Ask any Fantasy Manager which two words they like to hear the least and you’ll get a pretty unanimous response – International Break. They’re about as welcome as a maskless shopper in 2020. But for all the boredom they bring and the stagnation in Fantasy Football they cause, at least we can say the last two weeks have been far from uneventful. In fact, quite a lot has happened over the last two weeks:
Fantasy Football in 2020 feels like it should come with an extra chip to help deal with absentees due to Coronavirus. It’s a very real and pressing issue that doesn’t seem to be going away and the recent Nation’s League games have highlighted how easy it is for top athletes to get infected with the seemingly innocuous virus.
Among other revelations, we learned Cristiano Ronaldo is human as he tested positive for Covid-19 just days after playing Spain in the Nation’s League. The more relevant news to Fantasy managers is that Viking’s Veton Berisha (9.5m) also tested positive resulting in Viking’s next two games against Odds BK and FK Haugesund being postponed as he trained with the rest of the team.
Berisha is reported as displaying no symptoms, saying “I feel completely fine and without symptoms, but I think it is of course very boring that the whole team has to be quarantined due to my positive test.”
The area of concern for me around Viking players is that not only others may test positive over the next week or two, but they won’t be playing any games. They’re unbeaten in their last eight games including wins against Stromsgodset and Molde as well as the absolute thrashing of Aalesund. Will this two-week hiatus take away all their momentum? Quite possibly.
“The trickiest thing is not that I myself have to be in isolation, but that the team must be quarantined and thus postpone their next match to a later date.” It looks like Berisha has similar concerns.
For this upcoming Gameweek Zymer Bytyqi (7.2m) and Mushaga Bakenga (6.8m) are both unavailable (along with Berisha and Espen Ruud (7.0m) who was suspended anyway) leaving me and probably many other managers with something of a quandary.
In 2020 you need a good bench. Covid is such a volatile variable it’s hard to say with any degree of certainty if your XI are good to go even a day or two before kick-off. Having adequate players to fill in is a must. I’m also somewhat apprehensive about loading up on players from the same team. It’s baffling how the Viking situation came about and it makes me wonder if we will see it again from other teams.
For me, Dino Islamovic (10.1m) comes in for Berisha and Osame Sahraoui (6.2m) will fill in for Bytyqi. As Bakenga will miss out Jesper Daland (4.4m) is set to feature for me unless I take a hit.
It would seem prudent to monitor the situation over the next couple of weeks, though the lack of transparent, readily available news on Norwegian football can be a bit frustrating. The Fantasy Eliteserien website doesn’t even have any Viking or Odd player’s red-flagged (other than Ruud and Berisha) and nor have the fixtures been removed.
Jens Petter Hauge (Bodo/Glimt to AC Milan ~€5.0m)
Most notable is the departure of the second-highest scoring player in the entire game, Jens Petter Hauge who secured an incredible move to AC Milan. While Glimt beat Sandefjord 2-1 in their first game without him, it was hardly the thrashing we’ve come to expect from them.
One of the things that stands out about Hauge is his humility on and off the pitch and how he can exert his influence and prowess in any game and it’ll be interesting to see how he gets on in Italy. It’s a huge loss for Glimt but five million euros will have made his departure a bit easier to swallow.
Being directly involved in no less than 27 goals, it will be a huge task for whoever is brought in to replace the youngster…
Hugo Vetlesen (Stabaek Football to Bodo/Glimt)
Hugo Vetlesen (5.6m) has been brought in to seemingly replace Hauge (if that’s possible) and on the face of it, it seems a good buy. The 20-year-old has scored four goals and has three assists so far this season, as well as amassing seven bonus points. Priced at more than three million less than Hauge, if he can pick up where he left off, Vetlesen could be an incredible option.
Vetlesen appeals as he’s done well to muster any kind of returns whilst playing for a team like Stabaek who evidently do not like to score goals. Glimt do not have that problem as they’ve already managed 69 goals in just 20 games (21 more than anyone else) but in losing Hauge they’ve lost one of their most creative players.
The biggest question mark hangs over whether or not Vetlesen can gel into this exciting Glimt team and emulate even half of what Hauge has done. He’ll be feeling the pressure that’s for sure and how he deals with it is anyone’s guess. Big shoes either way.
John Kitolano (Molde to Odds BK) & Birk Risa (Odds BK to Molde)
John Kitolano (5.7m) and Birk Risa (6.1m) have swapped clubs, moving from Molde to Odd and vice versa. While Risa was a guaranteed starter at Odd, he’ll face competition from Kristoffer Haugen (6.3m) at left back. With European games on the horizon, one will most likely be preferred in the league and the other in Europe. Kitolano will however be first-choice at Odd and represents good value at less than six million.
Some of you will know Risa is one of my favourite footballers in the league and that he’s been in my team on numerous occasions this year. For me, this move makes the Molde defence harder to predict and even though I think he’ll be a success at his new club, for 0.4m less it seems impossible to overlook Kitolano.
Marcus Antonsson (Malmo FF to Stabaek Football, Loan)
29-year-old forward Marcus Antonsson (7.5m) moves across the border from Malmo to join Stabaek on loan, providing a much needed alternative up front. Stabaek have scored just 25 goals in 20 games (only four teams have scored less) and while the loan signing of Rosenborg forward Erik Botheim (6.5m) back in July seemed like shrewd business, the promising centre-forward has failed to find his feet, playing just 608 minutes and providing a single assist and no goals.
With other options up front such as Kosuke Kinoshita (5.6m) and winger Darren Maatsen (7.1m) contributing just four goals and no assists in 1114 minutes, Antonsson should slot in up front right away.
This is the kind of signing Stabaek should be making. An older, more experienced player with a wily grit about them, able to be thrown in at the deep end and not drown. After losing a couple of their best players, they’ve been forward-thinking enough to ensure they can see out the rest of season in moderate comfort.
Andreas Hanche-Olsen (Stabaek to KAA Gent, ~€1.0m)
Andreas Hanche-Olsen needs absolutely no introduction – despite being sold ten days ago, he remains in 33% of teams. Another exciting young player to emerge from Norway’s golden generation, the towering centre-back secured a move to Belgium side KAA Gent, with Stabaek receiving close to a million euros in return.
He’s a huge loss not only to Stabaek but to Fantasy Football and anyone who watches the Eliteserien. He was the closest thing we had to van Dijk and now he’s gone to a team which none of us will probably ever watch. Ever.
Gustav Valsvik (Rosenborg to Stabaek, Loan)
Reaching out to Rosenborg for a centre-back to replace the one you just sold is never a bad idea. Rosenborg have a reputation of being hard to beat, stable and incredibly watertight. Gustav Valsvik (5.8m) is a good personification of those values and provides great cover for the outgoing Hanche-Olsen.
Even though it’s only a loan deal, at least for the rest of the season the more-than-capable centre-back will be playing regularly and Stabaek will be confident his arrival will be sufficient to steady the ship.
Ironically his only goal of the season came against Stabaek in a 3-0 win for Rosenborg, but he offers stability and a much-needed presence to a team that appears to be without a rudder at times. Being able to bring someone in of his quality for nothing is great business. Fantasy-wise I would avoid on the basis that Stabaek have little to play for and remain quite beatable. Perhaps Valsvik will make them more formidable but even if he does it won’t happen right away.
Sander Svendsen (Odense BK to Brann, Loan)
Gilbert Koomson out, Sander Svendsen (8.0m) in. Koomson had been in my team since GW3 up until GW17. He’s the kind of player you love to watch as he makes runs with complete abandon in the final third. I see him as a great servant to my team, a player that a lot of people dismissed and ignored early on. Losing him from the league is a great shame, but in Svendsen Brann have a young, thirsty forward who will feel he has something to prove following a disastrous stint at Odd last season.
Eliteserien managers might recognise him as the promising forward who played alongside Torgeir Borven for the first half of last season and failed to score a single goal. He was far more successful at Molde two years before but has bounced around on loan deals ever since.
He was more prominent in Denmark last season where he managed 13 goals in 32 games yet in Odense’s opening three games he’s been left on the bench for two and only brought on in the 84th minute in third. Allsvenskan managers might recognise him as the bit-part player who featured in 19 games and scored a huge zero goals.
While I’m naturally very tempted to take a punt on him, first I’d like to see where he fits in at Brann. Let’s not forget this is a team that are struggling to express themselves lately. The last time they scored more than once was 24th August – six games ago.
Svendsen’s arrival probably makes Daouda Bamba (8.9m) a more viable option as well as the industrious Petter Strand (7.6m). It’s a definite wait and see, but suddenly Brann have become relevant once more.
Holmbert Aron Fridjonsson (Aalesund to Brescia)
The 6ft4 Icelandic international’s departure signals Aalesund’s resignation to the fact they are going down and are ready to put their faith in Sigurd Haugen (6.4m) who has scored two goals in his last three games.
Fridjonsson has scored 11 of Aalesunds 25 goals in the league and had something of a following or at least appreciation from most managers. He always looked a threat when presented with a chance and Aalesund will surely miss him.
Daniel Leo Gretarsson (Aalesund to Blackpool)
He only scored 12 Fantasy points this season but he was Aalesund’s third most played defender and him leaving makes Aalesund an even weaker animal. They’re rock bottom of the league and look like staying there in light of recent transfers.
Anton Saletros (Rostov to Sarpsborg, ~€500k)
Even though the exciting Jorgen Strand Larsen left Sarpsborg 08 for Groningen in September, Anton Saletros (4.9m) has finally joined on a permanent deal. He’s one of the best passers in the league and represents great value for a fifth midfielder at less than 5.0m.
• Sander Svendsen (8.0m)
• Marcus Antonsson (7.5m)
• Hugo Vetlesen (5.6m)