Player Portrait: Forwards & Attacking Players

I hope this email finds you well as we are half way through January. Last week I wrote an email on general traits we look for in all field players. This week I want to focus on what we look for in our forwards and attacking-minded players.

To do so I want to distinguish between two types of forwards. When evaluating forwards, we look at prospective players as either Target Forwards (High/Central Forwards) or as Playmakers (Wingers, Attacking Mids, and False 9’s).

Target Forwards

  • We need our target forwards to be able to do four things. The first two things that they need to do is press and rest. These actions are opposite of one another so the target needs to find the right balance. We expect our target to lead our team in getting the ball back as we are a pressing team. Since nobody can sprint for 90 minutes, they also need to stand and catch their breath at times. Our target presses the opponent’s centerbacks when the ball is in the opponent’s half, and rests when the ball is in our half.
  • The other two things that we ask of our target forward is to find the balance between posting and finishing. Again, these actions could be viewed as opposite of one another. When we are outside of “goal scoring range”, which is most of the game, our target needs to be on the strong-side (the same side as the ball) and is often looking for a centerback to back into to potentially post and link. However when we are in “goal scoring range’, our target should be lurking on the back-post or even further out of the goal mouth to be in a position to crash into the net for services from the flank. The mentality of our target forwards must be to want to score goals and to get into positions for tap-ins.

Playmakers

  • We view our playmakers as more dynamic players and often times see them as able to play multiple attacking positions such as wingers, attacking mids, and false 9’s depending on the formation we are playing.
  • In all of these playmaking positions, we want players that are dynamic on the ball and not afraid to take on defenders in the attacking third. Furthermore, we like to see our playmakers as players who find times to run “beyond the line” and get on balls that are played through seams.
  • What may be a little unique is that we want these types of players also playing “between the lines”. Since most teams now defend zonally, natural “pockets” exist in between the areas of defensive responsibilities of the opponent. These “pockets between the lines” only exist for small periods of times before these windows close. Elite players around the world like Messi know how to get into these problem areas that ask questions of the opponent. For example, if you are being marked by a wideback, try moving five yards closer to the centerback to see if he follows you on passes you off. Either he will follow you and the flank has opened up for another player to run into, or he passes you off and there is a brief period where you are unmarked and able to receive the ball in a dangerous space.