How to Become the Best Striker in the League
You already know the most important thing to win a football match…
If you’re reading this, you’re most likely a striker or a winger looking to improve your ability on the pitch and/or you’re just looking to bang in more goals…
Maybe you’re a fullback looking to adopt the qualities of striker so you can have more tallies on the year 😉
Anyways, I’m confident that you’ve come to the right place!
This is our third position covered in our series where I cover every position on the pitch and provide you specific practical tips to improve your ability on the pitch.
I’ve gotten very good feedback from these detailed breakdowns of what it takes to improve at a specific position.
As always, you know how it works here; you have a problem…
Your boy provides a solution!
So far, we covered fullbacks and center backs, so now we’re making our way up the pitch towards the strikers!
Don’t worry midfielders, your time will come very soon: just make sure you stay tuned 😉
Even though I’m not a striker myself, I’ve had the honor to work with several top-class strikers in my 1-on-1 program.
For instance, I’ve been working with Pablo Sabbag (aka la Maquiná) for a couple years.
He just won best player of the first round in the First Division in Peru.
He is one of the most dangerous strikers in South America.
Obviously, that didn’t come easily….
It took a ton of work (still takes a ton of work), and his ability to be consistent and disciplined is unmatched.
In this article I’m going share some tips he’s applied to get to his level and we’ve applied together, so make sure not to skip around!
Keep in mind there’s no one-size-fits-all formula to become a top-class striker. Every striker has their own strengths and weaknesses, so take everything with a grain of salt and be self-critical to see where you can improve!
Anyway, enough blabbering. Ready to go? Let’s get it!
1.Sharpen your Finishing Skills
2.Work on your Off-Ball movement and tactical IQ
3.Improve your Strength and Conditioning
1-Sharpen Your Finishing Skills:
Obviously, as obvious as this may sound, your number one job as a striker is to put the ball in the back of the net.
You can have a lot of good actions during the game and impress people but if you don’t put the ball in the back of the net; people will ask why..
Might sound like a lot of pressure?
But it also goes the other way as well..
You can play a terrible game, lose the ball very often, make mistakes, but if you score a goal, you had a great game!
Anyways, that pressure is why top strikers earn the most money in the world..
Because even though good defending wins team games, a good striker is more valued 🙂
May be unfair, but it’s true!
All in all, your goal is to be in the right place at the right time so you can put the ball into the back of the net.
You should be the first to any cross or any rebound.
You need to “grab the scraps” and make the most of them.
Every professional coach I’ve worked with has always stressed this to strikers..
A final product and a final action needs to be produced!
Any of your actions in the final third should result in a promising action that leads to a shot and hopefully a goal or at least a cross/pass into a dangerous area.
Without that final product, you can’t win games!
How do you improve your finishing skills?
It’s much “easier” to train than you expect.
As always, it’s all about reps!
Focus on proper technique first and then start to speed it up!
1.1 v 1 Move to Finish:
-Set a cone at the 18.-Dribble at the cone, do your 1 v 1 move, accelerate away from the marker with pace and aim to put the ball into the corners.
2.Lined Up Ball Strikes:
-Line up 5-10 stationary balls on the 18.
-Strike each ball into the corner.
-Use different areas of your foot for a bonus.
3.Pinged 18 Drill
-Stand on the 18.
-Have a friend ping you a ball out from either side of the goal.
-Settle the ball.
-Slot the ball home into the corner
You can check out this video on how to improve your finishing for more in depth drills:
Have a “Signature Finish”
I heard this fantastic tip from Daniel Sturridge, former Liverpool striker.
Of course, as a striker, he points out that you want to work on different finishes during training to improve the way you hit the ball with different surfaces of your foot and how you apply different techniques to the ball.
But a super interesting insight he gave was to always have a “signature finish”.
What does that mean?
As a striker, you should be on auto-pilot when certain situations happen in games and you’re able to execute without thinking.
For example, when that ball is played into the corner of the 16-yard box for you as a striker, you should already have a clear idea of what finish you’re going to go for.
For Thierry Henry, he’d always slot the ball past the keeper, in the far corner.
For Mbappé nowadays, it’s the exact opposite of that : he always fakes a far post shot and swings his hips at the last second to slot it into the first corner.
Another example could be when your winger is running down the channel and is about to cross, you should already have a clear idea of the run you’re going to make and the surface of the foot you’re going to use for the finish.
See what I mean?
Now by all means, this is NOT me trying to kill your creativity by telling you to have ONE specific finish per situation.
Always have room for surprise and deception as a striker.
But, it’s a great tip because it will make you more comfortable with the uncomfortable.
The last thing we want as a striker is to overthink when we get in front of the net.
Hesitation often leads to bad decisions, which we don’t want.
If you already have a clear idea of what you’re going to do in some situations, you’re giving yourself a better chance of being clinical.
More Practical Drills:
The easiest way to get in a lot of extra shots during the week is to stay 10-15 minutes after training with a fullback or winger and work on finishing from different angles.
Work on more game specific finishing where you are doing an action that you would do in the game and then you follow it with a finish.
1. Have your fullback serve you some balls.
2.Then hit 4-5 shots starting with your back to goal, with a turn and shot.
3.Finish off with a few curling shots from the edge of the box looking for the far corner.
Working on your finishing starts with your ability to master the ball.
If we break down a 1v1 situation as a striker, there are two key elements that come into play : technical execution and composure. Now you may think, how can I improve my composure?
Well, that’s where ball mastery comes into play.
Ball mastery exercises help you keep the ball under control at all times and allows you to become comfortable manipulating the ball with different surfaces of your foot.
This is MASSIVE as a striker!
The game is tied at 0-0…
It’s the 90th minute..
Your fullback plays you a ball in behind the back line and all you have to do is beat the keeper and you’ve won the game for your team.
Unfortunately, you take a heavy touch, which allows the goalkeeper to easily recover the ball…
Can you imagine how your teammates, coach and fans will react to that?
Of course, these things can happen and you can (and will) make mistakes, but you shouldn’t allow yourself for it to happen if you’re looking to become the best striker in the league.
Ball mastery will improve your overall comfort on the ball and allow you to eliminate these types of “mis-touches” in front of goal, which is the last place you want them to occur.
2-Work on Your Off-Ball Movement and Tactical IQ
You may think that tactical IQ is an obvious thing to work on as a striker, but trust me…
Many players lack this aspect, even at the top level.
It’s one of those separating factors between top class pros and average pros.
Coordination & Communication with Teammates:
You need to make sure your off-ball movement is coordinated with your teammates, especially with your wingers and number 10.
The way you work on this is “becoming friends” with your attackers and asking them what they prefer, where they want the ball, etc.
And this obviously comes with experience in trainings and games.
The more you train and play with your teammates, the better you will know their strengths and weaknesses and their tendencies.
Also, as a striker, they are really going to need to understand your strengths, your movements and where you want the ball.
This is exactly what will throw off the oppositions’ defense and helps you catch them at the right time to punish them for a mistake or mishap.
Working on Attacking During Training:
Most “good coaches” will work on your final third play at least 1-3 times per week.
If not, you might have to find a new team 😉
The goal with this is to get all your attacking players in the same rhythm and have everyone think similarly.
This Can Happen in a Game:
Maybe one of your wingers is checking in to ask for the ball to his feet…
The last thing you want to do is make a similar run and crowd his space.
Think about it…
If both of you check in and ask for the ball at your feet with your back to goal, you’re making the defenders’ job super easy.
All they need to do is close you and the space down, make it compact, not let you turn, and the space will become very overloaded with players, and it will be hard to escape the pressure and attack.
In essence, they will probably win the ball and counterattack.
The goal would be to let your winger check into the half-space, lay the ball back and then you get the all off of your “third man run.”
You may ask what a third man run is, let me explain:
Let’s think about it…. the ball is played through to your winger from a fullback; the ball is then dropped back to another midfielder (as soon as the ball is being dropped back you are running in behind that defense).
So, your center mid can play the ball over the top to you running into the space.
Also, when the winger checks in, the fullback will follow your winger which will leave a ton of space for you to run into as the striker.
Plus, that run you make will benefit the other winger, since two defenders will be drawn in so there will be more space in the middle of the pitch.
See what I mean?
It’s all about movement!
It’s about noticing your teammates movements and adapting your runs accordingly, and obviously based on the rhythm of play.
Of course, you can also give a signal to your wingers with a certain run; it goes both ways.
If you check in and ask for the ball to your feet, that’s a signal for your winger to run in behind.
In that case, you can drop off the ball first time for your number 10 as you check in, and he can play in behind which can lead to a goalscoring opportunity.
So it works both ways!
Keep in mind: your runs won’t always necessarily get you the ball, but that’s ok!
It may be frustrating, but believe me, if it benefits the team and opens up space, coaches will notice that (especially at the highest level).
The best way to work on your tactical IQ is to study & eventually understand top professional strikers’ on and off the ball.
The goal is to analyze their movements and decision making.
I would recommend you watch at least one game per week, like a student!
When I say student, it means that you need to pause games and watch the movements of players very closely.
Watching like a student means you are not watching the game to enjoy it…
You are watching the game to be able to emulate (replicate) the same movements top pros do on and off the pitch.
Of course, when it comes to this tactical aspect, you also want to discuss patterns of play and movements with your coach and teammates.
Another thing that I highly recommend would be to find a mentor/a player who is a professional or playing at a higher level and ask them to sit down with you and go over your game or a pro’s game with you.
You want to ask them to explain to you a couple things:
1.If you made a bad decision, how you could have made a better decision on or off the ball.
2.If you made a good decision, re-emphasizing it to you so you continue those habits.
This will help you improve your tactical knowledge and decision making a lot!
With mentorship from professionals and getting experience during small sided and 11 v 11s; your tactical understanding will improve a lot!
3-Improve Your Strength and Conditioning:
The higher level you go, the stronger defenders will become. The last thing you want is to get shoved off the ball all the time.
I’ve seen SO many talented young ballers: technically gifted, great football IQ …
You name it….
They have it.
But, they would constantly get bullied by defenders.
Whenever this type of player had their back to goal, you could almost guarantee they’d get bodied and lose the ball.
You don’t necessarily need to be the biggest and strongest striker..
Use Your Strengths:
As I always say and like we’ve talked about here, you need to identify your strengths and use them to the best of your ability.
If you’re not a target striker, don’t play like a target striker..
Instead, beat players with pace or a “better brain.”
If you’re not a 1 v 1 player; don’t take players on 1 v 1.
Instead, get the ball slipped in behind.
Either way, being strong and having a body that allows you to reach your genetic potential is very important.
If you know me, you know that I’m a firm believer in working on your strength as a footballer.
Anyway, you want to have some ability to hold up and protect the ball so your team can advance up the pitch.
Ultimately, this will allow your teammates to advance up the pitch and get closer to the opposition’s goal, which is what we want.
Now don’t make the mistake of thinking you need big arms or a super strong back to become a better number 9.
In other words, you don’t need to hop on the bicep curls every other day.
I know summer’s coming up… (trust me, I’m hitting biceps) but you’re a footballer..
You want the body to work like one unit/one chain: a strong lower body, core and upper body.
Remember, your body’s only as strong as its weakest link.
Of course, proper strength training will not only enhance your ability to shield the ball, but it’ll also help you win more 1v1s, help you become an aerial threat and be more explosive.
If you want a place to start with strength training, try out the Top 10 Gym Exercises for Footballers:
It’s great to be technical, have the ability to finish, be strong and tactically intelligent, but if you’re not fit, you won’t be effective.
Talent is the ability to keep consistent and do the same thing at the same intensity at the same speed over and over again.
It’s not easy but it’s what is the difference between great players and average players.
If you can still have that composure and calmness in front of goal when you’re super fatigued, you’re simply going to set yourself apart from the rest of the pack.
I’ve recently posted an article on how to become fit as a footballer.
For strikers specifically, I’d recommend working on your fitness with the ball – as a supplement to regular anaerobic and aerobic fitness work.
You can simply implement fitness work with your technical work, which makes it more game realistic..
Here’s what you do:
1.Set up 3-10 balls on the 18-yard box (depending on fitness level).
2.Shoot the ball, run to the 18 yard box and run back to shoot.
3.Do that until you finish all of the balls.
4.Rest at least 2-5 minutes and then repeat.
High fitness levels will also allow you to have the ability to focus and will keep your brain fresh.
When your brain is fresh and sharp, you will make better decisions.
When you make better decisions, you are automatically a better player, no matter what position you play!
Mental resilience is probably one of the most important attributes a quality striker can have.
Of course, you want to be a lethal finisher, you want to be strong, you want to be good with the ball, you want to be tactically aware…..
But we all know that those attributes will be best expressed if you’re in a good headspace as a striker.
Developing mental strength and confidence will help you thrive under pressure – and become even more valuable by performing in key moments of the game.
You will also have the ability to handle adversity and overcome obstacles on and off the pitch.
We all know a football career is a rollercoaster of emotions…
And for a striker, it can be even tougher because your team can start to count on you to either win them the game or lose them the game.
If you don’t score for a couple games in a row, it can become very easy to overthink and develop self-doubt and confidence issues.
Of course, this is the last thing I want for you, but it’s much easier said than done.
The first step to improving your confidence as a striker is realizing all you need is one chance to change the game and grab the 3 points for your team…
Defenders need ALL the plays to go right so that you don’t score.
That already puts you in a stronger position and should give you confidence during a game.
But it can also put a lot of pressure on you, because you have to make the most of your chances…
And if you miss “an easy chance” and one that you were expected to score, it can disturb your confidence.
I know it’s much easier said than done, but you can work on it!
Techniques to Improve Your Confidence and Calm You Down:
If you miss a chance early on, the goal is to be able to calm yourself down and focus on the next one.
The best way to improve your focus and calm yourself down is through breathwork and meditation.
Here is a meditation that I recommend for all footballers going through confidence issues and one that will help you deal with pressure:
Positive self-talk is also a technique that you can use.
This is a process where you talk nicely to yourself like you’re talking to your best friend and trying to give them advice.
Think about it…
If your friend was a striker and missed a couple of chances, what would you tell them?
Give the same advice to yourself.
Secondly, visualization is an excellent for strikers.
Get yourself into a relaxed and meditative state and picture yourself scoring goals, making good runs, creating chances, and performing at your best.
You can do this before sleep, in the locker room, in the bathroom stall, when you’re on the bus… wherever!
I like to do it about 90 minutes before the game as I’m doing my pre-match meditation.
Ups & Downs:
You have to realize that football is made of tons of ups and downs…
Even the top pros like Ronaldo and Messi make mistakes, miss big chances, etc.
Obviously, they usually don’t miss those easy ones or make silly mistakes..
That’s why they’re regarded as the best in the world.
But I think you get what I’m saying 🙂
They’ve had periods with less goals in their career, they’ve gone through battles (like Cristiano at United) but what set them apart was their relentlessness to keep going.
That’s what you need to keep in mind to reach your goals: you just need to show up every single day, continue to do the right thing and keep pushing forward no matter what!
Speaking of relentlessness, I highly recommend you read Relentless by Tim Grover.
It can really help you work on the mental aspect of the game, which can’t be overlooked, especially as a striker.
Becoming a top-class striker requires dedication, discipline, and a relentless pursuit of improvement.
By working on your finishing skills, improving your physical conditioning and strength, enhancing your tactical understanding of the game and working to continually improve your mindset, you’ll give yourself the highest chance of having a successful career.
There will be ups and downs, but you should always stay levelheaded and trust the process because you’re not going to feel great every single day!
You’ve taken the first step towards becoming a better striker; it’s now up to you to take action and responsibility to reach your goals.
If you want to take your career to the next level, and have me guide you in your career on and off the field, apply for my 1on1 program.
I’ve worked with top class strikers like Pablo Sabbag and I’m confident I can help you reach your goals with a fully individualized plan.
All you must do is execute and see the results!
Let’s have a great week guys and girls!
Your Big Brother,