At this stage in the season, it’s becoming more and more obvious which players are edging closer to essential status, while at the same time many of us will be feeling as though our teams are a jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing. An almost perfect picture ruined by jagged, misshapen holes; our beautiful scene peppered with invisible bullets fired by an invisible gunman. We have an idea of what we want but as is the case in most walks of life, the reality we seek is very often not the reality we come to obtain.
The most-owned players in the game are popular for a reason – they’re in form, scoring points and playing for the teams that are scoring the goals. From a quick glance at the computer screen, it’s obvious to me that anywhere from seven to nine players pick themselves. That leaves very little room for us to cover up those bullet holes, even less room to move out of the line of fire. But if we want to improve our overall rank, we can’t do things exactly the same way as those above us. We need to adapt, be resourceful; open the box a little and start to think outside.
On the basis that the majority of our team is already decided, we are left with the daunting challenge of trying to fill in the rest of our puzzle. The gunman is always potentially around the next corner, but there is no going back – we have to push forward.
With this in mind, I have come up with a shortlist of a few differential picks for the next three gameweeks. From my experience with FPL, a differential is usually described as any player that is owned by less than 10% of managers, while at the same time possessing ‘hidden’ value; an opportunity to get one over of unsuspecting rivals. This type of player may not be a season-keeper and it could very well come down to getting him at the right time, rather than assuming he’ll still be a viable asset after his purple patch has lost all its colour.
With timing being so important, I’ll get on with it:
Julian Faye Lund, Rosenborg: 6.8% (5.5m)
Rosenborg are by the far the best defensive team in the league. They’ve conceded the least amount of goals to date (11) as well as keeping five clean sheets. They face Aalesunds and Stabaek at home in their next three fixtures, with a trip to Mjondalen in between. While their form is a bit spotty, these fixtures should be ringing a few alarm bells – there’s potential at both ends of the pitch for points.
Aaelsunds are rock-bottom of the table after winning just one of their opening thirteen matches. They might have scored 18 goals, but they’ve let in an astonishing FORTY. That’s 13 goals more than anyone else. Away from home, they’ve failed to score twice, against far inferior teams than Rosenborg, so a clean sheet for the home side seems very likely.
Stabaek have scored nine times away from home in just six games but also drew 0-0 with Start and recently lost 3-1 to Haugesund (the lowest-scoring team in the league). A 1-0 home defeat against Odd has rounded off their awful form and Rosenborg will feel like a win is very obtainable.
Mjondalen are one of the worst-performing home sides in the league. They’ve scored five in six games, failing to register a goal in two of them. Compare that to the eight goals they’ve conceded in front of their own fans, and you get the idea that they’re more likely to let a goal in than they are to scoring one. They’re the second-lowest scoring team in the division for a reason and should pose very little threat to a Rosenborg side that is potentially beginning to find its find.
Prediction: I think Aalesunds and Mjondalen will really struggle to break down Rosenborg’s defence. I’d be surprised if they didn’t manage to keep a clean sheet in both of those games. With Castro and Fridjonsson on the pitch, there is always a chance that Aalesunds will grab a goal, but they’re up against the big boys and I think they’ll bottle it.
Mjondalen are a team lacking inspiration without a goalscorer. The lack of creativity is becoming a real problem and Rosenborg are more than capable of suffocating them out of the game.
I see Lund taking home at least 15pts from those three fixtures – it wouldn’t surprise me if it ends up being more, truth be told.
Jon-Helge Tveita, Brann: 0.4% (5.5m)
He’s played just 170 minutes all season but grabbed both a goal and an assist against Molde last weekend. He may not be nailed, but in one of Brann’s biggest games of their season, he turned up when called upon. He was replaced by Taijo Teniste just before the hour, raising questions as to who is preferred at right-back going forward. In my opinion, the 28 year-old has done enough to earn another start against Mjondalen this weekend and offers great clean sheet and attacking potential.
An away fixture against Stabaek follows, offering yet again another realistic chance at returning clean sheet points. Stabaek have won just two of their seven home games (only Aalesunds and IK Start have won less) and even though they have managed to find the net seven times, in three games they blanked. Brann are a club in transition and after beating Molde (away), they will be riding on a high they’ll want to keep elevated for as long as possible.
Stromsgodset currently occupy 10th place but only Aalesunds have conceded more goals. They’ve won just once away from home and failed to score at all in three of their six games, making them an incredibly beatable team by anyone’s standards.
If Tveita is given a chance he could really prosper from these fixtures. He got forward at set-pieces and was involved at both ends of the pitch against Molde and I have no reason to believe this won’t be the case if he is given the game time I’m expecting him to get in the coming weeks
Prediction: For me, Tveita starts at least two of these games and probably features in all three. Teniste is 32 years old and doesn’t offer the same kind of service. I have Brann down to go undefeated in this mini-period, and Tveita to prosper in Fantasy world. I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t amongst the points come the end of the month.
Fredrik Haugen, Brann: 0.7% (7.8m)
Staying with Brann, may I present to you Mr Fredrik Haugen. His assist at Molde last weekend was his first return since Runde 2 but on paper he’s starting to excel in some areas. He’s played 26 key passes (two less than Magnus Wolff Eikrem in 99 fewer minutes) has three assists and has a credible 125 accurate passes in the final third and 195 accurate passes in the opposition half.
He may not be the fanciest of players (he’s completed four successful dribbles) but he’s on set pieces and the types of passes he plays are the kind of passes forwards love. Only four players have created more big chances and given the fixtures Brann has from now until the end of the month, he’s being given a huge opportunity to improve on those numbers.
I’m not sure I would label him as a player that has the potential to haul like Eikrem or Pellegrino (or any of the Bodo/Glimt boys) but he offers a consistency that Brann need. He’s a solid player who was perhaps lacking a bit of confidence coming into the Molde game. With the shock win tucked under his belt – along with his first assist for months – he should be feeling as though he can channel his inner Eikrem in his upcoming games.
Prediction: Let’s not forget this is a guy who scored five goals and got eleven assists a few seasons back. He’s capable of more than he’s currently showing, that’s for sure. I’m not suggesting he will take a game by the scruff of the neck and return a heap of points, but I do think if there ever was a chance for him to get his season started – this is it.
Brann have marked their transition period with an incredible away win at Molde (have I mentioned that yet?) and I see them winning the next three, too. People might hear the names Stabaek and Stromsgodset and think they represent a challenge, but the reality is they really shouldn’t. Brann should be challenging for a top five spot with this squad and they will be looking at the next few games as a way to close to the gap between themselves and Rosenborg and Kristiansund who are just three points ahead of them.
For Haugen, I see a couple of assists and a goal, if not more. He has the potential (along with Koomson) to really hurt Mjondalen. Being own by not even 1% of players, he represents incredible potential value and a chance to hurt non-owners (pretty much all of us).
Aron Dønnum, Valerenga: 4.4% (8.5m)
As is the way of all things, you don’t realise what you’ve got until it’s gone. This is my experience with Mr Dønnum. I owned the energetic winger for three weeks from Runde 3 to Runde 5. He scored me a grand total of seven points, going on to score eight the very week I got rid of him. He’s scored 35 points since I chucked him (69% of his total points).
He’s not the best player in the league. He’s not an incredible player. He will not be in the top ten high-scoring midfielders at the end of the season. He’s not a brilliant fantasy choice. What he IS, is a confidence player. And right now, he’s confident. He’s found his way back into some form (scoring in a home draw with Bodo/Glimt and getting an assist away to Brann the week before) and looks to be enjoying his football again. I see a purple patch coming.
Valerenga have very, very nice fixtures: IK Start (A), Sandefjord (H) and FK Haugesund (A). While Start have somewhat surprisingly managed to keep three clean sheets at home, they’ve also conceded 11 goals (1.6 a game) and won only once. Valerenga are decent away from home (winning three out of seven, only failing to score in one) and in general a hard-to-beat outfit.
A home game against Sandefjord will be viewed as a must-win, easy three points despite the newly promoted side winning three out of their last four games. FK Haugesund have more chance of signing Phillipe Coutinho than getting a result against Valerenga – in truth it could be an absolute mauling.
Prediction: I like Aron Dønnum. I like how hard he tries. I like how much he runs (only Jens Petter Hauge – 30 – has completed more dribbles than him – 29) and even though he’s lacking end product from his game, he’s part of an exciting team who have a very tangible opportunity to play in Europe next season. Statistically speaking it’s hard to compare him to his peers but he put in a spirited performance against Bodo/Glimt which I think will lead to a resurgence of form.
Dino Islamovic, Rosenborg: 4.2% (10.1m)
By far my most controversial pick, Dino Islamovic gets a mention for a few reasons. Right now most of us have similar forward lines. We all have Junker, a lot of us still have Borven and then the rest of us have another big name who has been disappointing us week after week.
Islamovic gets the nod because even though he’s not guaranteed to start, he’s potentially a really good option for a third striker. I have Ohi in my team and am resigned to the fact he may not play every week. I am not particularly interested in any other forward and can afford to have someone as expensive as Islamovic or Ohi in my team as it doesn’t stop me from being able to afford all the other players I want.
Rosenborg have great fixtures. They’re starting to score more goals. They look more menacing going forward. Islamovic scored in the twenty minutes he played against Sarpsborg. And Borven is still yet to run riot for his new club, creating a possibility that Islamovic could start alongside him up top. Or at least get more game time. We’ve seen Borven pushed out wide in multiple games – could this happen over the next few weeks?
Islamovic may not get the minutes I think he probably should be given and I’m sure there will be many who will scoff at the suggestion of him even being touted as an option. I think we overlook him too easily. Let’s not forget he too is a new signing in Trondheim and he’ll be on the hunt for more goals just as Borven is.
Prediction: He might not start any of the next three games but he’ll certainly feature in some capacity. Personally I see him in the starting line-up for at least one fixture and his minutes to increase across all games. He’s still finding his feet in this division yet he does cut a threatening figure out on the pitch.
Rosenborg are not playing wonderful, free-flowing football. They are not the consistent machine they strive to be but are showing glimpses of what they can be. If he has the minutes, Islamovic gets a couple of goals in those games.
Let’s also not ignore the fact that it’s slim pickings when it comes to forwards, so there is that.
Ola Brynhildsen, Molde: 7.0% (6.6m)
When I saw Brynhildsen had joined Molde, I immediately jumped at the chance of having in my team for a paltry 7.0m krone. He lasted a whole two gameweeks in my team as it became blindingly obvious the young lad wasn’t going to be given the game time. It looks like that might have changed…
He’s scored goals in his last three games, starting two of them. Ironically it was in his 27 minute cameo against IK Start where he scored most points, bagging himself a brace to end the round on 11pts.
I think he’s one of the most exciting players in the league, playing for one of the best teams in the league. If he starts more regularly – or at least brought on more – then he’ll be straight back in my team. He has the potential to be one of the best players in the league and if he is entrusted with more game time I think we’d be absolute fools to turn our noses up.
Carlo Holse, Rosenborg: 3.1% (6.3m)
Some might say this is a kneejerk reaction to his last couple of fixtures but I maintain otherwise. Having watched Rosenborg most of the season I can attest to them having the power to put anyone watching them to sleep, let alone those playing against them. Carlo Holse hasn’t mixed a single game, but he’s only played 458 minutes. That’s a lot of cameos. Having completed back to back games for the first time this season, it looks as though he’s set for a run in the team. The fact he scored three goals in those 180 minutes can’t do his chances much harm either.
He’s an energetic, exciting player who has injected some life into what has seemed like a lacklustre Frankenstein’s monster of a team over the last couple of months and offers a real opportunity for both Fantasy managers and Rosenborg to get ahead.
This is more a case of trying to jump on the back of his form more than anything. I’d be hesitant to call it point-chasing, more, getting ready for a flurry of red-hot form while everyone else around me shakes their head, thinking I’ve fallen into a trap only mere casuals would succumb to. I see big results for Rosenborg in their final games of this half of the season – I see Holse being a big part of them.
Osame Sahraoui, Valerenga: 1.0% (6.0m)
Another Valerenga attacking midfielder. But looking at their upcoming fixtures, can you blame me? He’s scored one and set up one in the last four, picking up four bonus points along the way. It looks as though he’s cemented down a starting spot after being in and out of the team at the start of the season.
He may not be setting the league alight right now, but at just 19 years of age he looks to be a player with a lot of unrealised potential and Valerenga are seemingly happy to entrust him with more and more game time rather than restricting his development by bringing him on towards the end of games.
It’s hard to argue he’s not a good ways behind both his colleagues and opponents, but the teenager is clearly a talented player who, given the right nurturing, could develop into a player that gives us something to think about whenever Valerenga play.
If you’re after differential glory over the next two to three gameweeks, I think you’d be foolish to not at least consider most people on this list. Rosenborg, Brann and Valerenga have the fixtures while some of their players have the form. The others may seem like a bit of a stab in the dark, but when we’re looking at those players owned by just a handful of managers, that will always be the case.
I am aware there are other options that bridge the space between template assets and the obscure, but I wanted to shed light on a few teams that have a real chance to push up the table and the players I think will help them to do that. There are of course plenty of other options who may end up being far better choices than my own – that’ll be for you to decide.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially with differential picks. I loathe hunting for early bandwagons yet there is certainly cause to do just that. It’s the smallest differences between us that end up defining our season. You won’t win if you copy everyone else – I’m pretty sure some schoolteacher said that at some point in their career…