In this article, we will look specifically at the center forward position, a prominent soccer position that is solely focused on one thing: converting chances into goals.
In theory, every position is supposed to cover a specific area of the field. This includes how far forward or back the position is supposed to fall, as well as how far right or left their territory spans.
Besides the goalkeeper, the rest of the positions can be split into more specific positions and functions based on their various skills and coverage of the field.
In soccer, the center forward plays a bit deeper compared to the striker, and they would normally act as a substitute for the striker when the coach opts for a three-forward formation.
The center forward can be easily confused with an attacking midfielder, but as you can see from this article, there is a significant difference in both their roles and position. In most playing formations, the center forward could be either the number 11 or 9.
The main difference between an attacking midfielder and a center forward is that the center forward is usually the furthest man forward on the team, except on the occasional events where the winger makes a forward sprint.
On that note, traditional wingers will always try to maximize space on the right and left sides of the pitch and put constant pressure on the full-backs of the opposing team’s side while supplying the ball to the center forward.
The center forward is considered a glamor position in soccer since the player is expected to score as many goals as possible, so, if successful, the center-forward often receives most of the glory. A true number 11, therefore, should be focused on putting the ball in the net and represent the front line of attack.
Besides scoring goals, the center forward is expected to position themselves intelligently so as to provide support in terms of a cross or a through ball and also to be in the best position in case of a rebound.
When defending, the center forward is expected to fall back to avoid off sides and provide defensive support, but not go all the way back, just in case there is a chance for a quick counter attack.
Just like strikers, center-forwards make the game interesting to watch, thanks to their nifty skills and quick feet. That being said, in order to be a complete and effective center forward, there are some skills that will be crucial to your craft.
One of the most important skills you will need to act as a great center forward is the ability to dribble.
If you are able to dribble past your opponents, your skills will become a huge factor in tilting the scales of the game.
In fact, even with the slightest body feints, great center forwards have been able to create a lot of excellent scoring opportunities and goals after getting past the defender.
On that note, just because you are the main offensive force in the team, it does not give you the right to dribble every time you receive the ball.
Such a habit may lead to a loss in possession, destroying the team’s build up and even its morale.
If you study some of the best center forwards in history such as Thierry Henry, you will notice on common trait; their excellent ability to control the ball on first touch.
This is arguably one of the most effective ways of beating even the tightest defense and scoring goals. You see, playing with a good first touch gives you those first precious moments to decide what to do with the ball before the defenders can think of a way to counter.
It gives you time and space to think and make those crucial split-second decisions a center-forward heavily depends on to convert goals.
It goes without saying, hone this skill and you will see an immediate advantage against your opponents.
As the center forward, you will always receive the ball in areas where there are several defenders trying to take the ball away from you due to the dangerous position you’re playing in.
As a result, it is crucial that you get used to playing under extreme pressure while maintaining calmness. This way, you will retain possession and keep the ball for long enough to ensure the attacking play flows with a consistent momentum and initiate a scathing attack.
As the center forward, both your teammates and fans are looking up to you to score goals and win the game.
Therefore, it is imperative that you be able to score goals from any angle and in a various situations while avoiding off-side positions as well as fouls.
Center forwards must assess and move into goal scoring positions, more specifically, the penalty box, whenever there is a chance that the ball will be supplied there from any side.
There is nothing more exhilarating to watch than a fast, creative and skilled center-forward who can finish big chances clinically in soccer.
The best players in this position are often strong enough to shield the ball from defenders and make explosive accelerations diagonally through defensive lines.
To acquire such a set of complex skills, these drills might help you:
Fast feet are crucial for the modern-day center-forward who is expected to out-maneuver even the best of defenders.
Consider center forwards such as Sergio Aguero or Alexis Sanchez and you will notice their use of pace and speed to get past defenders and remain one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
The drills listed below give you the ability to accelerate explosively, and give you the advantage you need against defenders. These drills can be used along with other exercises designed for speed after warming up.
For more information, you can watch this video:
As a center-forward, it is imperative that you are able to score goals at the first touch of the ball.
The Munin m-station is a device designed to help you do exactly that without the need of another teammate, just you and the goal. The m-station is designed to act as a supporting teammate who supplies the ball and your job is to score the goal using the instep finish.
Other drills that can help include:
For more goal scoring drills, check out this page.
It doesn’t matter how short or tall you are, but as long as you are a center forward, you will not have a choice but to score with your head.
For instance, Harry Kane, one of the most effective center forwards has scored a good portion of his 142 goals using only his head during his career.
This is just an example, even shorter footballers such as Wayne Rooney and Gabriel Agbonlahor who are both less than 180cm tall feature among the top ten list of active players who have scored the most goals with their heads.
This only goes to show how crucial it can be to be able to score headed goals for a center forward.
Check out this page for more information on heading drills.
The rapid turn move, also known as the Johan Cruyff turn was popularized by the dribbling Dutchman who had perfected deadly finishes, intelligent dribbling and split-second decisions.
The m-station is yet another great tool for practicing this move which will allow you to change direction rapidly and confuse defenders inside the box.
For you to be able to score a goal from ay angle or situation, you will have to be comfortable with the ball on both your feet and be a threat even in the most awkward angles.
The following lists of drills will ensure that you use both your legs regularly and improve on your dribbling and first touch skills with both feet.
Some skills that can help with quick, two-footed ball control include:
Soccer is a popular game, and one of the reasons the game is worth watching is due to the skills of the center forwards.
It’s the mundane drop of the shoulder that tricks the defender, leaving them on the ground, or the one-touch flick that opens the defense wide, leaving the forward one-on-one with the goalkeeper or a finessed finish from the edge of the box that sends the goalkeeper grappling at thin air that leaves fans begging for more.
Most of us would prefer to watch a 4-4 goal-packed draw than a 0-0 game, even if it had the best chances, passes and tackles – they all don’t mean much if they don’t end up in a goal.
This pretty much summarizes the role of the center-forward, who is to ensure every build up is converted into a goal.
In addition to this crucial role, center-forwards are also expected to win long balls, receive difficult passes and maintain possession in deep positions as the rest of the team arrives to provide further support.
The center-forward is also tasked with the role of stretching the area of play by pushing the opponent’s defenders as far back as possible.
As such, if a coach opts for a more defensive type of play, the center forward may find themselves alone.
To understand the role of the center-forward even better, perhaps its best to compare the position to that of a striker . The major difference between these two positions is that a traditional striker is supposed to roam in and around the penalty area, anticipating chances, while center forwards are much more integral to the build-up of the play.
In history, some of the best showmanship of the game of soccer came from the traditional two-striker formation which featured a striker and a center forward.
One great example of such a combo was the legendary SAS (Shearer and Sutton) of Blackburn which saw Shearer as the main goal scorer, netting 34 goals that season, and Sutton with just 15, but providing some excellent assists and a link-up play that devastated defenses and made Shearer shine.
Another good example of such a link-up was between Emile Heskey and Michael Owen in Liverpool. While Heskey covered the centre with his strength and power, Owen played on either shoulder to create deadly one-on-one scenarios.
Other great footballers who have played or still play in the center forward position include; Luis Suarez, who provides unmatched power to the team and can single handedly take a team forward in the game.
Another great center forward is Robert Lewandowski, the consistent German player who scores outstanding goals and stays fit in all seasons. We can also consider Sergio Aguero who is always dangerous on the face of goal, however, he is very prone to injuries.
Others include Miroslav Klose and Karim Benzema.
Soccer keeps changing everyday and with these changing dynamics, the positions as well as roles of different players on the field may also change accordingly.
Consequently, we can expect the role of the center forward to keep changing with different needs on the field.
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