How to Dominate as a Striker in Soccer (Tips and Secrets)
Arguably the most important position on the pitch, the striker deals in the currency of the game:
Their role of putting the ball in the back of the net is crucial to the team’s success.
Without goals, all of the hard work the goalkeeper, defenders, and midfielders put in goes to waste.
But there is much more to a striker´s game than just putting the ball in the back of the net…
Whether it’s holding up the ball and bringing others into play or creating space for their teammates with their penetrating runs, a lot of responsibility falls onto the shoulders of a soccer striker.
It takes a special player to deal with this pressure.
Below I’ll share with you the key traits strikers must possess, their roles and responsibilities on the pitch, and I’ll even share 5 tips to dominate the striker position.
7 Traits of a Great Soccer Striker
Being one of the most important positions on the pitch, it takes a special type of player to successfully dominate as a striker in soccer.
So, let’s take a look at some of the traits that are associated with the game’s best strikers.
To dominate, here are a few traits great strikers need to possess...
1. Great Finishing Skills
Being able to score at will doesn’t come naturally to many players…
Which is why strikers have to put in the time and effort on the training ground to make sure they can score in almost any scenario.
From striking the ball on the half-volley to getting their toe on the end of a cross to guide the ball in…
Strikers need to have great finishing skills.
They’re confident shooting with either foot and are a dangerous presence in the air.
The best strikers can finish with ease and their teammates would always back them to score once they´re in front of goal.
2. Elite Anticipation and Quick Reactions
A great striker needs to have lightening quick reactions to get in front of their defender and on the end of crosses into the box.
Their split-second decision-making helps them to anticipate where the ball will end up and get to it first.
By out-thinking the defenders, the striker can throw defenders off their game.
Following up their own shots or those of their teammates, strikers must react quickly to any rebounds and tuck them away with confidence.
Even in the slow and boring matches, great strikers can sniff out a goal due to their reaction skills.
3. Cool Under Pressure and Confidence in Their Abilities
The best strikers are calm in front of goal even in high-pressure moments…
In fact, the best thrive off of pressure and always back themselves in to score.
This unwavering belief in their abilities serves them well. If they happen to miss a goalscoring opportunity, they don´t think twice about is as they believe their next chance will result in a goal.
This self-belief is important in a position where goalscoring is a must.
4. Movement That Keeps Their Opponent Guessing
With their quick reactions and accurate finishing skills, the game’s best strikers are a nightmare for defenders to deal with…
Couple those traits with unpredictable movement and goals will surely come.
By mixing up their approach to goal, strikers keep their opponent guessing and make themselves difficult to defend against.
By sprinting in behind the defenders or dropping deep to link up play, the striker´s diverse skill set means that defenders must be on top of their game to stop them from scoring during the match.
With direct, aggressive play, strikers take the game to the opposition and force them into uncomfortable situations.
This helps create goal scoring opportunities for them and their teammates.
5. Physical Attributes to Trouble the Opposition
Strikers come in all shapes and sizes…
But all of them have at least one physical attribute that helps them to stand out in the crowd.
Some strikers act as target men and use their strength and physique to outbattle the defenders marking them, bouncing off of their tackles and protecting the ball from the opposition.
Others have lightening quick speed which allows them to sprint past defenders, hanging off of the shoulder of the last player and keeping them guessing as to where they´ll pop up next.
The best players have a combination of the two.
Couple with clever movement, this can be a nightmare to defend against as the striker varies up their game and playing style.
6. Make the Ball Stick
Regardless of their physical attributes, strikers need to make the ball stick when they receive it.
As the focal point of their team´s attack, they need to give their teammates depth by staying up top.
This helps to relieve pressure at the back as their teammates can launch the ball forward at the striker´s feet.
With their great ball control and strength or smart movement, strikers must shield the ball from the opposition and help bring their teammates into play further up the pitch.
7. Play For the Team
At times a striker needs to sacrifice themselves for the team.
They may not see the ball for large stretches of the game, but they need to keep constantly making runs, battling with defenders, and drawing fouls to help their teammates out.
In front of goal, they need good decision-making skills to know whether to shoot or pass the ball to a teammate in a better position.
Playing as a team player is a crucial attribute of the best strikers.
The Role and Responsibilities of a Soccer Striker
While there is much more to a striker’s role than simply scoring goals, they are ultimately judged on how often they get on the scoresheet.
Whether this is fair or not, it’s true...
But soccer coaches know that the player filling the striker position has many more responsibilities than just putting the ball in the back of the net.
So, what exactly are their specific responsibilities out on the pitch?
1. Stay Up Top and Act as an Outlet
Playing furthest forward on the team, the striker must remain upfield and not drop too far back in search of the ball.
This can be tough if they haven’t seen the ball in a while…
But strikers need to be disciplined and retain their position.
They act as an outlet for their teammates who can either find their feet or launch it long for them to get in behind the opposition´s defence.
2. Be Constantly on the Move and Make Dangerous Runs
The striker should keep the opposition guessing where they´ll pop up next by dropping between the lines or hanging off the shoulder of the last defender.
This helps to create time and space for their teammates.
While the ball may not always come, they need to keep making runs in the hope that their teammates will find them in a dangerous position.
3. Hold Up the Ball and Keep Possession
When they receive the ball, the striker will likely be under a lot of pressure from the opposition´s defenders.
Regardless, they need to make sure that the ball sticks and they keep possession within the team.
By shielding the ball or taking it out of their opponent´s reach with a great first touch, the striker can calmly play the ball on or drive at the defence if they feel that it is the opportune moment.
Once they have passed the ball on, they must dart into space and look to take up a dangerous position once again.
4. Lose their marker
If they pass the ball out wide in the final third, the striker then needs to make a run into the penalty box and create havoc with their movement.
They should look to get ahead of their defender and on the end of any cross coming their way.
This is best done by varying up their runs to the front and back post.
With smart movement, they should be able to shake off their marker and win the extra half-yard of space which allows them to put the ball in the back of the net.
5. Score goals!
With their elite anticipation skills, dangerous movement, and fantastic finishing skills…
Strikers are expected to get on the scoresheet.
The best strikers happily accept these expectations as their self-belief and confidence in their abilities means they are calm under pressure and always back themselves in to score.
As the bulk of the team’s goal scoring falls on their shoulders, the striker needs a wide range of skills to unlock the opposition´s defence time and time again.
5 Tips for a Soccer Striker
As we’ve talked about, finishing is a key component of a striker´s skillset…
So, what are some ways that you can improve your shooting skills?
And how else can you improve and dominate this specialised position which has such an important say in the outcome of a game?
1. Practice Makes Perfect
The best strikers need to strike the ball well...
This means learning how to kick the ball with power and accuracy.
This is true whether they’re getting ready to shoot from outside the box or heading it towards goal off a beautiful cross from a teammate.
Though some players are naturally better finishers than others, by working hard you will quickly see improvements.
Study how to kick the soccer ball and then get outside and practice, practice, practice.
You’ll gradually develop confidence in your shooting abilities as you start to see more goals fly into the back of the net game after game.
2. Timing and Positioning are Key
Although finishing is an important skill for any striker, it is almost useless if you are not putting yourself in the right positions and making the right runs.
By hovering between the central defenders or the gaps that emerge between them and the fullbacks, you can easily create confusion as to who is meant to be marking you.
This gives you the edge over your opponents.
While they’re working out who should be marking you, take this opportunity to either drop back to pick up the ball or make a diagonal sprint in towards goal.
By taking up awkward positions in between the lines or remaining offside right until the ball is played, your unpredictable movement and impeccable timing can make the opponent’s job very difficult.
3. Work on Your First Touch and Control
Strikers need to be able to instantly get the ball under control and pass or shoot before a tackle comes flying in.
This isn’t easy.
As said in the last tip, positioning is important as it gives players that extra bit of time on the ball. But with a great first touch you can take the ball beyond the incoming tackle and open up space.
Having great ball control skills is crucial as you don’t want the ball to bounce hard off you…
You want to make it stick to your foot.
Having these skills allows you to better shield the ball from defenders and also to bring others into play.
4. Learn From the Best
While the best strikers have many similar attributes (such as pace, power, and precision), they all use them in different ways at different points in the game.
A great way to improve your own performances is by watching highlights and studying how the best players like to play.
By taking note of their movements and the way that they win that extra yard of space, you can replicate their moves and practice them on the training ground.
Watch how they open up their body to calmly slot the ball into the corner of the net or how they read the play and make a darting run to get on the end of a cross.
5. Improve Your Physical Attributes
Battling defenders all match can be extremely tiring.
Couple that with constantly sprinting in behind the defense and always being on the move…
A striker’s job is never easy.
Because of this, a great way to quickly improve your game is to work on the physical side of it.
By building up muscle and working on your strength, you will find defenders bounce off you and that you can shield the ball a lot easier than before.
By working on your stamina, you´ll find that you have the energy to keep making those important runs right until the last minute of the game.
With great responsibility comes great rewards.
The role of a striker in soccer can be thankless and open to criticism if they fail to deliver in front of goal.
But if the team is successful, strikers will be covered in glory and will always be credited as one of the main reasons for the team’s success.
With high-level anticipation skills, dangerous movement, and venomous shots…
The best strikers in soccer are a pleasure to watch.
Whether it’s getting in front of the defender to put the ball into the back of the net or shielding the ball with a defender breathing down their neck, strikers need a wide range of skills to flourish in their position and lead the team to victory.
At the end of the day...
It doesn’t matter how it goes in, just as long as the ball crosses the line.
Further Reading: 10 Traits of a World-Class Soccer Forward (Position Guide)
Further Reading: 11 Soccer Positions Explained (Roles and Responsibilities)