Soccer is often described in England as ‘the beautiful game’, and it certainly is.
With plenty of positions and players and types of scoring, like chess, there is potentially an infinite number of moves. With so many players moving about on the pitch it might be hard to believe that each one plays a specific role.
However, there are, and one of the most thrilling of these is the striker.
This is one of the best attacking positions on the field, with a lot of romance attached to the role, often assigned by the fans as a hero of the match, given the high-pressured task of sticking the ball in the back of the net. With a striker, there is a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.
A striker is positioned closest to the opponent’s goal, giving them the perfect opportunity to sink the ball decisively in the back of the net.
The name of the position, as you might have already guessed, comes from the player’s ability to strike the ball into the goal, ideally from inside the penalty box.
Strikers and forwards are often considered interchangeable, but there are remarkable differences between them, which we’ll go into more detail about later.
But what does a striker in soccer actually do? What is the history of the position and how has it evolved over time? What makes a really good striker? How can you become a better striker?
Well, if you’re thinking of becoming a striker or just want an in-depth overview of the role, then you’ll want to keep reading our complete guide to a striker in soccer.
We’ll cover moves, tactics, history and even their lucky number. We’ll have a look at what makes a striker great, before finishing up with the key differences between a striker and a forward.
The Striker - What Position They Play
The position of the striker is very easy to locate, they are the most forward and central player, often used for kick-off, being the ideal position in line to score a goal.
The central position is equidistant between either side of the field, making it the perfect point to get total field coverage.
This is because the striker’s primary purpose is getting the most goals possible, so he or she needs to be put in the prime position to make those goals.
This position can be seen as directly opposite the defenders, who stay in the back as close to their own net as possible, trying to block the opposing team from scoring a goal at all costs.
However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that only the striker can score a goal. If they find themselves in the right position, even a defender can score a goal, although this might leave their own goal open if they miss the shot.
Likewise, if it is required to prevent a goal, a striker can defend the ball from going into their own net, although this is not very common, as even if all the players are crammed towards their own goal, the striker will stay on the fringes, in case the ball comes to them and they have to make a dash for the other end of the field.
It could be said that all players have primary and secondary roles, the striker’s primary role being to score goals, with the secondary role being defensive or just getting the ball from one end of the field to another. Strikers traditionally have very few defensive responsibilities.
The striker is usually given the ball during a game because the manager has decided that they have the most capabilities for scoring the goal. A striker won’t be expected to help defend his side of the pitch unless it is absolutely necessary.
If the striker made one too many attempts to adopt the defender position, they would take themselves out of the prime spot to run the ball up to the other end of the field and miss the opportunity to score another goal. Also, running from one end of the pitch to the other will quickly deplete a striker’s energy.
One reason that a striker must preserve their energy is that they generally have to sprint a lot more than other players, who maintain a lot more of a neutral pace. Sprinting is very important for a striker as they have to outpace the opposition players who are trying to take the ball of them before hitting the goal.
How To Be A Better Striker - Tips and Tricks
Are you a striker in a team? If so, a lot of what we’ve outlined above will seem very familiar to you. However, there is always room for improvement and you might want to read our handy guide for what makes a good striker below.
These are the positional tips that you should abide by to be the best striker in your next game:
- Try and keep your position - as mentioned above, you might tend to want to help your teammates out when the ball is nearer your own goal, but you shouldn’t. Each player should be committed to their roles, especially a striker. This could lead to expending too much energy and lost opportunities to score goals. Let the defenders do their job and concentrate on yours.
- Don’t let defenders draw you out of position - one of the tricks that a defender will pull on you is to try and get you out of your prime position for that all-important goal. They might try and use distraction or unconscious mental techniques, but don’t fall for them. Hold fast and keep your eye on the ball.
- Know your enemy - take some time out before a match to learn about your opposition. This way you’ll be able to identify the weaknesses in their defenses and penetrate them to get to that goal.
- Learn about striking - increasing your knowledge and understanding of the striker position will be key to expanding your game. Watch and listen to the best coaches and strikers for developing the best strategy for your game - also reading articles like this one!
- Experience - the value of trying and failing can not be overstated, having plenty of experiences and finding out the weaknesses in your own game will be one of the best ways to improve it.
These are just a few of the ways that you can improve as a striker. Obviously, not all strikers are the same and you might already have identified your own strengths and are looking to play to them a lot more.
Number 9 - The Striker’s Lucky Number
You’ll notice that each player in soccer is assigned a specific number, so their teammates and the spectators and commentators can identify who they are and what position they play very quickly.
There is no mandatory requirement that a player has a specific number, however, most strikers in soccer opt to wear the number 9. This is purely down to convention, the number 9 has become associated with the striker and most players do not want to deviate from this convention.
A player is usually given their number at the start of the soccer season and will continue wearing that number even if their position gets changed halfway through.
What Does A Striker Do?
Okay, now we’re going to break down the role of a striker even further, so you can understand all the intricacies that come with the role.
This is why the strikers have to train hard to make sure they can perform these valuable feats every game for the entire duration of the game.
1. Scoring Goals
This is the most valuable thing that a striker can do, if they can’t score goals, chances are they won’t be in the team for very long.
Not only must they focus on their targeting and shooting, but they also need to make sure they have enough stamina to last for the entire length of the game.
They need to be dexterous above the waist too, behind able to get it through the net via the head as well as the feet. Heading the ball is very important for any player to do, but even more so for a striker, especially if there is a free-kick into the opponent’s box.
A striker needs to be able to score goals consistently through multiple games, so the pressure really is on for them! This is why practicing kicks from every possible angle is important for developing as a player.
But soccer isn’t all about the striker getting the ball from one end of the pitch to the other. Very often your pitch will be littered with opposing players, so you’ll need to rely on your other teammates to spot those gaps and pass the ball to you.
Being available to receive a pass from one of your teammates is another important attribute that a striker needs to have. Sometimes being in the right place at the right time will be the makings of an extremely skillful goal.
This will require a great awareness of your surrounding environment, knowing where the opposing players are as well as where your players are. A striker will need to move into a position where they can meet a ball that has been shunted in their direction.
Sometimes a striker will even have to anticipate where a ball is going so they can be one step ahead of the opposing player.
The ball and the striker should be in direct contact for as much of the match as possible, so as a striker, you’ll want to find every opportunity for them both to meet.
3. Making Space
As well as finding space left by other players, a striker will need to create space for themselves and their teammates.
A striker should give plenty of opportunities for their wingers and their midfield players to score goals also. A great team works as one, rather than depending on individual players.
One way to create space is by wrong-footing a defender by leading them away from their position. Using misdirection and distraction, a striker will lead the defense away to create opportunities for their teammates to score a goal.
An intelligent striker will be able to view their opponents like chess pieces, moving them in the right direction to set up a direct path to the goal, either for themselves or another player. Running past a defender in pursuit of a phantom ball is the best way of getting them to follow the striker rather than another player.
A striker cannot be a timid player, hanging back, waiting for the ball to come to them. The best strikers are always on the attack, confidently creating opportunities for their team to score a goal.
A lot of strikers set their target number of goals before a match, almost visualizing their target in the hope of willing it into existence.
These ‘goal goals’ are important to them focussing on the target, which will actually improve their game. This kind of proactive attitude is incredibly important for strikers.
5. Creating Chances
The final attribute, which is probably the most underrated for a striker, is the ability to create opportunities for their teammates. This goes way beyond simply creating space that we mentioned earlier, it is actively setting their teammates up for a successful goal.
The striker who is in possession of the ball can see another player deep in the penalty box and in the perfect opportunity for a goal, it is their responsibility to pass the ball to that player as quickly as possible.
By getting the ball into close proximity to the opponent’s goal, you’ll always create the opportunity for more points, even if they are not responsible for those actions.
The best strikers are usually aware of where their players are, where the opponents are and what the shifting space is between them. They should then place themselves in the best arrangement to those configurations to enable more goals.
Some Of The Greatest Strikers
There are many great strikers in the world, all of whom possess so many different attributes that make them so good. However, we have managed to distill these elements down to a list of some of the best attributes that you need to have as a striker.
A striker’s natural build, training, and dexterity will all play a part in this unique makeup, but the chances are that without even one of the qualities listed below, they won’t find that consistent success on the pitch like the best strikers.
The First Touch Is The Deepest
Having the perfect first touch of the ball will be crucial for strikers. Without fail, when the ball is passed to the striker, they will be quickly swarmed by the opposing team. This means that they have virtually zero opportunity to mess up, otherwise, the ball will be quickly delivered into the hands of the enemy.
The striker needs to be able to control the ball away from the opponent with the very first touch. They need to make the most of every opportunity that is given to them on the field. If a striker repeatedly fouls up their striking opportunities, the chances are that they’ll soon be switched to another position or, in the worst-case scenario, traded to another team.
A Keen Awareness
The top league strikers will always have an acute awareness of what is going on around them, seeing spaces and widening gaps where no other players can. Even if the striker is not in possession of the ball, they will be viewing the entire soccer pitch for an opportunity.
They will want to be able to know where every defender is to avoid them, as they will often be the aggressors trying to snatch the ball away from them, especially in the penalty box. They will either want to distract or move away from these players completely.
They will also need to know the location of their own team members and find the path of least resistance to the ball. Surveying the spaces between each play will be the easiest way to do this.
Knowing where the goalie is will also be very important, particularly before making that well-timed shot into the back of the net. They can also maneuver themselves behind the goalie before the shot, out of their line of sight, surprising them with that all-important goal.
Having an in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of all these things might sound incredibly daunting, but after enough practice and training, these things will come automatically. Strikers often live off their keen instincts on the pitch, and the best ones are those with a well-developed spatial awareness.
Obviously one of the main reasons that you’re going to be a striker is your superior shooting abilities.
Getting that ball into the back of the net in one single accurate shot is a striker’s reason for existing on the football pitch. If you fail to do this at least during one game, then the chances are that you might find yourself switched to playing defense.
The striker’s ability to score goals comes from a mixture of natural aptitude and great hand-eye coordination that is developed incrementally on the pitch. Practicing your shooting skills over and over again during training will certainly improve your accuracy, giving you the ability to concentrate on it coming from numerous different angles.
Great strikers never take an hour off to improve their abilities on the pitch, making sure they can control the ball, not just with their feet, but with their chest and heads too. Knowing how the ball moves and how responsive it will be off your feet is very important too.
Calm and Cool Under Pressure
They say that soccer is as much of a mental game as it is a physical and we certainly agree with that.
Considering all the factors that a soccer player has to contend with on the pitch, maintaining a cool head will be one of the most important aspects of your game. The pressure is one thing that you can guarantee to cause a striker to make mistakes.
In amidst the chaos of the cheering - and often booing - fans, the pressure to score goals for your team as well as the literal pressure of your opposing team bearing down on you, there is a lot to cope with on the field for a striker, especially being an attacking player.
A striker having confidence in their abilities will go some way to combating these nerves, as they’ll naturally have more certainty in themselves and be less phased by what’s going on around them. Experience on the pitch will also help to combat a lot of these insecurities, as any nerves will naturally dissipate having performed the same things over and over again.
Holding Up The Soccer Ball
The ability to hold up the ball is one of the most overlooked aspects of the game. Keeping the ball at your feet for as long as possible will allow the rest of your teammates to catch up with the striker at the other end of the pitch.
A striker who plays as part of a team will automatically be able to open up more opportunities to create goals a lot more often, this is because it is quite impossible for a striker to take on all the glory at any one time. You have to be able to create opportunities for your teammates to score, and holding the ball is one of the better ways to do that.
Holding the ball for as long as possible will allow the other players time to move into the offensive areas to receive the ball and create a network that will allow them to scoot the ball past their opponents.
Bring Other Players In
This relates to the point that we’ve just mentioned, it’s important that the striker learns how to incorporate their teammates into the state of play.
Often we have seen plenty of strikers try and go it alone when they get to the opponent’s penalty box and completely concede a goal because they have nobody around them to back them up.
This is why having people on either side of you and possibly behind you is very important for maximizing a striker’s goal potential. If a ball is lost from the striker, then having that additional player pick up the slack and get the ball back to them as quickly as possible can be the catalyst for another goal.
Sometimes a shot will be completely blocked from the striker by an opposing player, and another supporting forward player will be a perfect way to get that ball around them and into the back of the net. A good striker must see their fellow players as opportunities for goal scoring, leaving their ego in the locker room.
Moving Off The Ball
The movement off the ball is what can mark out a merely good striker from a great one. Moving off the ball is when a striker will move into a better position to receive the ball from another player, even if it means giving up the ball for a certain period of time.
If a striker spots a better place they can position themselves into, but have an opposing defender bearing down on them, then they will know the need to depart with the ball for a few minutes by passing it to another player. If that player is smart enough, they will see what the striker is trying to do and slide the ball into the spot as the striker arrives there.
This intuitive style of playing is what makes a really great team, a striker will see what their teammates are thinking and vice versa, creating opportunities with each other using this almost telepathic language.
The striker should know that they are the ones being tailed and be able to use that to their advantage, drawing opponents away from other players so they might be able to set themselves or the striker up for a goal at a later date.
By being smart and thinking a few moves ahead, a striker will be able to utilize not just themselves, but the very position they play to their advantage. Disrupting the opposition will be crucial to gaining the upper hand in a soccer match as remember: they will be trying to do the same to you.
Having A Little Patience… And Timing!
As you might have already guessed, a striker sometimes needs to know when to create an opportunity, but they should also know when it’s time to hang back and wait for one to present itself. Strikers are known for their attacking, but the great ones are also very patient.
If a striker blunders towards the ball at every chance they get, then the likelihood is that they’re going to make mistakes, as the opponent will see how predictable they're being. If you’re constantly making the same moves, the opposing team will be able to pick up on that and will adjust themselves accordingly.
A striker might become frustrated by the lack of goal scoring opportunities presented to them, but they will need to remain patient in order to avoid making further costly mistakes. Picking and choosing your moments is all part of the game, patience will allow you those few extra seconds that you need to make the best decision.
A striker will need to time their actions correctly, whether it is making your foot connect with the ball at exactly the right time or not, choosing the right time to move into a space, or teeing up that soccer ball for the perfect goal.
The more experience that a striker gets, then the more they will be able to judge certain scenarios better. If you are a striker, then you’ll know the value that comes with making mistakes!
With each mistake, hopefully, you’ll learn and grow as a player from those experiences and your timing will become a lot faster and more accurate.
Like a great drummer, getting your timing more exact will take practice, both in training and during a live game.
The Striker and The Forward - The Key Differences
One of the most common mistakes that get made by soccer fans is knowing the difference between a striker and a forward. Most soccer fans often conflate the two, but there is actually a difference between a striker and a forward.
However, you can be forgiven for making this mistake, as strikers and forwards both share similar responsibilities. But the differences are very crucial.
A striker’s main role is to score goals, theirs is a position that is the most forward on the field. However, a forward actually plays slightly behind the striker and their main priority is to create goals for the striker, although sometimes they can score a few themselves if the opportunity presents itself.
There is an occasional swapping of responsibilities between the striker and the forward, although they do try and maintain their positions as they will need to rely on each other to get the job done.
You’ll notice when watching a soccer match that the striker will rarely approach their own penalty box. This is because they need to be positioned perfectly to receive the ball when it is kicked out of the box and towards the opposing goal.
The forwards will occupy a similar position, they are often viewed as the link between the midfielders and the strikers. They have a very important position of providing support for the striker when they need it the most.
Our Final Say
We hope that our comprehensive breakdown of the striker position has helped you understand their essential role on the pitch, as well as dispelling some of the popular myths that surround it.
If you are a striker, we hope that some of this information will improve your game and make you an invaluable asset to your team.