Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughThe changing role of the striker - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough The changing role of the striker - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

The changing role of the striker

I remember a far simpler time when all teams would play two out and out goal scorers up front.

When my love of football started in the mid 90’s, 442 was the only formation used in English football.  All teams played with two wingers and two combative midfielders, it would by and large be the job of the midfield to supply the chances for the strikers to put the ball in the net.  Successful seasons were built on successful strike partnerships, Yorke & Cole, Owen & Fowler, Shearer & Ferdinand were the marksmen most feared by defenders at the time and more often than not both strikers in a pair would break the 20 goal mark for a season.

However, the migration of European tactics and influences has meant that the role of the modern day striker is a far cry from what it was back then.  Roles such as ‘target man’ ‘second striker’ ‘power forward’ and ‘false number 9’ have meant that the ‘fox in the box’ or ‘poacher’ has become almost extinct.  Would players such as Andrew Cole or Robbie Fowler offer enough to the team to survive in the Premier League of today?

These days, forwards are required to give far more than simply convert their chances.  They are asked to hold the ball up, bring midfielders into play or receive the ball in deeper positions and contribute to the teams build up play.  Many sides often deploy the popular 4231 system, often with a ‘second striker’ or ‘number 10’ dropping deeper to be creative on the ball.

Not only have many teams resorted to one up front, one team have gone as far as to start a game with no strikers at all.  Reigning European and World champions Spain lined up in the opening game of Euro 2012 against Italy as the first team to use Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas as a ‘false number 9’.  Inevitably, playing with six midfield players, Spain had the majority of possession but lacked any real attacking outlet and the formation was widely criticised.  The eventual winners of the tournament became slow and predictable without a front man able to really stretch the play.  Although it was Fabregas who scored the Spain equaliser in a 1-1 draw with the Italians.

I think it is clear that the brief experiment to rid the game of strikers all together did not work, however the role of the striker has certainly diminished since the days of 40 goal strike partnerships in the mid 90’s.  More emphasis is now put on midfield players to get up and support in the penalty area and we have seen players like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard regularly hit 20 goals a season for their clubs.  There is still a place for the striker in modern football, but their job description has certainly changed significantly.

Aaron Sharp