I didn’t play a lot as a striker, however, it was the most enjoyable position for me! Indeed, it gave the chance to score more goals and feel this rush of adrenaline when I do so …
… Other than that, I feel that this position is really very important and could make or break a soccer team!
That’s why, I took the time to put together this article where I breakdown exactly what this position is all about.
What position is a striker in soccer?
Typically a striker will have the main responsibility within a team for scoring. This is by no means the only position on the field that can score goals – even goalkeepers have been known to contribute the occasional effort – and some strikers have earned a reputation more as a creator rather than scorer of goals.
Nevertheless, they are expected to play a pivotal role in most attacks.
Depending on the formation that a team adopts, a team can play with either a lone striker, two together, or even three.
Certain line-ups even used four, although these are rarely seen these days.
Other positions a striker can occupy …
A striker can occupy several positions. For example, they can be the lone forward, in a 4 -5-1 formation or something similar, with support provided by the attacking midfielders from behind.
In such a scenario, they would normally be expected to play centrally, with the supporting cast providing the width.
And then there is the classic 4 -4 -2 formation which was very common in the 1970s and 1980s. This featured two strikers, one of whom was typically tall and strong, a target man, with the other smaller and faster besides him.
One would be responsible for holding the ball up and flicking it on, the other would be the primary goal scorer, although both were expected to contribute their fair share of goals as well.
A variant of this formation would see the central strikers pull wide when their team was on the attack. That would pull the defenders out of position to mark them and midfielders could then attack the gaps that they left behind. This tactic was typically used by teams away from home.
In some teams that like to pressurise the opposition high up the pitch, the striker also has a defensive role in that they will often try and win the ball back or force the opposition into making a mistake and surrendering possession. The striker will, in such formations, often lead the press.
Liverpool is an example of a team that play this way, with Jurgen Klopp sometimes describing the style as “heavy metal football”.
How many strikers max a team can have at a time?
Although historically some teams adopted a 4-2-4 formation with the front line comprising two wingers and two central strikers, this this rarely seen nowadays because the modern game is so fast that it is easy to counter-attack against such a line-up.
And wingers are not so common either as they once were, with attacking full backs assuming many of their former responsibilities.
Instead, many teams now just play with a single striker, with the support coming from fast-breaking midfielders, who may also have defensive responsibilities.
Another common formation is 4-3-3, with typically one of the strikers a winger, and the other cutting in from the other side.
Alternatively, both wide players can be wingers, but if this is adopted, they need to be prepared to get into central areas when the ball is on the other flank.
Is it possible to build a team without a real striker?
It is also possible to build a team without a striker. For example, Manchester City have been forced to adopt that formation this season because of injuries to their two regular strikers.
Instead, they have designated one of their attacking midfielders to play at the point of the attack and have packed their midfielders with energetic runners who can support them.
Some teams have also used the false number nine role effectively. In this case the player who is nominally the centre-forward actually begins in a deep lying position, with the intention being to drag the other team’s central defenders out of position who mark them.
That then leaves space behind them for midfielders and others to exploit.
The primary example of a team that employed this formation was Barcelona with Lionel Messi, who wore the number nine shirt, often starting moves from the right-side of the field around the half-way line.
He could then run forward into the space created and attack the opposition penalty box, with more room and time to operate than if he had started further forward.
3 main attributes for a great striker
There are a number of attributes that all good strikers possess. These include …
1. Physical Strength
Strength is important to shield the ball and to hold off defenders. Playing as a forward is physically demanding and requires both upper and lower body strength.
A striker needs to hold the ball up and compete with the defenders for crosses and other balls in the penalty area. A physically weak forward will just be brushed aside by stronger opponents.
Allied with this is a high degree of fitness and stamina. Arguably no position on the field gets kicked more often, and the toll on the body can be significant.
Those that are in the best physical shape can cope more easily with the demands of the role.
2. Speed and Quickness
A striker needs speed to outpace a defender and get on the end of opportunities when they present themselves. This though is not just physical quickness but mental quickness as well.
They need to be able to read the game, be alive to opportunities, and anticipate where the ball is likely to land, so they can be in the best place to exploit the chances they are given.
3. Self-belief and confidence
Because soccer is a low scoring game, there can be relatively few chances to score in any match. A striker has a big responsibility and, for some, a failure to convert a chance can weigh heavily on them.
The best strikers learn to compartmentalise and to shrug off the disappointment of a missed chance. Instead they erase it from their memory banks and focus on the next opportunity that may come their way.
And with this self-belief and confidence, they also need to be thick-skinned. They know that their teammates and supporters will blame them for missing chances, and this can lead to a fatal loss of faith in themselves. Even the best strikers have missed many more goals than they have scored in their careers.
Keep in mind that those attributes are extremely important to beat fast defenders!
Examples of strikers who played many positions …
Perhaps the best example of a forward who has played in multiple positions is Cristiano Ronaldo, who has just set the world record for the most competitive goals in world football. The 35-year-old Juventus forward began his career with Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United as a right winger.
However, at Real Madrid he evolved more into a centre-forward and now, in the latter stages of his career, he tends to play on the left, cutting into the right. He also tracks back a lot less than he used to earlier in his career.
Another former Real Madrid player Alfredo di Stéfano began his career as an out and out goal scorer, but by the time he arrived in Spain, he became more of a support striker, playing behind the centre-forward in a role that was as much about creating goals as scoring them.
Known as the “Blond Arrow” for his pace around the pitch, he was always able to find space, either for himself, or for teammates.
Ray Kennedy was a member of the Arsenal double-winning side of 1970 – 1971, forming an effective strike partnership with John Radford for the Gunners.
When Liverpool bought him, they decided that his pace was not enough for him to remain as a striker and repurposed him as a left-sided central midfield player.
He went on to win five league titles, three European Cups and 17 England caps playing in that position.
How this is different from Futsal?
The obvious difference between regular soccer and futsal is the number of players on the pitch, and the size of the playing surface.
As futsal is only five a side game, there cannot be the same degree of specialisation as in normal soccer, and players must be more versatile and prepared to play in several positions.
That means that although a striker remains the most advanced player who is expected to score goals, they also must be prepared to do their share of running and tracking back when their side is out of possession.
It is possible to play with two strikers in futsal, but that places a lot of responsibility on the other players on the team, who will have to do a lot of running and covering.
And that also means that one or both strikers must be ready to drop back into midfield when out of possession.
Another major difference in futsal is the size of the goals. These are smaller so shooting accuracy is of much greater importance than in regular soccer.
Final Thoughts …
This article is extremely important for anyone who wants to play as a striker at any capacity (6v6, 7v7, 8v8, 9v9, 11v11), the principles don’t really change that much …
… Keep in mind that modern soccer doesn’t impose to strikers to be able to score a lot, so even if you are not very accurate in front of the net, you might still consider this position.
Lastly, I highly invite you to learn about the number 10 position in soccer! It is by far the most important position in the sport …