Last updated on January 10th, 2023
There are a number of positions and roles that are assumed to require a specific physical nature on the football pitch.
For example, goalkeepers should usually be the tallest players on the pitch. Moreover, defenders may be expected to be tall and imposing, and strikers should usually have a big physique.
However, it is normal to have players of different physical attributes in some of these positions if they excel in other functions needed for the role!
If you have wondered if height matters for a striker, here is a guide for you.
Can strikers be short in football?
It is possible for strikers to be shorter than the average height in football. While they are unable to play the target man role for their team, they are able to excel in other roles, such as a false nine or second striker.
Height in football is a relative topic of discussion because it may be subject to perception.
For instance, a 6’1 tall Kepa Arrizabalaga is considered short for a goalkeeper, but a striker of a similar height is considered tall.
Moreover, a 5’9 David Villa enjoyed playing at the highest level as a striker for a long time. This shows that managers tend to use strikers best suited to their systems, regardless of their physique.
Finishing ability is more important than height
Height and physical makeup may be critical to the productivity of strikers, but they are not the most important feature a striker needs to have.
A short striker who can finish is more valuable than a tall one who struggles with finishing.
Moreover, a manager who intends to play with a short striker must be able to create a set-up in which he can thrive.
Javier Hernandez is a prime example of this. The Mexican striker enjoyed a prolific run under the watchful eye of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. He was deployed as an advanced forward, meaning that he did not need to use his physicality to hold up play or bring other forwards into the game.
Instead, his primary duty was to stick the ball into the back of the net while remaining within the opposition box.
You can check out whether the ball needs to fully cross the line here.
As he was fondly called, Chicharito was only 5’9, and his excellent finishing ability kept him in Manchester United’s team for five years.
Short strikers strive as second strikers
Short strikers can also play as second strikers in a two-striker system. In this role, managers pair them with a physically imposing striker who holds up the ball and allows them to thrive with it when the ball gets to the ground.
You can find out how a second striker differs from a centre forward here.
An excellent example of this was the partnership between Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku at Inter Milan.
Martinez was the little one of the duo being only 5’9 tall, but his combination with Lukaku was devastating for opposition defences.
As a result, the two strikers fired Inter Milan to the Serie A title in 2021, putting an end to the club’s 10 years trophy drought.
Wayne Rooney is 5’9, and he enjoyed playing in a similar role as both the main striker and sometimes a second striker. As a result, he became Manchester United’s all-time record goalscorer without being tall.
The Derby County manager used his excellent shooting skills to score goals from all over the pitch without needing to rely on his height or physique to get past defenders.
False nine role
Short strikers can be utilised in the false nine roles, apart from playing as a second striker. In this role, managers task them with linking up play in the attacking third as much as they are tasked with scoring goals.
Playing with a false nine under the right conditions brings about good attacking football, and Pep Guardiola has been exploiting this throughout his managerial career.
Guardiola was the first to field Lionel Messi as a striker, doing so in a crucial El Clasico in 2009. The move led Messi to score twice in a 6-2 win for Barcelona over a clueless Real Madrid side who did not know how to handle his movement on and off the ball.
He was deployed many more times in the position over the next few years and grew in leaps and bounds. Finally, Messi played the role to deliver an especially scintillating performance against Manchester United at Wembley in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final.
Like Messi, Cesc Fabregas was often deployed as a false nine for club and country. However, he was Spain’s first-choice at centre forward in their victorious Euro 2012 campaign, with David Villa injured and Fernando Torres out of sorts.
He filled the striker’s role perfectly despite being only 5’10 tall.
Pros of being short for a striker
Depending on how the manager sets up the team for a game, a striker may be at an advantage or a disadvantage with his height. Here are some benefits enjoyed by short strikers:
Low centre of gravity
Short strikers are slippery and difficult to deal with due to their low centre of gravity. However, this allows them to manipulate the ball with ease in tight situations. Their low centre of gravity also gives them outstanding balance on the ball.
In scoring the decisive goal that earned Manchester City their first-ever Premier League title in 2011/12, the importance of this balance was highlighted.
Although he was running away from goal, Sergio Aguero showed outstanding balance to stay on his feet and managed to get the shot away to help City to a 3-2 win over QPR.
Short strikers tend to have much sharper movements than their taller counterparts. This is because they learn to rely on their ability to outwit opposition defenders rather than their physical attributes.
Napoli forward Dries Mertens was preferred as the side’s striker on several occasions despite his obvious height disadvantage. This was due to his ability to move smartly in and around the opposition penalty area and get into perfect goal scoring positions.
Short strikers enjoy making calculated movements such as late runs into the opposition box. This allows them to avoid getting into the challenge for aerial balls with much taller oppositions and puts them in the best position to take advantage of slack defenders.
Speed and dribbling
Short strikers often move like speeding bullets; they are usually tough to keep up with. However, they use this pace to burst past opposition defenders and arrive into good goal scoring positions in the opposition box.
Thanks to their height, they learn to use every one of their attributes other than being physical to ensure defenders do not bully them. This also includes their dribbling abilities and ability to play under pressure from defenders.
Short strikers usually have to hone their body strength because they cannot hold the ball up and win aerial duels. This means they have to be very good at protecting the ball from opponents when it is at their feet.
They may do this by putting their body between the opponent and the ball or learning to use their lower body to hold off defenders. Using body strength is often associated with having a low centre of gravity.
Cons of being short for a striker
As short strikers have their advantage, there are also disadvantages of strikers being short. Here are some of them:
Inability with aerial duels
Being short puts a striker at a disadvantage when competing for aerial balls with opposition defenders. As a result, they cannot score as many headed goals as their taller counterparts.
Moreover, they are unable to hold up the ball aerially for their team when the ball is sent upfield from their defensive third.
Short strikers find it challenging to compete for the ball with opposition defenders when they have to battle shoulder-to-shoulder. They can easily be knocked off balance by a shoulder barge because of their height, allowing the opponent to take the ball off them.
Short strikers have limited finishing techniques due to their stature. They cannot easily pull off the quick changes in orientation required for acrobatic finishes.
Some chances require players to stretch their limbs to reach the ball. Being short could put them at a disadvantage if such chances come their way.
Examples of ‘short’ strikers in football
Here are 4 strikers who may not have the height advantage, but are still prolific in front of goal:
Argentinian striker and Manchester City legend Sergio Aguero was one of the most lethal strikers of his generation. He holds the goalscoring record for Manchester City and the record for most goals scored for a single side in Premier League history.
It was his goal that sealed the 2011/12 Premier League title for Manchester City on goal difference.
Aguero is only 5’8 tall but is regarded as one of the best strikers to grace the Premier League.
Spanish great David Villa is another short striker who enjoyed an outstanding career for club and country. He represented Valencia and Barcelona, two of the biggest teams in Spain at the time. He scored in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final for Barcelona, and he is still Spain’s all-time record goalscorer with 59 goals.
Italian striker Giuseppe Rossi enjoyed a successful time playing at the highest level in Europe.
Despite being only 5’8, he featured for Manchester United, Villarreal and Fiorentina. He also played for the Italian national team.
Manchester United and England great Wayne Rooney is remembered as one of the best finishers in Premier League history. He was blessed with an array of finishing techniques and vision.
As a result, he completed his career with the most goals by any player in Manchester United history.
Other examples of short strikers are Lautaro Martinez, Javier Hernandez, Dries Mertens, Dwight Gayle, Alessandro Del Piero, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Carlos Tevez, Antonio Di Natale and many others.
Here is a summary of whether a striker can be short:
|How short strikers succeed||Finishing Ability|
As a second striker
As a false nine
|Pros of being a short striker||Low centre of gravity|
Speed and dribbling
|Cons of being a short striker||Inability with aerial duel|
|Great Examples||Sergio Aguero|
You can find out more about what a clinical finisher means in football here.
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