Step Up More vs Drop Off More: Football Manager Tactical Guide

In the recent iterations, Football Manager has taken off the ‘Use Offside Trap’ instruction, and instead, introduced two new instructions for the defensive line. 

Meet Step Up More and Drop Off More — two confusing instructions that may or may not be effective in the game.

So what do they accomplish? What’s the difference between Step Up More and Drop Off More?

Well, in simple terms, defenders employing Step Up More press higher, aiming to compress midfield space, limiting opposition time on the ball. This, however, makes them susceptible to long balls is a concern. On the other hand, Drop Off More instructs defenders to prioritize safety, defending closer to the goal to reduce vulnerability against long balls. But it concedes territory, inviting additional pressure from the opposition building up with short passing.

Today, I’m going to explain the two instructions and how I use them in different scenarios. 

Step Up More vs Drop Off More: Key Differences

Here’s how the two instructions work when compared to each other:

Step Up MoreDrop Off More
Defensive StrategyPress higher up the pitchDefending close to own goal
ObjectiveCompact midfield space, limit opposition’s timeSafety-first approach, minimize vulnerability
Risk ManagementLimits opponent’s room and time on the ballReduces the risk of long balls
VulnerabilitySusceptible to long balls played in behindLess vulnerable to counterattacks, but concedes territory
PressureIncreases pressure on the oppositionInvites more pressure, concedes more territory
Effective AgainstTiki-taka tacticsLong ball tactics

Step Up More vs Drop Off More: Detailed Explanation

Defensive Strategy

The Step Up/Drop Off instructions guide your team’s response to close-call scenarios, balancing the decision between dropping off and pushing the line up. 

Defenses adjust based on the ball carrier’s time/space and opposition attacks on the backline.

In straightforward situations, defenses(defend duty) universally drop off or step up depending on the defender’s Anticipation, Decisions, Concentration, Teamwork, and Work rate.

However, the instructions become crucial in ambiguous, close-call scenarios, where defenders may be uncertain about holding the line due to tight conditions.

With ‘Step up more’ instruction, the team hesitates to retreat, unless it’s an obvious threat. They adopt a more aggressive stance, actively seeking opportunities to close down opposition.

Conversely, with Drop Off More command, the team prioritizes caution, erring on the side of risk aversion. Tight calls prompt a retreat, offering protection against through balls but occasionally resulting in unnecessary drop-offs and conceding territory.

Risks And Rewards

Picture a Center Back on Stopper duty. His job is to aggressively press down the opposition attackers and win the ball immediately. 

Now imagine that on a team level, instead of an individual role, the entire back line is acting like a stopper.

Well, technically, the Step Up More instruction won’t make the defenders press high up aggressively like a stopper. But they will be on their toes to jump on the first sign of threat through the middle. 

Stepping up more can reward the team by tightening up the space for the opposition who builds up the play through the middle. 

This makes it a great strategy against possession-based tactics where teams tend to create chances with short, precise passes. 

Defenders with good anticipation, decisions, concentration, and teamwork can also trigger offside traps by stepping up higher, dealing with forwards who tend to make runs in-behind. 

This, however, can result in the defense leaving a lot of space behind the defensive line. And if you’re playing against a team that’s particularly good at long balls, it can pose some threats.

Don’t get it wrong. Your central defenders will react accordingly and drop off to defend long balls. But that action won’t be their first instinct. So it’s easy to catch them off guard with a Mezzala or Center Midfielder on attack duty.

Now, the Drop Off More instruction works to deal with the problem.

With this, your defense’s first instinct will be to play it safe and drop deep to prepare against any incoming long balls or in-behind runs. 

It does help you close down the gap behind your defensive line. But it’ll make your team concede more space in front of them, giving the creative midfielders more unchallenged time with the ball. 

An image of the defensive line instruction with option to Step Up More  or Drop Off More in Football Manager.

Effectiveness

This is the part where I share my tactical implementation of the instructions. 

Let’s start with Step Up More. 

I prefer to put Step Up More into use when I’m facing teams that:

  • Play dominantly through the middle.
  • Uses a slow Target Man.
  • Uses a Deep Lying Forward.
  • Doesn’t have defenders with good passing range. 

The plan is to now allow the team any breathing room with the ball. 

When the opponent is using a Target Man, I measure him up in contrast to my defenders. 

With a physical target man, the opponent can hold up the ball in the final third, creating deadly chances. And I don’t want that. I want my defenders to keep the target man far from the goalpost. And I want to win the ball immediately off of him. 

When I’m confident that my defenders can press him high and win aerial balls against him, I command them to step up more. This allows me to win back the ball instantly, leading the counter from that. 

I’ll employ a similar tactic to a DLF. But I won’t demand my defenders to keep aggressively charging the DLF as they can be very agile with the ball. So I prefer tightly marking the opponent’s supporting forwards to stay safe from any mishaps instead.

Basically, you don’t want to stay back when a forward with good ball-carrying ability receives the ball in front of your defense. You want to press them and win the ball as soon as possible.

Lastly, I’ll be comfortable stepping up and pushing high if my defenders have good awareness and teamwork to pull off an offside trap. 

As for dropping off, I prefer the tactical setup when I’m not comfortable leaving too much space behind my defense. 

I’ll deploy the Drop Off More instruction when:

  • The opposition is playing a lot of long balls
  • Oppositions who look to pass into space.
  • The opposition is playing from the back using Ball Playing Defenders
  • The opponent has a pacey Advanced forward.
  • The opponent is using midfield roles like Mezzala, Advanced Playmaker, and Center Midfielder on attack duties.
  • Defending against whipped crosses.

You can’t always win the ball with a high line of engagement when playing against teams with composed, agile defenders. They can easily beat the press and launch devastating long balls behind your defense.

One way to counter that is to set your defensive line way low. But that means you are leaving acres of space in your midfield for the opponent to exploit.

So you can either use a Defender on Cover Duty. Or your best course of action is to adopt a reserved mentality by dropping off more. 

It’ll make the defenders prepare themselves for defending long balls whenever the opposition has the ball. Defenders with good anticipation, concentration, work rate, agility, and acceleration are more effective for dropping off and defending deliveries into space

It’s a great way to deal with Advanced Forwards who’re always sniffing for a chance to break past the defensive line. Dropping deep will restrict the space between the defensive line and the goalpost, making through balls less effective.

Similarly, it’s also great at dealing with roles that make runs into the channels, allowing them less room to be effective. Advanced roles like Mezzalas will have a hard time making killer balls past your defense. 

Your defenders will also be well-positioned to deal with the Mezzala’s sneaky runs inside the box.

Lastly, a deeper positioning helps your defenders to deal with whipped crosses better.

Final Words

Keep in mind that the two instructions are not as decisive as the other defensive tactical instructions. You’ll still have a hard time dealing with long balls if you’re playing a high defensive line, despite dropping off more. 

It’ll certainly give you a little ‘edge’ over the opposition. But it won’t guarantee defensive solidity. 

So my best piece of advice is to implement them as complementary instructions to your defensive approach. 

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