During the ’90s and ’00s, we used to watch many attacking duos. Usually, the duo consists of a typical number 9 and a second striker. We all know duos like Yorke & Cole, Bergkamp & Henry, Del Piero & Trezeguet / Inzaghi, Raul & Morientes, Saviola & Kluivert. You can add some more to the list. The second striker (Bergamp, Del Piero, Raul) has to deal with the proper delivery of passes to the target man (Trezeguet, Inzaghi, Morientes), creating chances for the opponents, scoring goals, responsible for the link-up play.
The above-mentioned duos were usually used in 4–4–2 formation. As the latter is rarely used nowadays, perhaps Atletico Madrid is the most vivid example applying it still. With the evolution of football in the last 20 years, the role of the number nine has evolved as well. The typical number nine nowadays is someone who should score goals as his main task but he should also link well with his teammates, make assists, etc. Robert Lewandowski and Harry Kane are technically gifted strikers and could provide enough space for the wingers and make killing passes. Although they own some of the traits of false nine, they are mainly considered strikers. We can add to the list Romelu Lukaku, Erling Haaland, Andre Silva. Typical number nine could be used in 4–3–3 formation, 4–2–3–1 formation, 3–5–2, or 3–4–3.
False nine is a little different type of striker. It is mainly used in 4–3–3 formation but we can see examples in 4–2–3–1 Spain’s formation in 2010 WC and 2021 EURO. We should consider several factors for the false nines. They are best used when the squad has lethal inverted wingers, who can score goals easily. False nine links up well with the central midfielders and delivers the ball to the wingers. He should score goals as well and make assists. Although the false nine don't need to record double-digit numbers in goals and assists.
The typical false nine is Lionel Messi, although the brilliance of the Argentinian gives him much more freedom and more positions on the field to successfully occupy - attacking midfielder, striker, inverted winger, playmaker. Roberto Firmino is the other example of false nine. Thanks to his exceptional play and transformation from attacking midfield to false nine, both Salah and Mane have been shining and giving their best in the last couple of years. Firmino can assist, score and do the link-up play. There are more examples for false nines as well - Paulo Dybala, Antoine Greizmann, Joao Felix. However, the usage of false nine is not a new thing. During the s70′ the legendary Johan Cruyff quite successfully applied for that role both in the Dutch national team and Barcelona. The epitome of false nine is Lionel Messi during the Pep era at Barca.
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