Soccer is a sport with many different positions that fulfill different roles out on the field. One of the most highly skilled and sought-after positions is the striker. These are the finishers of your team—the members you rely on to get goals and win the games.
If you’re new to soccer and want to learn more about this position, then you’ve come to the right place!
In this article, we’re going to give you a full overview of the striker position in soccer. From the basics to some of the most important skills and tactics used in this role, we’re going to break down everything you’ll need to know.
We’ve also included a section that outlines some of the most famous strikers from pro soccer, as well as some advice on how you can become a better striker in your own games! If you still have some questions left over at the end, be sure to check out our extensive Frequently Asked Questions section.
The Composition Of A Soccer Team – The Basics
So let’s begin with a total overview of the soccer field so that we can learn how a striker fits into a team. A traditional or professional soccer team will feature 11 players on the field. Every team will always have a goalkeeper, and the rest of the composition can change depending on the game.
Throughout the history of soccer, we have seen many different compositions, however, there is a standard formation that is usually taken consisting of defenders, forwards, and midfielders. Let’s take a look at how these work within a game.
Goalkeeper: A goalkeeper’s role is to block the ball from going into the goal. They are the only player permitted to use their hands to block.
Defender: Defender is the word we use to describe any defensive member of a soccer team. These can be center-backs, sweepers, full-backs, and wingbacks.
Midfielders: Midfielders control the center of the field in many different ways. These can include center midfield, defensive midfield, attacking midfield, and wide midfielders.
Forwards: Forwards refer to a variety of different attacking roles. This includes strikers, center forwards, second strikers, and wingers.
So then the most common composition of these various roles tends to be ‘4-4-2.’ This means, 4 defenders, 4 midfielders, and 2 forwards. This is a common setup as it allows a team to have a strong center, strong defense, and two strikers to capitalize on opportunities for goals.
So What Is A Striker?
The word ‘Striker’ and ‘Forward’ are often used synonymously. There are more specialized versions of strikers who have their own names (many of which we mentioned above), but they all have a similar role—to score goals.
Strikers will typically start the game on the midfield line—the central line of the soccer field—and will aim to be on the opposite team’s side of the field for most of the game.
This is because it is a striker’s role to position themselves to make the most of the scoring opportunities that their teammates create for them.
So then, a striker is one of the highest-responsibility roles within the game. They are forced to perform well and make split-second decisions to win the game.
This means that strikers must be confident, fast, and skilled. Some of the most beloved soccer players in history are strikers as they are the ones who score goals and win tournaments.
How A Striker Plays In A Soccer Game
So let’s get into a little more detail about what a striker does in a game of soccer. A striker’s goal is to stay on the opposite team’s side of the field—usually in front of the center forward and attacking midfielder. This is an important position as it allows them to get a good overview of the entire field.
From here, they can survey the movements of other players and watch for opportunities to score. This can come from a few different things.
Perhaps one of the midfielders is able to make an opportune tackle and pass the ball close to the goal—or perhaps the opposing team makes a mistake, offering a route to the goal.
This is the reason why strikers are specialized in speed, fast ball skills, and scoring ability. A good striker will be able to do a lot in a short period of time, performing their shot with accuracy.
It’s worth noting that striking is one of the most specialized roles in the game, and they often are tasked with making the riskiest plays. Some team compositions even focus entirely on the skills of a specific striker, working to put them in the best position possible to score.
A Brief History Of Number 9
Strikers are often called ‘Number 9’ as they wear this number. It is a way to describe the most advanced player on the field. This goes back to the earliest days of modern soccer, where the most advanced player was called a center-forward.
Back then, there was a very different team composition to what we see in professional soccer today; a 2-3-5 formation.
Although the 2-3-5 formation has fallen out of vogue in modern soccer—mostly due to the fact it leaves your defense wide open—the moniker of ‘number 9’ has remained a vital part of the game as is extremely relevant in every formation you’ll come across.
Number 9 is the striker that is tasked with scoring goals, however, one thing you’ll find as you delve deeper into the world of soccer is that number 9’s can be very different in how they go about this.
There are many unique strikers who achieve their goals in different ways, each of them having unique characteristics and techniques to score goals.
However, throughout time different versions of ‘number 9’ have been categorized. In the next section, we’re going to take a deeper look into these, with examples of famous players throughout history.
We’re also going to go over ‘number 7s’ which is the traditional number for ‘second-strikers,’ but you can check that out later in our article.
Different Types Of Strikers
This is the original version of a number 9, though it has evolved as a style throughout the years.
Sometimes called a ‘ traditional CF’, this is a striker who has a significant presence on the field and can take on defenders and keep control of the ball, buying time for other players to come close and set up shots.
Centre forwards will typically have a lot of responsibility, having to be strong in the most hostile parts of the field, and then finding ways to score goals. Some of the most famous Centre Forward players in history garner a lot of attention for their game-winning plays.
Example: Diego Costa
Diego da Silva Costa is a Brazilian-Spanish soccer player who played as a striker for the Spanish national team and Atletico Madrid.
Diego Costa is a great example of a traditional forward. He is a powerful presence on the field who will charge toward defenders, tackle them, and place the ball in the net. He is slightly larger than the average striker but is still very fast.
This, combined with his power allows him to challenge defenders and get goals.
After challenging defenders and capturing the ball, he creates space and will often make the most of his height to hit a header or a high ball. Costa’s presence on the field and style cause problems for defenders as they have to expend a lot of energy to defend against them.
(Note: Another good example of a center forward is Didier Drogba, who has a similar style to Costa and uses his physicality to maximum effect).
Poachers are just what their name suggests—players who make the best out of small windows of opportunity. A poacher is a name we give to strikers that are incredible at being in the right place at the right time in order to snatch balls and score goals.
You won’t necessarily see poachers with as impressive physical attributes as other kinds of strikers—but the truth is they don’t excel at size or speed or strength. What they do excel at is reading the field and making sure they are in the right place.
It’s for this reason that poachers can be considered the most intellectual of strikers—the ones who have impressive soccer knowledge.
The kind of skills a poacher needs include positional awareness, reaction times, and impressive dexterity. These skills combine to allow them to predict where the ball will be, and then react to it.
By making the most of these skills, a poacher is able to take risky shots that pay off as a result of pure opportunity.
Poachers can be a frustrating type of striker to watch or to play with, as they aren’t the biggest team players. This is because they are much less effective at building up plays, instead choosing to wait for loose balls and crosses.
You could say that having a poacher as your number 9 is a high-risk, high-reward choice, and can change in effectiveness depending on the game in question.
Example: Klaas Jan Huntelaar
This striker is a bit of an outlier in dutch soccer. He’s a great example of a number 9 who has a ‘poacher’ style of striking. He’s never been the fastest nor the most skilled as a player, but he’s incredible at finding goals from strange angles.
Huntelaar is very good at searching for the right place to be on the pitch to score goals.
Other examples of great poachers throughout history include Gerd Muller (an older striker who popularized a lot of this style), and more recently Robert Lewandowski (who can also be described as a more versatile player with impressive poaching ability).
This is a less common version of a striker, who is able to create goal-scoring opportunities for other players. This doesn’t mean that they don’t also score themselves, but that they are great team players who will score at any cost.
You can consider playmakers to be the lunch-pin in build-up plays. Playmakers will traditionally possess impressive first touch, wide passing, and dribbling skills.
They differ from something like a center forward as they don’t have the same impressive strength and aggression, but what they do have is impressive technique to outsmart defenders and create space for goals.
Playmakers are a good example of a number 9 who is content to go back into the midfield in order to create plays; however, this kind of behavior is so that they can then capitalize later in the opposing team’s side of the field.
Example: Thierry Henry
Thierry Henry is a great example of a playmaker who was able to use eclectic control skills to make plays throughout his time as a striker for Arsenal. He is a french soccer player who was able to create space and hand perfectly placed balls to his teammates to score goals.
Finishers are specialists at being a fast, dangerous presence who always have the chance of scoring a goal and changing the course of a game.
Now you might be wondering how this is different from some of the previous incarnations of strikers that we’ve outlined in this article so far, however, there is a vital difference.
A finisher is someone who specializes in finishing in all different parts of soccer. For example, a finisher is going to have skills in poaching, scoring with headers, scoring from long range, and scoring under pressure from a selection of different angles.
These players often need to be fast and powerful, with extreme emphasis on scoring ability.
Example: Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie is a dutch soccer player most noted for being the main goalscorer for Arsenal. He is one of the most eclectic and celebrated strikers of his generation, with an impressive variety of goals in all different kinds of positions and scenarios.
Van Persie’s style included great touch, movement, and vision that would lead him to get ahead of opposing players and score goals.
A great example of his creative, dynamic finishing ability comes from Holland VS Spain in the 2014 FIFA World Cup In Brazil, where he jumped into the air and hit a flying header goal.
A Brief History Of Number 7
Number 7 is another number on the field that is important for goals. Like number 9, number 7 is also one of the most flashy and impressive roles and often features some of the most important strikers throughout soccer history.
The number 7 is a shirt that is usually reserved for either wingers or second strikers. Let’s take a look at what both of these roles are, and some notable examples.
A second striker is a role within soccer that is seen when teams are composed with a two-forward form of play. This allows for increased pressure of attack. Both the central striker and the second striker will aim to make the most of opportunities and makes plays to get goals.
The second striker is going to stick very close to the central striker, falling back a little down the field to create plays, or making tackles to disrupt the opposing team’s defense.
In many ways, you can think of a second striker as the person who is going to be the bridge between the midfield and the attacking forward. It is a more supportive role than a number 9 but can be very effective in certain games because of its combo potential with number 9s (notably finishers).
Example: Wayne Rooney
Wayne Rooney is an English striker who assumed the second striker position when playing with teammate Robin Van Persie for Manchester United.
His eclectic skills as a playmaker and a powerful force to ward off defenders were the perfect accompaniment to Van Persie’s strong finishing style. We’ll go into more detail about this partnership in the next section.
A winger is not the same thing as a striker, but it is one of the positions that can score goals—or at the very least set them up.
Wingers are the widest players who will use speed and agility to get into the opposing corners of the field, in order to make plays and create scoring opportunities. Wingers often wear the number 7, but aren’t considered strikers.
A Note About Players And Striking Styles
It’s worth noting at this point in our article that modern soccer is an extremely dynamic game. Because of its popularity, and the breadth of talent across the world, players are often able to play in a variety of different styles, depending on their team composition and the match in question.
To illustrate this—let’s take a quick look at striker Wayne Rooney.
Upon Robin Van Persie’s arrival at Manchester United, Wayne Rooney often assumed the role of Second Striker to help support Van Persie, make plays, and get goals. This was an extremely effective combination for the club and caused Manchester to win a lot of games.
But this doesn’t mean that Wayne Rooney only has skills as a second striker. Often, soccer players must learn to be dynamic in their play, and this is no different for strikers.
It’s just that you won’t often see strikers change positions altogether—for example, from striker to defender—as they have more specialized skillsets that make them effective at attacking.
General Tips For Strikers
Now we come to the part of our article where we stray away from pro soccer and history, and talk about some of the base-level skills that a striker needs to become effective.
Let’s say you play for a team and you want to learn more about striking.In this section, we’re going to give you some general tips for becoming a well-rounded striker.
Dribbling: A good striker—particularly one who’s looking to create impressive plays for their team—needs to be able to dribble. This is an important skill to focus on, and one that you’re going to want to learn to do under pressure.
First Touch: You’re also going to want to learn more about first touch.This can be vital for poaching goals and scoring from crosses or opportune passes. Learning to use your first touch to turn with the ball is a difficult skill to master, but can be incredible in creating opportunities for a goal.
Finishing Skills: There are countless drills that can help you become better at finishing. In short, it is the action of putting a ball into the back of a net.
This can be achieved in many different ways, but you’ll want to become competent at this, especially in how you can make the most of your team’s actions in order to score.
Positional Tips For A Striker
1. Understanding The Opposing Team
Have you ever played against them before? If you take some time to understand the defense of the opposing team, you’re going to be able to find opportunities to exploit their weaknesses.
2. You In Relation To Defenders
Defenders are going to be the bane of your existence as a striker. It is their job to shut you down and stop you from scoring. When playing a game of soccer, you’ll want to have a good understanding of where the enemy defenders are at all times.
This awareness will allow you to find openings where you can attack.
3. Stay In Your Position
A big rookie mistake for a striker is to venture too far into home territory. Your job is to be one of the furthest players from your own goal. This is because you need to be close enough to the opposing goal to score and make the most of any opportunities that come your way.
Trust your defenders and midfielders, your job is to go on the offensive.
Main Concepts To Keep In Mind For A Beginner Striker
Now let’s outline some key principles that you can keep in mind when you’re learning to be a consistent striker. If you can work on these then you’re going to be effective in your games.
Fantastic strikers will have complete control of all of these, or be so specialized in one that it creates great success for their team.
1. Creating Space
Now to begin, this isn’t only your job, but it is something you should be doing whenever you can. Space allows you to make plays and score goals.
You’re going to want to create as much space in your area as you can. If you can find space so that it’s just you vs the goalie, your chances of scoring are highly increased!
2. Be Available
Your teammates will help you to succeed. It’s your job to score goals, and for many of them—it is to help you do this! Because of this, you’re going to need to make yourself readily available. Remember that soccer is a team game, so you need to make yourself as available as you possibly can.
Always consider your surroundings in relation to your teammates. Planning ahead can allow you to find openings that will let you score!
3. Score Goals
Alright, we know that this one seems intuitive, but it really is an important thing. Your job as a striker is to score. You have to be single-minded in approaching this. While you have to play with your team to achieve this, you also have to shut out other facets of the game that are not under your control.
Let’s say your team’s defense is getting steam-rolled and you wish you could do something about it. This just isn’t your area of expertise. If you focus more on scoring and continue to do so, you will be the best striker possible for your team.
4. Don’t Be Selfish
If you’ve gotten this far into the article, then you’ll know that there are a lot of different types of strikers. Striking is all about getting goals, but that doesn’t mean you’re a one-person army. If there is a higher chance of getting a goal by passing to your teammate, then you must take that opportunity.
Remember that soccer is a team game and that the most important thing is winning! This means sometimes swallowing your pride and making plays that can help others to score—even if you’re the best on the team and don’t trust others!
So there you have it! That was our complete guide to the role of the striker in soccer. As you can see, it’s an extremely dynamic position that can be played in many different ways. Striking has evolved over the years and featured some of the most beloved and fascinating athletes in the entire world.
Strikers are the flashiest members of a soccer team who often finish games and create magical moments. We hope that our guide has given you a basic understanding of this role, and you now know a lot more about strikers and what they do within the sport.
If you still need some additional information, make sure to keep reading for our extensive Frequently Asked Questions section. In the following words, we’re going to outline some of the most commonly asked questions about strikers and soccer in general.
We wish you the best of luck in your soccer journey—whether you’re a player or a spectator—and hope you enjoy the sport alongside so many others worldwide!
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Strikers Ever Defend?
The answer to this question depends on what you mean by defend. It is very rare for strikers to be all the way over at their own goal—this is because they need to be the furthest player away from the rest of their team in order to make the best of scoring opportunities.
Nor is it common for them to assume the role of a defender, tackling opposing strikers and shutting them down.
However, a striker does need to learn defensive skills in order to dominate their own space. Let’s say they have possession of the ball and are faced up against a defender. They’ll need to make sure they can control the space and keep possession in order to further their chances of scoring.
So in this way, a striker does need to learn to defend, it’s just that you will very rarely see them running down the pitch in order to intercept opposing strikers.
Does A Striker Take Penalties?
Since strikers are the best at putting balls in the back of the net during game time, you might be thinking that they are the natural choice to take penalties. But here’s the thing, taking a penalty is not always the same thing as shooting in a game.
Teams will traditionally pick players who are the best at penalties. You’ll often find midfielders take penalties as they have good skills and can often score.
Why Do Strikers Get All The Glory?
This is a common topic when discussing the role of a striker. The truth is, strikers will get a lot of the glory as they are the member of the team who will benefit from everyone else’s hard work.
When they score, the crowd will cheer for them and they will be praised by their teammates, however, this isn’t always the entire story. This is because scoring is the easiest thing for an audience to understand.
A striker shoots—the ball goes in the net—and the team has an advantage. However, it’s much harder to see a perfectly placed cross, or pass that allows for a goal to be scored.
For this reason, strikers do get a lot of glory, however, soccer is a team game and should be treated as much. As much as strikers get the glory, they also have a lot of pressure and can be heavily criticized when they mess up. Being a striker is a double edged sword, in this respect.