of them and start shielding the ball. This is a big change FIFA 21 has introduced.

As seen below, we can now use defenders to really assert their physical dominance. This, as well as other details on defending, were all confirmed by EA previously.

This is very similar to a jockey, which is L2/LT Hold Down + Direction. From there, the regular tackle button of B or Circle should take the ball under your control.


You should feel the benefit of this out wide. When a speedy winger pushes the ball in front of them, to use speed to beat your defense, now the defenders have a counter punch of their own. Use standing tackles to your benefit and it should allow your central defenders, and potentially even midfielders, to take control.

Instant hard tackles

Kylian Mbappe in FIFA Ultimate Team
Getting close to people is all well and good, but nothing beats a strong tackle to swipe the ball.

If you would like to ruffle some feathers early in the game, this is the feature for you. That’s for sure.

Instant hard tackles have been added to FIFA 21. These allow players the ability to knock others off the ball with some serious force, and at speed.

To do this, simply click R1/RB + O/B. This will perform Hard Tackles instantly, without having to hold and power up the tackle button as you needed to previously.


Blocks have been changed, making use of each player’s controlled tackling AI. The best footballers will have enhanced abilities here, with the new player personality system.

A statement from the gameplay pitch notes reads: “A player’s attributes will determine the effectiveness of a block, how far away from the ball a player can block, how long it takes to start the block animation, how well you can react and transition into a different block animation if something changes, and how long it takes to recover from a block.”

EA has also confirmed that handling the ball has been completely eliminated from the game. Previously, handballs were a feature in offline modes like Career Mode. There, you could get penalties for a player handling the ball out of your control. However, across all modes, this has been removed – which should save some frustration.

Quick Tactics and Offside Trap

FIFA 21 Inter Milan team
There’s a lot you need to know about defending before you walk out onto the pitch in FIFA 21.

If you’re thinking Quick Tactics will be a useful way to waste time in FIFA 21, think again.

Following the feedback of the community, EA realized they had to change the “unrealistic” ways people were using Quick Tactics. Developers revealed: “It was difficult for the defending team to try to get the ball back in these situations.”

“To address this, we revamped the Team Press Quick Tactic to no longer result in a Constant Pressure defensive tactic. It now triggers a temporary Auto Press behavior on-demand and with a cooldown timer that prevents it from being overused.”

For Offside Traps, a new manual switch feature will allow you to control players that are creating the trap. This should add another string to your bow defensively, as sometimes the Offside Trap itself can catch out the defense trying to execute it. Now, you have a Plan B.

Chemistry styles

A number of chemistry styles have been confirmed for the game and the following can be used on defenders, with the goalkeepers coming up right after it.

The table also shows how each of these impacts the attributes, when selected.

Defender chemistry styles

+10 Acceleration, +5 Spring Speed, +5 Interceptions, +10 Heading, +10 Marking, +10 Standing Tackle, +10 Sliding Tackle, +10 Jumping, +10 Strength, +10 Aggression
BackbonePAS +2
+5 Vision, +5 Crossing, +5 Long Passing, +10 Short Passing, +5 Curve, +5 Interceptions, +5 Heading, +10 Marking, +10 Standing Tackle, +10 Sliding Tackle, +5 Jumping, +10 Strength, +5 Aggression
GladiatorSHO +3
DEF +3
+15 Positioning, +5 Finishing, +10 Shot Power, +5 Long Shots, +10 Interceptions, +15 Heading, +5 Marking, +10 Standing Tackle, +15 Sliding Tackle
GuardianDRI +3
DEF +3
+5 Agility, +10 Balance, +5 Reactions, +5 Ball Control, +15 Dribbling, +10 Interceptions, +5 Heading, +15 Marking, +10 Standing Tackle, +10 Sliding Tackle
SentinelDEF +3
PHY +3
+5 Interceptions, +10 Heading, +15 Marking, +15 Standing Tackle, +15 Sliding Tackle, +5 Jumping, +15 Strength, +10 Aggression
ShadowPAC +3
DEF +3
+15 Acceleration, +10 Sprint Speed, +10 Interceptions, +10 Heading, +15 Marking, +15 Standing Tackle, +15 Sliding Tackle

Goalkeeper chemistry styles in FIFA 21

CatREF +2
SPD +2
POS +2
+10 Reflex, +10 Speed, +10 Positioning
GloveDIV +2
HAN +2
POS +2
+10 Diving, +10 Handling, + 10 Positioning
ShieldKIC +2
REF +2
SPD +2
+10 Kicking, +10 Reflex, +10 Speed
WallDIV +2
HAN +2
KIC +2
+10 Diving, +10 Handling, +10 Kicking

Other FIFA 21 defending changes you need to be aware of

Liverpool vs Manchester City FIFA 21.
Defending is important in any FIFA game.

It’s important to be aware of changes, to learn how to defend in FIFA 21. Defending like you did in a previous game is a good starting point, but it will only take you so far.

EA SPORTS have confirmed a short list of other defensive changes. These include the following:

  • Shoulder Challenges have been re-worked to create better contact between players, and avoid the defender overshooting their opponent.
  • Seal Outs are when a defender puts themselves between the attacker and the ball to take back possession or shepherd the ball out of play, and they have also been re-engineered to create a better positioning between the player and their opponent.
  • To perform a Shoulder Challenge or Seal Out, tap the L2/LT button whilst side by side with your opponent when defending.

As of February 2021, the game has been played by thousands worldwide and looks to be an upgrade on last year’s. Check out our full review of FIFA 21 here, breaking down the pros and cons of everything that’s changed.

For more FIFA 21 guides and tips, check out our list below:

FUT Champs rewards | FUT Draft rewards | Division Rivals rewards | Squad Battles rewards | FIFA 21 performance trading tips | How to trade meta cards | How to snipe players | FIFA 21 best young players | Ultimate defending guide | Ultimate passing & crossing guide | How to complete FGS Token Swap SBC | FIFA 21 ICONs list | Best Pro Clubs custom tactics | Best custom tactics, formations & player instructions