The Striker Blueprint: 5 Skills Needed for a Traditional No. 9
Every teams needs a clinical finisher. You can have a midfield maestro creating chance after chance, but if your team doesn't have a top class goal scorer, it's going to be tough to challenge for the highest honors.
Here's a look at the five skills needed for a traditional No. 9 striker.
1. First Line of Defense
Despite the glamour associated with getting goals and playing as a striker, your No. 9 must be willing to work hard out of possesion.
Depending on your team's line of engagement, one of the most critical jobs of a center forward is to disrupt your opponents ability to switch the point of attack. Your target striker must work hard to funnel the opposition, and cut the field in half, by disrupting the other team's potential to switch the field.
2. Ability to Play Back to Goal
Your striker, or target, has got to be proficient at playing with their back to goal. Finding windows to receive passes from the midfield is critical, and a quality first touch is a prerequisite knowing that there will be defenders breathing down their necks as they look to hold the ball and allow teammates to get forward in support.
Creating that time by keeping the ball will allow your center forward the opportunity to serve as the hub of your attack, and create the potential for dangerous wall passes and combinations.
3. Dangerous in The Air
A traditional No. 9 striker offers an ariel threat by getting on the end of crosses. They preoccupy opposition defenders with their heading capabilities from crosses, knowing to head the ball downwards, into the turf, or across goal, to force challenging saves from goalkeepers.
Your prototypical No. 9 must also be able to finish with volleyed efforts on goals. Taking the ball on the half-volley (one bounce), or by plucking the ball straight out of the air and lashing it at goal to incite pandemonium in the crowd.
Take a look at England legend Alan Shearer's wonder strike few years back:
4. High Conversion Rate
Your center forward must be ruthless in front of goal. Half-chances must become goals and the old adage of being in the right place at the right time is critical for your striker.
Good center forwards can snatch a goal out of nothing, they are always engaged and switched on, equally hungry for a poacher's goal as they are for the sublime finish. Effective strikers are confident, fearless, and easily forgetful of past misses or mistakes, they continue to shoot and shoot again, trusting in their abilities and prowess.
Check out one of Italy's best goal scorers, Filppo Inzaghi, one of the best inside the box predators of his generation:
5. Mercurial Talent
The best No. 9's possess that unpredictable, heavenly, talent to leave opposition defenses in tatters.
Their quicksilver changes of direction, shifting of different gears, and audacity to pull-off magisterial attempts on goal help lead their teams to victory, and in doing so, inspire generations of players to go out into the back yard and dream of the impossible.
Take a look at the greatest no. 9 to ever grace the game, El Fenomeno, Brazil's Ronaldo:
The USA is soul-searching for it's next legendary no. 9, if you follow the striker blueprint and develop the five skills above, there's no reason why you can't pull on the red, white, and blue, and become our nation's next great striker!