Strikers have a special place in the heart of soccer fans, often creating the most memorable and exciting moments in games. Whether it’s an injury-time penalty or a scrappy 1-yard tap-in, quality strikers always find a way to score.
Since there is a wide variety of striker styles, soccer fans often struggle to pinpoint a striker’s core responsibilities. So, what is a striker in soccer?
This article explores soccer’s most famous position. We dive into the different types of strikers, their key characteristics, and habits. The main topics we touch on include:
- A striker’s main roles
- The challenges of being a striker
- What it takes to become a striker
- Technical skills
- Key characteristics of a striker
You might even pick up a few tips and tricks on how to step up your personal game.
What Is A Striker In Soccer?
A striker is the most attacking player in the game of soccer.
Also known as a forward, a striker typically takes up positions close to the opponent’s goal. Although there are different types of strikers (particularly in modern soccer), their main objective is generally to score goals.
Famous strikers in today’s game include Robert Lewandowski, Romelu Lukaku, Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, Karim Benzema, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Although Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are often deployed as strikers, they have played different roles throughout their careers. We’ll touch on different forward positions, strikers’ responsibilities, and specific striker styles throughout this piece.
Striker in Soccer FAQs
What Are The Roles Of A Striker?
While some strikers are known solely for their goal poaching abilities, others are more well-rounded in terms of dribbling, passing, and playmaking. A key responsibility of a striker is to hold the ball up, keep defenders pinned back, and link attacking play with teammates.
While it’s advantageous to have a refined overall skillset in every position, some strikers make a name for their goal-scoring exploits alone, showing an innate ability to be in the right place at the right time to finish chances.
In such a tactical sport, there is no one-size-fits-all rule when it comes to attacking players. We’ve seen effective strikers in all shapes and sizes over the years, with certain styles better suited to a particular set of tactics.
However, the typical number 9 is quick over short and long distances has exceptional ball control and dribbling skills, and have an eye for goal. Strikers must be cool, calm, and collected in front of the goal.
Confidence and bravery are key traits of a good striker, as they must be able to shake off missed chances to focus on scoring the next.
How Many Strikers Are There In A Team?
Most teams play with either one or two strikers.
Depending on the formation being deployed, teams can play with more, or even without a striker. However, this is usually due to a mid-game tactical change. Teams rarely start with more than two strikers. And it is even less common to see a team start without one.
In the modern game, the most common formations are 4-2-3-1, 4-3-3, and 4-4-2. Each of these formations uses one or two strikers. While 4-3-3 involves three attacking players, two of them are usually wingers or wide forwards.
Interestingly, teams didn’t always play with one or two strikers. I
n the 1950s and 1960s, teams routinely played in extremely attacking formations, often led by four or more strikers. Unsurprisingly, games were very high-scoring in those days.
Is Striker A Hard Position In Soccer?
Striker is undoubtedly one of the most difficult positions in soccer.
There is a general agreement among soccer pundits, coaches, and fans alike, that the hardest thing in soccer is scoring goals. While strikers get plenty of plaudits for scoring a last-minute winner, they also come under the most scrutiny when they miss a big chance or go through a barren spell.
Strikers frequently operate in the most congested areas on the field. They must receive the ball under pressure from strong aggressive defenders, attempting to create chances or open up opportunities for teammates.
While players in other positions can affect the game through their work rate and a combination of attacking and defending, strikers must make an impact through goal contributions.
Strikers often have to expend energy making runs, competing with defenders, and showing for the ball without getting a single touch. When an opportunity presents itself, they are expected to be clinical.
No position on the soccer field shares the same level of responsibility as a striker, aside from a goalkeeper in a penalty shootout.
How Do You Become A Striker In Soccer?
Three key areas of focus for a budding striker are technical skills, finishing, and film study.
Strikers are some of the most technically sound players on the field.
If you want to become an effective striker, it’s important to develop your technical skills. Work on your first touch, ball control, passing, shooting, and dribbling.
Another key area of focus should be receiving the ball and turning under pressure. While defenders and wingers usually receive the ball facing forward, strikers often pick up possession with their back to goal and a defender breathing down their neck.
Short passing drills, possession rondos, cone dribbling weaves, and situational training can help you hone your core technical skills.
No matter what type of striker you are, finishing practice should be your bread and butter.
Although distance shooting practice can come in handy, most of your chances will present themselves inside the penalty box.
Practice 1 v 1s from various angles, simulating in-game scenarios. Be sure to practice shooting with both feet. Strikers who can score with either foot are dangerous and unpredictable, posing a threat to defenders from all sides.
Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Jota, and Son Heung-Min are some of the best two-footed players in the Premier League.
They are extremely dynamic regardless of their angle of attack.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s top 10 left-footed goals reel has some cracking finishes.
Strikers should also focus on getting on the end of crosses, practicing heading, and first time finishing.
Finishing from crosses is something that must be done in your spare time. Pair up with a teammate and put together a crossing and finishing session.
Practice movement inside the box, angling runs, changing direction, and getting on the end of crosses at speed.
Up and coming strikers should study the habits, movement, and tendencies of elite forwards.
Watch highlights of your favorite players and take note of what they do best. Important things to look out for include:
- Off the ball activity
- Running angles
- Shooting technique
- Number of touches per possession
How Do Strikers Train?
Strikers train just like other soccer players, showing up for team practice and gym sessions.
However, many professional forwards perform extra training sessions to work on key areas of their game, like finishing, heading, free kicks, and penalties. This is particularly important if you have some known weaknesses.
Wayne Rooney famously recognized a weakness in his game that he worked tirelessly at until it became a strength:
“I think it was 2009/2010; I didn’t score many headed goals. I spent about ten months practising after training, just working on my heading and then I went on a run of scoring 15 headed goals in a row.“Wayne Rooney, 2021
How Do Strikers Score Goals?
Strikers tend to do their best work inside the penalty box.
A study on World Cup goalscoring trends found that strikers were responsible for more than half of all goals. The majority of these goals were scored inside the penalty area.
Characteristics Of A Striker In Soccer
Different strikers display a variety of useful characteristics, including agility, strength, speed, quick feet, acceleration, and a good first touch.
However, strikers can still be successful without this particular skill set. Some teams operate with a false-9 style striker, who drops deep to link up the play. This type of player doesn’t necessarily need the physical attributes outlined above.
One of the most important traits of a striker is game intelligence.
While positioning and movement can be taught to an extent, strikers with a natural instinct can create the easiest goal-scoring opportunities.
Intelligent strikers know how to play off a defender, time runs into the penalty box, create small pockets of space, and utilize their strongest attributes.
Intelligent strikers come in many forms. Take Kylian Mbappe for example.
Apart from his blistering speed and well-rounded attacking game, the Frenchman is elite in his off-the-ball movement. Understanding that his PSG teammates possess exceptional vision and technical qualities, he is constantly on the move, making well-timed runs behind the opposition.
Harry Kane is another excellent example of an intelligent striker, despite having a totally different playing style to Mbappe.
While Kane possesses height and a strong frame, his speed and agility leave much to be desired when compared to the likes of Mbappe, Erling Haaland, Lautaro Martinez, and other leading strikers in Europe.
What he lacks in this department, he makes up for in soccer intelligence. His vision, positioning, and technical ability mean he can play in virtually any attacking role, including as a playmaker.
Kane understands where there is space on the field, often playing between the attack and midfield lines to allow teammates to move further forward.
People often say that there’s a skill in being in the right place at the right time. Although every sport involves some luck, the smartest strikers tend to be the luckiest. Reading the game and pattern recognition make a tremendous difference at the elite level.
One of the least spoken about skills of a world-class striker is mental fortitude.
Goals decide games. Since strikers harbor the biggest share of responsibility in terms of goalscoring, every game comes with a certain level of pressure. While any professional striker can look great during a hot streak, the mark of a great goal scorer is how they bounce back after a run of bad form.
Do Strikers Have To Be Fast?
Strikers don’t have to be fast.
While speed is generally an advantage on a 100-yard long soccer field, it isn’t always required. In fact, many of the elite strikers in today’s game aren’t necessarily fast.
Although Robert Lewandowski, Harry Kane, and Luis Suarez shouldn’t be classified as slow, they’re far from the quickest players on the field. Without relying on pace to gain an advantage over their opponents, these players have developed extraordinary all-around abilities and developed impressive positioning and game sense.
The Target Man
Some strikers are referred to as “target men”.
This type of player works best in a team that uses direct tactics. As the name suggests they are the target of long passes and crosses. Target man strikers provide an outlet for their teammates, using their size and physical strength to win aerial balls and hold off defenders.
Some target men are prolific goalscorers, like Edin Dzeko. Other forwards use their stature to draw in defenders and create space for their teammates.
Strikers like Olivier Giroud are exceptional facilitators, contributing heavily to buildup play.
Giroud was integral to France’s World Cup-winning campaign in 2018 without scoring a single goal.
Although the Frenchman isn’t necessarily a great goal scorer, he is undoubtedly a scorer of great goals. His highlight reel will leave you drooling!
Can A Striker Be Short?
Successful strikers can be short.
Short strikers use their low center of gravity, quickness, and technical skills to make an impact. Some of the best modern strikers that stand 5’ 9” and under include:
- Sergio Aguero
- Carlos Tevez
- Radamel Falcao
- Antoine Griezmann
Pele, who many regards as the greatest soccer player of all time, is listed generously at 5’ 8”.
Can Strikers Dribble?
Dribbling is an important skill for strikers, as they often receive the ball in tight areas.
Strikers who can dribble are extremely valuable as they can create their own chances and provide goal-scoring opportunities for their teammates.
What Is An Out And Out Striker?
Out and out strikers are the most ruthless players on the field. They are high-level players, devastating finishers, and instinctual attackers.
Although out and out strikers may not do much defensive work, they make up for their shortcomings with their goal-scoring exploits.
Out and out strikers are a rare breed and often command the highest transfer fees during the off-season.
The best out and out strikers in today’s game include:
- Robert Lewandowski
- Erling Haaland
- Romelu Lukaku
- Ciro Immobile
- Pierre Emerick Aubemayang
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.