Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross reveals the clubs you should try out in Head to Head Seasons...
I’ve got some questions for you...
Have you ever found yourself powering up FIFA 12, really looking forward to a game of Head To Head Seasons, only to stumble at the team selection screen because you can’t decide who to pick?
Have you got a couple of games coming up that you must win to get out of – or stay in – your online division?
Or maybe you’re someone who’s just looking to try out different teams from the ones you’re used to?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to any of the above, then this week’s Backpage is for you because we’re going to look at the clubs that I think are the best from each star level ranking, why they’re good and how to get the best out of them.
There’s loads to talk about and your eyes have probably only just recovered from last week’s mammoth blog about attributes for Career Mode players, so to spare you we’re going to split this into two. Right now we’ll focus on the clubs at the lower end of the star system – ranked 1 star to 3 – and next week we’ll look at the superstar end of the scale, the 3.5 to 5 star clubs.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering why I’m not talking about 0.5 star teams, it’s because there’s only a tiny amount of them in the game so matchmaking is a nightmare. More often than not you’ll be matched with a team from the star rank above, and the last time that happened to me I got absolutely thrashed. Urgh, it’s best if I don’t think about it.
So, moving on...
I really like using clubs between 1 and 3 stars. From a football point of view it’s great because I find out a bit more about the players at that level – which helps a bit with my day job, or at least that’s the excuse I use for playing FIFA all the time in the office – and the games are often a bit more challenging and definitely a lot more unpredictable than matches with clubs at the very top of the star ranking system.
I still enjoy playing as 4.5 star CSKA Moscow and they’re the club I choose when I need to win, but lately I’ve been using 1 to 3 star teams both offline and online, and I think I’ve found some crackers. Have a look and see what you think...
1 STAR CLUBS
First up is Barnet from League 2. Like a few of the clubs here, I’d never really thought about using them until I matched with a Barnet player who really knew what he or she was doing and had me on the back foot for most of the game.
So I took a closer look and found that, after a handful of quick team selection changes, I could put out an XI that had more pace and power than most 1 star clubs.
Sticking with their default 4-4-2, out go centre-backs Dennehy and Uddin, who I replace with the Kamdjo and Geohaghan. Both have slightly lower Overall ratings, but they’re a bit quicker and Geohaghan is 6ft 5” with a Strength rating of 93, so he has to be in. At a level where not every striker is lightning fast, strength has a greater effect.
Both of the wingers are quick and responsive so I keep them in and just make one change to the midfield, swapping the sluggish Hughes for the nippy Cox.
I don’t need to tinker with the strike partnership at all, because it’s in this department that Barnet really stand out for me. Kabba feels quicker and stronger than his stats suggest, and McLeod is a 6ft left-footed forward with 71 for Finishing – a huge rating at this level.
I also quite like Servette from Switzerland. They’re not that great at the back but they more than make up for that with the players they’ve got going forward.
In a 4-1-2-1-2 I change both full-backs so that Diallo comes in on the right with Ruefli on the left. Both are marginally quicker but there’s not loads in it so don’t feel that this is essential.
Nater holds the midfield with Vitkieviez coming in from the bench to play right-wing. Yartey, the club’s fastest player and best dribbler, plays on the left and I have de Azevedo in the CAM role, linking my midfield and attack.
Both default strikers come out of the team, replaced by the agile M’Futi and the 71 Overall rated Saleiro. He’s got good ball control at this level, but – like McLeod for Barnet – it’s his Finishing stat that really makes the difference.
1.5 STAR CLUBS
Now you probably won’t be surprised to find 1.5 stars’ worst kept secret Shrewsbury here, and that’s largely down to the ability of one player.
Jon Taylor is an absolute beast at this level, thanks to his Acceleration, Sprint Speed, Agility, Dribbling and four star skill moves. Although he’s a winger, I bring him in from the subs’ bench in place of Gornell to partner Morgan up front in the default 4-4-2. Be sure to make Taylor and Morgan switch spots so they’re both playing on their strong sides.
Behind those two I only make one more change, swapping skipper Sharps for the quicker Goldson.
I also think League 1 Walsall are well worth a look at this level, and they’re actually quite similar to Shrewsbury in that it’s all about one main player, in this case experienced striker Jon Macken.
He’s a bit slow but he’s got 77 for Finishing and his Ball Control and Heading stats are good too. I use a 4-3-3 here and build my team around supplying him.
Either side of Macken I bring in Nicholls on the right and Jones on the left, with Hurst playing as LCM and powerhouse Gnakpa playing RCM in front of Chambers who’s anchoring. The back four and keeper don’t need changing.
2 STAR CLUBS
When I was looking for 2 star clubs to try, Swedish side Djurgarden jumped out as being pretty decent.
I play 4-3-1-2 with them and the first thing I do is bring Igboananike into the team. He’s a striker with low 90s for Acceleration, Agility, Jumping and Sprint Speed, so he’s a handful at this level.
Next to him is Agger, who you’ll find in the ressies, with Youssef moving to LCM. Sjolund is Djurgarden’s most creative player so I have him at CAM with benchwarmer Nymann coming in at RCM to play in front of Hamalainen.
There’s plenty of tinkering to do at the back too. The right-back Ceesay is quick so I move him next to Toivio at centre-back where his pace will be of more use. Gustafsson, originally at left-back, moves over to the right to play on his strongest side, and I bring Ayuba in from the reserves to fill the gap on the left of the defence.
I’ve now got a pretty quick team with real explosive pace in attack.
Hansa Rostock are the other 2 star club that caught my eye. They play in the second tier of German football and, with a bit of swapping and changing, can also be a threat thanks to their quality in attack.
Their default 4-3-2-1 makes sense for the players they’ve got, but you’ll want to take a look at their back four as they’ve got better options on the bench or in the reserves. I move Schryrba to centre-back where he’s still comfortable, then bring Langen in from the bench to play at right-back. The left-back Pelzer is better off next to Schyrba and reserves player Blum can come in to fill the space you just made.
Don’t be tempted to drop Peitz from the RDM position. He’s embarrassingly slow but I find Strength to be a more important attribute than speed for holding players at this level, and Peitz has 91 there. Anyway, Perthel next to him compensates for any lack of pace here.
I then keep Lartey in the CAM role with Ziegenbein on the right and Janicke on the left, all buzzing around behind Mintal who I bring in from the bench. He’s probably Hansa’s best player and can shoot with either foot.
2.5 STAR CLUBS
I really like Portuguese club F. Santa Maria here.
Sticking with the default 4-2-3-1 and starting in defence, I select Mika and Henrique as my two centre-backs then drop Serginho in favour of Stopira who is slightly better.
In midfield Rosado is slow and unresponsive so I replace him with Pedro, who plays behind top-rated player Rabiola – a decent finisher.
I also recommend Chicago Fire from the MLS.
Rather than being a one-man team like some of the clubs we’ve looked at, they’ve got good all-round ability and you don’t need to make too many changes to their starting line-up, so you can get into the action that bit quicker.
I keep their default 4-2-3-1, only swapping slow centre-back Gibbs for the much quicker Cuesta, then moving Pappa to CAM with Banner coming in at LAM.
Striker Oduro, with 90s for Acceleration, Agility and Sprint Speed stands out as the goal threat.
3 STAR CLUBS
Have you tried Mexican team Santos Laguna yet?
A quick switch to 4-3-1-2 from the default formation plays to their strengths a bit more, as long as you move Suarez to RCM with Rodriguez next to him and Cardenas on his natural left side. You don’t need to worry about the keeper or defensive positions, they’re fine.
Don’t be tempted to drop Luduena. I know he looks a bit rubbish, but he’s a free-kick specialist who can also hit a decent shot in open play, so have him as your CAM.
Up front I stick with finisher Peralta, then select Laguna’s secret weapon as his partner… Quintero.
He’s really quick, an excellent dribbler and has five star skills. Get the ball to this guy as quickly as you can.
Finally, I’ll leave you with another recommendation from the MLS – Seattle Sounders.
They’ve got a decent enough defence ahead of ancient ex-Prem keeper Kasey Keller in goal, so all you need to do here is swap left-back Wahl for the must faster Tetteh.
I keep their default 4-4-1-1 and make just one change to the midfield, dropping Friberg and picking Evans, who is a better all-rounder.
Things start to get really good from here on in, as I rescue the electric winger Zakuani from the reserves to come in at CAM. He’s great there because he’ll often be in enough space to receive the ball and look for a one-two with Montero ahead of him, that’s if I feel like passing with Montero.
Often there is no need to as, with 77 for Finishing, he does a pretty good job of hitting the back of the net without any help from team-mates. His control is also excellent and he is an effective shooter with either foot too.
Right, there’s loads to take in there so try a few of these clubs out and see how you get on. Just remember to come back next week when we’ll look at the 3.5 to 5 star teams.
And if you spot any good teams I haven’t mentioned, why not post them on Twitter using the #FIFA12H2Hteams hashtag?
Thanks for reading.