Football Tactics for Beginners:The False 9 - The False 9 (2023)

  • Football Tactics For Beginners
  • Ritesh Gogineni
  • September 8, 2013
  • Football Tactics For Beginners

What is The False 9?

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Pep Guardiola’s tenure as Barcelona’s head coach has changed the way modern football is being played in many ways. But the defining change came about when he moved Lionel Messi from the right to the center and made him play as The False 9 . Then, even in the International football where tactical innovation and change is rare, teams started playing strikerless formations. Spain under Vicente Del Bosque proved that The False 9 can be successful even when you don’t have someone as talented Messi, as Cesc Fabregas played as one in the Euro 2012 final which Spain won easily. So what is The False 9? And why is it called so?

Well ,the term “The False 9” might be quite new to the football dictionary but the position is quite archaic. The false 9 is essentially a striker who drops deeps, i.e he drifts back into midfield rather staying around the penalty box for various tactical reasons. We ‘ll get to see why he does so, a little later.

Why is it called the false 9?

Back in the old days of football,when there were no squad numbers the traditional center forward used to wear the number 9.

The traditional numbering system

So when this player who was wearing the number 9 on his shirt didn’t play in the area of the pitch(or the role) he was originally assigned to, he was no more the “true number 9”. So that’s how the term “The False 9” was coined.

Read: The Best Football Tactics Books

Read: The Best Football Tactics Books

When was it first used?

In the 1930s,the Austrian national team known as the wunderteam were dazzling fans and opposition teams with their revolutionary style of play. Leading the team was the withdrawn center forward Matthias Sindelar. Sindelar was one of the first strikers who dropped deep to create havoc among defences. Then there was the great Hungarian team of the 50s with Nandor Hidegkuti as the deep lying forward. But in modern football,the earliest example one can think of is,Francesco Totti for Roma under Luciano Spaletti in 2006/07.

The Rise of the False 9

After Totti’s success as a false 9 for Roma, many managers started to experiment with it around Europe. Sir Alex Ferguson tried out a strikerless formation with Tevez,Rooney and Ronaldo with all the three having no fixed positions. Arsene Wenger too with Arsenal deployed Robin Van Persie as a false 9 in 2009. It was vital as it allowed Wenger to field another striker,either Bendtner or Eduardo with Van Persie. But it was Lionel Messi with Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona who played it to perfection. Messi with his ability to drop deep and play defence splitting passes was crucial for Barcelona’s great success during those days . The 5-0 demolition of Real Madrid was probably the peak of Pep’s Barcelona and Messi was easily the man of the match in that game tearing apart the Real defence with ease. But Vicente Del Bosque’s Spain line up in the Euro 2012 final gave “The False 9” an official status and it became mainstream. It was when the vast majority of football fans came to know about the position,as for the first time in a big international final,a side started without a striker. Cesc Fabregas a pure attacking midfielder,played as a center forward for Spain against Italy in the final and Spain ran out 4-1 winners.

Why is The False 9 successful

Generally with a traditional center forward, one of the center back tracks him and the spare one covers for him,but with a false 9 both the center backs during the build up play are left free. This causes confusion as they are caught in two minds on whether they need to follow the false 9 into midfield or do they stick with their partner and maintain their defensive line. Lets take the above mentioned example of the game, Barcelona 5-0 Real Madrid.

Football Tactics for Beginners:The False 9 - The False 9 (4)
See also Football Tactics for Beginners: Deep Lying Playmaker
Football Tactics for Beginners:The False 9 - The False 9 (5)
Football Tactics for Beginners:The False 9 - The False 9 (6)

In all the three goals shown above, the red circle is Messi and the two black circles are the Center Backs,Pepe and Carvalho(In the second photo it is Pepe ,Sergio Ramos and Carvalho who leaves his position in an attempt to close down Messi). All the three pictures show the final pass before the goal, and in all the three cases the Center backs are not tracking Messi nor are they in a position to stop the goalscorers. This confusion created the goals and even though Messi didn’t get a single goal in this game, but it was one of the greatest displays of how The False 9 could be so devastating.

How do you counter the False 9

Generally a 4-2-3-1 if played with a deep line and a good double pivot wont allow much space for the false 9. The space infront of the defence will become very congested and with no target in the box for the attacking team,they keep running into cul-de-sacs. This tactic also called as “Parking the bus“(or parking the aeroplane in the case of Chelsea on route to their Champions League win in 2012) was quite successful in negating the false 9. Another way is to allow a center back the freedom to follow the false 9 all over the pitch,and expect the remaining back three to hold the line.

See also Football Tactics for Beginners: Deep Lying Playmaker

2020 Update:It’s been more than 7 years since this article was published and The False 9 has become part of the mainstream with even FIFA allowing you to play as one. Lionel Messi is no longer playing the role as he doesn’t have the legs anymore. Currently, the best exponent of this role is surely Roberto Firmino whose unselfishness and intelligent movement has allowed Sadio Mane and Salah to thrive. But we might never get to see another player or team to utilize The False 9 as effectively as Lionel Messi under Pep Guardiola.

Football Tactics for Beginners:The False 9 - The False 9 (8)

Ritesh Gogineni

Editor/Founder of The False 9.

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8 Responses

  1. Is this a uk site? If it is then it’s CENTRE not center


    1. People use both the spellings,why are u bothered so much???


      1. It’s a place for comments…I made one


  2. This was ages ago,now teams play so deep and have two holding midfielders that there is no scope of the false 9.


  3. Good explanation!


  4. Football tactics should be explained like the bible


  5. this is so long ago,messi is not playing as a false 9 now


Football Tactics for Beginners:The False 9 - The False 9 (11)

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Football Tactics for Beginners:The False 9 - The False 9? ›

A false nine is a centre-forward who repeatedly moves towards the ball in deeper positions from a high starting position, often dropping to receive centrally. The main intention is to get on the ball away from the opposition centre-backs – and, in doing so, to draw players out of position and disrupt the defence.

What is the false 9 tactics? ›

The main goal of the false 9 soccer position is to cause confusion amongst the opponent's defensive line by picking up the ball in space away from the opposition center-backs. Here, attacking players are able to draw defenders out of position, disrupt the defense, and make marking more difficult for the opposition.

Is Messi a false 9? ›

One of the most famous roles played by Messi is the 'false nine', a position introduced by Guardiola ahead of a headline El Clasico date with Real Madrid - and one that sparked plenty of discussion due to the novel nature of the tactic.

What is the 4-3-3 false 9 formation? ›

This is the development of the 'false nine'. In this form of the 4-3-3 formation, a team's central forward will drop into a slightly deeper, more creative role, linking the midfield and attack and allowing the two wide players to cause problems higher up the pitch.

What is the best formation against 4-2-3-1? ›

The best formation to counter the 4-2-3-1 is a traditional 4-3-3. In a 4-3-3 formation, a team can leave three players high up the field in attack, which means at least one (or possibly both) of the 4-2-3-1 playing team's full-backs have to stay back and focus on defense.

What is the false 9 football tactics for beginners? ›

A false nine is a centre-forward who repeatedly moves towards the ball in deeper positions from a high starting position, often dropping to receive centrally. The main intention is to get on the ball away from the opposition centre-backs – and, in doing so, to draw players out of position and disrupt the defence.

What is double false 9? ›

The concept of a false 9 is essentially a forward dropping deep. The player does this in the purpose of disrupting lines and creating disorganization, which is fundamental to positional play. The essence of the role is therefore built on provocation. A forward with this task at hand has been used for decades.

Is Jesus a false 9? ›

A talented and versatile forward, Jesus is capable of playing in several attacking positions: he has been deployed as a center forward, as an out-and-out striker, as a false 9, as an inside forward, as a winger or as an attacking midfielder.

Is Ronaldo a false 9? ›

as a CF Messi played false 9 and spent most of his time in the midfield. his heat map looked a lot more like a CAM than a 9. Ronaldo is more of a true no. 9 when he plays centrally.

Who invented false 9 in football? ›

Matthias Sindelar was probably the first ever false nine in football. Coached by the legendary Hugo Meisl, he captained the Austrian wunderteam to the 1934 World Cup. The Austrian coach modified the conventional W-M formation to create a W-W (2-3-2-3) and allowed Sindelar to drop deep.

What is 3 4 1 9 a side formation? ›

3-4-1 SET-UP

The 3-4-1 incorporates three defenders, four midfielders (two central, two wide) and one lone striker. The formation is one of the most popular for 9v9 teams, because of its simplicity, balance and coachability.

Why is 4-3-3 the best formation? ›

What are the benefits of playing with a 4-3-3? The 4-3-3 creates natural triangles, often giving the player in possession several passing options at any given time. This makes implementing a possession-based style of play slightly easier than some other formations.

What is the best formation to beat 3-4-3? ›

The best formation to counter the 3-4-3 is the 4-2-3-1. In a 4-2-3-1 formation, a team can dominate in the defensive and midfield areas, nullifying the attacking threat that the 3-4-3 poses.

What formation is best to beat 4-1-4-1? ›

One way to use your own attacking strengths to stop 4-1-4-1 from being effective is to target the opposition team's weakest defender, matching your best creative players up against them and thereby creating pressure that can help lead to chances and creative opportunities. Movement is also key.

What is the best formation to beat a 4-5-1? ›

How do you break down a 4-5-1? 4-5-1 is a system that relies on wing play, so if your team can take control of the flanks yourselves, you'll give yourself a good chance of breaking down this formation. Using quick, high-intensity overlapping full-backs and wing-backs is perhaps your best way of doing this.

What is the 4-2-3-1 formation? ›

What is a 4-2-3-1? The 4-2-3-1 formation operates with four lines. In defence, there is a back four consisting of two central defenders and two full-backs. Two deeper central midfielders operate ahead of the back line and are often referred to as a double pivot.

How do you get a perfect number 9 in football? ›

Qualities Needed To Be A Good Number 9
  1. Calm under pressure, particularly in front of goal. ...
  2. Able to shoot using both feet and with a variety of techniques from multiple distances and angles.
  3. Have a good first touch and be able to take the ball away from the defender, creating space for themselves to shoot.

What is 4 1 3 2 football tactics? ›

Essentially, the 4-1-3-2 is a modified version of a classic 4-4-2 formation, ensuring most players will be familiar with the shape and general structure. However, rather than playing with two box-to-box center midfielders (CMs), the midfield duties are split between a CDM and a more attacking midfielder.

What is false 10? ›

A false-10 is also usually a quick, offensive, technical and creative player, who is apparently playing in deeper role than a false-9 however, usually starting in the attacking midfielder position behind the striker, or occasionally as a winger, as the role is often interpreted by players who naturally play in these ...

What is a false 8? ›

The entire idea of the False Eight is for the player to act as a midfielder in the defensive phase but act as another striker in the attacking phase.

What is No 10 role in football? ›

Position: Attacking midfielder

The classical No. 10 was a string-pulling midfielder, typically with technique dripping from every pore, playing in the hole behind his team's central striker.

What is 9 17 in the Bible? ›

For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Good Questions: Do We Have a Choice?

What is 9 14 in the Bible? ›

Numbers 9:14 in Other Translations

14 And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native."

Did Jesus have a number? ›

The numerological representation of Jesus with the number 888, as the sum of the numerical values of the letters of his name, was condemned by the Church father Irenaeus as convoluted and an act which reduced "the Lord of all things" to something alphabetical.

What is no 9 in football? ›

"9" is usually worn by strikers, also known as centre-forwards, who hold the most advanced offensive position on the pitch, and are often the highest scorers in the team.

Who is the greatest number 9 in football history? ›

1. Ronaldo Nazário. Fondly referred to by his fans as ' R9', Ronaldo Nazário De Lima is widely considered the most significant number 9 in history. The Brazilian won multiple accolades with PSV, Inter Milan, Barcelona, Real Madrid and AC Milan.

What is the difference between a false 9 and a trequartista? ›

Different from the Trequartista, the false 9 tends to make defensive work, pressing when not in possession whilst playing a bit higher than the trequartista.

What is a diamond in football? ›

The midfield unit creates a diamond, with a single pivot at the base, two number eights on the outside of the midfield four, and a number 10 at the tip of the diamond, playing underneath a front line of two centre-forwards (below).

Why is it called false 9? ›

Well ,the term “The False 9” might be quite new to the football dictionary but the position is quite archaic. The false 9 is essentially a striker who drops deeps, i.e he drifts back into midfield rather staying around the penalty box for various tactical reasons.

What is the 3-5-2 formation? ›

Generally speaking, the 3-5-2 is considered a defensive formation, with three center backs and three central midfielders giving a strong, compact core to the team. However, with effective and athletic wing backs, this can quickly be turned into a potent attack.

Is 3 4 3 a bad formation? ›

What are the disadvantages to playing with a 3-4-3? Opposition counter-attacks can target wide areas, as the back line of three covers less space across the pitch than a back four. The central midfield pair, meanwhile, can be overloaded following a defensive transition.

How does a 3 3 3 1 formation work? ›

The 3–3–3–1 formation was used by Marcelo Bielsa's Chile in the 2010 World Cup, with three centre-backs paired with two wing-backs and a holding player, although a variation is the practical hourglass, using three wide players, a narrow three, a wide three and a centre-forward.

What formation is best to beat 4-4-2? ›

Perhaps the best way to line up against 4-4-2 is by playing a 4-5-1 shape. This allows you to overrun the opposition midfield, while maintaining plenty of width both for attacking purposes and in order to stop wide midfielders from causing problems via counter-attacks.

Is 3-5-2 an attacking formation? ›

Soccer Formation 3 5 2 Strengths

As there are two wing backs pushing up the field, this soccer formation effectively has four strikers in the attacking phase when the team has possession of the ball.

Why is 4-4-2 the best formation? ›

The 4-4-2 offers a strong defensive presence across the entire pitch, with compactness, balance and cover easy to establish in a high press, mid-block or low block. Finally, it also provides the perfect balance for counter-attacking football.

Is 3 1 3 3 a good formation? ›

In conclusion, the implementation of pressing traps in the 3-1-3-3 formation can be a highly effective strategy to disrupt the opposition's play and gain possession in key areas of the pitch. However, it is important to remember that this is just one piece of the puzzle and that success in football is never guaranteed.

Is 3 2 3 2 a good formation? ›

3-2-3-2 you have 2 strikers, 3 midfielders & 2 supporting players between the centre sweeper & the left & right full backs. The formation gives players the opportunity to play the ball in diamond,V or W formation great especially for younger players you can play wide along the wing or straight up the midfield.

What is the weakness of 4-5-1 formation? ›

The main disadvantage to the 4-5-1 formation is how lopsided it is. Since there is one striker, there is a lot of pressure on this player to stand out and score goals. Midfield wingers often forget that they must play defensive positions as well.

Is 4 1 2 1 2 2 a good formation? ›

This is certainly achievable with the right players, but teams that are filled with players that have sub-par dribbling and pace may find that they struggle using this formation. The 4-1-2-1-2 (2) variation is the best to use, so gamers should make sure to stay away from the other variations.

Is 4-2-3-1 2 a good formation? ›

What are the strengths of a 4-2-3-1 formation? One of the key reasons the 4-2-3-1 formation has gained prominence within the last 15 years or so is because of the sense of balance it provides. The combination of a back four with two central defensive midfielders gives teams a strong degree of defensive stability.

What is the weakness of 4-1-4-1 formation? ›

Weaknesses of the 4-1-4-1 Formation:
  • Requires a Specialist Holding Midfielder. ...
  • Players Can Get in Each Others' Way. ...
  • Can Be Hard to Create Chances. ...
  • Requires an Efficient and Ruthless Striker. ...
  • Harder to Get Right Than it Looks.
May 21, 2020

What is the best formation against 4 2 2 2? ›

The 4-2-3-1 (1) formation works well against the 4-2-2-2 formation because they're similar. This one also has two CDMs that can cut the passing lanes and avoid the through balls your opponent makes to his own CAMs, and you'll have three CAMs of your own to counter-attack and create plays.

How do you counter a 4-4-2 formation? ›

Best Formation To Counter 4-4-2

As with the 4-4-2, the 4-3-3 also allows the opportunity for fullbacks to join in attacks. For teams that would like to build out from the back, the 4-4-3 also offers triangulation and passing options all over the field, making it a great formation to counter a 4-4-2 playing team.

What is the best formation against 5 3 2? ›

4-3-3 Attacking

The number one formation that we've found works wonders against the 5-3-2 formation is the ultra-flexible 4-3-3 formation. There's a lot to love about the 4-3-3, not least its versatility; with a defensive midfielder and two wide attacking midfielders, it's the ideal formation to combat the 5-3-2.

What is the weakness of 3-5-2 formation? ›

A significant weakness of the 3-5-2 formation is the huge reliance on high-quality players in the wing-back position. In this formation, wing-backs have significant responsibilities in both attack and defense. They must have strong stamina and speed to continually get up and down the field.

How do you beat 3 3 4 formation? ›

Concentrating on wing play is a good way to beat a 3-4-3 shape, because it pins back the opposition wing-backs and prevents them from making crucial offensive moves.

What is false 9 tactics football Manager? ›

So, what makes them a 'false' nine? The idea is that they occupy the starting point of a traditional number nine, advanced and high up the pitch, but during possession drop deeper, effectively becoming an extra midfielder.

What is the role of false 9 in football? ›

Well ,the term “The False 9” might be quite new to the football dictionary but the position is quite archaic. The false 9 is essentially a striker who drops deeps, i.e he drifts back into midfield rather staying around the penalty box for various tactical reasons.


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