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Target Men: More Than Just Aerial Threats

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    Sports Tips

Target Men: More Than Just Aerial Threats

When discussing the quintessential target man in football, the image that often comes to mind is a towering striker dominating the airspace. However, elite forwards like Olivier Giroud illustrate that being a target man is much more nuanced. Giroud's game goes beyond heading goals; his physicality and link-up play are instrumental in creating opportunities and space for his teammates. Let's dive into the various facets of a target man's role and how they contribute to the Teams overall strategy.

The Physical Presence: A Double-Edged Sword

Statistics Snapshot:

PlayerHeightGoals by HeaderAssistsSuccessful Aerial Duels (%)
Olivier Giroud1.93m453360.5%
Zlatan Ibrahimović1.95m504065.3%

Physical presence in the box is a primary characteristic of target men. Their towering frames not only make them aerial threats but also serve as focal points in offensive build-ups. Giroud’s ability to hold the ball up with his back to goal allows his team to transition from defense to attack more fluently. By occupying one or more defenders, he creates space for others to exploit.

Tip for Coaches:

  • Drills: Incorporate drills that emphasize ball retention under pressure. Use smaller, tight spaces to enhance players' ability to shield and hold up the ball.
  • Scouting: Look for players with a robust lower body strength and balance, essential for winning duels and maintaining possession.

Giroud’s game is a masterclass in the art of link-up play. His awareness and deft touches provide a different dimension to the Teams attack. When he drops deep or moves wide, he can draw defenders out of position, enabling quicker and more dynamic offensive transitions.

Key Attributes:

  • First Touch: Ability to control and lay off the ball accurately.
  • Vision: To pick out runners and execute defense-splitting passes.
  • Combination Play: Quick one-twos and layoffs to moving teammates.

Stat Attack: Giroud averages 1.8 key passes per 90 minutes, highlighting his role as a playmaker in disguise.

Tip for Coaches:

  • Training: Utilize rondo games to improve decision-making and passing accuracy under pressure.
  • Formations: Deploy formations that maximize the target man's link-up potential, such as a 4-3-3 or 3-5-2, which allows wingers and attacking midfielders to benefit from the space created.

Versatility in the Modern Game

Gone are the days when a target man was purely a battering ram. Modern football requires strikers to be versatile. Giroud's adaptability—whether he's playing as a lone striker or part of a two-man forward line—makes him indispensable. His ability to switch roles seamlessly within a game poses constant questions to defenders.

Game Scenarios:

ScenarioTarget Man RoleBenefits
High Press SituationHold-Up Play to Relieve PressureAllows team to regroup and build from the back
Counter-Attack OpportunityDecoy Runs to Drag DefendersCreates space for faster teammates
Set-PiecePrimary Aerial ThreatFocus point for crosses and corners

Tip for Players:

  • Study and Adapt: Watch game footage to understand movement patterns and positional play. Adaptability is key to excelling in varied tactical setups.


In sum, the role of a target man like Olivier Giroud extends far beyond being a mere aerial threat. His physicality, link-up play, and versatility make him a cornerstone of any effective offensive strategy. Coaches and players alike can learn much by examining the multifaceted aspects of this often-underappreciated role. So, the next time you see a towering striker, remember—they are much more than just a head on a stick.

Are you ready to elevate your game?