The most fashionable formation on FIFA 21? We asked a competitive gamer for their FUT tips

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:20, 11 March 2021 | Updated: 10:46, 3 October 2022

FIFA 21 Ultimate Team is a constantly changing landscape and the moves that worked in October may not be enough to win games today.

Whether it’s meta players, formations or skill moves, the FIFA competitive scene is very much adapt or perish. If you don’t keep up to date with the latest changes, you won’t make it very far in the tournaments.

So, as we reach the business end of the FIFA 21 eSports season, what are the best skills, tactics and formations to use?

We asked Josh Buchanan – you can find him on Twitch here – a FIFA Ultimate Team player who has twice achieved a top 200 finish on FIFA 21 Weekend League, regularly hitting Elite by recording 23 wins or more, for the lowdown and a bit more about his experiences of the competitive scene.

Who is the most famous FIFA player you’ve beaten?

To be honest, I’ve played a fair few top players. I recently matched Neo Gorilla on Weekend League, a very well-known UK-based player currently ranked 19th in Europe.

Spencer ‘Gorilla’ Ealing with the UK Esports Player of the Year award in 2017

He has been on the competitive FIFA scene for years and is the previous world champion in 2017. He was very aggressive with his tactics while using a lot skills it was very difficult to defend against. I managed to beat him 5–2 in a good game. But don’t get me wrong, on another day I could easily have lost!

What are the giveaway skills and tactics that tell you you’re up against a top player?

For me, this year on FIFA the skills-cancels are the best. I use them a lot. There are three that stand out and are very effective:

  • Fake shot cancels
  • McGeady Spin cancel (5* skills)
  • La Croquet cancel (4* skills)

To perform these skills you need to press LT/L2 and RT/R2 to cancel it. They take a while to get used to. I practiced in the arena to teach myself how to do them. It’s all well and good knowing how to perform the skills, but you need to learn how to time them as well against your opponent.

In my opinion it creates a skills gap between other players. You don’t come across many who are doing them. If they are, you’re normally in for a tough game.

There are also other skill combinations that are really effective, such as the drag back into the elastico/flip flap – which is a personal favourite of mine – and the ball roll into a scoop turn.

You can normally tell by their team at first if an opponent is good or understands the game, as they will use the meta players. These will be the likes of Pele, Ruud Gullit, Patrick Vieira, R9 Ronaldo, Johan Cruyff – the best Icons you want to go for (but expensive).

I’d also say the way a player is pressing and player-switching says a lot about their ability. A lot of causal players will just use the LB/L1 to switch to a player but this is slow and less effective.

Top players will use the right stick on the controller and the L1/LB together. It allows you to switch quicker and cut off passing lanes manually, or bring a player into a position to intercept the ball. For example, if you’re going to pass to the striker, they’d quickly switch to their CB and intercept the ball before it gets to them.

It’s like being three or four steps ahead of your opponent. They read the pass before it’s happened, a lot like a professional centre-back would.

The most fashionable formations right now?

Typically the 4-4-2 and the 4-2-3-1 are the safest option for a good solid all-round formation. They have a nice balance, and I’ll personally always start with the 4-2-3-1. I use my four attackers, the LAM, RAM, CAM and ST to attack, and have my CDM on stay back. I’ll use the LB/L1 button to trigger players’ runs if I want my CDM to go forward.

Right now, the current ‘meta’ is the 5-3-2, which seems to be what the majority are going with.

It basically becomes a 3-5-2 when you are attacking as the LWB and RWB push up to become and LM and RM. I’ll sometimes switch to the 5-3-2 if my opponent is playing it to try and cancel it out. I personally hate it, though. It’s very overpowering but if you can’t beat them then join them, I guess. It’s literally like running into a wall when attacking in the final third as there are so many players defending.

Another strong formation is the 4-3-1-2 with the full-backs attacking. You can adjust your tactics to pressure after possession is lost. This can become very OP, making it very easy to win the ball back up high. I’ll use this if I’m down a few goals and struggling to make chances. It does leave you open to a counter-attack if your opponent can beat your press, though.

How did last weekend’s FUT Champions Cup 4 go?

The FUT Champions Cup 4 was a double-elimination tournament, with 521 players on the Xbox and 1,118 on PlayStation. If you lose twice you’re out. The Top Six is played on a live broadcast on the 20th-21st March 2021.

To get Top Six and to live broadcast, you must either win eight games in the winners’ bracket or 13 in losers’. You drop down to losers’ bracket once you lose.

It didn’t go to well for me, at all, and was my worst performance this year as I went out very early on. But these things happen. I played two very good players, was too aggressive in my second game and finished 385th. I’ll learn from it and go again.

One of the best games on the Xbox that stands out is DullenMIKE beating Fnatic Tekkz in the 122nd-minute. He went on to achieve Top Six for the second time this year. Joining him will be Slow x Flow, PredatorFIFA, KFC Pablo, xMusti19 and NEissaT14.

On the PlayStation, Spanish pro Adriman beat eClub world champion Oliboli to secure his fourth Top Six finish in FCC. The other five to join him are LevideWeerd, Gravesen_1, ImertAL, AndoniiPM and Cosimoguarnieri.