After a long hiatus for talking tactics, it is time to take a look at the most critical part of everyone’s favorite formation, the lone striker. In the modern age of football, the lone striker has become a staple with the popularity of the various 4-5-1 looks managers enjoy trotting out. Even some 4-4-2 formations consist of a withdrawn striker and a lone striker. Everton tries to say they run a 4-4-1-1, but most of the time it is really a 4-6-0 so that doesn’t count. Not all forwards have the ability to play as a lone striker, OOSSAA fans know all to well what happens when you don’t have the right man as your lone striker, but the right man up top can take a team very far indeed. If you aren’t bored stiff yet click on the jump and discover the secrets of the lone striker
The first and most important rule of the lone striker is that he needs support. If the midfield is unwilling to move into the attack, not even Messi can do much to score. 1 v. 4 is a bit difficult, and anytime you see a 4-5-1 struggle in the attack, it is usually because of a lack of support.
This support can come in one of two ways. The first is from a striker’s holdup play. This is the more classic version of a lone striker, a Brian Ching type player who can play with his back to goal. A striker who is comfortable with his back to goal can hold the ball up and give his midfielders time to transition to the attack. Note that the tall lanky striker is not always the best hold up player. For examples of this see Jozy Altidore or Stoke’s very own Peter Crouch.
The two keys to hold up play are a willingness to be physical, and a fantastic first touch. once again let’s pick on Jozy Altidore. He is certainly willing to work hard, but that does not often translate into physical play. In some matches he acts more like a Barca or Madrid player, and he almost never gets the foul calls he wants. Altidore’s first touch can also be a problem in some matches, but he is American so that isn’t a huge shock.
the second way a lone striker can play is as a speedy striker who can cut down the wings and leave the middle of the pitch for his onrushing midfielders. The speed of the striker can also be used to turn off of a defender who closes too close to the striker. Javier Hernandez is an excellent example of the speedy striker who can play on his own up top. Wayne Rooney has continued to drop deep into the midfield this season, and it is not fair to consider him a forward in some matches this season. Hernandez’s speed allows him to make the deft runs through the defense to open up the pitch.
Finally, a lone striker needs to show some effort up top. The lazy man can not be an ineffective striker, for an example see Saha, Louis. Because he is all alone, the striker must consistently be making runs of all different kinds. Sometimes he will be having to check back into the midfield when his team gets into trouble, and other times he may need to make the diagonal run to the corner flag. This hard work is why so many strikers fail, not because of their inability to the hit the back of the net. Watch any of the top strikers, and you will see them always moving and always thinking, which may explain the problems of Fernando Torres.