In modern football, there are 4 fields where 11 players position themselves. The first is the goalkeeper position, whose role is to stop the ball from going in the net. Then in front of him, there is a defensive line where defenders line up to stop the attacks of opponents. The midfield contains 3 to 5 midfielders depending upon which formation is deployed. Midfielders play both defensive and attacking roles. A defensive midfielder links the midfield and defence, with his main role being to provide an extra layer of defence in front of back line. The central midfielder mediates the game while the attacking midfielder creates chances for goals. He provides assists and goes for goals himself by breaching the opponent’s defence. Then comes the attacking football positions. Their main role is to create chances, as well as finishing them off.
The Attacking Football Position
Attacking football positions are generally the front 3 combines with attacking midfielders. Attackers are more involved in goals either by scoring or assisting. They get fame as the win most of the FIFA awards and man of the match awards. The most prolific players to play in those positions are Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Luis Suarez, Robert Lewandowski, Mohammed Salah. Sergio Aguero, and Sadio Mane. Most of FIFA individual awards, like the coveted Ballon d’Or are shared among the forwards. Attacking football positions are:
- Attacking Midfielder
- Second Striker
- Left Winger
- Right Winger
- Centre Forward/Striker
- False 9
In attacking football positions attacking midfielders create a link between midfield and attack. They create chances for the forwards and are involved in most of the team goals. The main role of the attacking midfielder is to push the team in attack. He is less concerned with defensive duties. His offensive skills and passing accuracy, creating big changes in the game. The prominent aspect of attacking midfield position is their goal-scoring ability. Their long-distance goals and shooting power remain a constant threat to opponents. Their aggressive nature helps the team to score. An example of this, is Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne who scored 13 goals and provided 20 assists in the 2019-20 Premier League season. This shows the contribution of attacking midfielders in winning games. They can also be deployed as forwards, if, and when the forward is either injured or suspended.
The second striker plays between the attacking fielder and the centre forward. He plays close to the striker. In Attacking football positions he drops deep to act as midfield to be a part of goal build-up or involve in the goal directly. If a player plays this position to its finest level, this position can be a big threat to any opponent.
The second striker is like a hidden weapon of the manager. Mostly, a second striker usually acts as number 10 for the team. He is not a true striker, and not a midfielder either, but rather a mixture of both. The second striker position is known as playing in the hole. His goal scoring abilities also help the team when it comes to winning games. He also distracts the opponent’s centre backs. Distracting the defenders helps the winger and centre forward to create space. Thus, the central forward goes unmarked in the box, giving him a greater chance to score goals. A second striker should also be an agile player, being that his constant movements will allow him to create chances.
The role of the left-winger is to create chances for the centre forward. Wingers usually play in 4-3-3, 3-4-3, and 4-2-3-1 formations. They play along the left touchline of the far side. The right full-back of the opponents’ team press him tight, so a good left winger should be physically strong to make his ways from the centre backs and full-backs. In attacking football positions he should be able to play in tight spaces. A left-winger with dribbling skills and passing accuracy is heaven-sent. The crosses he made to the centre forward are delivered and if headed touch nicely by the centre forward defeats the goalkeeper.
Playing on the wing is dependent on the type of centre forward. If he centre forward is pure striker i.e. pure 9, then the left-winger focuses more on sending crosses and passing to him. The prime time MSN is the best example of it. Neymar Jr. sent crosses, as well as, passes to Luis Suarez who usually converted them into a goals. Now let’s take the example of Real Madrid, a rival of FC Barcelona. In the prime BBC era, Karim Benzema acted a False 9, Cristiano Ronaldo was regularly scoring the goals, more than 50 per season. As Benzema was more involved in the team build-up, Ronaldo went up to take the goal-scoring responsibility.
The role of a right-winger is the same as that of a left-winger. He also plays on the touchline being marked by the left full-back. He takes the ball from his right-back or midfielders and crosses the ball in the box to create an opportunity for the striker or left-winger. In attack, he goes into the box to score goals. In attacking football positions Mohammed Salah is the best example of a right-winger. Mo Salah takes the ball, dribbles past Premier League’s defenders, and connects to Firmino or Sadio Mane. Mostly left-footed players take charge of the right-wing. The best examples of left-footed right wingers are Lionel Messi, Mohammed Salah, Gareth Bale, Bernardo Silva, Nicolas Pepe, Paulo Dybala, and Riyad Mahrez. All of these payers have the best dribbling skills. Dribbling helps them to cutbacks and crosses balls to the strikers. Right-winger reinforces the attack from the wing.
Each team goes with a striker who is responsible for the goals. He is the nearest player to the opponents’ net. Strikers hold the ball until wingers or attacking midfielders go along with him. Strikers typically wear number 9 position. They are engaged with the majority of the team goals. They either shoot the ball straight into the net or pass the ball to his teammate.
A dedicated striker has special talents in terms of scoring goals. He has the ability to involve more defenders to act as a target man. This role-player should also have a strong physique to make his way among the opposition centre backs. He holds and ball, reads the game, sees the position of goalkeeper, finds spaces, and shoots whenever possible. Managers train their Pure 9 to convert the impossible chances into goals. In Attacking football positions we see Pure 9 scoring goals from the zero angle, dribbling past 4 or 5 defenders, netting the ball in the top or bottom corner.
Mostly centre forwards wear number 9. Like Luis Suarez for Atletico Madrid, and Robert Lewandowski for Bayern Munich. Bayern number 9 won the treble last season and outshining every striker in the world right now. He was the top scorer in the Champions League with 15 goals in just 11 games and 31 goals in Bundesliga in 30 games. He was sure to win FIFA Ballon d’Or 2020, which unfortunately will not be awarded to any player due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Polish Centre Forward did win the FIFA Player of the Year award.
A False 9 is a Centre Forward who drops deep in the midfield to support his team is pressing. He plays his playmaking role and adjoins midfield and wingers. False 9 is different from Pure 9 because he doesn’t go out and out. Therefore he is the opposite of Pure 9 and called a False 9. This means he plays the striker position but is not meant to do solely the job of finishing as Pure 9 does. In Attacking football positions Pure 9 relies on wingers and midfielders to create a ball for him. Lionel Messi, Francesco Totti, and Roberto Firmino are notable players to play this position. False 9 can be played in a 4-3-3 formation as Bobby Firmino plays for Liverpool, and Karim Benzema plays for Real Madrid. It could be played in 4–2–3–1 as Arsène Wenger used Robin van Persie as a False 9 in Arsenal.
When a False 9 drops deep in the middle it increases the option of passing. He engages the centre backs of opponents by playing in the holes. It also creates multiple triangles and passing in these triangles moves the ball forward. False 9 is mostly involved in goal build-up rather than just finishing. However, a False 9 with finishing power is lethal, and can dominate any team as Messi did playing under Pep Guardiola. In fact, Messi scored 3 goals are provided 21 assists playing as a False 9. Francesco Totti also played a False 9 in a 4-6-0 formation with Roma, meaning that they did not have any dedicated striker. It was a pretty successful experiment, considering that, they won 11 consecutive matches in Serie A.