Football journalist and FIFA fan Darren Cross looks at five common defensive mistakes in FIFA 14 and how to avoid them…

I definitely know how not to defend – I’ve spent hundreds if not thousands of games of FIFA expertly demonstrating that over the years.

Eventually – and thankfully – I started to learn from my defensive mistakes and now, although I do still switch off and slip up from time to time, I concede far fewer goals than I used to.

In this week’s Backpage we’re going to look at five of the biggest defensive mistakes I used to make, which I still see regularly from opposition players online, and how to avoid them.

1 – Constantly Applying Pressure
Playing with high pressure at the right time and in the right areas of the pitch can be a really effective way to defend, but always applying pressure without the ball is generally a bad idea.

For starters, a never-ending high-pressure tactic will gradually begin to destroy the shape of your team as players charge around until they end up out of position, leaving big spaces in dangerous areas. A good opponent will quickly spot that you’re playing with a pressing tactic, and will simply play the ball around your chasers while waiting for one of these gaps to open up. Once they advance into that space then stopping their attack is so much more difficult, because you’ll most likely need to move another defender out of position to halt the advance – leaving a gap somewhere else.

It also eats your players’ stamina up. Nothing is more tiring in football than constantly running around chasing the ball, and reduced stamina can be a real problem in the late stages of games. If you often find that your opponent’s players have more stamina remaining than yours, it’s probably because you’re pressing too aggressively and tiring them out.

How To Avoid It
Unless I’m chasing the game with just a few minutes to go, I generally avoid pressing players in my opponent’s third. Chasing them down there will pay off occasionally, but most of the time your forwards make a fruitless run as the opposition pass them by, sapping their stamina levels, which could prove vital later in the match.

Once the other team approach the middle third then my pressure starts and increases as they get closer to the danger areas. As the pressure cranks up I keep my eyes on who is doing the chasing and where they should be, always making sure to switch to a different defender once the ball leaves my current player’s zone of the pitch. For example, if I’m pressing the ball with my right winger and the attacking player heads in field, I quickly pass that responsibility on to a central midfielder by using the player change button or right stick to switch to him, allowing my winger to stay more or less in the right position.

Pressing like this should help you maintain a solid team shape defensively, and it’ll leave your players with more gas in the tank for later on.

2 - Pressing With Centre-Backs
If you use contain or secondary contain without worrying too much about which of your players are applying the pressure then, as the ball gets closer to your third of the pitch, there’s a good chance one of your centre-backs will move out of the back line to close it down.

As your CB moves out he is likely to leave an opposing striker unmarked in the worst place possible, which again makes the attacker’s job so much easier. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve done this myself in the thousands of games I’ve played – it’s a very easy mistake to make and almost always results in conceding a goal, so it’s vital to keep your centre-backs together and in line.

How To Avoid It
Watch your CBs and react quickly when they start pressing.

If you’re in control of the player and suddenly realise you have a centre-back selected, use the player change button or the right stick to switch to someone else. Your defender should then move back into position automatically.

If you’re using secondary contain and notice a CB stepping out, just release the secondary contain button and try again when a different defending player is closer to the ball than your centre-backs.

In both cases, speed is the key. The faster you can spot your CB moving out of position and do something about it, the quicker his recovery.

3 – Rushing Tackles
This is another one that took me a long time to remedy, because it’s so tempting to always try to win the ball back as quickly as possible by diving into tackles or edging around attackers in an effort to nick it away.

This makes things easier for good attacking players, because all they need to do is avoid the challenge and they’ll have a space to play into while one of the defenders is temporarily out of the game.

How To Avoid It
Slow down. That’s the first thing I tell myself when I’m defending. If the defender closest to the ball can hold his position and make it difficult for the attacker to pass him – perhaps even forcing the player to turn back or pass to a team-mate – then that’s much better defensively than flying into a risky tackle or aggressively trying to steal the ball.

Again it comes back to shape. If you can keep yours while steadily applying pressure and waiting for the right moment to win the ball back then you’ve got a better chance of stopping the attack. Of course there is a time to go for a riskier tackle – either to block a shot or as a last resort – but in the main I find it pays to defend patiently while looking for the right opportunity to take the ball back.

4 – Sprinting Everywhere
It’s so easy to constantly hold sprint whenever you’re moving without the ball, but it’s really important to avoid that when approaching a player in possession in FIFA 14.

If your approach is too quick then it’s very easy for the attacking player to change direction and, because of the improvements to the momentum system, your player is out of the game for just long enough for the attacker to get past. Even if you read the play and can see what the attacker will do next, approach them too quickly and you may not be able to adjust fast enough to do anything about it.

That’s not the only big negative though; as with high pressure, constant sprinting also saps stamina.

How To Avoid It
Use the sprint button to quickly close the distance when you need to, but reduce your speed before you get too close to the ball. It sounds simple but if you’re used to sprinting almost by default then it can take some getting used to.

5 – Overplaying At The Back
We all like to play beautiful football as often as possible in games, so it can be tempting to try something a bit flash even when defending. Maybe a cushioned header to a team-mate in your own box, a quick turn to trick a striker or a flash pass after just winning the ball back in a crowd of players. I’ve done all of those things many times and lost count of the amount of games I’ve handed to my opponents as a result.

I think of this as overplaying in defence – going for something complicated that looks good instead of the ugly but safer option – and it costs goals.

How To Avoid It
What really helped me with this was using the shoot button more in defence. If one of my defenders is competing for a cross then I use the shoot button to head it as far away from danger as possible, rather than trying to direct it to a team-mate with the pass button. Similarly, if I’m in a race with a striker and there’s any doubt at all about being able to control the ball or pass it safely, I use the shoot button to get it away.

Of course, if I can safely control the ball and start an attack then I will do, but if it seems even slightly risky then I take no chances. It isn’t the prettiest tactic but it has made a huge difference in reducing the amount of goals I concede.

So they’re my big five mistakes to avoid. If you’ve got more defending tips you’d like to share with FIFA fans then please comment below or tweet them to me @darren_cross