Striker - The indefinable genius

Strikers are a very special kind of player. Hardly any other position shows such a variety of player types, with in part indescribable skills. In the last part of our blog series "Physical demands of a soccer player" you’ll learn why on this position athletic abilities can make the difference between a good and a great striker.

Ibrahimovic, who scored two fantastic goals to turn around the game in his first appearance for the LA Galaxy, is the latest example for the fascination of "strikers". In no other position group are players so often celebrated as geniuses, magicians, or phenomena. In addition to scientifically hard-to-prove abilities, such as being “ruthless” or “ice cold” in front of the goal, there are also measurable skills like shooting accuracy, header strength and conversion of chances, which make up a good striker.

Another reason why the average striker is so difficult to describe is due to the variety of player types on the pitch. There is the striker with sheer goalscoring instinct, then there is the powerful one, the speedster, the ball wizard, the one with great aerial ability and sometimes you’ve got a player that has it all. In order for all these players to be in the right place at the right time and to be able to put the ball in the net, a good positional play and speed is required. Well timed sprints can overwhelm almost any defender and ultimately lead to plenty of goal scoring opportunities.

The scientific facts

"He's simply standing in the box, waiting for the ball to arrive" is one of the most common statements about the striker position. Although the attacking game is still the highest priority for this position, the scientific data shows that strikers have adapted to the demands of modern-day soccer. With an average total distance run of 11.0 km per game, of which almost 760m are at high-intensity and about 350m at sprint velocity, they are on the same level as full-backs and thus in the average of all positions. The regeneration time between the respective actions also ranks at only 73 seconds.

However, when looking at the running performance, especially for strikers, it is crucial to consider the respective tactical assignment of the position. The formation seems to have a major influence on the physical load of a striker. The best example of these formation-dependent requirements is a 4-2-3-1 line-up, in which strikers ran 25% less than in any other formation. In such a 4-2-3-1, the striker usually serves as a support player and holds the ball to allow midfielders to push up. The sprint down the sidelines is then usually done by the wing players. A 3-5-2 system on the other hand, seems to give the two strikers more freedom, allowing them to move more and run distances at a high-intensity velocity.

Position-specific training

It becomes evident that unlike other positions, the performance of a striker can hardly be expressed in numbers. Even players whose total distances run are well below the team average, can compensate the lack of physical performance with skills such as soccer intelligence and great positional play, allowing them to shoot the decisive goal at the right moment and thus significantly contributing to the success of their team. The scientific data shows that it is not so much the running abilities that make a player an outstanding striker. Agility, quick reaction and vision are crucial to get in the right position in front of the defender. Strength, ball control and shooting accuracy then ensure that the ball lands in between the goalposts.

But the striker is not only valuable for his team when controlling the ball. He is always the first defender against the ball. The trick is to still have power for a decisive acceleration in the last attack of the game, despite the constant change of ball possession. A sprint in the 90th minute is less about pure endurance or speed, but a well-trained explosive strength endurance. Therefore, these abilities should be trained in combination with the technical skills of the striker.

Our first exercise is primarily aimed at shooting accuracy from a long distance, but also trains the explosive strength endurance, depending on the variation.

As a first variation, the sprint can be performed without a ball. As soon as the striker gets around the pole, he will receive a pass and executes a volley shot. It will make the drill more intense and technically challenging. In order to adapt to the conditional load of a game, the number of players per set up should not be too high, so a break in-between sprints of about 40-70 seconds can be guaranteed. The exercise can then be performed for 15 minutes with the highest intensity.

Our "Double Pass & Shots Coordination Practice" is another example of how the conditional, coordinative and technical requirements of the Striker position can be combined in one exercise.

Your planet.training Team

Sources:

[1] Tierney, P. J. et al (2016). Match play demands of 11 versus 11 professional football using Global Positioning System tracking: Variations across common playing formations.
[2] Bush, M. et al (2015). Evolution of match performance parameters for various playing positions in the English Premier League.
[3] Bradley, P. S. et al (2013). Match performance and physical capacity of players in the top three competitive standards of English professional soccer.
[4] Bradley, P. S. et al (2009). High-intensity running in English FA Premier League soccer matches.
[5] Bradley, P. S. et al (2010). High-Intensity Activity Profiles of Elite Soccer Players at Different Performance Levels.
[6] Di Salvo, V. et al (2007). Performance Characteristics According to Playing Position in Elite Soccer.
[7] Dellal, A. et al (2010). Physical and technical activity of soccer players in the French First League - with special reference to their playing position.
[8] Weineck, J. et al (2002). Sportbiologie.

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