Winning football matches is not only about having the best players at your disposal, but also having the right tactics to maximise their talents and exploit opponents' weaknesses.
FIFA 20 is no different to real-life football as tactically outsmarting your opponents can help you win games even with weaker teams.
For beginners, all the formation and tactics options in the game can be daunting. Follow our expert advice to learn how to use them to your advantage.
- FIFA 20: Formations
- FIFA 20: Defensive Tactics
- FIFA 20: Offensive Tactics
- FIFA 20: Attacking and Defensive Gameplans
- FIFA 20: Player Instructions
FIFA 20 has the most formation options of any FIFA game to date, with a variety of alternatives for three, four and five-at-the-back systems.
Which formation you choose depends a lot on your playing style, with some favouring quick counter-attacking play and others more suited to patient build-up and possession football.
Of the 30 formations in FIFA 20, you will usually come up against the same few variations online as many players follow the "meta" (a term used in the gaming world that stands for "most effective tactics available") and try to copy the tactics and formations used by pro gamers.
After being ineffective in previous versions of FIFA, 4-4-2 is now quite useful in FIFA 20 and you will see more people use it online as it offers a good balance between defence and attack. The 4-2-3-1 and 4-1-2-1-2 formations remain both effective and popular, with 4-5-1 also being used by many Twitch and YouTube streamers.
Defending in FIFA 20 is more difficult than before, so you should choose a formation that gives adequate support in defence when you lose possession in dangerous areas. As a result, formations like 4-2-4 are quite rare to come across online, but can be extremely enjoyable to use if you want a lot of high-scoring games and are not too concerned about the result.
People who like to play the ball down the flanks and have quick wide players should use formations which make the most of the pace, such as 4-2-3-1 and the various 4-3-3 options. Possession play is better suited to formations which offer many passing options in midfield, such as 4-1-2-1-2 narrow. The second 4-1-2-1-2 formation has four central midfielders to ensure you dominate this area of the pitch.
Like 4-1-2-1-2, 4-2-2-2 uses four central midfielders but with two central attacking midfielders pushed further outside to offer a different approach. These players need to be quick and have high dribbling as they are sometimes asked to perform the role of wingers and link defence to attack.
There are five different variations of 4-3-3 in FIFA 20, including one with a false nine. The most-frequently used 4-3-3 variations are the default option 4-3-3 (1) with three basic central midfielders, 4-3-3 (3) which has two central defensive midfielders and 4-3-3 (4) which uses the middle midfielder as a central attacking midfielder.
The basic 3-5-2 formation is the most-common three-at-the-back approach in FIFA 20 as it has two central defensive midfielders to support the backline. This essentially means you have five players back when defending and offers a good balance between filling the midfield and playing out wide.
Each formation has default settings across three key areas which you can amend to better suit your playing style. Defensive Style, Width and Depth can all be changed to help you alter the formation to make it suit your players and the way you intend to play FIFA 20.
There are five options for Defensive Style: Drop Back, Balanced, Pressure on Heavy Touch, Press After Possession Loss and Constant Pressure. These are ordered by the levels of pressure your players put on the opponents when you do not have possession.
Drop Back attempts to keep your formation shape when you lose the ball and players will stick to their positions unless you manually control them to move them out of position. Constant Pressure is the exact opposite to this and has players harry the opposition to try to win the ball back at the earliest opportunity, with every player pressing including strikers and wingers. This can often move players out of position and causes players to tire more quickly.
Balanced is a mix of the two and is the default setting for every formation. Pressure on Heavy Touch puts the pressure on when there is a loose ball or when a player controls the ball poorly, while Press After Possession Loss will have all your players press for seven seconds after losing the ball before reverting to Balanced.
Defensive Width has three main options: Narrow, Normal and Wide, but is applied using a 1-10 scale. Narrow (1-3) keeps your players in the middle of the field, congesting the central areas but leaving space out wide. Normal (4-7) attempts to be balanced, maintaining the default shape of the formation, while Wide (8-10) covers the wings more and stop opponents exploiting wide areas
Defensive Depth is also altered using a 1-10 scale with three main options: Deep, Medium and High. Deep (1-3) will make your players sit back more, inviting the opposition into your half but makes it difficult for quick players to get in behind and nullifies long balls. Medium (4-7) is a balanced defensive line which attempts to win the ball back in the midfield areas. High (8-10) pushes your defenders up to put pressure on opponents early but leaves you open for counter attacks.
The Offensive Tactics section has five main settings which you can change to tweak your formation from the default settings. These are Offensive Style, Width, Players in Box, Corners and Free Kicks.
There are four different Offensive Styles you can choose: Possession, Balanced, Long Ball and Fast Build Up. Possession favours a shorter passing game, with players moving into positions to keep the ball rather than making off the ball runs in behind defenders.
Balanced sees some players make attacking runs but looks to maintain the team shape when on the ball. Long Ball looks to push players forward in behind defenders and forwards will make attacking runs even when your defenders have the ball. Fast Build Up has all attacking players attempt to make runs and even defenders push up when you have the ball. This puts more players in attack but can leave teams exposed defensively.
Offensive Width is the same as Defensive Width but determines how wide your players play when in possession. It has three main settings which are adjusted on a 1-10 scale: Narrow, Normal and Wide. Narrow (1-3) tends to suit formations which have a lot of central midfielders rather than wingers. Wide (8-10) looks to exploit the flanks with wingers and full-backs, while Normal (4-7) is a mix of the two.
Players in Box determines how many of your players will look to get into the area when you cross from the wings. Low, Normal and High are the three main areas. Low (1-3) leaves only your forwards in the area to meet crosses, Normal (4-7) causes some midfielders to also attempt to get into the box, while High (8-10) pushes as many players as possible into the area. If you tend to cross a lot, higher settings for Players in Box are recommended, but can leave you susceptible to counter attacks.
Corners and Free Kicks are both set using a 1-5 scale, going from Low to High. This determines how many players are in the area for corners and attacking free kicks. Low keeps more players back while High is much more attacking and even sends defenders up for set pieces.
Each team can have five different gameplans to switch between during matches by pressing the D-Pad left or right on the controller to cycle between: Ultra Defensive, Defensive, Balanced, Attacking and Ultra Attacking.
Although they are named Defensive and Attacking, you can assign any formation and any tactics to these gameplans. Many FIFA 20 gamers use the gameplans to even change the position of their players in game, allowing greater flexibility with chemistry when playing FIFA Ultimate Team.
Custom Tactics and Formations can be assigned to each of the five gameplan options, while players can also be switched around to suit each formation. By default, the attacking gameplans have higher depth and pressure settings and the defensive gameplans are set to drop deep and use a lower defensive line.
The Player Instructions area allows you to set individual player tactics for all your outfield players and your goalkeeper in each of the five gameplans.
Each of your players can also be assigned specific instructions to follow in game such as telling midfielders to stay back or giving full-backs permission to join the attack.
There are 11 different outfield options and two options for goalkeepers, all of which have their own individual settings. Each position has the options appropriate to where they play on the pitch, so strikers do not have settings for defensive behaviour.
Both forwards and full backs have options for Attacking Runs. Forwards can set their Attacking Runs to Get in Behind, Mixed Attack, Target Man or False 9. Get in Behind looks to play off the shoulder of the defender and pick up through balls. Target Man looks to be the outlet for attacks, while False 9 drops deep to pick up the ball from midfield. Mixed Attack combines these options.
Attacking Runs for full backs are much more self-explanatory: Join the Attack, Balanced Attack and Stay Back While Attacking. Join the Attack was called Always Overlap in previous versions of FIFA, but performs the same role.
Attacking Support is an option for central midfielders and defenders. The three options for centre-backs are Join the Attack, Stay Back while Attacking and Play as Striker. The last of these options is usually only used with Ultra Attacking but can be applied at any time.
The midfield options for Attacking Support are Drop Between Defenders, Stay Back While Attacking, Balanced Attack and Get Forward. Drop Between Defenders makes the midfielder support the defence and play much deeper, helping to bring the ball out from the back. Stay Back While Attacking keeps the midfielder's position while in and out of possession.
Chance Creation is used by wingers to determine whether they are natural wingers or inverted ones. There are four settings: Cut Inside, Balanced Width, Stay Wide and Free Roam. Cut Inside is for inverted wingers to bring the ball inside onto their stronger foot and shoot or pass. Stay Wide is for traditional wingers to cross into the area. Balanced Width is a mix of these two while Free Roam is a new addition in FIFA 20 and causes the winger to make runs into space both inside and outside the full-back.
Defensive Behaviour is an option for centre midfielders and has three settings: Cut Passing Lanes, Balanced Defence and Man Mark. Cut Passing Lanes will cause the midfielder to play deeper and stop the ball getting through to the attackers while Man Mark pushes up closer to the opposition midfielder to press and win back the ball.
Defensive Position is also an option for central defensive midfielders and has two variations: Cover Centre or Cover Wing. Cover Centre attempts to keep the midfielders in position while Cover Wing will push them wide if the overlapping full-back has left their side of the pitch exposed.
Position Freedom is for centre midfielders and central attacking midfielders and tells them either to Free Roam or Stick to Position. Players set to Free Roam will often wander out of their default position to look for gaps in the opposition defence and make runs in behind.
All attacking players and wide midfielders have a setting for Defensive Support: Come Back on Defence, Basic Defence Support and Stay Forward. The three options for this should be fairly obvious but you should always have at least one or two of your attackers Come Back on Defence.
Similarly, attacking wide players and midfielders have the option to set Support on Crosses. Get Into Box for Cross, Balanced Crossing Runs and Stay on the Edge of Box for Crosses are the three settings. It is often a good idea to keep some attacking players outside the box to win the second ball.
Support Runs are for forwards, wingers and wide midfielders but vary depending on the player's width. Central players have three Support Runs options: Drift Wide, Balanced Width and Stay Central, while wide players can choose between Get in Behind, Balanced Support, Come Short and Target Man. The Come Short and Target Man options are similar to the striker options for False 9 and Target Man.
Every player has an Interceptions setting: Aggressive Interceptions, Normal Interceptions and Conservative Interceptions. This is like the pressing option in your team's overall Defensive Tactics but can be tweaked per player in order to make them close down opponents.
You can choose the Run Type for full backs, whether they should make Inverted runs, play a Mixed Attack or Overlap. These are like the options for wingers but will not be used if you have your full backs set to stay back.
There are two goalkeeper instructions you can set. Saving on Crosses has three options: Comes for Crosses, Balanced and Cautious with Crosses. This affects whether the goalkeeper will stay on his line or attempt to come out and punch or catch the ball. Saving Outside Box has just two options: Sweeper Keeper and Balanced. You need a keeper with high speed to play Sweeper Keeper effectively.