The normal role of a striker is to score the majority of goals on behalf of the team. Tall and physical strikers with good heading ability may also be used to get onto the end of crosses, win long balls, or receive passes and retain possession of the ball with their backs to goal as teammates advance, in order to provide depth for their teams or help teammates score by providing passes ('through ball' into the box), the latter variation usually requiring quicker pace and good movement, in addition to finishing ability. Most modern strikers operate in front of the second strikers or central attacking midfielders, and do the majority of the ball handling outside the box. The term "target forward" is often used interchangeably with that of a striker, but usually describes a particular type of striker, who is usually a tall and physically strong player, who is adept at heading the ball; their main role is to win high balls in the air, hold up the ball, and create chances for other members of the team, in addition to possibly scoring many goals themselves. However, the two terms are not necessarily synonymous, with the target forward having developed into a more specialised role, while the centre-forward description is more broad, encompassing many types of forwards.
Centre-forwards have a long history in the game, but the terminology to describe their playing activity has varied over the years. Originally such players were termed inside forwards, creative or deep-lying centre-forwards ("sub forwards"). More recently, two more variations of this old type of player have developed: the second, or shadow, or support, or auxiliary striker and, in what is in fact a distinct position unto its own, the number 10; the former role is exemplified by players such as Dennis Bergkamp (who would play just behind the striker Thierry Henry at Arsenal), Alessandro Del Piero at Juventus, Youri Djorkaeff at Inter Milan, or Teddy Sheringham at Tottenham Hotspur. Other creative players who play further back, such as Diego Maradona, Ronaldinho, Kaká, Michael Laudrup and Zinedine Zidane are often instead described as the "number 10", and usually operate as an attacking midfielder or advanced playmaker.
The centre-forward position is a loosely defined and most often misunderstood description of a player positioned in a free role, somewhere between the out-and-out striker, whether the player is a "target man" or more of a "poacher", and the number 10 or attacking midfielder, while possibly showing some of the characteristics of both. In fact, a term coined by French advanced playmaker Michel Platini, the "nine-and-a-half", which he used to describe the playing role of his successor in the number 10 role at Juventus, Italian playmaker Roberto Baggio, has been an attempt to become a standard in defining the position. Conceivably, a number 10 can alternate as a centre-forward provided that the player is also a prolific goalscorer; otherwise, a mobile forward with good technical ability (dribbling skills and ball control), acceleration, vision, passing, and link-up play, who can both score and create opportunities for a less versatile centre-forward, is more suited. Although they are often given "licence to roam", and either run forward, or drop further back in order to pick up the ball in deeper areas, giving them more time and space in possession, second or support strikers do not tend to get as involved in the orchestration of attacks as the number 10, nor do they bring as many other players into play, since they do not share the burden of responsibility, functioning predominantly in a supporting role as assist providers. In Italy, this role is known as a "rifinitore", "mezzapunta", or "seconda punta", whereas in Brazil, it is known as "segundo atacante" or "ponta-de-lança".
The position of inside forward was popularly used in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. The inside forwards would support the centre-forward, running and making space in the opposition defence, and, as the passing game developed, supporting him with passes. The role is broadly analogous to the "hole" or second striker position in the modern game, although here, there were two such players, known as inside right and inside left.
In British and other northern European styles of football, the wide-midfielder is expected to track back all the way to their own corner flag should their full-back require help, and also to track back their marker, as well as tucking into the midfield when the more central players are trying to pressure the opposition for the ball. This is a large responsibility for attack-orientated players, and particularly those like Joaquín (winger/wide midfielder), or Ryan Giggs (winger/striker), and John Barnes (winger/central midfielder), who lack the physical attributes of a wing-back or of a more orthodox midfield player. As these players grow older and lose their natural pace, they are frequently redeployed as "number 10s" between the midfield and the forward line, where their well-honed ball control, technical skills, ability to create chances, and improved reading of the game in the final third can serve to improve their teams' attacking options in tight spaces. An example is Inter Milan's use of veteran Luís Figo behind one or two other attackers, either as a second striker or in a playmaking role as an attacking midfielder.
A description that has been used in the media to label a variation upon the inverted winger position is that of an "attacking", "false", or "goalscoring winger", as exemplified by Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale's roles on the left and right flank during their time at Real Madrid in particular. This label has been used to describe an offensive-minded inverted winger, who will seemingly operate out wide on paper, but who instead will be given the freedom to make unmarked runs into more advanced central areas inside the penalty area, in order to get on the end of passes and crosses and score goals, effectively functioning as a striker. This role is somewhat comparable to what is known as the raumdeuter role in German football jargon (literally "space interpreter"), as exemplified by Thomas Müller, namely an attacking-minded wide player, who will move into central areas in order to find spaces from which he can receive passes and score or assist goals.
A False 9, in some ways similar to a more advanced attacking midfielder/playmaker role, is an unconventional lone striker or centre-forward, who drops deep into midfield. The purpose of this is that it creates a problem for opposing centre-backs who can either follow the false 9, leaving space behind them for onrushing midfielders, forwards or wingers to exploit, or leaving the false 9 to have time and space to dribble or pick out a pass. The term comes from the traditional number for centre-forwards (nine), and the fact that normally a centre-forward traditionally stayed near the line of defenders until they got an opportunity to move past them toward goal. Key attributes for a false 9 are similar to those of a deep-lying striker: dribbling ability to take advantage of space between the lines, good short passing ability to link up with the midfield and vision to play through teammates making runs from deep to goal.
At Euro 2012, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque, although sometimes deploying Fernando Torres as a traditional striker, often used Cesc Fàbregas as a false 9 in several matches, including the final. By the end of 2012, the False 9 had gone "mainstream" with many clubs employing a version of the system. Barcelona's Lionel Messi has been an epitome of the false 9 position to much success in recent years, first under coach Pep Guardiola and later under his successor Tito Vilanova. Brazilian forward Roberto Firmino was later also successfully used in the false 9 position under manager Jürgen Klopp at Liverpool.
The term "target forward" or "target man" is often used to describe a particular type of striker or centre-forward whose main role is to win high balls in the air, hold up the ball, and create chances for other members of the team in addition to scoring goals themselves. These players are usually tall and physically strong, adept at heading the ball, and capable of playing with their back to goal in the final third of the pitch. Some of the most high-profile examples of this type of players in modern football include Olivier Giroud and Fernando Llorente, both World Cup winners, with the former having played the entire tournament as a starting line-up forward tasked primarily with pressing, counter-pressing, winning high or loose balls, and providing key passes to quicker and more agile teammates, namely Antoine Griezmann or Kylian Mbappé. Another example of a striker who played in this position is Didier Drogba. However, not any tall and/or physically strong player feels comfortable in the role of a "target man", despite having all the necessary features. Such forwards as Zlatan Ibrahimović, Romelu Lukaku, and Erling Haaland have all rejected the term when applied to specifically them, with Ibrahimović preferring to be described as an attacking all-rounder, while Lukaku and Haaland have said to favor poaching goals rather than physical play.
Strike teams consist of two or more strikers who work together. The history of football has been filled with many effective combinations. Three-man teams often operate in "triangles", giving a wealth of attacking options. Four-man packages expand options even more. Strikers must also be flexible, and be able to switch roles at a moment's notice, between the first (advanced penetrator position), second (deep-lying manoeuvre) and third (support and expansion, e.g. wings) attacker roles.
Though his teammate Salis Abdul Samed, the defensive midfielder whose relentless work has been a major factor in Lens' climb up the Ligue 1 table, also deserves a mention, it's hard to look beyond the Belgium international striker. Openda registered the quickest ever Ligue 1 hat trick (five minutes) away against Clermont on March 12 -- so quick that the TV screens were literally struggling to keep up as they showed replays of his first goal while the others kept rolling in -- and added two more against Angers a week later. 041b061a72