This article actually came about after one of the members of our Discord server was chatting about finding the best striker role and wanted to find the right fit for his set-up. I began writing a response and then thought it would likely be better as an article. So here we are.

Finding the right type of role for your striker can be a challenging task as it will vary from system to system and person to person. But hopefully, I can give you some food for thought here and make this decision a bit more simple.

Understanding The Striker Roles

To start with, though, I thought it would be a good idea to have a look at the striker roles and break them down into basic terms, to make them simpler to understand and take some of the ambiguity of the role away, so we can all have a better understanding of what the roles offer.

For me, the striker roles are split into three different kinds of strikers;

  • Creative strikers
  • Support strikers
  • Attacking strikers

Some of the roles can overlap with others, especially with the change of duty. But I still think it’s a good way of understanding a role, by thinking of them in either a creative, supportive or attacking way.

The Creative Striker 

These types of strikers are creators, so they are the support. This means they need players around them who can finish the chances they create. All of these types of strikers will likely play and provide other people with the ball, whether it be rushing midfielders, wide players, or other strikers. 

If you use one of these roles, then you should ideally be looking at surrounding them with people capable of finishing off chances. Or at the very least, roles that allow players to get into good, dangerous areas so these strikers can pass them the ball.

These roles can still score goals, but their primary job is to be creators, so bear that in mind if you use one of these roles.

Deep Lying Forward

This role is all about link play and its primary goal is to provide a link between the midfield and attack. It’s a very creative role and is often used when you lack bodies in and around the attacking midfield areas of the pitch. 

The deep-lying forward will look to drop into this space and provide a link as well as look to create chances for his teammates. You’d look to use this role if you had him partnered with someone more attack-minded like an advanced forward or poacher. 

It could also be used if you had a rampaging attacking midfielder like a shadow striker or even a goal threat from wide, like an inside forward.

Support – With this duty, the player will be responsible for dropping deep and linking play. They can and will score goals, but creating and playing others in is more the focus and aim of the support duty.

Attack – On this duty, the player won’t drop as deep as the support one, and he will also be slightly more greedy in terms of taking shots or having chances himself.

Trequartista

You can only use this role with an attacking duty but don’t let that fool you. This role will allow the player to come very deep at times, much deeper than all the other striker roles. 

It’s also the most creative striker role of the lot, and while any striker role can and will score goals, this role is purely about creating chances for others and finding space to use.

 If we were to compare it to the deep-lying forward role, then the main differences would be;

  • Deeper play
  • More roaming
  • More creative

Those would be the three standout points for me and the ones that make the two roles completely different from each other. 

The trequartista will roam around the pitch constantly and doesn’t really have a fixed position, it will roam looking to both use and create space as well as fashioning chances for their teammates. 

This role works well when you have people running from midfield into advanced positions or for strike partners who stay high up the field. 

Due to the role allowing lots of creative freedom and roaming, it is vital that you commit men forward or have players positioned to take advantage of the trequartista’s style of play. 

If not, he’ll take it upon himself to try to do everything on his own, and this can be disastrous at times.

False Nine

This is another role that is only available with one duty – support. However, again, don’t be fooled by this, as this role is a very aggressive one. It’s still a playmaking striker role, but it also has a lot of emphasis on attack. 

A better way of thinking about this role is something along the lines of “space creator/user” and “someone who is creative yet selfish compared to the other two roles due to their ability to enjoy taking long shots.”

While the false nine can play as part of a strike partnership, they are better suited to lone striker systems or systems that want to utilise the wide players yet still have a striker who can be dangerous in front of the goal. 

The ideal use of a false nine would revolve around a system that wanted to make inside forwards an integral part of the system. The false nine drops deep, creating space for them to run into and hopefully dragging their marker with them, which in turn would create the space.

Support Strikers

These differ from creative strikers because they don’t have as much creative freedom or roaming. Don’t mistake this for not being able to create chances though, as that’s not true and they can be creative and create lots of chances for their teammates. 

However, their jobs are slightly different as they tend to have a specific job to do.

Pressing Forward

You could argue that a lot of modern-day strikers have a lot of elements of the pressing forward in their style of play. This role focuses on hassling or hounding the opposition’s defenders and giving them little time on the ball to think or to pass out a pass. It’s quite an aggressive role and comes with lots of closing down.

The role is also unique in that you can use it on all three different duties.

Attack – If you want a pressing forward who can also score regularly, then this is the duty for you. It’s the most aggressive of the three duties and also gets you into really good goal-scoring positions.

Support – With this duty, they’ll look to pressure the back line and goalkeeper to try to reduce their time on the ball. They’ll also chase down lost balls and always look to pressure the opposition.

Defend – If you gave them this duty then you can expect to see them slightly deeper and see them hassling defensive midfielders or central midfielders who like to drop off the midfield positions and come back into their own halves i.e deep-lying playmakers.

This role works well with pure goal-scoring strikers or attacking midfielders as the pressing forward is a workhorse and does a lot of the hard work for their partners. 

While it’s not totally unusual to use them as a lone striker, they tend to function better either paired with another striker, attacking midfielder like a shadow striker or inside forwards. 

You tend to want someone purely attacking to get alongside them or beyond to make the most of this role and what it’s about, as they tend to win a lot of balls back quite early and high up the pitch.

Target Forward

The good old-fashioned physical striker who focuses on holding up play, knocking the ball down into the path of others and generally being a big pain in the arse for the opposition. 

The downside to this role on Football Manager is that it is rather static and, not only that, but players look to utilise it. So you can expect to see lots of direct or long balls played into them a bit more compared to other roles. Don’t let that put you off, though.

If you want to use a system that wants to make the most of the playmakers in the side or that concentrates on any kind of possession game, then you’d stay clear of this role and use a deep-lying forward instead, in my opinion. 

The long and direct balls into the target man are a real issue at times, and the play becomes far too channelled. There is nothing we can do about it, due to it being part of how the role is coded into the match engine.

Support – If the player had this duty, then he’d look to hold up play more and utilise his strength and aerial presence a lot more. This means he will look to knock the ball down into the path of the players who are running beyond him in support.

Attack – On this duty, he’d lead the line more and look to occupy the opposition defenders and make himself a general nuisance. This could create space for his teammates to use.

This role is better suited for systems that are set up to play more direct and look to start quick attacks or need to get the ball forward to relieve pressure on the defence or midfield. 

It does require you to have players play off the target man and offer support, though, due to his lack of mobility.

Attacking Strikers

These are the striker roles that are the more regular goalscoring ones. They rely heavily on supply, and if you use any of these roles, then you need to figure out how you will get the ball to them and which players will be able to offer support to them.

If not, you could find that for periods of the game, they can become isolated. Then they’ll spend the game spectating rather than doing anything worthwhile.

Complete Forward

This role tries and combines play from all the different kinds of roles available and probably could have quite easily gone into any of the above two categories, but I still feel they are more “goalscorers” than creators or support. 

Don’t get me wrong, they do all of those things too, but for me, I still see them more as a goalscorer than anything else.

Support – With this duty, they’ll drop off the front line and look to roam about and link play, as well as look to create chances for themselves or others.

Attack – They’ll look to lead the line and will do everything they can, whether it be creative play, holding up play, creating space and so on.

This role can be used in just about any system and with any kind of style that can be created. It can be quite a demanding role, though, and might need a specific player to be able to pull it off efficiently.

Advanced Forward

You can only have an attacking duty with this role. The role makes the advanced forward the focal point of attacks, and he will also chase down balls and look to put pressure on the opposition keeper and defence from high positions on the pitch. 

He stays very high and doesn’t really drop back to link the midfield.

This kind of role works best in a system that has people capable of creating chances from behind the striker. Or in a strike partnership with a more creative striker like listed above. If you use this role, then you’d expect him to be one of the primary goalscorers in the side. If not, then you have a serious supply and support issue.

Poacher

Another role that only allows for an attacking duty to be used. This role is a pure goalscoring role but can also be one that relies heavily on the kind of supply he gets. A poacher sits on the shoulder of the opposition’s defence and doesn’t move about much unless you customise the role with player instructions.  So the player needs a constant stream of support or supply of passes to function and risk not becoming a spectator. 

If the supply is cut out or he’s marked out of the game, then he’ll offer nothing and it’ll be like you are playing with nine outfield players and not ten.

The poacher doesn’t make a great lone striker as a general rule for the reasons mentioned above. However, in a system that is counter-attacking or defensive, this isn’t always a bad thing. 

That’s a short overview of how I break the strikers down to find the right fit.

Creative Striker Role and Suited Systems

When using a creative striker role, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Who is going to score the goals?
  • Who will supply those balls?
  • How will they provide that support?

Obviously, if you are using any of the strike roles that I class as creative, then you need to know who is going to score the goals. As this will be a secondary trait of the striker role you’re using and not a primary one.

Let’s take a look at some suitable systems for this kind of striker role.

4-3-3 Creative Examples

striker role

In any variation of the 4-3-3, it’s important to focus on the types of roles you are using elsewhere before considering the best striker role. This will determine what type of role is best for you.

False Nine

Above, I use a false nine role because I also have an inside forward and a mezzala who gets into the opposition box often. Both of those roles are also attacking duties. What this means is that you need the striker to create space and be able to feed the ball to those players regularly.

The false nine can also score goals due to his tendency to dribble with the ball too.

striker role

These are the settings the false nine comes with by default. As you can see, the false nine drops deep, then when he gets the ball, he drives forward with it.

In a 4-3-3 set-up, it’s easy to get the striker role very wrong. Usually, in these types of set-ups, you use some kind of inside forward who becomes the main goal-threats. If you use inside forwards, then ideally you’d want a striker role that drops deep.

When the striker then drops off the front, he tends to take his marker with him the majority of the time. This allows the inside forwards to then use the space that the forward created. 

Naturally, the 4-3-3 is suited to this type of striker role by default, as it’s a way to utilise the widemen. It doesn’t really matter which creative striker role you use in this system, as they all do a similar thing. Just be aware of how the different striker roles interact with the rest of the players.

For example, in the screenshot above, I use an inverted winger on the left side. One of the reasons for this is that, by default, the false nine stays quite central, as I don’t want him moving into the channels.

So after he drops deep and then moves forward again, the inverted winger, if in possession of the ball, will move inside. This allows me to create central overloads. The role differs from that of an inside forward because the player will look to cut across the defence and overload the central areas with his passing.

While the inside forward on attack duty is more of a direct goal threat by getting beyond the striker and into the box. They sound very similar in terms of playstyle, but the subtle differences mean they play completely differently from each other.

This means that the inside forward, false nine, and the inverted winger are all attacking similar areas of the pitch but in a staggered approach. As a result, they arrive at different times in the box. The same can be said of the mezzala role too.

Deep-Lying Forward

Now above, when I said the creative role you use doesn’t really matter, it doesn’t, but it can change how players react. If we take a look at the deep-lying forward we can see how it changes.

striker role

As you can see, the deep-lying forward holds up the ball, which means he slows the play down. He also gets into the channels, unlike the false nine. This means that the role is less centrally focused in comparison.

This would change the entire interaction between the inverted winger, mezzala, and inside forward when compared to the false nine. We’d still attack the central areas, but the deep-lying forward would attack from a totally different angle.

It could also impact the inverted winger when the deep-lying forward is on that side of the pitch. Potentially, the two roles could clash and detract from each other. The inverted winger might find he doesn’t have the same kind of space in central areas as he does playing alongside the false nine. 

So if I used a deep-lying forward in the current set up I’d either make sure he was on an attacking duty so he stays higher up the pitch and not drop as deep. Or alternatively, I’d perhaps change the inverted winger’s role to something else.

I’m not saying the two roles can’t function together; it’s more that they’d both no longer give me the central overloads as I get with the false nine. Well, not as consistent as the false nine. I’d explore other options like adding another inside forward so I have another direct goal threat going beyond the striker and into the box.

Or if I wanted more variety, maybe a winger would be considered. But that would really depend on how easy the inside forward and mezzala were getting into the box compared to the wingers’ positioning during these times. I’d only know the answer to that by watching the game, though. But it is something to possibly consider.

Trequartista

If we take a look at the trequartista too, we can see how this impacts the original way of playing with the false nine.

This role is quite drastic compared to the others because, essentially, it’s a free role for the player. It’s a very attacking, creative role, and the player isn’t likely to do any tackling unless he is sure he will win the ball. That doesn’t mean he won’t tackle, though.

One thing is for sure, this role is all action, very demanding and very unpredictable at times. So it requires a certain type of player. It can also be a very selfish role too, especially if the support isn’t there. Gung-ho is a great way of describing the role.

Using this role would again change how I play because this role focuses on giving the player more freedom to do whatever he wants. That goes for both in and out of possession, too. While a highly creative role, he’d also be the prominent attacker and try doing it all “himself”.

So it could take away from how I set it up originally and the current roles of the other players I use. Due to them all doing a specific thing I wanted. The trequartista might also be fine with them for 80% of the time. The only real way to know in this scenario would be to watch the players and see how they all link up.

If you want someone highly creative, who might be a bit of a lone wolf at times and spearhead the attack, then this is definitely the striker role you’d use.

4-3-3 Support Examples

This is where things get a little trickier because, primarily, these are not creative roles initially (although they can be).

Target Forward

The only difference between this duty and the attack duty is that you can’t ask the player to hold the position on the attacking one.

If you use the target forward, then providing him with support to stop him from getting isolated is a must. He will try and hold the ball up so play can catch up with him. But he needs people to get up alongside and beyond him.

Looking back at the original tactic I posted, you’d see that the mezzala role should be fine. As would the inside forward. Both of those players would look to get beyond the target forward. So the support is there and there is a goal threat from others. The inside forward would likely be the main goal scorer in this set-up.

The advanced playmaker would be absolutely vital in regards to getting the ball to the target forward for him to hold up. I’m not sure if this supply alone would be enough though, so I’d also look at changing the inverted winger to something else too. A standard winger could work here as he’d be another constant supply. A raumdeuter might also work too, and the role has a fair few options which can be customised.

Pressing Forward

The whole action striker thrives on putting pressure on the opposition’s defensive players in the hopes of winning the ball back in a high position.

The pressing forward is actually my favourite lone striker role in the entire game. I just love what the player offers in this role and how aggressive they can be. When I use this role in a 4-3-3 I tend to have him play with two inside forwards. This allows us to capitalise on any forced errors the opposition makes by pressing forward pressure. We are ready to pounce.

It doesn’t really matter which way you split the duties among these three players. But I’d advise having two attacking ones and then one support. This normally provides the right kind of balance and gives good variety. So, whether it be two attacking inside forwards and a support/defensive pressing forward. Or one supporting inside forward and the other two more attack-minded. Try and find the right balance for what you create, but this is what I’d start with as a base.

As you can see so far, each role it’s changed how we play ever so slightly as each role plays differently. This means we might have to adapt roles to get the best out of them at times. All of this changes yet again when we start exploring the attacking options.

What Characteristics Characterise a Good Attacking Striker? 

To create a goal scorer, you need someone or several people to provide the striker with chances he can convert. Then he will also need support to pass to, create space for him, or even occupy an opposing player for him. 

Without any of these, it will be difficult to find someone who can consistently score 25 or more goals per season. I’ve already mentioned a few aspects of what it takes to develop a goal scorer, but here are a few more:

  • Supply
  • Support
  • Space
  • Movement
  • Roles
  • Duties
  • Traits

I strive to incorporate the aforementioned into every tactic I develop. It can be very difficult to perform and accomplish, but then again, it’s not intended to be simple.

The crucial thing is that you can make all of the above happen by working hard, taking the time to understand how and why your system functions, and identifying any defects it has.

In addition to all of that, you must first comprehend how much different a two-man strike partnership will be from a one-or three-man attack. The areas they all use and attack will differ in each, as will the supply and support.

On top of that, the roles of those with attacking roles are different, and they will require a different type of supply and support. 

When you build a tactic, you need to think of the roles used and how they all play together. It’s no good having everyone set to be a playmaker if those roles don’t link well enough and provide support. 

Support isn’t only about providing a player with the ball, it’s also about allowing play to build up around him and giving him options for when he does receive the ball. A good way to plan a tactic is to ask yourself these questions;

  • Who is going to score the goals?
  • Who will supply those balls?
  • How will they provide that support?
  • Does the role allow the player to create his own space, or does he need it created for him?
  • Will this happen from deep positions or from players positioned high up the pitch?
  • Does he have options behind him, along with ones more advanced than he is?

You should be asking questions along those lines, and then you’ll build a coherent system that has roles to complement the style you are trying to create. 

If you can work out where the goals will come from, then you build the team around that idea and focus on providing the kind of supply they need. A bad example of this would be that you want the striker to drop deep and link up play, so use one of the creative striker roles. But then you go and use wingers whose primary job is crossing and supplying crosses and balls into the box regularly. This is wasted in these types of setups because you have no target in the box to aim for due to using a striker who plays deep if you don’t use another striker alongside them.

The Advanced Forward

The advanced forward is your typical spearhead. If you use this role, then you’d expect him to be the team’s highest goalscorer. If we use the above and ask ourselves the questions I outlined earlier, we start building a picture.

Who is going to score the goals? 

In the current system, he should be the main scorer.

Who will supply the ball?

The wingback on the right-hand side and the advanced playmaker would both be constant sources of supply. As the inverted winger, he should also feed him the ball in dangerous areas.

How do you provide that support?

We have the mezzala and an inside forward who will break the lines and make deep runs into the final third. The inverted winger should also be a deep runner who will play an important part in the final third in and around the box.

Does the role allow the player to create his own space, or does he need it created for him?

He doesn’t naturally create his own space. I’m not saying he can’t do that, but it’s not a natural part of the role compared to some of the other ones. So he is very dependent on support from others to create the initial space.

Will this happen from deep positions or from players positioned high up the pitch?

It happens from various positions, from both deep and high positions. This is a good balance. The inverted winger, inside forward and mezzala all come from different areas. But more importantly, at different times.

Does he have options behind him, along with ones more advanced than he is?

The same as above, really. But this time we can count the advanced playmaker and wingback as good support options. We have various options in all areas of the pitch and they’re all staggered. This is good and very varied, everything that all successful tactics need.

I feel that in the tactics posted, he would be capable of being a really good goalscorer. All the ingredients for that seem to be there.

Complete Forward

Depending on the duty you use here, I’d likely make some subtle changes to the tactic that I posted as I feel it’s needed. The complete forward is a jack of everything; he can do it all. But a bit like the deep-lying forward, I feel he works really well with aggressive roles alongside him.

So double inside forwards or even a raumdeuter would work great here. Especially if you went for a support duty. As this would require players yet again to go beyond the striker.

If you wanted a more attack-minded complete forward, then I’d likely look at possibly changing the inverted winger to a standard winger. This would allow the winger to pump balls into the box from out wide, so the complete forward could get on the end of the crosses.

Personally speaking, I think the attacking duty for the complete forward works best with a more direct supply of the ball. That way, he can get onto crosses earlier, hold up the ball for onrushing players and even play the ball to the inside forward. That doesn’t mean you have to play more direct football; I’m purely talking about how the ball is supplied to him and not the overall playstyle of your side.

Poacher

The poacher is that annoying role that plays on the shoulder of the last defender and will pounce on any mistake or timing issue the defender makes. It can be a thorn in anyone’s side at times.

In my opinion, this player thrives in a 4-3-3 when he has a playmaker on the wing feeding him the ball. While having a more aggressive role, cutting inside from the other flank to form a 2 man partnership and create space for each other.

Another option when using a poacher due to him playing on the shoulder of defenders is you could try and utilise early crosses in the hopes he can destabilise the defensive line and shape of the opposition. Having some kind of winger/playmaker whipping those early crosses in could give the poacher a real advantage here, especially if he’s speedy.

When using this role, it’s probably more vital that you take the ball to him than him getting it himself when compared to all the other roles. If you get this wrong, he will be isolated and not be able to be the outlet you want. But get it right, though, and the goals will flow.

Two Or More Striker Formations

I’ve mainly stuck to a one-striker role system as I felt the post was getting way too long and wanted to try to keep it all relevant. I will touch upon other striker formations a little bit.

Typically, in a two striker role system, you’d want to have two roles that complement each other and do different things. I know that some people like to use two of the same roles in partnerships, but for me, that’s a waste of time. I’d much rather each striker role offer something different for variety. It makes play and the goals you score a lot more varied that way.

If I was to use two strikers, then I’d apply the same principles that we’ve spoken about throughout the article and use them. Ideally, I’d be looking at one attacking duty and one supporting duty. The more attacking one should be the primary scorer and the less attacking one the secondary goal scorer.

It doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t score lots of goals just because someone is supportive though. They can still get into dangerous areas and have a fantastic strike rate. It’s just that perhaps initially, they start a bit deeper or wider than the more attacking one. 

It’s always worth remembering that on Football Manager, defend and support duties don’t mean they won’t attack or can’t be aggressive. In general, on Football Manager it just means they start deeper or are slightly more cautious. It doesn’t eliminate their attack play.

So try and pick two roles that work in tandem with each other.

If I’m to go with three strikers then I’d have at least one of them on support, possibly two depending. It would all fall back to the kind of supply and support I was getting from the other players in the side. When I’ve used three striker formations in the past I’ve had two support ones. One that created chances and fell under the creative striker list and a support one, who pressed the back line. While both of them were providers for the advanced forward who was the primary goalscorer.

If people want, maybe I can follow this up with more examples for other systems. Let me in the comments below, Twitter or our Discord channel;

Also, don’t forget to check out the Football Manager Playbook which is a free book available in many forms that takes a step-by-step approach to creating tactics.

Football Manager Playbook Out Now!

Author

  • Cleon

    Cleon is a distinguished figure in the Football Manager community, known for his tactical acumen and profound understanding of the game's intricacies. With a penchant for sharing knowledge, Cleon has authored "The Football Manager Playbook," offering a deep dive into crafting effective tactics. He's the brains behind the well-regarded blog "View From The Touchline," where he elucidates on football philosophies, game strategies, and more. Beyond the written word, Cleon engages with enthusiasts through social media, making complex football management concepts accessible to many.

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5 thoughts on “Choosing The Best Striker Role

  1. Hi Cleon – great article!

    One question you say this:

    “It doesn’t really matter which way you split the duties among these three players. But I’d advise having two support ones and then one attacking. This normally provides the right kind of balance and gives good variety.”

    But then you this:

    “So, whether it be two attacking inside forwards and a support/defensive pressing forward. Or one supporting inside forward and the other two more attack-minded. Try and find the right balance for what you create, but this is what I’d start with as a base.”

    The first part is two support, one attack. The second part says two attack and one support. I assume for one of those you mixed them up? Can you clarify please? Thanks!

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