It’s been another year chock full of exciting talents breaking out of Scandinavia. The success of Bodø/Glimt in Norway has been the major story in the region, making international news headlines, but wherever you look there have been intriguing storylines in two leagues that had to survive with no fans in the stadiums, but made it through and showcased the increasingly high level in this part of the world. Let’s take a look at the combined best XI from Eliteserien and Allsvenskan.


Goalkeeper – Oscar Jansson – Örebro SK

Where would Örebro be without Oscar Jansson? Certainly not 7th in the Allsvenskan table. In fact, if we look at the statistics there is an argument to suggest they would be pretty near if not in the relegation zone without the goalkeeper’s standout performances over the course of the 30-game campaign.

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Jansson bailed his teammates out time after time this season, averaging 3.98 saves per 90 minutes from an average of 5.23 shots faced per game. Despite Örebro’s top seven finish their expected goals against was a whopping 54.97 against the 41 they conceded, an incredible difference really of 13.97. Jansson’s quick reflexes (50.78% accurate reflex saves according to Wyscout) and high save percentage (76.19%) contributed to this huge expected goal differential. And in a team that won nine of their 12 games by just a one-goal margin, this was a hugely significant factor in them ultimately having a relatively comfortable season.

The 29-year-old was also the most proactive keeper in the division, coming off his line to make interventions a league-high 87 times.

Jansson was a key difference between Örebro cruising to 7th and Örebro struggling towards the bottom end of the table. And for this, his efforts were rewarded when he was named Allsvenskan Goalkeeper of the Year. A shoutout should also go to Östersunds FK’s Aly Keita who had a fine campaign.

 

Right Wing-Back – Johan Larsson – IF Elfsborg

A returning hero, Johan Larsson’s move back to Elfsborg saw him instantly become one of the most dangerous players in the entire league with eleven assists.

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Larsson’s 0.32 expected assists per 90 was the best in the league in 2020 as the right-back became a potent weapon down that right-hand side of an Elfsborg team that defied all expectations to finish 2nd in Allsvenskan, a remarkable and unexpected achievement.

Larsson was one of the most prolific crossers in the league, delivering pinpoint accuracy down that right-hand channel (5.67 per 90). He also ranked 13th in Allsvenskan for key passes per 90 (minimum 900 minutes played) with 0.7 per 90 – a very impressive statistic for a defensive player.

The Swedish international can certainly hold his head high as he played a key part in Elfsborg securing European football.

 

Centre-Back РAnel Ahmedhodzic РMalm̦ FF

It was a triple golden crown season for Malmö FF’s talented center-back Anel Ahmedhodzic. Not only did he play an instrumental role in the club regaining the league title after a three-year wait, but the 21-year-old also cleaned up at the end of season awards, winning both Defender of the Year and Young Player of the Year. Safe to say he is a big prospect.

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Statistically speaking Ahmedhodzic is a bit of an all-rounder. A good passer of the ball in possession, his 90.66% accurate pass percentage put him in the top 15 in the division. Strong in the air, winning 67.18% of his aerial duels (10th best of all outfield players). He’s also astute at interrupting opposition play with an average of 5.22 interceptions per 90 minutes and boasted a 67.91% defensive duel win percentage (21st).

These numbers have raised eyebrows across Europe. Ahmedhodzic has been strongly linked with a move to Chelsea, while AC Milan and others are also thought to hold firm interest in the player. Let’s see if he is still in Sweden when Malmö restart their season in 2021.

 

Centre Back – Joseph Okumu – IF Elfsborg

A player that has all the ability in his locker to go on big things, Elfsborg’s strong center-back Joseph Okumu deservedly takes his place among the best talents in Sweden this season.

Another instrumental part of Elsborg’s surprise qualification for Europe, the Kenyan international stands as a testament to Elfsborg’s intelligent scouting. The 23-year-old was spotted playing in America for Royal Monarchs in the USL Championship, and after impressing in the African Championships for Kenya the club pulled the trigger to bring him to Sweden. They have not been disappointed.

Okumu describes himself as ‘good with the ball, calm and strong in the air’, and watching him play you would say this is a fair description. Third in the league for aerial duels won (72.32%), sixth-best in Allsvenskan for defensive duels won (70.54%), and ranking highly for successful defensive actions per 90 minutes, Okumu is still a bit of an unpolished diamond but remains a real prospect.

Watching him in possession is an enjoyable pursuit, his 13.44 long passes per 90 (per Wyscout) is the number one in Allsvenskan. He’s almost like a goalkeeper or NFL quarter-back in the way he winds up that long leg of his to swing long balls upfield. 59.87% of them are successful, and Okumu often helped Elfsborg start attacks from deep in what was a very successful season for them. He has the potential to progress to an even higher level.

 

Centre Back РRasmus Lauritsen РIFK Norrk̦ping/Dinamo Zagreb

24-year-old center-back Rasmus Lauritsen was so dominant for Norrköping in the early part of the season that his form ended up securing him a move to Croatian giants Dinamo Zagreb for a hefty fee of €1.6 million, a significant amount at Allsvenskan level.

The Danish defender was one of the most thrilling players to watch in the first half of the season, an absolute monster in the air in both boxes. Opposition defenses would quake whenever Peking got a set-piece, as they knew Lauritsen would be lurking to attack the ball, and he managed six goals in the opening half of the season before Dinamo Zagreb decided they had seen enough and paid the asking price.

For this reason, despite having already left the league it is hard to leave him out of our team of the season. The fact Norrköping absolutely collapsed defensively without him and fell from potential title challengers to sixth place said a lot: they conceded an average of 1.35 goals per game with Lauritsen in the team but that number leaped to 1.88 goals per game conceded without him.

 

Midfielder – Patrick Berg – Bodø/Glimt

There are some who hold the opinion that Berg is the key to Glimt’s success. For all of their attacking talents such as Hauge & Zinckernagel who got all the headlines, the reliable midfielder is at the heart of the engine room and makes everything tick.

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The best description of Berg’s role is a deep-lying playmaker sitting close to the defensive midfield position on the field. As with most players in his particular area, it is hard to stand out statistically. But the one thing that is striking with Berg is in the passing department. He’s 3rd in total Eliteserien passes per 90 mins with an 89.2% accuracy rate. He has great vision and is great technically with both long and short-range passes.

For example, his long pass and forward pass accuracy rate are as high as 64.6% and 75.2% respectively. From a technical perspective, he is top notch. Genuinely close to being two-footed and can ping pretty much any pass you ask. Patrick Berg has had a fantastic season and will not lack for interest over the winter.

 

Midfielder – Ulrik Saltnes – Bodø/Glimt

Another key cog in the Glimt machine is the highly versatile Ulrik Saltnes. His role is best defined as a box-to-box type midfielder, with a leaning towards the more offensive side of the game. Historically, the man who is actually homegrown at the club could easily slot in at defensive midfielder or even center back.

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He’s quite tall at 1.87m so he can become a nightmare mismatch against physically weaker players in his part of the field. His signature move is a driving run into the penalty area which he often converts into goals. He tends to score more ‘likely’ and ‘percentage’ goals rather than spectacular ones. A total of 12 goals netted with an xG of 9.39 is impressive both in terms of conversion but also getting into some great positions from which to score. Saltnes has also supplied 12 assists and has been a great all-round unit in the middle of the park for Glimt.

You also can’t underestimate his professionalism and influence on the dressing room. He’s been a great captain and inspirational leader. At 28 years it feels like we might be looking at a genuine ‘one-club man career’ and Glimt will be looking to keep around for the foreseeable future. But it would be very interesting to see him step up to a bigger league.

 

Left Wing-Back – Zymer Bytyqi (Viking)

After a slow and steady start to the season when he wasn’t even a guaranteed starter, Bytyqi has developed into an absolute beast. He is best described as an inverted winger who operates on the left-hand side of midfield/attack and has contributed with a high number of goals and assists this season.

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The Kosovan has found the back of the net 10 times and considering his xG mark of just 4.89 he has comfortably overachieved on that mark. Only 3 of his goals had an xG greater than 0.1 and he is a man known for scoring long-range spectacular strikes of an individual nature. Bytyqi has balanced that with some great team play as well though, becoming one of the big creative players in the league. Nobody had sent in more crosses (141), although at an accuracy of just 32.62% there is perhaps room for improvement. He is 4th in total dribbles for the league and in his position the very best at a success rate of 69.09%, which is highly impressive.

With a contract that runs out at the end of December, Bytyqi has been keeping cards close to his chest, although admitted there had been ‘numerous interesting offers’ which he was considering.

 

Right wing – Philip Zinckernagel – Bodø/Glimt

The Dane surely has to be the overall player of the season in the Eliteserien. That includes ex-teammate Jens Petter Hauge who is now at AC Milan. The ‘Zinck’ has been absolutely phenomenal this year, weighing in with a whopping 19 goals and 14 assists.

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With one regular-season game remaining, his xA is a humongous 15.41, with the next nearest to him 7.18. He’s been head and shoulders above anyone else in terms of creating chances, but when you combine that with his goalscoring then it’s quite simply sensational. Zinckernagel operates on the right-hand side of the attack and can play various different roles. To call him an out and out winger would be wrong because there are so many strings to his bow.

He has been constantly peppering the opposition all season and no player has had more shots in the Eliteserien (122) than him. He also averages 4.97 crosses per game at nearly a 40% accuracy which was the 4th most in the division. His contract runs out at the end of December and at the time of writing no deal has been reached with a club yet. Turkey seems to be the likely favorite for his eventual destination with Fenerbahce strongly linked.

 

Left wing – Amahl Pellegrino – Kristiansund

For someone who actually hasn’t been playing as an out-and-out striker, his tally of 25 goals with one match remaining is stunning. Pellegrino operates on the left-hand side of the attack as an inside forward. He has a predominantly strong right foot; in fact, all of his goals have been via that right peg in 2020. Pellegrino’s signature move is cutting inside and curling the ball past the keeper into the bottom right corner of the net. He is also known for producing some long-range spectacular strikes.

The Kristiansund man had an xG of 14.04 and when you consider that 6 of those were penalties it is mightily impressive that such a huge 25 goal tally has been achieved. He’s scored 6 times from outside of the penalty area and also converted from some unlikely spots inside the box. Just 5 of his non-penalty goals had an xG higher than a 0.20 chance. Pellegrino has a high level of skill and can be considered a late developer in football.

He will be 31 next summer and looked to be an initial flop at this level after a move to Stromsgodset didn’t work out. He has found a great home here in Kristiansund though and maybe in the latter third of his career a bigger move, either domestically or abroad could still be a possibility.

 

Striker – Kasper Junker – Bodø/Glimt

With one game remaining, Junker has fired home 25 goals, and along with Amahl Pellegrino, is the standout scorer in the Eliteserien. His expected goals total has been 18.13 so he has overachieved on this mark by about 7 goals which is very impressive.

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Junker is a ‘multi-dimensional’ striker who has all the qualities needed from what is effectively a ‘complete forward’. He has pace and can get in behind if needed. He can drift into channels. He can be the ‘fox in the box’ type poacher and he is also a useful aerial presence. Junker is incredibly clinical. He ranks 6th in the league for total shots and a massive 59% of those have been on target, the most of anyone in the league. Each shot he takes has had an expected goals figure of 0.28 which is really high.

To put it simply, he does not waste his opportunities and regularly gets into some very good positions. It’s true he has been playing in a very good team but his clinically ruthless nature upfront has been a major factor in Glimt’s success. A number of clubs across Europe are expected to be interested in his services after such an exceptional campaign.


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