You would have to think really hard to find many managers with more impressive legacies than what Jose Mourinho has built for himself over several years of football management.
Archaic or not, Jose’s tactics get the job done. One such tactic was nicknamed “parking the bus” due to its extremely defensive approach. It was used in games where Jose wanted to grind out a result, and it worked for him many times.
If you’re the type that likes to play with tactics that dominate games in FIFA, then this may not be the one for you.
Instead, this guide attempts to recreate Jose Mourinho’s ‘park the bus’ tactics for FIFA 23. The main goal of these recommended settings is to modify the players’ behavior to clone the tactic as closely as possible.
In real life, the most important trait for players that fit well into this system was tactical awareness. There is no metric or stat to measure that in FIFA 23, so I would only recommend that you have strong, agile players in as many positions as possible.
Pay attention to the stamina of the fullbacks as they are your main source of width up and down the flanks here. Also, at least one of your strikers should be rapid, and the other should be strong and physically dominant.
I have used the Chelsea team as a sample for this guide. The squad does not fit the requirements 100%, but it is usable.
I’ve gone with a 5-man defense formation here because it offers the highest level of protection in the defensive zones, which is most crucial for limiting the chances that the opponent can create in FIFA.
It is a complete reverse of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City tactic where there are often only two defenders in the defensive third as a result of the player instructions. We’ll get to the instructions for parking the bus later.
A three-man midfield with one defensive midfielder also helps to choke the midfield and give you the numerical advantage as often as possible, especially since one of the center-backs is almost playing in the space between the other two and the defensive midfielder.
Your two central midfielders have the most positional freedom to cover areas of the pitch where space opens up, so you need players with bags of stamina in there.
Up top, you have two strikers that can play off each other to reduce the effect of a relative lack of attacking support from the rest of the team. It’s all quite narrow on paper but again, the player instructions make a difference.
Obviously, if you’re parking the bus, then you’re more concerned about the defensive side of things. However, you also want to make sure that you set up your offense in a way that offers the best chance of maximizing limited opportunities and half-chances.
You want the team to set up with a low block in the defensive phases of play, so the “Drop Back” option is the best choice for defensive style.
Considering the narrow setup of the formation, you don’t need to leave too much space out wide, so set the defense width to 60. With the starting positions of the players in the formation, it is narrow enough to force the opponent out wide.
If you’re playing against AI, it should work even better because they rarely cross and you have enough numbers in the middle to get many opportunities to win the ball back.
Keep the depth at an average level. The new power shot feature on FIFA 23 increases the likelihood of long-shot goals, so you don’t want to force the opponent to try it too often with a deep defensive line.
Once you win the ball back, you should be looking to get it forward as quickly as possible. With the relative lack of width, your best bet is long balls, and this should be well supplemented by runs from teammates from the middle third.
A strong and physically imposing striker gives you the option of a target man for those long punts, and a pacy partner also offers you a chance to play the ball into space if the opponent’s defenders are out of position.
To give your team the best chance of falling back into their defensive shape quickly, do not put too many players in the box for crosses. Four is a good enough number.
Attacking corners and free-kicks can be a bit tricky.
On the one hand, I would recommend using only two players in the box to reduce the chances of getting caught on the counter-attack when you lose possession from the set-piece opportunity.
On another hand, set pieces might be your best chance of scoring a goal when you’re parking the bus, so you may want to maximize those opportunities by sticking more players in the box to convert them. You decide which is more important.
Try to copy the following instructions exactly as recommended.
You don’t need a sweeper keeper here as you have enough cover ahead of you. However, he can come for crosses, especially if your opponent has many players in the box for them.
Leave the center-back instructions as is. Nothing fancy.
Set your fullbacks to overlap and leave the other instructions as is. This will afford you occasional width when they go forward.
Your defensive midfielder has the most instructions assigned in this tactic. Set defensive behavior to cut passing lanes and have him stay back while the team is attacking. This will ensure that even when your fullbacks go forward, you still have at least four players defending at all times.
The defensive midfielder can also attempt to intercept passes as often as possible. There is enough cover at the back to clean up if you miss an interception and get caught out as a result, and the potential reward for successful interceptions is high.
Finally, set his defensive position to “cover center” and positional freedom to “deep-lying playmaker”. Remember, we’re trying to choke the middle of the pitch while also using a player that can receive the ball from the defense and switch it to the forwards quickly.
Give both center midfielders the license to roam (positioning freedom) and get into the box for crosses. Leave the other instructions as is.
As I said, one of your strikers (the left, in this example) should be rapid. Set him to drift wide and look to run in behind to provide additional width and drag defenders out of position.
This will provide an outlet for long passes from the back or give your second striker more time to turn on the ball and go for a shot on goal.
The other striker should have instructions to stay central and stay forward at all times. Leave the other instructions as is.
Parking the bus does not get the plaudits that aesthetically pleasing tactics such as the tiki-taka tactic often get, but results are often all that matter in football. However, you should still check the tiki-taka tactic out if you would like some variance in your style of football.
If the most important thing to you is grinding out a result, then you can take a leaf from Jose Mourinho’s book of tricks and park the bus! Good luck!