Role of striker

Striker’s Role: Understanding the Number 9 Position in Football or Soccer

In related articles, we explored the defensive midfielder (CMD) position and responsibilities in football, as well as what it takes to become a ball boy in soccer. Now we turn my attention to the most glamorous position on the pitch – the number 9, also known as the striker or centre forward.

As the main goalscorer, the expectations placed upon a modern number 9’s shoulders are immense.

When a team needs a moment of magic to break down the opposing defense, all eyes turn to the striker. Let’s explore this crucial position further.

The Strikers’ Primary Role Explained

A striker’s main objective is simple – to score goals.

They spearhead the attack and their fundamental duty is converting the chances created by their teammates into goals.

The number 9 must be instinctive to find space in the penalty area and finish clinically when opportunities arise.

With soccer becoming ever more tactical, a modern striker must also be intelligent with their movement to drag defenders out of position.

victor osimhen
Victor Osimhen

This creates space for midfield runners to exploit. Though goalscoring is a striker’s top priority, they also provide an attacking focal point and bring others into play around them.

Must-Have Attributes for a World Class Striker

To thrive as a number 9, several key attributes are required:

  • Lethal finishing ability with both feet and head
  • Pace and agility to get away from defenders
  • Anticipation and attacking movement to find dangerous positions
  • Aerial prowess to attack crosses and set pieces
  • Physical strength to hold off challenges and retain possession
  • Technical dribbling skills to create opportunities from nothing

On top of these traits, elite strikers also possess composure under pressure, decision-making intelligence, and mental resilience to cope with goal droughts.

Changing Demands in the Modern Game

The demands placed on a modern number 9 have evolved from the traditional “target man” who predominantly used aerial ability and physicality.

Today’s top strikers must have a more complete, all-around game.

Combining intricate combination play with lethal precision shooting, modern marksmen like Harry Kane and Robert Lewandowski perfectly illustrate this development.

robert lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski

We are also seeing inverted wide forwards like Mohamed Salah cut inside to score regularly, such is their exemplary finishing skill.

Tactical flexibility is also key – a modern striker may be required to drop deep, shift wide, or press intensely without the ball.

Best Strikers in World Soccer

Undoubtedly one of the finest strikers of all time is Cristiano Ronaldo. Though now playing slightly wider, he has averaged over a goal per game across his illustrious career with stunning aerial ability, long shot-taking, and creativity.

cristiano ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

Other current household names like Karim Benzema and Memphis Depay combine technical skill with ruthless precision in the penalty area.

We are also seeing young starlets like Erling Haaland completely shatter expectations of what a modern striker can achieve, with the Norwegian sensation’s explosive pace and clinical edge seeing him reach new statistical heights in the Bundesliga and Champions League competitions.

Tactical Variations

While the number 9’s main role remains scoring goals, the specific tactical interpretation of a striker’s positioning depends on the system.

In a 4-4-2, two strikers may play as a partnership – with one dropping deep and the other staying advanced. In a lone striker role, the number 9 must-have exceptional off-the-ball movement and dribbling ability to create individually.

Tactically flexible inverted wingers cutting inside act as auxiliary strikers in systems like Barcelona’s 4-3-3. No matter the formation, a ruthless eye for goal remains paramount.

Iconic Number 9s Through Football History

From trailblazing legends like Romario and Marco Van Basten to modern greats like Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović, iconic number 9s have graced the game through the ages.

Certain strikers like Filippo Inzaghi focused chiefly on elite positioning and finishing ability in the box.

brazilian ronaldo
Brazilian Ronaldo

Others like Brazilian Ronaldo combined ruthless cutting edge with dazzling technique that terrorized defenders.

Each iconic 9 had their own unique flair, but goal-getting obsession remained their driving force.

Statistical Analysis of Strikers’ Goalscoring Feats

Analyzing goalscoring rates over history reveals striking (pardon the pun) patterns.

During the high-scoring 1950s and 60s, strikers were netting well over 30 league goals a season.

This dropped to around 25 goals per season by the late 1990s, as tactical systems grew more organized.

Yet advances in sports science and nutrition have seen a renewed spike in recent seasons.

For instance, Messi and Ronaldo have averaged over 45 goals a season at their scoring peak in the modern Champions League era – a remarkable feat.

Fundamentals to Develop Future Star Strikers

Developing the next generation of elite strikers requires focused coaching from a young age.

Youth coaches should hone a clinical eye for goal via repetition of situational finishing practice.

Emphasizing the importance of both feet is also vital – two-footed fluidity is essential to unlocking defenses.

Creating match scenarios where young players must find space intelligently and link play, rather than just touch the ball, is also crucial to nurturing well-rounded 9s.

Getting Scouted as a Striker

To catch the eye of scouts and coaches, promising young strikers must demonstrate exceptional finishing ability in competitive match situations.

Scouts will specifically note clinical precision with both feet when opportunities arise.

Pace over short distances, tenacity in 50/50 battles, and off-ball movement are also attributes that shine through.

On top of physical and technical ability, mentality and consistency set apart the future stars.

Scouts often observe body language and reaction when missing chances – does the young striker dwell on misses or bounce back sharper?

Confident strikers demand the ball and drive teammates forward.

Consistently impacting games and hunting goalscoring positions showcase a striker’s emerging talent.

Training discipline, lifestyle habits, and coachability are also monitored.

Is the striker staying back after training sessions to work on shooting technique? How do they respond to coaching feedback? Addressing these factors is key to getting scouted as a future number 9.


While a striker’s primary function remains straightforward in concept, becoming a truly world-class number 9 requires so much more in today’s game.

As well as a near-flawless finishing technique, movement intelligence, speed of thought, and all-around tactical flexibility separate the very best strikers who continue pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in their position.

Soccer’s evolution has transformed the number 9 role, and with it, we are witnessing a new breed of devastatingly complete center forwards at the peak of the game.

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