Swedish football seems to be a place where Sir Alex Ferguson’s saying that a great attack wins you games but a great defence wins you titles is true.
This was the case at least last season, as AIK won the league conceding just 16 goals in 30 games and AFC Eskilstuna gained promotion by winning Superettan with the same number of goals conceded. Five teams scored more goals than AIK and 9 out of 16 teams scored more goals than AFC Eskilstuna in Superettan – yet nothing could stop the two teams from celebrating at the end of the season.
Accordingly, we will now look at defenders.
As mentioned, AIK managed to concede 16 goals in 30 games (whereof 5 in two games against Norrköping, the runner up both in terms of points and goals conceded last year) and kept an impressive 18 clean sheets. Consequently, the team seems like a natural starting point when looking for defenders for your Allsvenskan fantasy squad. But be aware, two out of three from the title winning central defence have left the team: Alexander Milosevic for Nottingham Forrest and the Cinderella Man Robin Jansson for Orlando City. 12 months ago, Jansson was making a living by making horseshoes when he got the chance to face AIK in the Swedish cup with third-tier team Oddevold. Some injuries, a great game and an Allsvenskan contract later, Jansson clinched the title with a header in the final round of the season.
The question related to AIK is which players coach Rikard Norling will field alongside Per Karlsson (6.5) – the highest scoring defender in the game last season. New signing Karol Mets (6.0) is yet to train with the team but has been purchased from Eredivise team NAC Breda and should grab the spot to the left. Norwegian signings Daniel Granli (5.0) and Magnar Ødegaard (5.0) were brought to the club to compete for the spot to the right, but unimpressive displays in the Swedish cup means it’s a close race between the two and Panajotis Dimitriadis (5.5), with the latter probably the most likely to start the season premiere.
Daniel Sundgren (7.0) is despite being the most expensive defender in the game also the most selected player, regardless of position. Playing as a right wing-back, Sundgren has assists (5 last season) in his locker but also penalties, as he is expected to be first in the pecking order for the black and yellows. On the other flank, Rasmus Lindkvist (6.5) and Heradi Rashidi (6.0) will go head to head as uncertainty of game time looms over the two.
Arche rivals Djurgården feature another couple of popular picks. Roaming full-back Aslak Fonn Witry (5.0) is the second most selected defender and has been very impressive for Djurgården in the cup. Newly appointed club captain Marcus Danielsson (5.5) should start for the in-form team with three kind fixtures in the opening game weeks (Sundsvall, Örebro, IFK Göteborg). Like Sundgren, Danielsson has been taking penalties during the cup and should be first-choice going into the season.
The third Stockholm based club, Hammarby, has a likely hidden gem in their team: Odilon Kossounou (4.0). The 18 year-old Ivorian got the nod in the quarter final of the Swedish cup against Djurgården, and could very well start when going into the season. Sandberg (5.0) is a full-back that chipped in with four assists last season and should continue doing so this year and offers another, probably more secure, route into the Hammarby back four.
As mentioned, Norrköping conceded the second most goals and it is Filip Dagerstål (6.0) that is expected to lead the line after club captain Andreas Johansson’s retirement. Häcken, nonetheless, conceded the same amount of goals as Norrköping (27) and Rasmus Lindgren (6.5) looks likely to provide the most points.
Although they have lost former AS Roma goalkeeper Gianluca Curci to Hammarby in the transfer window ahead of the season, AFC Eskilstuna conceded just 16 goals when gaining promotion last year. If judging by the Swedish cup, the recipe seems to be intact as they have managed to get themselves to a surprising position in the final. Felix Michel (5.0) has been the most impressive, but also Hodzic (4.5) and Kojic (4.5) are options likely to start.
Expected champions Malmö have several options at the back, providing some difficulties in choosing preferred routes. Larsson (6.5) and Vindheim (6.5) should be prime picks unless they competed for the same spot on the right flank. If game time seems somewhat guaranteed, one should definitely keep them on the watchlist however. Larsson provided 7 assists last season and seems the most likely to start going into the season. Otherwise, Lasse Nielsen (6.0) offers an alternative in the central defence for those looking for Malmö coverage.
Sweden captain Andreas Granqvist (6.0) is on penalties both for club and country, but the newly promoted Helsingborg is far from likely to keep many clean sheets.
Thomas Isherwood (4.5) is likely to nail down a starting position in Östersund, making him one of few players priced below 5.0 expected to start in a team at the top-half team. Team mate Tom Pettersson (6.0) is nonetheless the most popular Östersund pick at the moment.
Jonathan Tamimi (6.0) provided an impressive 9 assists last season, the second most of all players in the game, in addition to one goal. If Sundsvall can keep up the same attacking mentality as last season, nothing implies that we should expect less this season.
Who are you looking to get as your defenders?
What formation are you looking to play?
Who else, who hasn’t been mentioned above, is a good option?