Tactic: Counter-attacks (CA)

Basic concepts

Counterattacking concedes the battle for possession in the midfield and generates extra scoring opportunities from your opponent’s failed attacks. In order to qualify for counterattacking, you have to have a weaker midfield than your opponent. This already weaker midfield is then reduced by another 7%. (note that midfield strength may vary during a game due to stamina, red cards, injuries and substitutions) The other side will have even more possession, i.e. more attacks, than they’d have if you played normally. In return, you get extra scoring opportunities that completely bypass the midfield. After having nicked the ball from the other side’s forwards, your defense kicks a long pass often resulting in a one-on-one situation between one of your players and the other side’s goalie.

The advantage over other defensive tactics like pressing lies in these extra, special-event-like chances. While pressing is mostly an exercise in damage control, counterattacks actually tries to win the game. Attitude. The drawback is that if it doesn’t work, it’ll backfire and things start looking very grim very quickly. If you don’t get compensation for the possession yielded to your opponent, you’ll lose drastically. So beware. Before you select this option against a superior team, take good look at your own.

When to use CA

The ideal situation for counterattacking is when you’re playing a 3-5-2 or 4-5-1 opponent with a stronger midfield than yours and less than impressive attack ratings. If you can think of a way to beat their midfield, try to win the conventional way. Counterattacking is risky.


Most importantly, a very strong defense section with high passing skill ratings. Your defense is going to be under almost constant pressure, so your ratings in that area had better be a good deal higher than your opp’s attack. Fortunately, trainable formations allow the use of up to five defenders, while the maximum number of forwards in a trainable formation is three. With two teams from the same division, beating the other side’s attack ratings should be feasible, especially if you’ve got a defensive coach.

Defenders with high passing skills are somewhat rare creatures. Keep a look out on the transfer market; depending on the amount of time you spend playing hattrick, getting together a suitable defense might take a few weeks. The good news is that requirements aren’t very high. The five defenders I use when playing counterattacks have passing skill levels of poor, inadequate, 2x passable and 1x solid. This makes for a rather sufficient "outstanding" at counterattacks. If I lose my next cup game against a team two divisions higher than me, it is because my defense lacks in defensive ability, not in passing.

Suitable formations

Counterattacking focuses on defense first and offense second. I wouldn’t use any formation that weakens either, compared to the basic 4-4-2. This leaves 4-4-2, 5-3-2 and 4-3-3. Of these, I’d choose either 5-3-2 or 4-3-3. Going for counterattacks means acknowledging that you’ll lose the midfield and trying to avoid the consequences. To me, playing a midfield of four smacks of wasting talent on a doomed effort, especially since all your midfielders are weakened by 7%.

On the other hand, the constant availability of 4-4-2 has its charm. For example, if you normally play 3-5-2 and are facing that dreaded match against the only 3-5-2 player in your league who is better at it than you are, swapping one or two of your defenders for equivalent players (except with better passing skills) and then playing 4-4-2 counterattacks might be a great surprise move. Of course you’ll have to lay down some money for the extra skills, but if it wins you a promotion (or a good chance of such), you’ll feel compensated.

What to do with your inners

First of all, don’t go out of your way to weaken your midfield. You’ll have some attack even with 20 or 30 % possession. I think it’s a good idea to play your midfielders and wingers either offensively or defensively, depending on where you believe you’re lacking in power. In my case, playing 5-3-2 with a defensive coach, it is clearly the offense. With a 4-3-3 or 4-4-2 formation, it might be defense. E.g., if you play a midfield of three, using one central midfielder defensively and two offensive wingers may be a good idea. Two wingers because wingers have a greater effect on attack ratings than midfielders.

Concentrating your offense on one side of the pitch can also pay off quite nicely because it lays some pressure on one side of your opponent’s defense (pick the weaker one) while leaving the other with nothing much to do. If you don't have enough defenders with strong passing, it might be worth considering to play a midfielder/winger with moderate defense but good passing skills as an offensive defender/wingback (make sure he doesn’t create too big a hole in your defense by doubling his position with an additional defender/defender towards wing). Maybe he’ll reap a star or half a star less than he usually does, but as a nominal defender his passing enters the special tactics rating. Contribution to the success of special tactics doesn’t enter into the stars calculation.

What to watch out for

The greatest danger is an insufficient defense. If you can’t stop the other side from scoring, you’ll just be carrying the ball to the kickoff point instead of launching counterattacks.

Things become a bit awkward if you select CA with a stronger midfield (before the 7% deduction is applied). You won't get additional attacks, but you'll still suffer the disadvantage. As I said above, if you can beat your opp's midfield, try to win the conventional way.

I should imagine that the best tactics against counterattacking are AIM and AOW, because they focus the attack and can produce a local superiority of attack over defense. The inherent weakening of left/right resp. central defense isn’t so bad because a counterattacking player will not have many attacks in normal play. If you think your opponent is going to use one of these tactics, deploy your defense accordingly – but you’d be doing that anyway, wouldn’t you?

Counter-attacking football

The aim of this type of football is to catch the opponent on the "break". When they give away possession in midfield or attack, where midfield is the most dangerous, defensive players will tend to be further up the field than usual to help the attack, and may not be able to quickly adjust to a defensive mindset. Counter-attacking football may involve leaving one or two strikers near the half-way line in the hope that a through ball can be played to catch the opponent off guard. This tends to go hand-in-hand with the long through ball tactic explained above. In the example, an attack by the black team has broken down and ended up in the hands of the white goalie. By kicking a long through ball for the furthermost white player (left up there in the hope of this situation, i.e. this is the "break"), the player has a chance of scoring as he should have evaded the defence if he is fast enough.

In other cases, defenders and midfielders may join in the counter-attack, trying to outnumber or otherwise overtake the opposition by quick and intelligent movement and fast passes. Speed is an important factor both in offense and defense, as the probability of scoring decreases sharply when the opponent has managed to organise their defense.

Teams playing successful counter-attacking football will try particularly hard to dispossess the opponent's midfielders, and a measure to prevent this is to play long balls from the defenders to the attackers, temporarily omitting the midfield players.

Adapted from Casualty - BDF's Forum and Styles of Play - Answers.com

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