Category Archives: Eliteserien Season Previews 2020

Viking Season Preview 2020

Viking Defence

Goalkeeper is an interesting talking point at Viking. Iven Austbo had probably his best ever season in 2019 and surprised everyone, including myself at the level of his play. Historically, he isn’t a goalkeeper I’ve ever really rated that highly so it remains to be seen whether that was just a ‘one off’ campaign or not. The good news is Viking have significantly strengthened by adding Arild Ostbo from Rosenborg as backup. Ostbo will eventually become the starter at Viking and the question is really only when that will happen. Perhaps it will occur this year at some stage? Either way, they look much stronger at GK position than they did this time 12 months ago. Defence might actually be an area in which Viking are probably underrated. The backline was expected to really struggle in 2019 but performed much better than expected. In Viljar Vevatne they have a very good and versatile defender who became a top centre back after converting from the left hand side. Right back Sondre Bjorshol made great improvements and caught the eye all year, whilst young wing back Adrian Nilsen Pereira could be one of the talents to watch in Eliteserien this season. Of course, Viking had to do without centre back Axel Andresson throughout the whole of 2019 due to injury, so having him back will be a major boost. There’s depth here with the likes of Hove and Vikstol possibly operating in what will be a regularly rotated backline knowing how the manager likes to freshen things up. Defensive midfield isn’t really a position of strength and losing Samuel Fridjonsson could be a blow. But new signing and New Zealand international Joe Bell will maybe be a useful addition here.

Key players - Viljar Vevatne (DC), Adrian Nilson Pereira (DL)

Viking Offense

We have to start by talking about which players have left. Three key men from the offense have all departed, Kristian Thorstvedt, Zlatko Tripic and Benjamin Kallman. The first two are especially important losses. Thorstvedt moved to Belgian side Genk and the young star weighed in with 10 goals and 3 assists in 2019. Tripic meanwhile, was often the main man, captain and inspirational leader. Statistically he probably didn't score or assist as many goals as some might imagine, but his overall influence on the field at left wing was undisputed. Striker, Benjamin Kallman is less of a loss but did fit into their system really well. At least Viking have done their best to replace these players by adding Veton Berisha and Yann De Lanlay. Things didn’t really work out for Berisha at Brann but he is back home here at Viking now and could potentially thrive if he stays fit and gets chances. De Lanlay is another player ‘returning home’ but his biggest problem is injuries. De Lanlay simply cannot stay off the treatment table and will have to be game managed extremely well. The good news is the manager here likes to rest and rotate so I don’t see overuse being an issue. There is no doubt that if Viking can get De Lanlay on the field more regularly then the classy winger will create plenty of chances. From midfield Kristoffer Lokberg and Yldren Ibrahimaj will offer plenty in the final third. They are both midfielders who like to drive into the box. In Bytyqi, old dog Tommy Hoiland and a few other players like Torsteinbo, Ostensen & Tangen Viking have plenty of depth upfront, although losing such big offensive weapons is still a major blow.

Key players - Yann De Lanlay (Winger), Veton Berisha (ATT)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Bjarne Berntsen has done a terrific job since taking over at the start of 2018. He led Viking to promotion and then followed it up with a 5th placed Eliteserien finish and a cup win! This is a remarkable turnaround for a club that appeared to be in the depths of despair in 2017. He probably deserves more credit than he got really. Most of the 2019 pre season predictions for Viking were to struggle and probably end up in a relegation battle, in addition to conceding a lot of goals. Berntsen came up with some good tactics though and a number of players rose to the occasion in the top flight and improved their development. The manager has kept things simply with a 4-3-3- system that works. Viking had an excellent 9-4-2 home record and had the 3rd highest average attendance in the league last season so could be affected negatively by the behind closed doors rules. Viking could drop down this year but I see them in a similar sort of position. If the likes of Berisha and De Lanlay get injured for a prolonged period then they might struggle for goals at times but there is enough quality and depth to launch a top 6 bid or even a shot at the bronze medal.

Prediction: 5th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI 

Vålerenga Season Preview 2020

Vålerenga Defence

VIF have an extremely talented young keeper in Kristoffer Klaesson. He is definitely one to watch this year and at just 19 years old looks set to have a great future. Christian Kjetil Haug will be the back up and he’s a bit raw as well but should do ok if required. The actual defence isn’t going to be changed much in terms of personnel. Nobody new has been added and there’s no real significant departures. There’s enough quality here like Bjordal, Tollas Nation and youngster Christian Borchgrevink. At left back Sam Adekugbe is one of the best in his position at Eliteserien level whilst Amin Nouri is actually a very good option on the opposite side if he can rediscover his old form. Ivan Nasberg could start at centre or left back and the new manager won’t be afraid to use youth if needed. The likes of Opsahl and Skaret have all picked up minutes in pre season. Vålerenga are loaded in defensive midfield and new signing Frerik Oldrup Jensen only adds to their quality here. Guys like Lekven, Isrealsson and youngsters such as Felix Horn Myhre & Odin Thiago Holm all add to the depth at this position and midfield in general. Fagermo’s Odd team were known for being fairly decent defensively and he has enough weapons here to make VIF resolute again.

Key Players - Sam Adekugbe (DL), Fredrik Oldrup Jensen (DM)

Vålerenga Offense

I don’t think ‘Enga were ever quite the same since they lost Chidi Ejuke mid way through last season. They never replaced him but there’s still a hell of a lot of quality in the final third of the field which should see them score goals. Out wide they have Aron Dønnum, Herolind Shala & Deyver Vega as possible starters. Each of those is capable of stealing the show on their own. Donnum is a great talent who could seriously break out even more this year in my opinion. I would expect him to operate on the right wing, as a mixture of conventional and inverted winger. He has all the attributes needed to terrorise Eliteserien defences. Plenty of chances will be created and it’s up to key striker Mattias Vihjalmsson to convert them. He was sometimes used in a less effective #10 deeper role last season but there won’t be any of that under Fagermo. Vihjalmsson will be leading the line when in the starting XI and there’s no reason why he can’t be the complete striker to get them 15+ goals. VIF also have Bård Finne as a quality option, either out wide or upfront. Finne tends to blow hot and cold but can be deadly from set pieces. When Finne is in the mood he’s hard to stop at this level. It’s possible we could see Ousmane Camara and Peter Godly Michael also get some minutes in attack if Fagermo decides to rotate the side. There are plenty of strong options for VIF going forward and the goal threat is definitely there. 

Key players - Bård Finne (LW/AM), Aaron Aron Dönnum (RW)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

The Ronny Deila era is over at VIF and unfortunately I think it’s fair to say he was a flop. 8th, 6th and 10th placed finishes simply weren’t good enough for a team of this stature and New York City FC probably did VIF a favour by hiring him. I am not saying that Deila is a bad coach by any means but it looked to me like he just got too stale here in the capital and a change of coach was probably needed to freshen things up. Coming in is the often outspoken Dag Eilev Fagermo who spent the last 12 years at Odd. It goes without saying that Fagermo is a highly experienced and skilled Eliteserien coach and he might just be the sort of figurehead VIF needs. I have long felt there is a soft underbelly at this team and a squad that is mentally weak. Fagermo will immediately add much more discipline into the side and won’t tolerate slackers. Whether he can transform the squad so quickly remains to be seen. So far, there have been very few new additions or departures so it could be 2 or 3 years before this is ‘his team’. Fagermo likes to employ a fairly balanced 4-3-3 formation and he has the type of players here who should succeed in such a tactic and system. It really is about time that someone took this big club back up the table and started challenging for medals. They are a huge candidate to finish in the top five if things start to click and surely at the very least a major improvement upon last year’s disappointment will be seen. Something always seems to go wrong here at VIF though and it’s not like Fagermo himself isn’t without his failings. So let’s be a little bit way and sceptical but also optimistic that VIF could improve a lot. I think they will challenge with Brann and Viking for the Bronze medal and maybe Fagermo's experience gets them over the line.

Prediction: 3rd

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI

Strømsgodset Season Preview 2020

Strømsgodset Defence

There’s a problem at goalkeeper because Martin Hansen has left the club. The Dane was a very solid option for them in the second half of last season. Instead, SIF will have to rely on Viljar Myhra and Morten Saetra who are both shaky options and don’t inspire me with much confidence. Godset have also lost their best defender in Jakob Glenses who moved to Philadelphia Union in MLS. Replacing him is Scandinavian journeyman Niklas Gunnarsson who should do an acceptable job, although losing Glesnes is still a big blow. Unfortunately, left back Prosper Mendy is out for the whole season due to an ACL injury but at least SIF have Jonathan Parr and young talent Nicholas Mickelson in this position to fall back on. At right back Lars Vilsvik is a player who I’ve always rated, even if he has had a couple of flat recent seasons. Godset have signed 21 year old Ari Leifsson from the Icelandic league and he looks set to be the primary backup option at CB. Maybe he could be a pleasant surprise. In Jack Ipalibo and Herman Stengel, Godset have a decent enough set of defensive midfielders. Godset will have their shaky days at the back but have enough here to be competitive.

Key players - Jack Ipalibo (DM), Lars Vilsvik (DR)

Strømsgodset Offense

Lars-Jorgen Salvesen was brilliant for Godset after moving to them mid season from Sarpsborg. He bagged 7 goals in 13 games and he suits the system here perfectly. Salvesen is a big tall target man type of physical striker who also has good technique. He will lead the line and I expect him to go very well again this season. Salvesen struck up a good partnership with Moses Mawa, who was another summer signing for them in 2019. Mawa adapted to life in the Eliteserien very well and mostly operated in the left wing sort of area as an inside forward. He scored 4 times and also had 4 assists, regularly getting into dangerous positions. New signing from the Latvian league Janis Ikaunieks could be one to watch and offer them another dimension in the final third. He can pretty much operate on either wing, attacking midfielder or even striker. I expect him to score goals and create opportunities. In attacking midfield Godset have Mikket Maigaard who (again) was another good signing for them mid way through last season. The set piece master has great skill and will be a key creative playmaker for the side. Add in the very versatile Kristoffer Tokstad along with young striker Mustapha Fofana and you have a fairly decent balanced attack with reasonable depth. 

Key players - Janis Ikaunieks (Winger), Lars Salvesen (ATT)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

Manager Henrik Pedersen took over what appeared to be a huge sinking ship mid way through last season and managed to mastermind survival which didn’t look possible at one stage. SIF came clutch in the last 2 games, smashing Brann 6-0 and then beating KBK 2-1 in the final round. Pedersen deserves a ton of credit and he is one of the top coaches in this league. From a mental and man management point of view he’s very clued up and the club has a great long term strategy to try and succeed Tactically, we will see Godset operate in mostly a 4-3-3 formation, using one winger and one inside forward out wide. Playing behind closed doors could nullify some of the excellent support they get at Marienlyst Stadion. SIF have always been historically strong here so they might lose some of their edge with no fans. It is worrying that SIF have been historically so poor on the road in recent years. But the signs were that Pedersen was starting to make big improvements to their away form towards the end of 2019. The weak point of the team is probably at the back and in goal so perhaps they might be easy to score on sometimes. But overall there’s a good balance to this team and I’m especially excited to see them continue progression going forward. There’s absolutely no reason why Godset can’t improve on last year’s 11th position and start to climb towards the top half of the Eliteserien again. Every year I have to have a wildcard/joker sort of pick and I'm going to have them as 6th which could be wildly inaccurate but someone has to over achieve, right? 

Prediction: 6th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI

Start Season Preview 2020

Start Defence

In Jonas Deumeland, Start have a pretty good goalkeeper who impressed the last time they were in the Eliteserien. The German has especially strong reflexes and will no doubt be a major asset for them this season. Backup custodian is Amund Wichne who transfers from Viking. He isn’t very good but can just about do a serviceable job as a #2 keeper. The bad news for Start is that they’ve lost key man Damion Lowe who left the club by mutual consent. You could argue that the Jamaican international was the best player left on their roster and they will undoubtedly miss his presence at the back. Lowe is pretty much all you want for a centre back at this level with great all round strengths, especially physical. Start signed Henrik Gjesdal from Kristiansund but he’s injured his ACL and won’t play again this season. Vegard Bergan has been added from Bodø/Glimt and isn’t a bad signing. The mainstays in this defence from last season will be Henrik Robstad Eirik Wichne and Joackim Jorgensen. I just worry that without Lowe they will experience a major drop and some teams will definitely see this area as a weakness. Depth doesn’t look great should injuries or suspensions occur. Defensive midfield has the likes of Aremu, Twum and Segberg and playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation this can be a crucial position for Start. Whether or not they are good enough to make a serious impact at this level is questionable.

Key players - Jonas Deumeland (GK), Eirik Wichne (DR)

Start Offense

The big problem here is the loss of key man Aaron Sigurdarson who was absolutely massive for them last season. The Icelandic international both scored and assisted 13 goals a piece which means he was directly involved in nearly 50% of the overall team goals! This is a remarkable statistic but he’s now moved on to Belgian side St Gilloise. Replacing someone of such magnitude feels somewhat impossible and as of yet the best they can come up with is the signing of Eirik Schulze from OBOS side Sogndal. He is talented for sure and should go well enough at this level but has endured an off season plagued with injury and is unlikely to be sharp for a few weeks. Kevin Kabran is an interesting player on the wings whilst Martin Ramsland is a solid target man type striker who performed heroics for them at the end of 2019. Ramsland however is out injured until at least mid or late July after groin surgery. The addition of striker Steffen Lie Skålevik from Sarpsborg might work out but he is a limited sort of attacker from a technical perspective despite a high work rate. Mathias Bringaker scored seven times last season and was once seen as an amazing breakthrough talent, but I suspect he will rotate between the XI and the bench. From creative midfield Kasper Skaanes will be important. However, overall I just don’t see enough goals in the team to be brutally honest and the loss of Sigurdarson is a crippling blow.

Key players - Martin Ramsland (ATT), Kasper Skaanes (AM)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

The man in charge is Icelandic Johannes Hardarson who was initially appointed caretaker manager last season and then given the job full time. He led Start to a third placed finish in the OBOS Ligaen before completing what was a remarkable comeback against LSK in the promotion playoff match. They were 4-0 down in the second leg but a late Martin Ramsland hat trick pulled things back to 4-3 and they obtained promotion on away goals! Hardarson plays in a pretty standard 4-2-3-1 formation and keeps fairly simple. The last time Start went up expectations were high but things soon went sour and they had an immediate relegation. This time around most people are predicting them to struggle which could suit them better. I just think it’s hard to see anything else but a difficult campaign simply battling relegation though. Start have lost their best two players and the departure of both Lowe and Sigurdarsson in the same window could ultimately cost them big time. I look at this squad and most of it looks OBOS Ligaen class with a sprinkling of quality in some areas. Start will be competitive at times but I don’t see them performing well enough across the board. The quality and depth doesn’t appear to be there. Playing behind closed doors is probably a positive factor at least. They have never been the sort of side to rely on the fans or a brilliant home record. It’s going to be a difficult campaign and although they might prove me wrong I suspect another relegation could be on the cards.

Prediction: 15th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI

Stabaek Season Preview 2020

 

Stabaek Defence

Marcus Sandberg was the highest scoring goalkeeper in Eliteserien fantasy 2019 and was the best custodian in the league. Obviously, part of that was due to the excellent defence that Stabaek had going in the second half of the season. Sandberg is a very reliable goalkeeper though and is a major part of this team. Backing him up will be youngsters Brauti and Ulla, who to be honest I know nothing about but you can never underestimate the youth players at Stabaek. The backline itself performed very well last year and might be a tad underestimated on paper. Andreas Hanche Olsen proved very dependable at centre back and he can also fill in on either side if needed. He’s a good technical and versatile player. Partnering him at CB will be Yaw Amankwah, who is a proper physical beast and a strong minded individual. Those two compliment each other really well. A couple of new signings at the back will slot into the side out wide. Right back Mats Solheim arrives from Hammarby and it looks like Emil Jonassen will be a replacement for Jeppe Moe at left back. Moe is ruled out for the season with an ACL injury. Depth seems ok here and there is always going to be some sort of promising youngster who breaks through as well. Stabaek have a really good defensive midfielder in Tortol Lumanza. Emil Bohinen is fine young talent and looks set to move to French side Reims  or Nimes very soon. Losing him will be a blow.

Key players - Yaw Amankwah (DC), Tortol Lumanza (DM)

Stabaek Offense

All of the top three scorers from last season have gone. Franck Boli left midway through 2019. Ola Brynhildsen has been sold to Molde and Kasper Junker now resides at Bodo/Glimt. Coming in is Fitim Azemi, who is actually a really good player IF (and it’s a big IF!) he can stay fit. I have my concerns he will be on the treatment table too long though due to the hectic schedule this season. He has also been linked with a move away from the club already which is concerning. Romain Gall is a really interesting loan from Swedish club Malmo. If he starts to fire then I could personally see him becoming a massive asset. Stabaek have a couple of other guys like Kinoshita and Edvardsen who could potentially break out this season. Jesper Isaksen is a young technical midfielder signed from Kristiansund although I’m not sure how much game time he’ll get. Stabaek always end up with some youngsters who suddenly burst onto the scene who won’t get mentioned in many places at this stage of the year. From attacking midfield Hugo Vetelesen and new signing from Southampton Kornelius Hansen are two more fine young prospects who could thrive. The concern is whether a proper #9 type striker can bag them goals, but overall there’s plenty of attacking potential in the team. 

Key players - Hugo Vetelsen (AM), Romain Gall (Winger)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

Swedish coach Jan Jonsson won the league with Stabaek in 2008 and he returned half way through last season to save them from a troubled position. In fact, Stabaek ended the campaign as one of the serious form teams, eventually finishing with a superb 8 game unbeaten run. This included 5 consecutive clean sheets, which in the attack happy Eliteserien is really unusual unless you are a top side. Jonsson is a really experienced and brilliant tactical coach who is a huge asset to the club. With him at the helm you have to think Stabaek will be difficult to beat and could be a dark horse this season. They have a lot of good young players who are fearless and well coached. I don’t think playing matches behind closed doors will affect them negatively. Their fans are passionate but the Nadderud Stadion isn’t the most enclosed. It is a grass surface which can become quite poor when bad weather sets in. This is both a blessing and a curse. I don’t think it particularly suits their technical players but they adapt well and other teams might not enjoy travelling here. With a number of young players we have to accept that there will be some bad days, but also plenty of good ones. Stabaek are hard to predict long term. But with Jonsson in charge they will surely at worst be out of any trouble and could surprise in the top half of the table if things go really well.

Prediction: 10th

Sarpsborg Season Preview 2020

Sarpsborg Defence

Sarpsborg have generally had good goalkeepers in recent years but none of them ever seem to stay around for very long. Once again, they’ll have someone new in between the sticks as David Mitov Nilsson comes in from Swedish side Sundsvall. He is an experienced Allsvenskan keeper and I’d expect him to do a solid job. Aslak Falch as backup is a pretty good #2 as well. It looks like the manager is set to employ a three man defence with wingbacks and the good news is they have good strength and quality at centre back. Magnar Odegaard, Bjorn Inge Utvik and Nicolai Naess are all decent at this level and the experienced Jorgen Horn (when fit) is also an asset. The left wing back position is going to be filled by Joachim Thomassen who is absolutely perfect for this role and possesses all the required attributes needed to succeed here. On the other side it looks like the more raw Sulayman Bojang will be employed, along with probably Anwar Elyounoussi. This could be a potential weak spot as these inexperienced players bomb forwards too much leaving exposure. The squad isn’t really blessed with strong defensive midfielders and this area has been depleted by the loss of Kristoffer Zachariassen and Matti Lund Nielsen. Mate Males could be ‘one to watch’ if his fitness is in decent shape though. Youngster Sebastian Jarl is a potential prospect as well.

Key players - Joachim Thomassen (WBL), Nicolai Naess (DC)

Sarpsborg Offense

This is a team which in recent years has always played with two strikers in a partnership. But things will now be changing under new manager Mikael Stahre. It looks like he will be employing two wingers and a striker along with a midfielder playmaker. Upfront is probably the biggest question mark in terms of actual output. Can Jorgen Strand Larsen come good this season? There was a lot of expectation on his shoulders after a fantastic 2019 pre season but he never delivered on the field. Other options upfront are Mos, Steffen Lie Skålevik and Ismaila Coulibaly. To be honest, they have too many strikers on the books to fill just one position so they’ll probably offload at some point (EDIT Skålevik now departed). Sarpsborg are blessed out wide with guys like Mohamed Ofkir, Ole Jorgen Halvorsen and new signing from Norrkoping Alexander Jakobsen. There are plenty of other options as well and they certainly won’t lack width. From a creative midfield point of view, new signing from Rostov on loan Anton Saletros looks an interesting prospect, but his loan runs out at the end of July. Jonathan Lindseth had a decent enough 2019 campaign and is pretty versatile in midfield, perhaps best used as a box to box midfielder. The potential for goals is here for Sarpsborg if they can get their new system to work.

Key players - Jørgen Strand Larsen (ATT), Ole Jørgen Halvorsen (RW)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Geir Bakke had five brilliant years at the club but he’s now moved on to Lillestrom. This might be for the best because Sarpsborg dramatically underachieved last season. They only just survived by the skin of their teeth after a final day 0-0 draw at LSK. To be honest, it remained a mystery to me why S08 struggled so badly, because on paper they should’ve been midtable at absolute worst. Maybe it was just a situation where Bakke took them as far as he could and they had lost some of the enthusiasm of past years. A fresh change might do everyone some good and coming in is Swedish coach Mikael Stahre. He has had a decent managerial career although he himself needs a rebound after what was a shocking spell in charge of San Jose Earthquakes. It looks like Stahre is going to be using a 3-4-3 formation at Sarpsborg which is something a bit different. The 4-4-2 he employed at San Jose simply didn’t work but he is someone who has historically changed and adapted a lot. There is no reason why he can’t succeed at Sarpsborg in a more familiar sort of area of the world. Stahre inherits a good squad which has plenty of potential if he can get them firing. S08 have been everyone’s ‘dark horse’ in recent years but now it seems like expectations are lower so maybe they can actually surprise a few this year. There’s good all round ability across all areas of the field, so in theory the club should certainly improve upon last year’s placing into at least midtable. I'm predicting 12th but this could easily be a bit higher with some luck and if things click.

Prediction: 12th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI

Sandefjord Season Preview 2020

Sandefjord Defence

The goalkeeping position appears weak. Neither Jacob Storevik or Jesper Granlund have ever played in the Eliteserien before. This doesn’t mean they will fail but I’m not expecting too many positives. Sandefjord’s best defender Marius Høibraten has recently left for Bodø/Glimt and he leaves a big hole. They are left with Lars Grorud, who is now 37 years old and Marc Vales at the centre back position. Youngster Sander Foss might get minutes here too. Fullback will probably be a better area with Anton Kralj, Vidar Ari Jonsson and Brice Wembangomo as options. This has a more youthful and energetic feel. Plenty of assists were provided from these players in 2019 although whether they will get many chances to bomb forward in the Eliteserien is questionable. The manager likes to play with two holding midfielders but losing Havard Storbaek and Tito means that new starters will be required. The signing of Brazillian Ze Eduardo is a bit of a wildcard. He has been around the block and had more clubs than Tiger Woods. However, Ze Eduardo once had a market value of nearly £1m so could be the sort of player to potentially thrive in the Eliteserien. Enric Valles will probably start alongside him in midfield and this shield ahead of the backline is probably a slight positive. Overall, the Sandefjord defence looks weak and lacks depth in my opinion though. 

Key players - Ze Eduardo (DM), Enric Valles (DM)

Sandefjord Offense

Pontus Engblom was involved in nearly 50% of their total goals last season and bagged 19 on his own. He has left the club to join GIF Sundsvall in Sweden. It goes without saying that a huge hole needs to be filled and they still haven’t signed an adequate replacement. I’m not sure who will start upfront for Sandefjord this season. It’ll either be youngster George Gibson or someone out of their natural position like Rufo or Kristoffer Hansen. Sivert Gussias did alright on loan at OBOS side Strommen last season and is a new addition who might compete for minutes. Rufo is a good technical attacking midfield playmaker and performed well in Eliteserien 2018 but he is the only real decent talent for them in attack. Sandefjord also lost one of their top assist providers in Mohamed Ofkir and will hope that new players Kristoffer Hansen and Erik Brenden can provide them the creativity required on the wings. There’s not too much that opposition defences will fear from Sandefjord this season though and they look fairly toothless if we are being brutally honest. 

Key players - Rufo (LW/AM), Erik Brenden (RW)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

The best weapon that Sandefjord have is probably their Spanish coach Martí Cifuentes. He took over midway through their 2018 relegation season and made them competitive. An immediate bounceback promotion was impressive as they finished 2nd in the OBOS last season. Cifuentes mostly operated in a 4-2-3-1 system which I expect will continue this year. But there is only so much a manager can do and sometimes you are as good as the tools you work with. About 3-4 key or important players have left the club and it doesn’t look like good enough replacements have been signed. The squad appears quite threadbare and lacking a lot of depth which really concerns me. This is the sort of season you really want plenty of rotation options due to the hectic schedule. There’s an occasional sprinkling of quality but they are on paper the worst side in the league with only Start or Mjøndalen within realistic touching distance. It is definitely going to be a season fighting against relegation. It's horrible to say this but if they don't finish rock bottom it would surprise me.

Prediction: 16th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI

Mjøndalen Season Preview 2020

Mjøndalen Defence

In goal the loss of Julien Faye Lund could be a big blow. He returns to Rosenborg after a very successful year on loan. Lund made a huge amount of key saves and was a big reason why MIF survived in 2019. Taking over in between the sticks will be Iranian Sosha Makani, who was at the club in 2018 at OBOS level, with Jorge Viera as backup. This seems like an ok sort of goalkeeper lineup but definitely below average and a drop down in class from Faye Lund. The backline itself is limited, but perhaps slightly underrated. It’s helped by the general team tactics which tend to be cautious but guys like Quint Jansen and Sondre Johansen actually had decent seasons and proved they can be competitive at Eliteserien level. New signing from VIF Markus Nakkim will add to the competition and depth here. Probably the weak areas in defence are out wide. Olsen Solberg when employed at left back can be error prone, although does offer a big technical threat from set pieces. Right back would appear to be the big weak area in my opinion. MIF have a reasonable crop of defensive midfielders with Stian Aasmundsen and the experienced Christian Gauseth both good technically.  New signing from Nest-Sotra Kristoffer Stephensen could be a pleasant surprise. 

Key players - Sondre Solholm Johansen (DC), Stian Aasmundsen (DM)

Mjøndalen Offense

MIF weren’t exactly rampant in the goalscoring department last season but held their own thanks to an all round contribution from many. Attacking midfielder Tonny Brochmann led the scoring charts with 8 goals and he will continue to be a key man for them. Half of his goals were from the penalty spot, from which he has proved to be extremely reliable. The top scoring striker for MIF in 2019 was Olivier Occean but he has now left the club. At this moment in time I’m struggling to see who is going to be a stand out striker here. They look lightweight upfront in terms of numbers and also quality. On the right wing Fredrik Brustad is an experienced option who has a bit of quality, whilst Sondre Liseth perhaps could develop this season. It looks like Liseth will start the season upfront and MIF have to hope that some returning loanees like Scriven, Hellum and Diomande step up. Ibrahima Shuaibu signed for the club on 13th June, a player who has potential that he never delivered at Haugesund. There are a couple of young new attackers Lars Olden Larsen and Magnus Baekken who I know nothing about. I personally worry for MIF in the final third of the field. They will be relying on goals from set pieces and their midfielders and defenders will need to chip in with goals again. Their actual chance creation from open play might be quite low which is a concern.

Key players - Tonny Brochmann (CM), Christian Gauseth (AM/CM)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

Vegard Hansen has been manager here for nearly 15 years now and is a legend at Mjøndalen. He lives at the stadium and absolutely bleeds passion for this club. Hansen is very good at man management and an underrated tactician. He will play ‘ugly’ if needed and grind out a result. I think Mjøndalen have to be massively respected for staying up last season. They did so by winning the last match 1-0 vs Vålerenga and anything less would have seen them relegated. A second campaign in the top flight won’t be easy though. Compared to most of the league they lack quality and depth. The hectic schedule with a smaller squad won’t help them. Playing behind closed doors might not be to their advantage either. Their own stadium is quite small but you can sense the atmosphere here and the fans can get on top of the players. MIF had the worst away record out of anyone in 2019, picking up just one victory and this is an area they desperately need to improve. One thing is for certain, they will be giving it 110% effort and try desperately to stay in the Eliteserien again. They won’t lack for passion or fight and certainly can't be underestimated. However, we have to be realistic and acknowledge that MIF are going to be in a relegation battle and are one of the candidates to go down. Compared to Start and Sandefjord I believe they have just enough about themselves to get into the relegation playoff match.

Prediction: 14th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI

 

Odd Season Preview 2020

Odd Defence

In Sondre Rossbach Odd have a reliable goalkeeper who is one of the better shot stoppers in this league. He’s maybe a tad overrated but will get the job done. Backing him up is Egil Selvik who has yet to play an Eliteserien match but has plenty of experience starting in the OBOS Ligaen and would probably do ok if called upon. The actual backline is what you’d call physical and experienced. Espen Ruud is 36 now and certainly no spring chicken but can still perform at this level. His technical ability is certainly a major weapon for them, especially from set pieces. The centre back pairing of Steffen Hagen and Fredrik Semb Berge should work well together, although like Ruud we have a situation where Hagen is knocking on the age door at 34. To counteract that, Birk Risa is a much much energetic and pacy prospect at left back and can also move up anywhere on the field if needed to left wing or something. I would expect with a lot of midweek matches this season that Odin Bjortuft gets a lot more minutes, either at centre back or DMID. There is a lack of depth if injuries occur to their main starters. We could be seeing Odd dip into youth players or a situation where midfielders are played out of position. The departure of Fredrik Oldrup Jensen is a massive blow and combined with the loss of experienced Joen Samuelsen the defensive midfield area looks really light. The majority of their midfielders like Hoff, Nordkvelle and Kaasa are more known for their offensive or box to box threats. 

Key players - Sondre Rossbach (GK), Steffen Hagen (DC)

Odd Offense

Torgeir Børven was the 2019 Eliteserien top scorer with 21 goals. However, his contract runs out at the end of July and so far Odd haven’t reached a new agreement. It goes without saying they are in major trouble should he leave. In fact, you could even question his mentality in the 6 weeks prior to potentially leaving. Børven however is very professional and just enjoys scoring goals. Odd do have some good other offensive options though nevertheless. New signing from Sandnes ‘Kachi’ comes with a good reputation  and can pretty much operate in all areas of the final third, especially on the left wing. On the right hand side Elba Rashani is a quality option and will guarantee the likes of Børven, or whoever is playing upfront can get a nice supply of chances. From creative midfield Fredrik Nordkvelle is a quality option who makes excellent runs into the box, whilst Vebjorn Hoff isn’t quite so offensive but a great passer of the ball. In Joshua Kitolano Odd have a versatile midfielder who is just waiting to break though, and maybe Bilal N’jie will get more minutes this season as well. Right winger/striker Tobias Lauritsen is another young player worth keeping an eye on. There is goal scoring potential in the team but a lot hinges on the future of Børven.

Key players - Elba Rashani (RW), Torgeir Børven (?) (ATT)

Coaching, other factors and conclusion

After 12 years in charge Dag-Eilev Fagermo has left the club and moved to Vålerenga. This is obviously a major move and things will certainly change without him on the sidelines. Fagermo was ‘Mr Odd’ in more ways than one and I do wonder what impact him leaving will have. Some might argue it could even be a good thing and free them up a bit. Perhaps he was getting stale at Odd and fresh new approach was needed. Stepping up to take the top job is Jan Frode Nornes who has been assistant here for a long time under Fagermo. He knows the club and players really well so perhaps the changeover might be very smooth. However, I personally have to believe that without Fagermo Odd  will lose some of the edge which saw them finish 4th last season. Playing matches behind closed doors might potentially impact them as well. Odd had a magnificent 12-3-0 home record in 2019 and although the Skagerak Arena never feels the most hostile of places you do have to wonder how much of an impact the fans have here. I personally think there are plenty of question marks surrounding the team. How will the change of manager affect the team. Can they keep Børven after the end of July. How will Odd cope without Jensen in midfield? There’s still plenty of ability within this squad which should see them operate around midtable at worst but I am expecting a drop down compared to last season when they were challenging for the medal spots. My 9th placed prediction is realistic a long as they either keep Børven (unlikely) or manage to replace him well (hopefully). 

Prediction: 9th

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI

Molde Season Preview 2020

Molde Defence

MFK have a strong #1 keeper in Andreas Linde. He’s not as good as Ande Hansen at Rosenborg and makes the odd mistake but still very strong for this level. Molde have a proven backup in Alex Craninx who actually started 14 games last season when Linde missed out through injury. MFK have a very strong squad but perhaps their weakest area is defence. The best part of the backline is out wide where Krisoffer Haugen is one of the best left backs in the league. Haraldseid on the right hand side is also very good although is ruled out for the season due to an ACL injury which is a major blow. John Kitolano & Marcus Holmgren Pedersen are new younger signings who will back up these roles and offer rotation options. Holmgren Pedersen is especially now going to have to step up in that right back slot and could be one to watch. Martin Bjornbak is a banker starter at centre back but they have lost Ruben Gabrielsen (Toulouse) and recently Vegard Forren has left the club due to off the field issues. They look light in the heart of defence and will need Stian Gregersen or younger players like Martin Roseth to step up. Defensive midfield options are very strong with Aursnes, Ellingsen & Sjolstad likely rotating. Molde can certainly be ‘got at’ defensively but whether many sides will be able to take advantage is a different question.

Key players - Kristoffer Haugen (DL), Martin Bjørnbak (DC)

Molde Offense

Molde have an abundance of offensive riches. MFK scored a sick number of goals last season (72 in total!) and have a huge amount of firepower in their ranks. Leke James is the best striker in the league and I expect him to reach the 20-25 goal mark if he stays fit. Supplying all these goals will be Magnus Wolff Eikrem and Eirik Hestad who are two absolute elite level attacking midfielders in the league. Molde also have Ohi Omoijuanfo at their disposal, who is a more than proven goalscorer at this level. The likes of Eling Knudtzon and Eirik Ulland Andersen would be lock down starters for pretty much any other Eliteserien side but will probably only warm the bench here. Oh, and Molde have also signed the talented wide man Ola Brynhildsen from Stabaek. I’ve not even mentioned Aursnes, Christiansen and Hussain yet either….Head coach Erling Moe showed last season that he is quite happy to rotate the squad around. I expect to see more of that this season so that everyone stays fresh. He will game manage a lot of key players which could make predicting the XI quite difficult at times. This system worked really well for Molde last season though and I’d be surprised if it wasn’t a success again. The new 5 sub rule will really help a team like them with so much depth. MFK will continue to rip sides apart and score goals for fun. It’s extremely difficult to see anyone stopping this attacking juggernaut. They have to be rated 5 star in every offensive department.

Key players - Leke James (ATT), Magnus Wolff Eikrem (AM)

Coaching, other factors & conclusion

Erling Moe won the league with Molde last season and I have said many times that he deserves plenty of praise for how he man managed the players throughout the whole campaign. Moe had a big squad to keep happy and also keep fresh following an extensive run in the Europa League qualifiers. It’s a difficult balancing act at times but Moe got his decisions spot on more often than not. From a tactical point of view I like how he keeps things simple and just lets his talented squad of players get on with the job. Molde have so much quality in the final third that they can pretty much set up to outscore anyone. If there is a chink in their armour then it’s defensively. Some good offensive teams, especially those who have good pace on the break will be able to expose them. However, even in those sort of contests Molde will probably be able to outscore themselves out of trouble. I don’t think the behind closed door restrictions will affect them too badly. Despite having a brilliant home record in 2019 they aren’t the sort of side who have ever filled out their stadium too much or relied upon the fans for an extra edge. MFK had the best away record in the league by a significant margin last season. Only Rosenborg can potentially get close to them over the course of the season. I personally see Molde as the most complete side at the moment though who can bulldoze their way to another title. 

Prediction: 1st

Meatmansoccer predicted best XI