What Is the Second Striker and Why Is the Role Making a Comeback?

September 04, 2023

by xfcedi

antoine griezmann

By Eduard Bănulescu

Second Striker roles are making a belated, albeit strong reemergence in the tactics notebooks of managers from the top football leagues. If it is true that football tactics are cyclical, then perhaps it’s high time we reembrace the potential of this attacking player.

But just what is a Second Striker, why is the Football Manager franchise excited about it, and which of your favourite managers are using this role at the moment?

What is a Second Striker?

The Second Striker is an attacking player that operates just behind the team’s main striker. This role can be best understood as a manager’s compromise between playing a game with a central attacking midfielder or with another forward.

While it’s easy to split hairs on the matter, the Second Striker’s role is similar to that of an advanced playmaker, a False Nine, or a deep lying forward. Technically speaking, however, certain characteristics set the player apart from similar roles.

The Second Striker is often deployed as the secondary goal scoring threat in a 4-4-2 formation.  While in recent years, the 4-4-2 has been treated as an antiquated way of deploying players, it is making a comeback.

The Second Striker must possess, above everything, great ability to head the ball and strength. Unlike the False Nine, the Second Striker doesn’t operate between the lines by strictly using technique and speed, but rather physicality and heading.

While many Second Strikers possess excellent skills, they contribute to their team’s defensive setup. As mentioned, the 4-4-2 is a balanced formation. The Second Striker is expected to track back and press relentlessly.

4-4-2 formation with second striker
4-4-2 formation with a Second Striker

Why is a Second Striker different from a Central Forward?

The Second Striker, like the Classic Number 9, lost a bit of popularity in recent decades. This is because some managers believe that these roles are not very versatile. This has, however, been disproven often.

But what is the difference between a Second Striker and a plain, old Central Forward?

Both players play in an advanced role. The Second Striker will usually play a supporting role for the Center Forward.

Ideally, the Second Striker is a player that provides more assists than goals. He uses physicality and spatial awareness to set up the Central Forward.

Famous Second Strikers

In the era where the 4-4-2 formation was the go-to tactical starting point for most teams, the football world was filled with famous Second Strikers.

Many of them were skilful, quick players capable of creating scoring opportunities for a powerful Target Forward. Players like Alessandro Del Piero, Dennis Bergkamp or Ronaldinho embodied the Second Striker position.

Dennis Bergkamp Arsenal Second Striker
In modern soccer, positions are less important than roles. This means that players are expected to move more and to fulfil various roles across a season.

Antoine Griezmann is one of the most famous Second Strikers in the world. He has often played in a counter-attacking 4-4-2 for Atletico Madrid and shone behind players like Fernando Torres or, more recently, Memphis Depay.

Antoine Griezmann atletico Madrid second striker

Another Second Striker with a great reputation is While the Argentine has also been deployed as a poacher in the past, it was when playing a supporting role for Romelu Lukaku while both were playing for Inter that Martinez found the best form of his career.

Lautaro Martinez. Second Striker

With teams often setting up in a 4-4-2 recently and managers returning to some of the tactical tenants of old, clearly, this is not the last time we’ve heard of the Second Striker role.



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