Defending as a Forward
We’ve all heard the adage “work smarter, not harder”. There may be no better strategy for a forward, particularly because a striker is the first line of defense for your team.
But as a forward, what does smart defending look like?
Given that forwards are nearly always in the attacking third, their main marking assignments are opposing backs- center backs and outside backs. Many times the defense moves the ball negatively and laterally through the back 3 or 4 players with ease, until a better option forward is available. It’s here that forwards can have the biggest impact.
Defenders have options when in possession. Good teams possess until they can go forward.
Lets look at the options each opposing back has with the ball at their feet.
Center Backs have more options on the ball than outside backs
Outside backs have limited options because the sideline acts as a defender
When looking at both options, you can see that the outside backs have the fewest safe choices- mainly because they are confined by a sideline. This constraint is the key to intelligent defending as a forward.
Forwards should focus their defensive efforts on funneling the ball towards one of the outside backs. From there, the forward should act as another sideline, effectively limiting the outside left back’s options.
I know what you’re thinking. Won’t blocking off a lateral or negative option force the opposing outside back to play positive? In short, yes. But the opposition’s positive options will not be good ones, assuming your teammates are doing their job.
A forward should be able to count on his wings or outside backs to cover the attacking player, or at least to apply pressure to potentially win the ball. Your team’s forward has now caused the opposing left back to either play a 50-50 ball over the top, or play a ball into heavy pressure down the line. All because your forward defended intelligently.
(Aside) Especially at the highest level, players are expected to fulfill their duties and support their teammates. Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho was quite upset with Eden Hazard when Hazard failed to do his duties- see video below.
For the good of the game, forwards should defend intelligently. Rather than always playing goal-side, forwards should defend by funneling the outside backs to the sidelines. With enough defensive support from his teammates, a forward can help his team win back possession.