Staring at the screen in passing Confusion? Here we offer 14 expert tips and nuggets of advice on how to improve your game. Reading it makes you great progress!

EA’s decision to overhaul the passing and first-touch mechanics in FIFA 16 is proving contentious in certain quarters, with passing purists, long-ball merchants and sweaty pace abusers alike bemoaning the current state of play.

The following tips, tactics and tricks have been written with online play in mind, but many of the techniques will translate into single-player sessions. If you’re struggling in general, we’d advise that you head to Seasons mode to practice in a realistic, live-fire environment: this way, there’s less chance that you’ll encounter the squads of human bulldozers that savvy Ultimate Team players are assembling.

1. Resist the urge to sprint
Sprinting reduces pass accuracy, and makes your players easier to tackle. Until there’s a specific opportunity to inject a burst of pace, it’s much easier to maintain possession if you walk with the ball.

Once you get into a rhythm, you can frustrate an opponent who favors a high-intensity pressure game with a simple pass-and-move approach, largely because walking players aren’t tracked as aggressively by the AI assistance that can transform defending teams into swarms of homing missiles.

2. Watch the first touch
A good first touch is equally as important as the quality of the pass that came before it. Your initial contact with the ball should always set up the next part of a move, either creating space or establishing an angle for the next pass. Try not to sprint as you receive a pass to feet: this can lead to awkward bounces and extra touches, though it’s less of an issue if you’re running onto a pass into space.

3. Hold the directional stick until a pass is played
This is a fundamental FIFA technique, and one that countless players forget or even fail to grasp, habitually releasing the left stick once they’ve set the strength of a pass. If the player under control then takes an extra touch, or receives a minor knock from an opponent, the delay will cause the pass to be played in the current direction that the left stick is held. In short: don’t switch off until the ball actually leaves a player’s feet.

In a similar vein, note that heavy physical pressure from an opponent in close proximity can cause a pass to be canceled. If you see your player stumble or otherwise react to a sliding opponent, shirt tug or barge, be ready to set up a replacement pass.

4. Pick a formation and practice to understand it
From our experience so far, it seems harder to play a possession game with formations that feature a flat bank of central midfielders.
If you want to dominate a game, you’ll need a system that gives you the necessary angles and movement.

As a general rule of thumb, we’ve found that fluid passing sequences are less likely to break down if you have a quality central attacking midfielder. A play-maker in the CAM role will habitually take up space between the lines, acting as a pivot in attacking moves, or drifting into pockets of space in and around the penalty area when the ball is played to the wings.

5. Learn to see the whole picture
If you really want to play a passing game, a zoomed-out camera view is practically a requisite. Not everyone will be able to cope with the distant but tactically excellent overview offered by the Co-op camera (especially during the new ‘cataract mode’ foggy weather conditions), but you can still choose a custom zoom level for your preferred option to provide a slightly wider view of proceedings.

It’s an unusual concept to grasp at first, but try readjusting your focus to look at the entire screen during passing moves, rather than staring intently at the individual player under your control. It’s a revelation if you can master it: you start to see passes and movement that you were oblivious to moments beforehand.

6.Go forwards by going backwards
This is a mistake that we see time and time again: players blind to options behind them, always passing to the most advanced player within reach. If a move isn’t going anywhere, or the defending team are camped in their own half, it’s better to send the ball back to deep-lying players than to risk squandering possession on a hopeful pass or cross. Maintaining ownership of the ball is the purest and most effective form of defending.

7. Use the right weight
Broadly speaking, there are three weights of ground pass: the cushioned short ball (press X button/A button, then tap L2/left trigger before the pass is played), standard X button/A button distribution (with the speed determined by the direction played and length of button press), and the new driven pass where you hold R1/right bumper as a modifier with a standard pass.

With defending players much, much more adept at sticking out a foot to intercept the ball, faster passes are more likely to reach their destination, but they’re harder to control when they arrive. Slower passes are great for the receiving player – but simple for a defender who has read your intentions to steal. Building a passing move, then, is a constant struggle with risk and reward. In busy midfield areas, the general weight of pass that offers a high completion rate is usually too hard for a player to control with ease, with extra control touches killing the momentum of a move.

8. Use more lofted passes
The lofted through-ball as you knew it in FIFA 15 – the master key to any defense, and catenaccio be damned – is a much diminished beast in FIFA 16. However, a lot of players have failed to realize that you can replicate much of its functionality with square button/X button passes.

If you have an opponent attempting to mark your passing lanes, but players in space, try a simple chip. Even if there’s a defender in attendance to contest a header, you have the advantage of being able to move into position a split-second before they do.

9. Fight for the ball
Whenever you compete for a loose ball or pass made into space, don’t forget to tap circle button/square button to apply physical pressure if you have an opponent in close proximity. Even if you’re ostensibly in possession at the time – that is, the ball was played by someone on your team – you can and really should use this defensive function to contest a tussle. These battles are governed by player strength stats, and now favor individuals with genuine physical presence. If you have an imposing forward such as Benteke or Lukaku up front, it’s worth risking 50/50 balls into space just to set up an opportunity to bully a relatively lightweight defender.

10. Player movement is important to a passing game
In addition to automated player runs initiated by the AI, there are three ways to create your own off-the-ball movement.

Set up a one-two, and the player will run forward after sending the ball to a teammate. Tap L2/left trigger just after you make a pass to encourage the player to run forward.

11.Use first-time passes sparingly
If there’s one error that we’re encountering more than any other in FIFA 16, it’s this. The completion rate for first-time passes is much lower than in 15, which means that sequences of so-called “ping pong passing” are liable to break down at any moment. If players have to twist or turn to play the pass, expect the accuracy to suffer accordingly. A related issue occurs whenever players attempt to make immediate passes in the split-second after gaining possession, which can lead to some truly shocking distribution. To avoid this, it’s often prudent to allow your player to take a touch or two before you pass after making an interception or winning the ball with a standing tackle.

12. Be smart with your distribution from goal-kicks
Goal-kicks can be a trial; an interception or header after the wrong pass from the keeper can put you on the back foot and scrambling to prevent a shot within seconds.

Playing a short ball to a defender is rarely a viable option, as most online opponents are wise to that, and consistently lurk close to your backline. Punts to midfielders or strikers are also a risk: it only takes one header to return the ball to an opposition forward.

The safest method of distribution, or so we’ve found so far, is to aim for positions close to wide midfielders or wingers on the touchlines. A lofted pass that fills the power bar by three-quarters will usually be just right for the near side; something closer to full power will be required to reach the far side. As long as you move the receiving player into position before the ball arrives, you’ll generally be favourite to win the ball even if an opponent contests it. Worst-case scenario, you’ll need to immediately nod or tap it back to the full-back.

13. Use driven passes to up the tempo in the final third
The new driven pass (hold R1/right bumper while powering up a standard pass) is fantastic for setting up chances, but you really need to pick the right moment: play it over a short distance, and the receiving player’s first touch can kill a move. Used with precision, though, it’s a perfect way of upping the tempo of a passing move to create a shooting opportunity. If you haven’t practiced with it yet, do so: it’s an essential part of the FIFA 16 passing repertoire.

14. Understand the dark arts of the driven pass
The driven pass is, it seems, the equivalent of the lofted through ball in FIFA 15: it’s the quickest way to get the ball from point A to point B, and it can be maddening to see a lucky bounce put a striker through on goal after you’ve had his team-mates penned into their half for the best part of a minute. Played correctly, this percentages-based style of play can be really hard to defend against. Get to the ball first, and a poor first touch can give a striker an easy tackle; be too slow to react, and it might sit kindly.