In soccer, one of the most exciting positions to play and watch is the position of striker. This role in the team requires great confidence and carries significant responsibility. In this article, we’ll explain the role of a striker, their position on the field, and describe what makes a great striker.
But first, let’s start at the beginning by answering the question:
What is a striker in soccer?
In soccer, a striker is a player on a team positioned nearest to the opponent’s goal whose primary role is to score goals for their team. The name striker derives from the fact that this player is known for the action of striking the soccer ball as they try to score a goal.
Strikers are often referred to as forwards, and I’ll explain the difference between a striker and a forward throughout this article. Let’s start by defining the position on the field where the striker plays.
What Position Does a Striker Play
Understanding the position of each player on the soccer field is key for anyone looking to appreciate the game of soccer for all it’s worth.
To help you, or anyone else, understand this I have put together an Easy to Understand Guide to Soccer Positions. Or if you are looking for a better understanding of positions in youth soccer then check out my Guide to Youth Soccer Positions.
However, in this article, let’s specifically look at the position a striker plays during a game of soccer.
As you can see in the image above, a striker on a soccer team plays in the position closest to the opponent’s goal. Not only are they the furthest player forward, but they are also most often based in the center of the field, allowing them to cover the entire width of the soccer field easily and go where they can be most effective.
The reason the striker is located further forward than any other player is that they are the players given the responsibility for scoring the most goals for the team. And it’s only logical that the player responsible for scoring the goals should be in the position most likely to get a chance to score a goal.
They are by no means the only player on the team who can score a goal, and it’s even possible for the goalie to score(click here to go to my article explaining how and when in a soccer game the goalie can score), but the striker is the player who carries the greatest expectation to score the goals.
The player who plays as the striker is usually the player on a team who is the best at scoring goals. They are given this position and responsibility because they are good at the role. They are not only highly skilled but effective at scoring a goal when given the chance.
In this position, a striker is expected to stay at the top of the field. They usually have very few defensive duties and are not expected to come back and help out very often.
The reason for this is that if a striker did regularly run back to help out in defense then every time the ball changed possession from one team to the other the striker would be a long way out of position and of no use if the ball suddenly moved up to where they should be.
Because of this, it is much better for the team if the striker stays up in the position they were expected to play in.
Striker Position Tips
If you are the striker for your team or you are coaching a striker, there are a few tips it is worth knowing when it comes to the position for a striker.
Position Tips for a striker in soccer:
- Stay in the position you have been put in. Some players can, and are expected to move around the field a lot, but a striker should stay in their designated position on the soccer field.
- Be aware of defenders trying to draw you out of position. A good defender will use all the tricks of their trade to distract you or subconsciously persuade you to move away from your position. Staying aware of this will help you stay where you should be.
- Understand the opposition. Before a game find out what you can about the opposition for that day. If you can identify their weaknesses you will be better placed to take advantage of them.
- Spend time outside of a game learning about your position. In any area of life, you will get better at something as you increase your knowledge and understanding of it. Take the time to learn from the best strikers and coaches about how you can improve. Consider signing up for a soccer training program such as this one.
- Build up your experience in the position. There’s nothing that beats experience. Take every opportunity you can find to play as a striker. Even practicing in your backyard with friends will help.
The Number a Striker Wears on their Jersey
In almost every soccer game, you will have noticed that each player displays a number on the back of their jersey.
Although numbers can be interchangeable and there’s no requirement for a soccer player to wear any one specific number, a striker in soccer usually wears the number 9 on their jersey. This is because, traditionally, in soccer, each number indicates the position a player is playing on the field, and the number 9 indicates the player is playing as the striker.
However, in modern-day soccer, a player is given a number at the beginning of the soccer season, and they continue wearing that same number for every game of the season no matter what position they are playing in. (Check out my article how many games are in a soccer season where I clearly show the numbers for each league.)
To find out more about soccer position numbers, check out my article, Soccer Positions, where you will find a complete explanation of what soccer numbers are and why they are used.
The Role of a Striker
Understanding the position of a striker in a team and on the field is important. But to really understand what a striker is, you need to understand the role they play.
A striker performs a specific and valuable role for their team. A role that they are chosen to do and train hard each day to perform to the best of their abilities.
The role of a striker in soccer includes:
- Consistently score goals
- Be available for a pass
- Create space
- Take control of the game
- Create chances for other players
Let’s look at each of these.
1. Consistently score goals
The ability to consistently score goals for their team is the most important and number 1 role of a striker. If they can’t do this they won’t be playing for the team for very long.
A striker has the responsibility to put the ball in the back of the net as often as possible. They are usually chosen for the role of striker because they have the ability to do this well.
In fact, I would argue that the striker is the most important position in soccer.
Not only do they need to be able to score goals for their team, but they need to be able to do it consistently. Any player can score a goal occasionally for their team (and most players hope they do!), but the role of the striker is to be the player that scores more regularly than any other player on the team.
I recently wrote an article all about How to Score in Soccer. Click here to go straight to that article and find out how to improve your ability to score goals during games.
2. Be available for a pass
The second role of a striker is to be available to receive a pass from another player on their team.
Soccer is overwhelmingly a passing game. When one player has the ball they will usually be looking up to see if there is a player ahead of them who they can pass the ball to. The role of the striker is to get into a position where they can be the player free to receive a pass.
This will involve the striker constantly looking and being aware of what is happening around them. They need to be looking for and moving into spaces where the other players on their team can pass to them. They should also be making runs into space anticipating where the ball is going to be played.
If a striker is to perform their main role of scoring goals then they need the ball. And to receive the ball they need to be in space where they are available to receive the ball.
3. Create space for those around them
Alongside finding space and being available to be passed to, a striker should be creating space for those around them as well.
Soccer is a team game, and the game doesn’t just revolve around the striker and what they need or want!
A key part of the role of a striker is helping those around them play well and one way to do that is to create space for the other players on their team to move into by drawing the opposition defenders away from where they should be.
An intelligent striker will see when another player on their team has a chance of attacking the opposition’s goal and to increase the other player’s chances of being successful they can do their best to distract the defenders by moving close to them or running past them in the hope that the defender will follow them rather than any other player.
This creates space for the rest of the striker’s team to move up the field and potentially score a goal.
4. Take control of the game
It’s important as a striker to be confident and not be afraid to take chances in the hope of a positive outcome for the team.
One role every striker has is to actively go after the ball and make something happen for their team.
I once played on a team with a striker who before each game would tell anyone who would listen how many goals they were going to score in that game. He wasn’t being arrogant or merely hopeful, he had just set himself a target and was confident about going after it.
This attitude meant he walked onto the soccer field ready to pursue every opportunity he had to take control of the game by taking possession of the ball and making something positive happen for the team. It won’t surprise you to know that with this attitude he often scored the exact number of goals he said he would.
A striker needs to take on this role of tirelessly and proactively looking to make something happen for the team whenever they can.
5. Create chances for other players
The last role of a striker is to create chances for other players.
More than just creating space for other players as we mentioned earlier, a striker should constantly be looking to see if they can set up the other players on their team for a shot at goal.
When the striker has possession of the ball they are often in a position to create a chance for another player to score a goal as they are the player in a team that is farthest forward on the field. This constant proximity to the goal means there is always an opportunity to score if they can find it.
A striker’s role is to selflessly be aware of where the other players are and where the potentially goal-scoring opportunities are. They then should do their best to put the two together.
To understand the different roles between a striker and a winger, check out my article – Winger vs Striker in Soccer: What’s the Difference?
What Makes a Great Striker
When it comes to strikers they come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. From small fast strikers such as Javier Hernandez to tall, well-built strikers such as Saheed Adebayo Akinfenwa(who weighed in at 220lbs/101kg!)
This video below will give you some idea of not only the best strikers in the world but also the variety of different types of strikers there are.
But amongst all this variety there are specific attributes and qualities that all the great strikers possess.
This is what makes a great soccer striker:
- A great first touch
- Awareness of what’s happening around them
- Superior shooting ability
- Confident and calm under pressure
- Ability to hold up the ball
- Ability to bring others into play
- Great movement off the ball
- Perfect Timing
Let’s look at each of these in a bit more detail.
1. A great first touch
Having a great first touch is important for any soccer player but particularly a striker. (if you’re unsure what is meant by “first touch” then click here to go to my article explaining everything you need to know about “first touch” in soccer.)
When a striker receives the ball they often have very little time to use it as the defenders around them will be trying to close them down as quickly as possible.
For this reason, it is so important a striker has a near-perfect first touch every time to make the most of each opportunity they have on the soccer field.
2. Awareness of what’s happening around them
The best strikers always know what is happening around them at all times.
Even without the ball a striker will be constantly looking around and assessing the current situation.
- They will want to know where all the defenders are to be able to avoid them
- They will be looking at where the other players on their team are to know where to pass the ball if necessary
- They will be looking to see where the spaces are around them are to move into and make themself available for a pass
- They will be checking where the goalie is positioned in case a goal-scoring opportunity suddenly arises.
- And they will also be following the ball and what’s currently happening in the game.
A great striker will spend the entire game fully aware of everything going on around them in order to make the most of every opportunity that comes their way.
3. Superior shooting ability
It almost goes without saying that a striker should have exceptional shooting abilities.
They are the player on the field who has both the responsibility and expectation to score the most goals for the team. Every time they have the ball at their feet everyone around them is looking to them to either score or create a goal for their team.
The ability to score goals consistently requires great technical skill and hours of practice on the training ground. Any player who just arrives on the soccer field hoping for things to work out for them, and without practicing their skills, will be a letdown for their team and themselves.
The great strikers work hard on their shooting abilities to be the best they can be.
4. Confident and calm under pressure
In the middle of a soccer game, a soccer field can be a very intimidating place to be. If a player hasn’t learned to stay calm under the pressure of a game they are likely to make multiple mistakes.
Of all the players on a team, a striker has one of the most highly pressured roles. The team needs goals to win the game and the striker is the player expected to score the goals.
The best strikers know how to stay calm in the most highly pressured moments. A large part of this calmness comes from their confidence in their own abilities.
They know what they are capable of achieving and no amount of pressure will stop them from achieving their goal.
5. Ability to hold up the ball
One of the key abilities that make a great striker is not talked about as much as it should be.
That is the ability to hold up the ball.
When the ball comes up the field to where the striker is they are often the only player in that area. To allow time for the rest of their team to catch up the striker needs to be capable of keeping possession of the ball for as long as possible.
Being able to hold up the ball gives the rest of the team time to move into offensive areas and space for the striker to then pass the ball to them.
6. Ability to bring others into play
Following on from the last point is the skill of the striker to bring other players around them into play.
When the striker has the ball they won’t always have the opportunity to take a shot at goal. In these situations, they will be looking around them to see if there is another player on their team who they can pass to.
When they see a player available to receive a pass they need the ability to execute that pass perfectly allowing the player to receive the ball comfortably and be in a position to then use it effectively.
7. Great movement off the ball
A striker’s movement off the ball can be the difference between being a good striker or a great one.
To be effective as a striker, the player needs to get themselves into positions where they are free to receive the ball and use it well. This is why when you watch any great striker they will always be on the move looking for the spaces around them to move into and be available to receive a pass and potentially score a goal.
This movement off the ball also disrupts the opposition’s defence as they will spend their time watching and following the striker rather than being able to fully concentrate on what is happening on the rest of the soccer field.
This alone, can create more opportunities for the striker than they would have otherwise have had.
A great striker also needs to be patient.
As we’ve already talked about, playing as a striker can come with a lot of responsibility to score the goals for the team. But in some games a goal-scoring opportunity may only present itself once or twice in the whole game. Because of this a striker needs to not get frustrated or anxious at the seemingly lack of opportunities.
They need to patiently wait for the right opportunity to come and then do their best to make the most of that opportunity.
9. Perfect Timing
Lastly, a great striker needs to possess perfect timing in all they do.
Whether it’s the action of striking the ball with their foot or choosing the correct time to take a shot, or even when to make a run, a striker needs to have an acute sense of when the perfect time is to take these actions.
A lot of this ability comes through experience and mistakes. The more games a striker plays the better their ability will become at choosing the correct time to take action.
The more practice, training, and game time a striker has the better they should become.
The Difference Between a Striker and a Forward
While looking at what a striker is and what makes for a great striker we haven’t addressed the common question of what is the difference between a striker an a forward.
When you watch, play, listen, or read about soccer you will often hear the term striker and forward used for players that are seemingly playing in a very similar role for a team.
The reality is that strikers and forwards do perform a very similar role to each other in soccer. So much so that many people can find it confusing knowing what the difference is between the two.
So, what is the difference between a striker and a forward?
The main difference between a striker and a forward in soccer is their position on the soccer field and their responsibilities. A striker stays further forward than any other player and is responsible for scoring goals, whereas a forward plays behind the striker and has responsibility for creating as well as scoring goals.
When you watch a soccer game you will notice that the striker rarely comes as far back on the field as the other players. This is because the team needs the striker to be as far up the field as possible so they are always ready to take advantage of a goal-scoring opportunity.
With a forward, they also carry a responsibility to contribute goals during a soccer game, but they are also expected to create opportunities for goals as well. They will often track back further on the soccer field to support the teams defense and be a link between the midfield and striker.
Where the terminology can be confusing for people is that it’s not uncommon for someone to refer to all the players playing offense, including the striker, as forwards.
For a more in-depth look at the differences between a striker and a forward, check out this article I wrote – Striker Vs Forward: What’s the difference?
Hopefully you now feel you have a much better understanding of what a striker is, what their role is and what makes for a great striker in soccer.
To find more out about other positions in soccer check out my articles:
Number 10 in Soccer – Why it’s so Significant
Number 6 in Soccer: Position, Role, and How to Play
21 Qualities of a Soccer Defender: Tips to Improve Your Game