Forwards and strikers are employed on the pitch for one reason and one reason only: to get goals. Whether they are poaching loose balls or playing deeper in-between the lines to provide assists or long-range shots on goal, forwards are heavily involved and relied upon in the final (attacking) third. Depending on many tactical variations and instructions in the modern game, the role can require different levels of technical ability, physical ability, positioning, and instinct.
Traditional center forward
The traditional center forward plays the furthest up the field. The center forward’s primary role on the pitch is to score goals and be involved in the attacking play. As the name suggests, the center forward sits in the center of the attack. The modern center forward is a presence in the air: to challenge aerial balls and attempt to get on the end of a cross. Also, center forwards make darting runs to get on the end of a through ball or pull defenders away from their position to make space for another player to shoot at goal.
The second striker plays deeper than or behind a traditional center forward or striker. Because of this, second strikers are more complete players than their center forward and striker counterparts. The second striker needs to be able to play killer balls, dribble under pressure, take shots, score goals, and create chances. Occasionally, the second striker will be required to drop into the midfield to help in applying pressure to the opposition’s midfield.
Legendary striker Wayne Rooney joined Manchester United at the age of 18 from Everton FC for £25.6 million. At the time, this was the highest fee paid for any player under 20. He went on to score 208 Premier League goals and lifted the Premier League title 5 times.
Target man is a forward that is meant to be the focal point for a team’s passes in the final third. As they play highest up the field and are expected to receive the ball often, the target man plays with his or her back to goal. Forwards that play in the target-man role are powerful and tall, as they need to shield the ball from the opposition’s defenders. Once receiving the ball, the target man is expected to distribute wide, turn and take a shot, or lay off to the midfielders. When the ball goes wide, the target man becomes an aerial threat in the box.
The legendary 6’5 forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has won a league title at nearly every team he’s played for, scoring more than 560 goals in his career. He is also the only player to have scored in the last 4 decades.
The false nine is a forward who is given the freedom to drop deep to receive the ball and become a part of the midfield. The false nine usually plays alone up top. When the false nine drops into the midfield, the wingers are expected to pinch in to provide a goalscoring threat from the middle.