Games

FIFA 21 tips guide: How to become a better player

© EA
If you want to improve your FIFA 21 game without having to resort to cheating or underhanded methods, you're going to need to know a few essential tricks. Here's how to improve as a virtual athlete.
Written by Stacey HenleyPublished on
Whether you’re after bragging rights among your mates or want to climb the FIFA 21 divisions, these tips should offer some valuable insights into how to be a better, more rounded FIFA player.
This list covers both attacking and defensive play, as well as taking advantage of some underutilised FIFA features. Both FIFA 20 and FIFA 21 introduced some interesting new game mechanics, so getting to grips with them is a huge priority too.
If you want to learn how to counter your mates' offensive play, how to score goals that – really – should be un-scorable, or you simply want to know how to make your game more consistent, you've come to the right place.

1. Jockey

FIFA-21-EA-tips
Learning to jockey will improve your game vastly.jpg
Defenders have it tough in FIFA 21. The game is built for fast paced entertainment, and that often means bags of goals. Online 0-0s happen much less frequently than they might in real life, and that’s largely because it’s easier to attack than to defend.
A lot of players will dive in and commit to challenges, but is often better to simply jockey your opponent and push the attackers away from danger. You’re less likely to be exposed this way, and less likely to give away fouls. It takes some concentration, but it’s a better tactic than just jumping into tackles and risking a free kick or a booking, generally.

2. Don't Sprint

FIFA-21-Cantona
Cantona leads a pack of incredible athletes in FIFA 21
This sounds counter-intuitive because for your whole life you’ve probably been playing FIFA by sprinting everywhere. While the stamina drain has gotten better in recent editions, you’ll probably have been subbing off your worn out attackers all your life too.
Sprinting doesn’t just tire players out; it also makes it harder for them to control the ball, pick a pass out, and makes the power bar move much faster. Obviously, football is a fast game and FIFA puts a big emphasis on pace – and never sprinting is much worse than always sprinting. But use it sparingly, use it when you absolutely need gut-busting pace, and try life in the slow lane more often.

3. Use the radar

Go ahead and get in deep, or try hard for those early touches. If you have one of these keepers as your last line of defense, you can get aggressive.
You can focus on your possessions when not worrying about your net
The radar at the bottom of the screen is an invaluable resource, but too often players don’t use it. Most of us play FIFA with a fairly close camera, as that lets us see what’s going on and brings us close to the action. In real life though, the best players keep their heads up, constantly scanning for space and passes.
The radar gives you that option. It lets you see which players are marked and which ones have space, as well as whether or not a ball over the top would be effective. It’s an underrated tool on your path to bragging rights.

4. Use Agile Dribbling and Creative Runs

AC Milan
AC Milan
These are the two new attacking features in FIFA 21, and used properly, they can give you a serious tactical edge. Expect the best players to use these features frequently, taking the game into their own hands. Agile Dribbling is activated by pushing RB/R1, and means the player in possession will keep the ball tight to their body, waiting for the right moment for you to knock it past your opponent and run. We see Raheem Sterling, Wilfred Zaha, and Allan Saint-Maximin do this every week in the Premier League.
Creative Runs, on the other hand, work with LB/L1 followed by a flick of the right stick. Rather than relying on the AI to make the right run, you can now direct your runners exactly where you want to go. With these two features, you have more control than ever before in the final third – and that can set you up brilliantly for a goal if you think ahead.

5. Vary your passes

FIFA 20 shot on target
Stick the CPU on ‘Beginner’ and prepare for target practice!
FIFA 20 added some new types of passes to the game, but with FIFA 21’s new running controls, they can become more effective than ever. Double tapping either short pass or through ball will result in a dinked pass; a more controlled chip which can cut out interceptions. Thiago and Goretzka frequently played these sorts of passes to wide men as Bayern Munich stormed to the Champions League title last season.
Meanwhile, double tapping lofted through ball (L1/LB + Triangle/Y) will make those floaty lobs over the top faster and more driven, while still allowing you to keep control of things. Master these and you’ll be the Kevin De Bruyne of your pals in no time.

6. Practice Set Pieces

FIFA 20 free kick
Don’t forget to apply spin as well as timing your free-kicks
Set pieces were completely overhauled for FIFA 20, and if you managed to get the hang of them then, congratulations! You’re already at least one step of the way to becoming the best FIFA player out of your mates.
If you didn’t play last year’s version – or just couldn’t get the hang of the free kicks – it couldn’t hurt to try out the drills. Free kicks now allow you to put different levels of spin and curve on the ball, while the shooting buttons still provide power and technique. It takes a while to pick up, but in the long run, FIFA 21 has some of the most comprehensive free kick options in the franchise’s history.

7. Use Timed Finishing

Hee-chan Hwang ahead of shooting in FIFA 21
RB Leipzig in FIFA 21
Timed Finishing was rebalanced for FIFA 20, making it more effective, but harder to actually do. In FIFA 21, it’s basically the same, so you’ll want to get good at it before whipping it out in a do-or-die one on one. Getting it right means more accurate and consistent shots – and so it stands to reason, more goals. Getting it wrong, however, often means skying the ball like Ronny Rosenthal. Ask your parents, kids.
Timed Finishing starts like regular finishing, in that you need to press and hold shoot while aiming to generate power. Then, just before you hit the ball, tap shoot again. If you’re struggling, you can turn on FIFA Trainer via the menu, and it will flash red for very early, yellow for slightly early, white for late, and green for perfect. Hopefully that last one will also be indicated by the net rippling too.

8. Hit them on the counter

FIFA 21.jpg
FIFA 21.jpg
A classic tactic, but a very good one. Applied by Leicester City, Atletico Madrid, and other difficult-to-play-away teams around the world, counter attacking football is a cornerstone of FIFA. The game puts a lot of stock in pacey, powerful players who can dribble quickly, and so counter attacking football is the way to go.
In years gone by, passing was easier than dribbling, so FIFA was ruled by tiki-taka. In the past few years, though, that has flipped – meaning many top players prefer to run rings around their opponents via a few tricky individuals.

9. Whip crosses into the box

FIFA-21-FUT-changes
FIFA fans around the world are celebrating the changes to FUT in 2021
Crossing was mostly avoided in FIFA 20, but has undergone significant changes for this year, and is most definitely going to see some use. Headers are more effective now and crossing is more accurate, so don’t be afraid to have wingers with chalk on their boots sending balls into the box. Aiming for just behind the penalty spot is a good shout for strikers running into the box, and hitting it over everyone for the winger on the other side to cut in with a volley –yep, volleys have been fixed too – also works well.

10. Get to know your players

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You can make your whole chosen team OP very easily
Most FIFA 21 players have a set crop of teams they like to play as online, having carefully chosen which of the world’s top teams most suit their playing style. Likewise, in Ultimate Team, though you’ll occasionally trade away some players for slightly better ones, you’ll find yourself sticking with the same basic crop.
Therefore, you’ll want to get to know your players. Some have better pace, some can’t use skill moves, some are better in the air, some can’t hit it with their weaker foot… you get the idea. Knowing each players’ strengths (and probably more importantly, weaknesses) means you’ll never put them in situations they can’t handle.