[Formation Guide] Creating Chances with the 5-2-3

FIFA19 4 - [Formation Guide] Creating Chances with the 5-2-3

Well, seeing as this game is dead content wise, the only way i can entertain myself is through tactics tinkering. Previously I posted about the 4-1-4-1, another formation that is outside the meta but still functions as a legitimate formation with the right playstyle. Today I am bringing you a guide on the 5-2-3 which is one of the best formations I've found for consistently creating quality chances.


As always, I like to base my FIFA tactics on real life football philosophies. My inspiration for the 5-2-3 comes from 2 places: Italian 3-back defenses and Barcelona's tiki-taka. Barcelona is traditionally known more as a standard 4-3-3 while itialian sides such as Fiorentina technically play more of a 3-2-2-1, but both formations map well to the 5-2-3 in FIFA.

Take Barcelona from a few seasons ago as an example:

fht9rmoent531 - [Formation Guide] Creating Chances with the 5-2-3

Busquets plays a hybrid role between midfield and central defense which allows the two wing backs to bomb forward and act as extra attacking options. In possession, Busquets sits deep and provides an option for passes out of tight situations to retain possession. Essentially, Barcelona operate with a back 3 of Mascherano, Busquets, and Pique. The back 3 creates solidarity if the team loses possession higher up the pitch and gives Alves and Alba time to get back into position.

Another key aspect of this formation is the reliance on inside forwards. Both Neymar and Messi cut inside to assist in buildup while simultaneously creating space for Alba and Alves to advance up the pitch. This shape creates passing triangles all over the pitch. The diagonal runs of Neymar and Messi were especially difficult for defenses to handle because of their world-class dribbling ability. With Suarez lurking nearby, defenses were always in a tough position.

The 5-2-3 in Fifa

Although Barcelona's tiki taka playstyle is nearly impossible to recreate in FIFA because of inconsistent passing mechanics, the principles behind their shape and spacing are applicable. The key to this formation is attacking wingbacks combining with inside forwards to overwhelm opposing fullbacks and create easy scoring opportunities. The extra centerback provides defensive cover and reduces the threat of a counterattack.

To set up this custom tactic, you want to tell your players to attack very narrowly. I use the lowest width setting they allow. In the instructions, you set both wingers to cut inside, come short, and stay forward when defending. Both fullbacks should be set to join the attack, and the centerbacks should be set to aggressive interceptions with the center centerback also set to join the attack. The other tactical options and instructions can be flexible to fit your team. Telling your wingers to come short and cut inside mimics the movements of Neymar and Messi in my previous Barcelona example. This allows the wingbacks space to bomb forward and provide width. I'll explain more about why its important to setup the centerbacks like that later in this post.

Playing with the 5-2-3

The general shape of your team will look like this when you are in possession,

ndbsadx3st531 - [Formation Guide] Creating Chances with the 5-2-3

The width of this formation puts a lot of pressure on opposing fullbacks. As your own fullback advances and your winger cuts inside, the opponent is left with a choice, does he follow the winger inside or stay wide to cover the advancing fullback. The opponents centerback will already be occupied by your striker and often the central midfielders will be too late to support the isolated fullback. If the opponent choses to track the winger, the fullback is set through behind the opponents line for an easy cutback or cross, while if he choses to prevent the fullback's attack, the winger is left with space to fire a shot or pass to the striker. Currently in FIFA this overload is very difficult to defend because the CPU controlled defenders are quite unresponsive.

If possession is lost, the opponent probably will try to counterattack to take advantage of the space left open by your advanced fullback. With 3 centerbacks, you have the defensive freedom to aggressively contain the counterattack. By controlling a wide centerback or centermidfielder, you can marshall the opponent away from your own goal enough to give the wingbacks time to recover and get into position. While containing, often opportunities arise for you to put in a quick tackle and return to the attack again.


Below is a screenshot of an example French team to highlight the ideal type of player that you need in each position for this formation:

u05ildt7tt531 - [Formation Guide] Creating Chances with the 5-2-3

GK: Doesn't matter, just pick the best one possible

CB: The centerbacks need to be aggressive, so pick players with speed that can chase down opposing attackers and still recover if they are caught out of position.

LB/RB: These are incredibly important positions! They need to be very comfortable in attack with as much pace and stamina as you can find. They will do a lot of running up and down the pitch so you cannot afford for them to be either slow or tired. Although they will rarely be in shooting positions themselves, they will constantly be in positions to create for others so make sure they are smooth on the ball and excellent passers/crossers. If you play this formation correctly they won't be doing much defending, but defensive stats do come in handy.

CM: These guys are just standard box-to-box centermids. With only 2 players in midfield they have to be everywhere. If you can get somebody who is decent at everything I would prioritize that over a player that is elite at one or two things and average at the rest.

LW/RW: These players are going to be cutting inside the entire game. It needs to be a left footed player at right wing and conversely a right footed player at left wing. Long shots is one of the most important attributes for the wingers because they will have plenty of space and opportunity to shoot right along the edge of the box. I love the finesse shot trait for my wingers – it makes a huge difference. These players will also be crucial in supporting your midfielders so make sure they are smooth dribblers and adequate passers.

ST: Somebody who can finish! Despite Mbappe being my striker choice, this isn't a formation that relies on having a ton of pace with your striker as you are mostly attacking from the wings. I like players that act as either a False 9 or target man, but whatever they are, they must be able to finish what the wingers and fullbacks create. 4* weakfoot is a bare minimum requirement, 5* weakfoot is ideal.


  1. The biggest weakness of this formation is the space between the midfield and the centerbacks. No matter what you set your depth, the centerbacks will never come forward enough to meet the central midfielders creating a awkward gap that the opponent can work with. That's why I set my defenders to aggressive interceptions and at least one centerback to join the attack in an effort to minimize this problem. However, the gap still exists.
  2. Ideally the wingers cut inside and deep enough to provide passing options for your midfield. However sometimes this doesn't happen and your midfield is left with no passing options. It takes some getting used to playing with only 2 true midfielders, but eventually looking for the advanced centerback and narrow wingers will become more natural and you won't lose possession so much in midfield.
  3. Creating chances =/= scoring goals. Sometimes I will create way more opportunities than my opponent and still not get the result I want. At the end of the day Fifa is going to be a mess and good play won't be rewarded.

Cool things about the 5-2-3:

  1. I consider this the best counter on the game for people who defend narrowly. The overload on the outside puts attackers in so much space and creates chance after chance.
  2. In this formation the wingbacks are one of your main attacking outlets. Top-class attacking fullbacks are much cheaper than any other position so it suits players even if they don't have a ton of coins.
  3. This is a rare formation to come up against in game. It can be frustrating to attack against a 5-back so many players won't know how to counter this tactic.
  4. At the end of the day it is just something different. Maybe if you find you aren't creating enough chances in your normal formation, give this one a try and see if you experience any change. It is always good to have 2 or 3 tactics saved to switch to if things aren't going right. The 5-2-3 can be a big switch that might just throw your opponent off and give you an edge.

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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