With the European soccer leagues back in action, I’ve been watching a lot of games recently. As I’ve mentioned before, watching the professionals can help you identify areas to work on and specific ways to adapt your game to take it to the next level. When talking to players at practices and games, I’ve noticed there are frequent misconceptions around the roles and responsibilities of a striker, so here's some information to help clarify what you may be missing:
It’s normal to have competition for the same spot on a roster, especially among strikers. Use the competitive fires that you feel to propel you to train harder and give it your all every time, even when you’re training on your own. Being under pressure can keep you developing as a player, preventing complacency. Just be sure to keep it respectful and appropriate. At the end of the day, you are teammates with a shared goal: to help the team. Don’t fault them for being better on a given day or trying harder; instead, take it as a reminder to stay focused and do better the next time there’s an opportunity to perform.
Making Runs to Create Space
While most people consider running to be the primary responsibility of midfielders and outside backs, strikers have their own share of runs to make – and not all of them are made to receive the ball. Quality strikers frequently make runs to create space and opportunities for their teammates. Making a run in the final third often means defenders are forced to make a decision: step to the ball or follow the runner. If the defender chooses the latter option, you’ve just created time and space for your teammate with the ball to either shoot or pass to someone else in a more dangerous position. Additionally, forwards should also be checking to receive balls, then laying them off when necessary. Doing so is another way to open up the field for your team while also allowing you a few touches.
Following Up Shots
Apart from taking on defenders and shooting, strikers have other responsibilities when it comes to their touches on the ball. Every shot should be followed up, as scoring opportunities abound when goalies bobble the ball or make an error during a save. That final sprint to follow up can be the game-changer and earn your team 3 points; all it takes is effort. Playing a game of futsal can be a great way to practice rebounding and help ingrain its importance into your soccer psyche.
Starting the Defensive Press
The work does not stop for forwards when the ball is lost; it’s just beginning. Strikers are the first line of defense, and they matter. Everything from the speed at which they choose to press the ball to the direction in which they force their opponent can help – or hinder – a team’s defensive efforts. The best strikers in the world work hard on defense to help their team regain possession, even if it means tracking all the way back to their own box. This role of the striker is often overlooked, but coaches certainly do notice when it is part of a player’s repertoire.
Goals and Statistics
Of course, strikers are expected to strike. Goal-scoring opportunities should be their bread-and-butter and a large portion of their individual training should focus on improving their composure, accuracy, and technique in various opportunities in front of the goal. But strikers also need to keep track of their shot-to-goal ratio on their current team because doing so allows them to see how effective they are. This ratio can be disheartening at times, but remember to stay positive and use that fertilizer as fuel to constantly improve your game. Remember that knowledge is power, and statistics can be a powerful tool to help you identify areas of weakness, leading to more effective training sessions, increased confidence and being ready to capitalize on the opportunities that come your way during a game.
Hopefully, this post has reminded strikers of the wide range of responsibilities they have on the pitch. It can be easy to focus solely on scoring goals, but forwards can (and should) do a lot more. Incorporating these aspects into your game will make you a more dangerous player – and an even stronger asset to your team.
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Chris Bart-Williams is the founder and owner of CBW Soccer Elite. After an extensive career in the English Premier League, Chris now uses his vast soccer knowledge to assist families throughout the college recruiting process and prepare players for the mental and physical challenges of collegiate soccer. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.