Striker is the player who sits high up the pitch very close to the CBs. His role is to stretch the filed vertically and make room for the other players. The other players i.e., the wingers and the midfielder’s role was to create chances and feed this striker. The striker used to wrestle with the CBs and would try to finish. This was and is a typical role of a striker. We call him No. 9.
Now, coming to the role of a CB when the opposing team has a perfect sticker. The CBs expect the sticker to remain close to one of them and hope for a physical battle with him. Also, being a sticker it is expected that the finals finish will be from him and so he will be a part of the critical path. Cutting or controlling this end of the critical path was the job of a traditional CB.
In the absence of Messi, Cesc Fabregas played brilliantly as a False 9
With the Pep’s Barcelona in 2010-11 came a new formation of tactic called as false 9. Though this was not new and, has been tried before but, the way Barcelona implemented it in those years was fabulous. Messi was named as the sticker. He would play upfront convincing the CBs that he was the final link to the critical path. But, what he did unusual was to fall back to the midfield. Generally, you don’t expect a striker to leave his position and go to the midfield to create the play. But, Messi did that.
This confused the CBs. They became unsure of whether to track the run of Messi or to maintain their position along the back 4. If one of the CB followed the striker, he would create a void at the back which can allow other opposition players to attempt for the goal. If they keep their position they addition of one player to the midfield would not only create pressure on the team’s midfield but also they would be unsure from where the final strike would come. As, the striker leaves his forward position and, instead of playing as a striker plays more of an attacking midfielder. Therefore, its named as false 9.
Over the period teams have found out ways to tackle such lethal and confusing attack. A 4-2-3-1 formation creates density and lessens the room for the striker to play as false 9. Also, if the team has a very good defence and the defenders are very comfortable playing back 4 or back 3, then one of the defenders could be used to man mark the striker.