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Attack in the middle
Attack on wings
Play creatively
Long shots

By using counter-attack (CA) tactic a manager consciously let the opponent hold the ball in a match and try counter-attacking every time his/her team misses an attack.

A successful CA requires a rock-solid defence, and then enough offense to score on the few tactic created opportunities. These extra opportunities are added to regular chances - on the contrary, the other defensive tactic, pressing, is mostly used to destroy match chances.

Non-tactical counter-attacks

Randomly created counter-attacks are much less frequent and more unpredictable than tactical CAs. They do appear from time to time in match report when a team has defences very strong in comparison to opponent's attacks.

To get non-tactical counter-attacks you do not need to play the CA tactic or give to opponent the most of ball possession. Obviously, they appear even if you play with CA tactic and, in this case, at the end of the game there will be no way to recognize the two types.

The highest number of tactical counter-attacks that can be obtained in a game is 5. The most non-tactical counter-attacks known so far is 4 (it occurred in a very small number of matches). You are usually lucky enough to have one. All counterattacks created are shown in the match report, including any missed or saved opportunities.


Tactical counter-attacks are only possible when the opponent's midfield is better than that of the CA team. The key point for effective CA is to have a lower midfield than the opponent before deducting any tactical handicaps.

The match engine constantly checks ball possession during the game as it may change due to stamina, red cards, injuries or substitutions.

Midfield ratings
You are supposed to lose the little possession needed to create counter-attacks. Keeping a possession rate that is enough to get regular chance in addition (remember that every chance for your team is a chance stolen from opponent's). The ball possession of the CA team should be between 45% and 35%.
Defence ratings
You need a much stronger defence than your opponent's attacks. In all sectors defensive evaluations need to be at least 20% higher than the opponent's offense. The counter-attacker dream situation is to face a team with a stronger midfield and anything but impressive attacks.
Attack ratings
A strong offense is at least as important as the defence. The tactic is wasted if you do not try to score the few counter-attacks made available. It is recommended that the central attack and one lateral attack should be at least as strong as the corresponding central and lateral defences of the opponent. In other words, the opponent's defence must not stand above more than one sector of attack and never the central one.

Tactical level

Counter-attacks tactic is used to obtain alternative chances of scoring bypassing the midfield generated ball possession that usually determines the chance distribution. How good a team is at turning a missed opponent's chance into deadly counter-attacks is defined by the CA tactical level.

Only defenders give a contribute to CA level, with their Defending and Passing skills; Defender's Passing counts two time Defending for calculation.

Simplified formula for CA tactical level =

(2 * SUM_PS + SUM_DE) / 10

SUM_PS is the sum of Defenders' Passing skill
SUM_DE is the sum of Defenders' Defending skill

For example: to get an "outstanding" (10) at counterattack tactical level, you need in your defence five player with "outstanding" (10) Defending skill with "inadequate" Passing.

This formula is not precise, as Counter-attack level is also modified by the players form and experience.

Complete formula for CA tactical level =

1.042313 + { 0.017272 * ∑ [ Form ( 2 * PS + DE ) ]
∑ is the same operation repeated and summed for each player positioned as defender
PS is defender's passing skill
DE is defender's defending skill

The probability to convert your first chance into a CA is the percentage expressed by the formula below. After the first one has been converted, the probability of the following ones decreases and continues to drop after each further success until it becomes null. Usually there are less than 4 CA.

Formula for Probability of the counter-attack (PCA) =

100 * (10.8 * Tactical level CA / RATING CA + RATING Opponent)

RATING (of CA team and Opponent) is the sum of the ratings of the two teams without multiplying midfield by 3

The higher the tactical level, the more likely you are to have extra special-event-like chances in addition to regular ones.

Benefits and drawbacks

As a disadvantage to the tactic, a team that playing counter-attacks

loses 7% of the midfield ratings.

Of course, if you need a weaker midfield it shouldn't be a problem, but keep in mind that your already weaker midfield is then reduced by another 7%!

There are also economic drawbacks: Passing skill on defenders, the key to high CA level, is not directly used to reinforce defender, so this type of player is rarely trained and quite difficult to find on market.

The bright side is that you don't needing ball possession to start the counterattacks. Just the opposite! So, give up the fight for midfield and enjoy your counter-attacks. In any case, leaving the opponent all the possession is always a controversial option and sometimes exposes to devastating defeats.

The tactic of CA is very risky: try to win the conventional way if you can beat opponent's midfield. In addition, CA should be a surprise weapon: building a specialized team makes your team very predictable and, with low average Playmaking, deprived of any tactical alternative.


Let's start by saying that lineups boosting Midfield, like 3-5-2 or 4-5-1, are not the best choice against a CA team. If you already know that your opponent is going to play CA, winning ball possession shouldn't be a problem. Instead, focus on attack and defence, maybe by setting wingers normal or offensive and IMs offensive or towards the wings (thus sacrificing the midfield a little).

Tactics that can overcome counter-attacks are Attack in the middle and on Wings because they focus the attack in a specific sector and produce a superiority of an attack over a defence. But be careful: at the same time, these tactics weaken your central or side defences making the counter-attacks more effective.

Even with play creatively tactic, another potential good solution, the same negative effect occurs due to the loss of defence (and in all three sectors).

The real weapon against a CA team is the evergreen set pieces: it does not always work, but your shooter is the only one you can count on to overcome the opponent's strong defence.


Absolutely necessary to a CA team are:

  • 4 or 5 defenders with good primary skill and a few Passing too;
  • 2 or 3 forwards at least in line with your series level;
  • 2 strong IMs, because Playmaking is not so important, but it is always better keeping a little ball possession (unless you play "Extreme Counter-Attacks", see the chapter below).

And above all, don't neglect Set Pieces! First of all, make sure you have a goalkeeper with high SP skills; one opponent's players pass your grim defence, the goalkeeper will take care of them on free kicks or penalties, the downfall of many a CAs. Besides, counter-attacks end sometimes with a free kick or a penalty too, so remember to field a good shooter.

Alternative options: to be less predictable with your CA, you should make the most of your players Passing playing Attack in the middle and Attack on the wing tactics.


Along with Set Pieces, players with specialty are very important to get the most out of the tactic. Following the reform of special events, they are no longer linked directly to possession in midfield making them suitable even for a team that plays on the counter-attack.

The "classics" are: "Powerful" (weather event in case of rain with a +5% bonus to skills and to tactical level; powerful normal forwards for the special event "rebound" after a missed chance; moreover the powerful defensive midfielder event to break opponent's attacks).

The best specialty for Winger, Inner Midfielder and Forward is "Quick". Not only Wingers can get the Quick pass and score events, but them and IM and FW with quick will give a small boost on the CA tactical level. The effect is not linear (range from 0 and goes up to 2.8) because your opponent might reduce or nullify this boost depending on the number of quick players he has selected as Wing Backs, Inner Midfielders and Defenders.

In any case, it is better to always play with Headers to take advantage of the event that occurs most often.


Up to 5 defenders can be fielded against only 3 forward (or less) opponent's forwards; overcoming the attack should be feasible with 5-3-2 or 5-2-3, especially with a defensive coach.

Lineups with 4 defenders are still a good idea. If you choose to leave out a bit of defence, you can focus on the attack with 4-3-3, or on midfield with 4-4-2 - the latter only against a very weak defence.

Concentrating your offense on one side of the pitch can also pay off quite nicely sometimes; it lays some pressure on one side of your opponent’s defence (pick the weaker one) while leaving the other with nothing much to do.

Extreme Counter-attacks

The following contents are based on the opinion of Hattrick users — which means that their veracity and accuracy have not been confirmed by any official statement, and consequently they do not necessarily reflect the game reality. Please take this into consideration!

5-2-3 Extreme Counter-attacks
Spec4Unpred.png Unpredictable
Behaviour down.pngSpec2Quick.png Quick or
Spec5Head.png Head
Spec3Power.png Powerful or
Spec7support.png Support
Spec5Head.png Head

Spec3Power.png Powerful or
Spec7support.png Support
Behaviour down.pngSpec2Quick.png Quick or
Spec5Head.png Head
Behaviour down.pngSpec2Quick.png Quick       Behaviour down.pngSpec2Quick.png Quick
Spec5Head.png Head Spec5Head.png Head or
Spec3Power.png Powerful or
Spec4Unpred.png Unpredictable
Spec5Head.png Head
Extreme Counter-Attack (CAEX) is a strategy that completely gives up possession and focuses only on both defence and attack.

The formation used is the 5-2-3 with two Quick offensive wingers.

The idea behind CAEX is that it is not impossible to win a game with a high tactical level, with free kicks and special events and with a defence strong enough to allow to the opponent only 1 or 2 goals in 9 or 10 match opportunities.

This strategy should be used on rare occasions in combination with a PiC, maybe after a MotS to surprise the opponent. Just this way it is sometimes used also by national teams.

CAEX is also called "All-Out CA" (as opposed to the All-Out Attack strategy) or "Gung-ho CA" (from an American phrase derived from the Chinese language with the meaning of energetic and therefore extreme).


This tactic is mostly chosen and played assiduously by Defending skill trainers. Because of the training type, you have to deal with a very strong defence and midfield weakened by lineup and tactics. Not much diversity is conceivable:

  • Defending training with the 5-3-2 (or more rarely the 5-2-3): the timeless classic.
  • Shooting with 5-2-3, 4-3-3, 4-4-2 or 5-3-2: you'll train the Scoring and Set Pieces skills, both very important for the AC.
  • Set pieces training with the same formations used for Shooting.
  • Through passes with 5-3-2: rarely used due to low efficiency, only 16 trainers per week of the potential 20.

Crossing (Winger) and Goalkeeping training are not the best options, but you can definitely do it if you want. Defensive positions and Short passes do not get along with lineups and tactics. Ironically, you have to abandon the CA tactic just to train Passing that is needed to improve your CA.

Start training is economically not demanding, requirements aren’t very high. Players are easy to find, but training is slow. So be patient.

See also

HTs on Global/Counter Attacks from HT-Jonas.