5 players to watch in the 2019 Norwegian Eliteserien
Wyscout always commits to offering the best insights and analysis to our Wyscout Blog readers, exploring all the leagues and footballers of the Beautiful Game worldwide. To do that, we recently teamed up with Just Football, one of the longest running and most well-respected football blogs you can find on the internet. This time, they want to give us an in-depth analysis of who could be the most interesting footballers to watch in the 2019 Norwegian Eliteserien. Get your notepads ready!
Samuel Adegbenro – Rosenborg
The Nigerian winger was snapped up by Viking from Kwara United in 2015 for just £120k and made an immediate impact in the Eliteserien. Sometimes seen as too ‘raw’ in his first couple of Norwegian years, 2017 was his big breakthrough. He stood out like a sore thumb in what was a poor Viking team that year. He was single-handedly giving them hope of survival. Samuel was linked with a summer move to various different areas, but it was Rosenborg who eventually bought him for £1.3m, which is quite a substantial amount for any Norwegian club to spend. He made an immediate impact for his new team, especially in the Europa League where he played a huge part in helping them qualify for the group stage. Indeed, his first three goals for Rosenborg were hugely vital in both legs against Ajax.
Equally adept at playing on either wing, but especially prominent as an inside forward cutting in from the left, Adegbenro has been one of the leading players statistically in a number of departments. The one which sticks out like a sore thumb is the number of dribbles he attempts per game. In 2016 it was as high as 12.27, a slight reduction to 11.0 in 2017, whilst in 2018 despite the limited game time he still attempted comfortably more dribbles per 90 mins than anyone else. The success of these dribbles is perhaps an area he will want to improve on – it’s been roughly around the 66% mark consistently. However, considering the huge amount of dribbles he actually attempts, many would argue his success rate is very acceptable.
Perhaps Samuel doesn’t score or assist as many goals and he might like and this is a part of his game I expect will improve in the future. His shots on target % have been rising in each of the last three years which suggests he is being more selective when in the final third. He contributes in many other useful ways though. From 2015-17 he was ranked in the top four in the league for progressive runs per 90 mins. The Nigerian has also become a foul magnet – yet another department in which he has consistently been top five ranked in recent campaigns. Great pace and acceleration are some of the main factors behind his best statistics. He is a player that can make something out of nothing and regularly turns a seemingly safe looking situation into something highly dangerous. One of the reasons why his dribbling/duels success rate is lower than some other wingers is because he will take a high risk and reward approach by trying something special. Something similar in the sequence below is how he can suddenly open a game right up.
He receives the ball from the left back and skilfully produces a great flick into open space. His acceleration and pace then immediately give him an extra edge against most opposition players, giving him plenty of options in which direction to run individually or attempt a pass to someone else. This sort of action and motion is very typical of Adegbenro and as you might imagine, it can cause absolute havoc in a league like the Eliteserien. Sadly, in April 2018 he suffered a bad ankle injury which restricted him to just 857 total minutes in all competitions for the year. That was a campaign in which I expected him to really push on and probably catch the eye of a bigger European club. His actual game time might need to be managed so they don’t wear him out so he could be rotated in some weeks. Another slight negative is that there have been reports that Rosenborg’s new manager has asked him to be more disciplined and that he will have less of a free role. Should he start 2019 with a bang though, we can certainly expect some teams to come sniffing in the summer transfer window
Kristoffer Zachariassen – Sarpsborg
Here we have a player who has his roots in the Norwegian lower leagues for a team called Nest-Sotra. He was with them for five seasons, some of which were in the second tier OBOSLigaen. Sarpsborg picked him up at the start of the 2017 campaign and he has become one of their most consistent performers. In his first Eliteserien campaign, he ranked 2nd in a list of ‘best central midfielders’ in the Eliteserien. That was followed up by ranking 7th best in 2018.
Zachariassen is one of those who don’t particularly ‘stand out’ as exceptional in any statistical category. He is just generally very good or good in every single department and doesn’t have an obvious weakness. It’s usual to see him lining up on the left side of central midfield, occasionally as a winger/wide midfielder. Perhaps he could be described as an old fashioned box-to-box creative sort of midfielder, although his defensive qualities aren’t quite as good as his attacking ones. One thing that perhaps does stand out more, in an unusual way, is decent ability regarding aerial duals. That, in addition to the number of headed goals he scores stands out to a certain degree. Zachariassen is only of about average height and isn’t regarded as an overly strong player, hence where the slight surprise comes from.
Some of his better skills which can be hard to pinpoint statistically would be off the ball movement, positioning and intelligence. Zachariassen has a knack of getting into pockets of space, especially from attacking set pieces where he is in the right place at the right time to convert, often with diving or extended controlled header when unmarked. The example below is a typical example of how he often scores from a set piece, with the key being positional movement and awareness of where he needs to be.
Kristoffer Zachariassen has already been on the radar of some English Premier League clubs. Leicester City and Cardiff were linked with him in the January transfer window. Its clear scouts are keeping close tabs. It also has to be mentioned how he had an eye-catching Europa League campaign in the autumn which rose his stock even higher. Sarpsborg probably knows that they won’t keep hold of him for that much longer. If he can keep doing what he’s been doing – perhaps maybe with a view to scoring and assisting a few more goals, then someone decent will snap him up, possibly as early as the summer.
Ohi Omoijuanfo – Molde
Molde have forked out roughly £1 million for his services from Stabaek, making him one of the most high-profile transfers this window in Norway. It has been in the Oslo suburbs where the hitman has properly made a name for himself. His first year at Stabaek was anything but smooth as ‘Ohi’ only registered 4 goals in 27 games. He did however come up huge for the team in the relegation playoff match, scoring a brace against none other than his old club Jerv to secure survival. The following campaign in 2017 he netted 17 times and in particular had really hot spell during the summer which attracted interest from elsewhere.
Ultimately, Nicklas Bendtner was to usurp him as the top Eliteserien scorer in 2017 but he finished the year with the highest number of expected goals out of anyone (17.33) and that equated to 0.64 per 90 mins. He showed his great all-around skills with 4 goals scored using his head, 9 from his right foot and 4 from his left. Only 2 penalties were included in his 17 strikes. Omoijuanfo had more shots (90) than anyone else in the league but was hitting the target at a respectable 45.56% which was the 7th best in the division out of those playing significant minutes. He had been linked with a move to the English Championship, notably, teams such as Norwich and QPR were reportedly considering forking out £2m for his services. It was, therefore, a surprise that he stayed with Stabaek at the start of 2018.
Things perhaps took a backward step last year but within reason. His expected goals per 90 mins reduced to just 0.24. His shots on target decreased to below 40%, he won fewer offensive duels and his touches in the box decreased. In total, 6 of his 8 goals were scored in the first 12 rounds and what happened afterwards involved a change of position. From roughly mid-season onwards, new Stabaek manager Henning Berg opted to go with Franck Boli as the most advanced striker in the team, forcing Ohi into a deeper role. He only supplied one assist and scored just two goals during this period.
The majority opinion is that he’s better as a more advanced sort of ‘complete’ forward. But it’s interesting that he now has this deeper role as a further string to his bow. Ohi has good technical skills but is also very tough physically and can be a proper handful to deal with, especially considering he is quite tall. A move to Molde is just what he needs at this moment in his career, where he will be surrounded by better players. Now also in the spotlight of a higher class Eliteserien club and on the Europa League Stage come the summer, Ohi might ultimately land that dream move to a bigger league if he can keep catching the eye.
Sean McDermott – Kristiansund
There is no doubt who is currently the best goalkeeper in the Eliteserien. That accolade comfortably goes to Andre Hansen at Rosenborg. Hansen had an expected goals conceded figure of 1.02 in 2018, but his actual figure let in was 0.75. In other words, the custodian was worth about a ‘quarter of a goal’ per game for Rosenborg, which added up over the course of the whole season was worth 7.83 goals in total. There has long been a debate in recent years about who is the best keeper in the Eliteserien behind Hansen. Names such as Per Kristian Bråtveit (now at Djurgården in Sweden) or Sondre Rossbach at Odd have often been floating around, along with Andreas Linde at Molde. Probably the two guys who flew most under the radar in 2018 were Sean Mc Dermott at Kristiansund and Ricardo Friedrich at Bodo/Glimt. In this article, the focus will be on McDermott.
The Irishman, who actually appeared in one of Martin O’Neil’s national team squads last season definitely made a big step forward in 2018. He has now been in the Eliteserien for 2 years and his 2017 statistics were nothing too special. McDermott conceded more goals than he was expected to (1.31 per 90 mins compared to 1.03). He turned that around in 12 months though and conceded slightly fewer goals (1.26) compared to what was expected (1.27). This might not seem ‘that’ great but the Eliteserien is not blessed with many good keepers, and very few of them actually concede less than their expected total.
The one thing that really stands out in those statistics is the number of reflex saves. Of his stops, nearly 60% of them have been reflex over the past couple of years, which is significantly higher than most other keepers in the league. This is part of his goalkeeping style and reflexes are one of McDermott’s main strengths. He is traditionally what many would call a ‘defensive’ keeper and ranked 11th in the league last season for ‘leaving the line’. McDermott moved to Romanian side Dinamo Bucharest during the winter but made just 3 appearances before cutting ties with the club. It was a strange and quick ending but Kristiansund has wisely re-signed him again for the 2019 season. At just 25 years old there is plenty more room for improvement as a goalkeeper. If he builds on an improving 2018 campaign, he could cement himself firmly as one of the elite shot-stoppers in the Eliteserien.
Gilbert Koomson – Brann
If Brann are to challenge for the title this year they are going to need right winger Gilbert Koomson to have a big season. He is their most explosive attacker and has the potential creativity and X-factor in their squad that nobody else really has. He played in the Eliteserien for Sogndal between 2016-17, producing a total of 10 goals and 15 assists during this period. The expectation was that in a better Brann team he would probably have a chance to improve on those numbers in 2018. However, what followed was a disappointing solitary goal, although he did supply seven assists. The problem is that he’s required to do a slightly different job for Brann compared to his previous club. The licence to roam and be more individual has been replaced with a more disciplined role. No Eliteserien player crossed the ball more (170 times) than Koomson did in 2018. He is a very good player in a 1 on 1 situation out wide and 74.3% of his dribbles were successful. He is a player that gets into some good positions in this area of the field, the problem was that just 33.5% of his crosses were accurate – a decrease of more than 7% on his 2017 stats at Sogndal.
Koomson is really good at creating space for himself on the right wing and actually getting a cross into the box. A very typical Koomson sort of situation is highlighted here in the sequence below.
After having now been at the club for a full season Koomson may well progress in 2019. There is an opinion amongst some pundits that being at Brann limits his creative qualities and it would be better if they let him off the leash a bit more. The undoubted potential is there though, and he could be a big player in the Eliteserien this season.
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