In-depth analysis of the positions and player roles in football (Attackers)

Understanding positions and player roles in football (Attackers) by Eddie

These guys are regarded as the match winners, they focus on scoring, creating chances, assists, and pressuring the opponents back line. Just like the midfielders, every attacker has a position and role to play on the pitch.

Without delaying, let’s start with….

Position: The Wingers: (W)

The winger is all about the offensive, he’s fast, can be tricky, extremely fit and he’s light on the ground. They tend to play along the lines. These are the guys your fullbacks or wingbacks needs to battle for supremacy. This position in football is one of the most generative in football. The winger has the same role as your attacking midfielder, but he carries out his duties from the side of the pitch. He must have qualities including pace, close control, agility, ability to dribble and beat players, and accuracy on the ball. They’re traditionally assigned the number 7 or 11. Iconic names on this list includes Hristov Stoichkov, Ryan Giggs, David Beckham (who was without pace but arguably blessed with the most accurate right foot in the world till now), Robert Pires, Marc Overmars, Cristiano Ronaldo (particularly when he was younger), Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery. Others include Angel Di Maria, Eden Hazard, Jadon Sancho, Sadio Mane etc. Also important to note, the wingers can be inverted in the game of play. Right-footers on the left wing, and vice versa –: Ronaldo, Salah, Robben, Pepe, etc.

Position: The Winger
· The widest attacking player
· Takes on opposition defenders
· Provides crosses into the box
· Meets crosses from the opposite wing
· Often the fastest player on the field

Position: Forward
Role: False 9:
According to Wikipedia, The false 9, in some ways similar to a more advanced attacking midfielder/playmaker role, is an unconventional lone striker or centre-forward, who drops deep into midfield. The purpose of this is that it creates a problem for opposing centre-backs who can either follow the false 9, leaving space behind them for onrushing midfielders, forwards or wingers to exploit, or leaving the false 9 to have time and space to dribble or pick out a pass. Can’t put it any better than this can I? Names on this list includes, Lionel Messi, Thomas Muller, Roberto Firmino, etc.

Role: False 9
· Starts up front near the opposition goal
· Replaces the traditional striker in most formations
· Drops deep to pull opposition defenders out of position
· Often a converted midfielder
· Dribbles and creates chances

Position: Forward
Role: Center Forward (CF)

These guys are similar to your strikers, matter of fact these guys are used as strikers because they bear the responsibilities of scoring goals, creating chances and winning games. The Center forward also brings others into play the same way the false 9 does but he’s more advanced and he needs to score goals more. His qualities includes Agility, Strength, Vision, Technique, accuracy, key-decision making, deadly in front of goal. Iconic Center forwards includes Johan Cryuff, Ruud Van-Nistelrooy, Zlatan Ibrahimovich (Who can do literally anything and fit in any role up front), Michael Owen, David Trezeguet, Sergio Aguero, Thomas Müller, Cristiano Ronaldo, and others like Harry Kane, Alexander Lacazette, Cavani,Mbappe, Diego Costa etc.

Role: Center Forward
· Plays between midfield and attack
· Assists the striker in scoring goals
· Elusive and difficult to mark
· Harries opposition defenders
· More versatile than the target-man
· Vision, technical skill and creativity

Position: Forward
Role: Supporting Striker(SS) /Deep-Lying Forwards(DLF):

This guy is called a Deep-lying forward, but the modern day term being used is the Supporting Striker. This guy’s position is somewhere between the midfield and center forwards. He’s not your midfielder, he’s not your CF, rather he’s a blend of both in the position he’s in. His main duty is to create goalscoring chances for the CF or Striker. Regardless he’s to get into goalscoring positions too when needed and he’s to score goals also, only he can’t overplay the goalscoring over his duties.
He’s the hybrid of an AM/AP so these qualities are needed very much. Exceptional ball skill, shooting, passing, receiving and distribution, dribbling skills with great accuracy, good in the air and clinical in front of goal. Iconic names in this position includes Del Piero, Dennis Bergkamp, Ronaldinho, Diego Forlan, perhaps the most deadliest of them all in this position is Wayne Rooney? Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo,Neymar etc.

Role: SS/DLF
· Plays between midfield and attack
· Assists the striker in scoring goals
· Very Intelligent players
· Harries opposition defenders
· Vision, technical skill and creativity

And the top of them all,

Position: The Striker
Role 1: The Target Man (TM)

These guys are tall, Physical, Strong, very good in the air, intelligent with the ball and clinical finishers. Though They might be boring to watch because they tend to lack technical abilities and depend on their brute force and physicality, they are certainly effective. Their demeanour is vital in the rough and tumble world of football.
These guys are like the outlets for strikers and rest of the forwards. Unlike the false 9, these guys don’t need to drop deep to get and hold on to the ball. They win and hold on to ball with their back against the goalpost, this helps draw defenders outside the box and creates space for the wingers and strikers to move into, these are the guys who gift goals to other players and their focus isn’t mainly on scoring alone.
They need to hold-up the ball to execute tactical plans, the biggest factor from tactical view is that these guys are like walls built in front of the opponents for the ball to bounce back to the speedy and fast attackers.
They’re the least favourite of football fans. Names on this list includes Mario Gomez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Olivier Giroud, Diego Costa, Romelu Lukaku, Artem Dzyuba, Mario Mandzukic etc.

Role: The Target Man
· Plays between midfield and attack
· Assists the striker in scoring goals
· Elusive and very difficult to mark
· Very Intelligent players
· Harries opposition defenders
· Aerial Prowess

P.S: If you are among those who keep wondering why Deschamps keeps going with Giroud over Lacazette, It’s because of what Giroud brings to the team tactically, especially his explosive attacking teammates, Mbappe,Griezmann,Dembele,Coman.

Position: Striker
Role 2: The Poacher (P):

The simplest and yet the deadliest strikers of them all. These strikers rarely get involved in build up to goals, they go unnoticed on the pitch sometimes. These guys don’t need to be as strong as the target man, neither does he have to be as technical as the DLF. All the qualities he has is sharpness, intelligence, lots of pace and quickness to his game, and very clinical in front of goal, Dribbling,Trickery, and first touch control are added bonuses to their game. Just like the Target man these guys might be boring to watch sometimes but never be fooled, every other thing they lack in football, they make up for in their strengths and abilities.
They run at defenders when not in possession of the ball, when their teams are in possession. These guys make intelligent runs behind defenders, they break defensive lines a lot, and make runs to receive short or long passes. They are also called the fox in the box because of their intelligent movements. While people demand entertaining football from players, and seem to forget that the most important thing in the game of football is to score goals, these poachers will quickly remind you they’re more important than you’ve ever considered.
Perhaps the very best of them all in this role is Filipo Inzaghi, who Sir Alex Ferguson had to drop a statement that has become a legendary quote “That Lad Must’ve Been Born Offside.”

Here’s another one on Inzaghi by Johan Cryuff “Look, he can’t play football at all, he just knows how to get in the right place.” That wasn’t meant as a compliment by the way.
Other Iconic names on this list features Andy Cole, Miroslav Klose, Gary Lineker, Ian Wright, Michael Owen, Jan Klass Huntelaar.. Also players like Pierre Emerick-Aubamenyang, Javier Hernandez, Paco Alcacer,Mauro Icardi etc.

Role: The Poacher
· Closest player to the opponent’s goal
· Makes intelligent runs behind defenders
· Sharp and very fast
· Harries opposition defenders
· Highly deadly in front of goal
· Composed and very relaxed in front of goal.

Position: Striker
Role:The Complete Forward (CF)

There’s not much to say about these guys as the name already says it all. These guys are the complete package all wrapped in one. The agility and aerial prowess of the target man, the all round game of the Center forward, the technical abilities of the DLF/SS, and the deadliest abilities of the Poacher. This guy has all the qualities. They are often given the free role to do anything and play anywhere on the pitch because of their abilities.
You won’t find Diego Maradona,Johan Cryuff, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Totti and a few others on this list because the line is drawn, we’ve talked about the differences and the lines that divides the SS/DLF/Center forwards from the complete and genuine strikers.
Iconic names on this list goes a long way, Pele, Eusebio, Gerd Müller, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas, George Weah, Alfredo Di Stefano, Ronaldo Delima(The one they call the Phenomenon), Alan Shearer, Gabrielle Batistuta, Thierry Henry(The King), Raul Gonzalez, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto’o,David Villa, Robert Lewandowski, Luis Suarez etc.
I’m sure I forgot a lot of names.

Position: Striker
Role:The Complete Forward:
· Closest player to the opponent’s goal
· Responsible for scoring goals
· Holds the ball up until teammates can join the attack
· Harries opposition defenders
· Physically strong

And that’s it, this took me days to research and compile. Now I can get back to Music.
See you in the comments section.

Eddie Hoyte


  1. Hope our attackers. Aubameyang, Lacazette, Pépé, Martinelli all deliver us this season we rely on them to take away pressure from our shaky defenders

  2. Good article

    The wingers are usually the most skilled or the fastest guy in the starting line-up. Messi used to be a great inverted RW when he was younger

    We are lucky to have a talented one in Pepe. I hope Arsenal haven’t given up on Zaha

  3. these are just their roles on paper but in truth everyone has their own playing style.
    some players are mentioned as strikers but attack from the wings others from deep and others just love keeping the ball.
    the point is each player is blessed with his own unique set of skills and their input vary for the team. and are not just restricted to the ones mentioned
    everybody plays football their own way

    1. That’s why you get talented players who don’t seem to be appreciated by their team or don’t get picked.

      When a player does not fit a conventional mold because their skillset doesn’t match their preferred position they don’t get picked, and they never become great players.

      Think of Theo Walcott, Gervinho, Iwobi on the wing for Arsenal, etc

  4. Bravo, Eddie!! Took me a while to find time to read them all.. but I got there!
    There’s always so much detail in your articles/comments, Eddie.. I really appreciate how long this must have taken & thank you for sharing this with us all… Now, I hope your music is going just as well as your articles ??

  5. Excellent article, except I would not consider Thierry a complete forward. Considering all the others on the list, and how I know a complete forward, you’d be better replacing Thierry with CR7.
    Complete forwards are strikers that are lethal with all weapons at their disposal. They have the skill of a support striker, the positioning of a poacher, the will and power of a target man. This means in simple terms, left foot, right foot header, call it triple threat. And the best example of that in today’s game is CR7.
    He plays coming off the left flank with the ability to beat 1 or 2 defenders on the way, the element of surprise in being you can’t predict whether he’s planing to pass dribble or shoot, he’s one of the most lethal in the air and he has the biggest number of perfect hatricks (left foot, right foot, header) in the game today.
    Beyond that, excellent article

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