Philip Zinckernagel (9.4m) became the first player of the season to reach the 200pt mark after scoring in Bodo/Glimt’s title-winning victory against Stromsgodset at the weekend. After a Leke James-inspired (11.8m) Molde beat Stabaek 3-0 away from home, the Superlaget needed only to draw to clinch their first-ever Eliteserien title but doing the bare minimum really is not what this team is about.
It was a hardly a vintage performance by any stretch of the imagination – for only the fourth time this season they had less than 50% possession and were outshot and out-passed by their relegation candidate opponents, but came out on top in the only statistic that matters: goals. Many look at this Glimt team and wax lyrical about their attacking prowess and how they are able to score almost at a whim sometimes, but on more than one occasion this season they’ve had to rely on a sturdy defence to get over the finish line.
Not only have they scored more than anyone else in the league they also boast the best defence, conceding just 28 goals in 25 games. And it’s results like Sunday’s which highlights one of the most overlooked aspects of this team – their resolve. They simply do not know when they are beaten. While players like Zinckernagel, Hauge Kasper Junker (9.7m) and Ulrik Saltnes (8.2m) will get the plaudits they quite rightly deserve, BFP magnet Patrick Berg (4.5m) and defenders Fredrik Andre Bjorkan (5.8m) and Alfons Sampsted (5.0m) should all be mentioned in the same breath. Their Russian goalkeeper Nikita Khaykin (4.6m) has also shown how valuable he is to the team, conceding an impressively-low 16 goals in 15 matches. He’s also the only keeper to pick up an assist this season and actually fares better than Sandefjord’s Jan Storevik (4.7m) for saves per game (2.67 – 2.52).
The race for second should be decided before Runde 30, with Molde’s destiny well and truly in their own hands. Valerenga and Rosenborg will look to battle it out for third with Odd suffering a setback after an unexpected 2-1 home loss to Start on Sunday. It’s looking increasingly bleak for Stromsgodset as they linger a mere four points above Mjondalen in 14th and are without a win since Runde 14. As hard as Lars Jorgen Salvesen (8.5m) tries, it might not be enough. He’s the third-highest scoring forward in the game which illustrates quite aptly that the points are not always with the best teams in the league.
For me, I have improved my rank in six of the last seven gameweeks – albeit not by the highest of margins – and aim to continue to do so in between now and Runde 30. The question is, exactly how far am I willing to go in order to maintain this continuation of form? It has been a subject I’ve touched upon over the last few weeks and while I’m not going to be banging on about which differential’s we should be looking at, in this article I’m going to be looking at form over the last six games to identify who is doing the kind of things we should be interested in. Total points and season-long stats are a good way to gauge a player’s overall contribution, but like their value and reputation, these metrics can actually blind us when we edge towards the end of the season and become counter-productive.
Viking midfielder Zymer Bytyqi (7.3m) is a prime example of this. Only four midfielders have scored more points than him (133) but if we take his last seven games – or 36% of his season – he’s managed just two attacking returns which accounts for 20% of his points total. While 27pts in 7 games isn’t completely worthless, before Runde 19 Bytyqi was producing 8.6pts every 90 minutes. That’s a drop of 4.8pts per game and should be ringing alarm bells. The one thing Bytyqi has going for him is that after a run of some testing games, Viking now have favourable back-to-back home fixtures against lowly placed IK Start and Brann which might sway the majority of his owners to stick with him for a little while longer.
To ascertain who I think represents good value, potential and an edge on rival managers, I’ve identified a few teams who I think can produce Fantasy points over the next few weeks regardless of whether they win, lose or draw. The conundrum of whether to back form, fixture or reputation is one that will rage on in-aeternum and while many will choose to stay on the quayside as long as possible before getting their feet wet at the very last second, I’m happy to push the boat out and leave any hopes of mooring up again any time well and truly behind me.
After burying my head in the statistics as well as weighing up the fixtures over the next five gameweeks I’ve narrowed my search down to the following teams and players:
• IK Start
• Bodo/Glimt (but probably not who you’re thinking of)
• Honourable mention: Mjondalen
• Fredrik Bjorkan
• Alfons Sampsted
• Fredrik Aursnes (6.2m)
• Petter Strand (7.6m)
• Eirik Schulze (6.4m)
• Leke James
• Deyver Vega (6.7m)
• Enric Valles (5.0m)
• Sander Svendsen (7.7m)
• Fredrik Brustad (6.2m)
Molde and Sandefjord both have nice-looking fixtures and, in their teams, possess players more than capable of scoring enough Fantasy points to be worth our while. With Sandefjord still not out of the woods, they’ll be looking to get a result away to Aalesunds in Runde 27, and while home fixtures against Odd and Viking either side of that game will surely prove more difficult, in my opinion they both represent point-scoring opportunities.
Molde are more or less fixture proof at this point in the season and their next two games are not only winnable, but they could also be a landslide. In Runde 26 they come up against wildly-erratic Haugesund then after a blank the following week, they’ll face Aaelsunds before a double gameweek in Runde 29 consisting of away games to Rosenborg and Odd. Both the Haugesund and Aalesunds matches are at home which further boosts their appeal but in all honesty it will probably have little to do with the outcomes. Rosenborg and Odd won’t be ‘easy’ games but they’ve both lost their last two games in a row and appear to be struggling to keep up.
Brann and Start are teams I’m intrigued by as even though they are by no means setting the league alight of late, they’re both refusing to go down without a fight. More importantly, I think they both have goals in them at this stage of the season. How Brann beat Rosenborg with just 40% of the ball whilst struggling to put not even 200 passes together is beyond me, although I’m not particularly bothered as to whether or not they win their games, more if they’re capable of scoring goals. A home game against Aalesunds couldn’t come at a better time for them on the back of such a huge, unexpected win against Rosenborg. Viking away and Sarpsborg 08 at home are far from easily winnable games, but they’re certainly fixtures in which I see Brann putting up a good deal of resistance and simply cannot see where a clean sheet will come from.
Start may not be full of goals but they’ve scored 11 goals in their last 6 games and in Eirik Schulze they have a midfielder who is capable of scoring when it matters. He’s scored 10 points or more no less than four times in 24 gameweeks. That’s seriously not bad for a player who isn’t even 6.5m and in less than 2% of all teams.
We all know who Bodo/Glimt’s best players are, but with Berg still out (for how long, who knows) it looks as though Saltnes has been dropping further back to play a deeper role to cover his absence. This not only diminishes his appeal, it further enhances the allure of their defensive options who represent both good defensive and attacking potential. For the last three or four games I’m more than happy to replace Saltnes with one of Bjorkan or Sampsted as it means I can not only reap the rewards of benefitting from the best defence in the league, I can reinvest the difference elsewhere to give me an edge over the less-inclined.
Mjondalen might not seem like a place to look for points but Fredrik Brustad has scored two in his last three games as well as picking up clean sheet points and 2 BFP. His inclusion might seem somewhat of a kneejerk reaction and I’m more than OK with admitting it may not be my best recommendation, but Mjondalen’s last five fixtures consist of three home matches against Stabaek, IK Start and Aalesunds. Stabaek haven’t won in four games and even though Mjondalen look dead and buried, they will go into that game convinced they can come out victors.
Molde have created more big chances (84) than anyone else, including Bodo/Glimt (74). At the same time, they have also missed more big chances (52) than anyone else. By means of comparison, Glimt have missed 20 fewer big chances, meaning they are 19% more efficient at capitalising on any decent opportunities that might come their way. It still goes without saying that Molde are one of the most creative, attacking teams in the league and only Glimt have attempted more passes than they have (13,546 to 13,097). They’ve managed 255 shots inside the area, hit the woodwork 11 times and attempted 305 dribbles in 25 games. I’ve gone without their assets for long enough and have duly brought in Leke James for this week. (More about him in a bit).
Brann have managed more shots than Haugesund, Odd, Rosenborg, Stromsgodset, Sarpsborg, Valerenga and Viking, with over a third of them being on target. Only four more teams have attempted more crosses and they’ve actually put away 40% of their big chances. For a team that is languishing in the depths of the table that should be seen as encouraging and perhaps a sign of things to come.
Teams like Mjondalen and Sandefjord offer little going forward and have been able to rack up the Fantasy points this season as they’ve been able to rely on having a strong defence. Mjondalen have faced 355 shots with 38% of them being on target, giving Sosha Makani (5.1m) plenty to think about each week. Sandefjord are more impervious at the back but have been bailed out by their goalposts an astonishing 13 times – more than anyone else. While both teams could be described as goal-shy (neither have had 300 shots) they do possess players who can switch it on when required. I think we’ll see some goals from both these teams in the next few weeks even if the previous 25 games has suggested otherwise.
Start are one of the most wasteful teams in the division, missing 45 of their 60 big chances and only managing a 32% shots on target percentage. Despite that, they match Odd for shots in the area and trail Rosenborg by a microscopic two shots. Like Molde they’ve hit the woodwork 11 times and only Haugesund (565) have attempted more crosses than them (562). They’re one of the most direct teams in the league (only 4 teams have attempted less long balls) and having completed 136 of their 205 attempts, boast the highest dribbling success rate (66%).
No-one can boast more attempted shots, more on target shots or more shots in the area than Champions-elect Bodo/Glimt. They’ve also attempted and completed more dribbles than anyone else, average 60% possession a game and have the highest passing accuracy (84%) in the league. They’ve faced the fewest amount of shots and only Rosenborg (83) have experienced fewer shots on target (89). On top of that, they’ve restricted their opponents to create a league-low of just 35 big chances in 25 games and the goalposts have been rattled a mere 5 times. Only three goals have come from their defenders compared to thirteen assists which is unsurprisingly bettered by nobody.
DEFENDERS: Alfons Sampsted & Fredrik Bjorkan
The two defenders I am interested in Alfons Sampsted and Fredrik Bjorkan, as previously stated. At the time of writing, Bjorkan has an ownership of just under 15% whereas Sampsted is widely unthought of as being a viable Fantasy asset, sitting in 1.3% of all teams. As I will be looking to move Saltnes on, I’ll have that third Bodo/Glimt slot open and will more than likely fill it with one of them. To fully appreciate how good Sampsted and Bjorkan have been over the season and the last six games, I’ve compared their stats to five popular, attacking defenders who represent different levels of affordability and points returns. They are: Christian Borchgrevink (5.9m), Mikkel Desler (5.8m), Espen Ruud (7.1m), Vegar Eggen Hedenstad (6.5m) and Bent Sormo (4.8m).
The EPC graph below shows total points scored, points per 90 mins, PpM and PpM/90mins over the last six games. We can see Sampsted matches Bjorkan for points but both Glimt defenders trail the brilliant Borchgrevink and Ruud. There’s not much between any of them regarding points per 90 minutes, although it’s clear that Desler and Hedenstad have been underperforming and are doing next to nothing to justify their price tags.
Points per million per 90 minutes lets us appreciate the value of the player as well as the cost. That is, how well are they performing against their value, over a prolonged period of time. In this instance we’re interested in the last six games they’ve each played. Borchgrevink has been in ridiculous form and even though he’s not exactly cheap, he’s more than worth the outlay. Sampsted scores favourably in this metric showing he’s not just cheap and a potential gamble, he’s also consistent and deserves to be taken seriously.
Looking at the defensive statistics graph there’s one clear winner – Alfons Sampsted. He has made more than double the amount of tackles of the next highest defender and only Sormo (15) and Borchgrevink (18) can beat his 14 clearances. He’s blocked more shots than anyone else and only Espen Ruud – who spends most of his time up and down the right flank hurtling into and past anyone who gets in his way – has made more interceptions. The 22 year-old Icelandic full-back looks good up to this point.
Creativity is something we want to be present in our defenders as we can’t rely on clean sheets alone. The graph below shows how Hedenstad and Sormo have both been less involved than their peers in recent games, having noticeably fewer touches which in turn has resulted in a huge drop off in attempted passes. Ruud and Borchgrevink have played more key passes on average than anyone else, although Bjorkan is not too far behind. Sampsted matches Ruud for big chances created and perhaps surprisingly Sormo is shooting about as much as Borchgrevink.
Finally I want to draw attention to where our defenders have been playing most of their passes this season. The next graph shows how many accurate passes have been played in both the opposition half and final third of the pitch. Unsurprisingly Ruud leads the way in both of these metrics, with Bjorkan in second. It’s quite eye-opening to see Sampsted outperforming Desler and matching Borchgrevink, while Hedenstad and Sormo lag behind. Based on all the above information, I feel my initial suspicions about Sampsted were right. He’s not only looked good in recent games, in actual fact he’s been playing consistently well the entire season. His underlying numbers are great and I’m expecting big things from him next season as well as a price hike.
MIDFIELDERS: Fredrik Aursnes, Petter Strand & Eirik Schulze
As we did with defenders, we’ll be comparing out players of interest to a control group of similar players. Johan Hove (5.8m), Ulrik Saltnes, Magnus Wolff Eikrem (12.3m) and Zymer Bytyqi will do the honours. The effective points cost graph puts into perspective how phenomenally good the Bodo/Glimt captain has been this term. He’s in more or less every other team for good reason – he’s constantly returning points as if he has himself in his own Fantasy team. The fact that Schulze is within arms reach of him and pretty much matches Eikrem in the last 6 games confirms that we don’t always need to focus on the best teams in the league to be rewarded. Aursnes has also been in good point-scoring form of late, outscoring Strand, Hove and Bytyqi.
Our trio are owned by no more than 5% of managers each, and while Strand’s PpM/90 isn’t brilliant, Aursnes and Schulze are looking ridiculously good value for money. Eikrem and Saltnes are setting the pace for points per 90 minutes, but Schulze is hot on their tails. The last six games haven’t been too kind for Bytyqi however who is proving to be less value for money than Strand and actually not as cost-effective as owning Eikrem. As an owner myself, I’m a bit concerned although Viking’s next two games being very winnable do allay those fears somewhat.
The midfield statistics graph shows where each player is excelling of late. In his last six games, Aursnes has attempted 42 long balls – 16 more than any of our other featured players. Eikrem has attempted more crosses than Aursnes, Strand and Schulze combined but has been fouled less than any of them. No player has been fouled more times than Schulze but the rest of his statistics are anything but competitive. Aursnes scores well on key passes and big chances created, as well as being beaten only by Bytyqi for attempted dribbles. The in-form Molde midfielder certainly looks a good option at this juncture.
Ignoring Eikrem’s monopoly on creativity, there are two things that immediately jump out to me about this next chart. That is how many touches Aursnes has had compared to anyone else, and Petter Strand’s production. If we remove Saltnes and Eikrem from the equation, the Brann midfielder has played on average more key passes and attempted more shots per game (over the last 6) than anyone else. Aursnes is beating Saltnes for big chances created per game and you could actually argue the only thing Bytyqi is notably ahead of Schulze on is key passes/game.
Passing and attacking efficiency tell us a lot about not only the intent of each player, but how good they are carrying out their objectives. For the first half of the season we saw Sarpsborg 08 have more shots than anyone else yet they struggled to score. It’s all well and good having a go, but if you struggle to put the ball in the back of the net you have to ask the question is there another, better way of approaching the same situation?
Aursnes, Strand and Hove are the stand out players for passes in the opposition half and final third with the Molde man in particular looking quite potent. Schulze and Hove have pretty much identical attacking efficiency and both outrank Aursnes and Strand. While Bytyqi’s numbers are impressive, this chart is using data from the entire season and so his recent lack of returns should not be ignored when making a decision about him after the next two gameweeks.
FORWARD: Leke James
From this point on, Molde have a mixture of good and potentially tricky fixtures as well as a double gameweek. To me they represent an opportunity to capitalise on the uncertainty of what is going to happen in the run in, and I’ve already swooped for James. His statistics are nothing extraordinary but we are all aware of his quality and just how high his ceiling really is.
Even though he is almost 12m, his PpM value is actually better than Veton Berisha (9.5m) and not too far behind that of Salvesen. When time played is factored into the equation he actually becomes more valuable than both Berisha and Salvesen despite costing far, far more. The Molde frontman is the least-owned forward I’ve looked at and yet has scored almost as many points as Bakenga and more than Berisha and Salvesen. Kasper Junker is miles ahead of everyone else in these categories. His points, Pp90, PpM and PpM/90 are all quite frankly ridiculous as are the rest of his stats.
The skyscrapers of the attacking statistics chart makes for wonderful viewing for us Junker owners. He’s scored more than anyone else, had more shots on target, attempted more dribbles as well as being the most fouled player. Leke James looks good here too with 4 goals, 8 shots on target, 8 attempted dribbles and drawing 9 fouls. While he has missed 4 big chances, he outscores everyone here bar Junker and there is cause to interpret missing big chances positively as it suggests the player is being provided more opportunities to score than other players. I would posit that if he is given similar chances to score in the next few games he won’t be so wasteful.
Salvesen reminds me of Liverpool’s Bobby Firmino and of earlier cult heroes like Dirk Kuyt and Emile Heskey. He’s something of a throwback to a bygone era as well as embracing the mentality of what it is to be a false nine and target man both at the same time. Without his input this season, Stromsgodset would already be relegated. He’s created more big chances and played more key passes than anyone else and it’s not even close. The graph has even created a wonderfully symmetrical pyramid in his honour and it’s well deserved.
James matches Berisha for creativity and surpasses everyone else for touches and attempted passes per game. He also scores better for shots per game than Berisha and Bakenga and rivals both Junker and Salvesen. Good news for Salvesen and James owners judging by this graph.
The scoring efficiency (last 6) illustrates how many attempts it takes our players until they find the back of the net. Scoring has become something of a chore for Salvesen of late as he’s needing more than 20 shots before he can get himself a goal. Junker doesn’t even need 3 and James is second best, scoring more or less every 3.8 shots. Berisha has also been wasteful of late, and has actually had fewer shots per game than anyone else. If both Berisha’s and James’ statistics remained constant, over the course of a season James would outscore Berisha by twenty goals (26-6). Obviously, Berisha’s form will fluctuate over the coming weeks – as will everyone else’s – but it’s concerning to realise that not only is he struggling to convert his chances, he’s not been taking many shots in recent games.
To round off the attacking section of the article I’ve also included a simple doughnut which shows where the goals have been scored by our featured forwards. Between them, they’ve scored 57 goals, with a staggering 54 put away inside the area. Only Kasper Junker (2) and Lars Jorgen Salvesen (1) have scored from outside the area, with all of Berisha’s, James’ and Bakenga’s goals coming from inside the 18-yard box.
THE OTHERS: Sander Svendsen, Enric Valles, Deyver Vega & Fredrik Brustad
Before we wrap up the article with a brief discussion on the above players, I want to clarify that for the next week I would be recommending Sandefjord attacker Ruben Herraiz Alcaraz (6.4m), better known as Rufo, but he will miss the game against Odd due to suspension. He remains one of the standout players for the Aalesunds game in R27, but in bringing in one of Valles or Vega now, you are potentially getting more for your money.
At 23 and having previous stints at Molde, Odd and Allsvenskan outfit Hammarby, Sander Svendsen is young enough to still be seen as having potential, but experienced enough to be able to call upon his ability when needed. And lately he’s been doing just that. In the last three games he’s scored once and got two assists as well as providing six key passes for his teammates. His 18 points mean he’s averaging exactly 6 points a game and only Brustad (19) has done better than him in this period.
Svendsen and Valles are clearly the best passers, but all four are posting good enough numbers for us to take notice and are platforms of different levels for our midfielders to build on. Svendsen looks to be somewhat in a league of his own when it comes to passing but is outshot by both Vega and Brustad.
Valles is the only player to have created a big chance as well as notching an impressive five key passes for his Sandefjord teammates. Vega and Brustad have a mere three key passes between them so it should come as no surprise when told neither of them have an assist. Valles and Svendsen have two each and while Brustad has struggled to create for others, he has actually scored twice in his last three outings.
The main takeaway for me is that while Saltnes has been a source of creativity and productivity for Bodo/Glimt this season, with question marks over Berg’s health and where the captain will end up playing, I am increasingly tempted to move him on in favour of bringing in one of Sampsted or Bjorkan at the back.
Leke James and Fredrik Aursnes also seem like no-brainers due to their relative clinical and productive natures. It also helps that Aursnes is quite cheap, as James is, well, not. Sander Svendsen could potentially steamroll his way through to Runde 30 and with a couple of Sandefjord’s big attacking names out for at least their next game, it gives Vega and Valles a great opportunity to audition for their upcoming showdown with Aalesunds.