I hadn’t originally planned to write an article this week but after FK Bodø/Glimt’s heroic 6-1 victory against AS Roma in the Europa Conference League on Thursday night, how could I not?!
Now, I know what a lot of sceptics will say – “Bodø play on artificial turf in the Arctic Circle – it’s a hard place to go to!” I’d counter with the following points which make that initial point of view seem nothing more than complete folly:
1) Five clubs in the Eliteserien play on natural grass (FK Haugesund, Lillestrøm SK, Sandefjord Fotball, SK Brann and Stabæk Fotball) while every other team use artificial turf apart from Rosenborg BK (they use a real grass/artificial hybrid turf) which means a lot of other poorer teams than Roma face the same issue on a regular basis but don’t end up losing 6-1…
2) Of their 3 league defeats, two of them have taken place on artificially turfed pitches (1-0 away defeat at Odds BK and the 2-0 home defeat against Molde FK) while Sandefjord recorded a 1-0 home victory over the champions – they are not infallible and while they may be 4 points ahead of title rivals Molde, this season has seen them struggle at times to close games out, at times labouring to a win, deserved or not, on artificial turf
3) Perhaps then, the cold temperature played its part? At no point during the game did the local temperature drop below 2 degrees Celsius. Not exactly warm, but nothing no professional footballer has never come across before. I’ll happily admit that it probably felt colder (not helped by average windspeeds of 30mph+ in Bodø between 18:45 and 20:45 local time) but to call this horrible, adverse conditions in which to play football feels like a stretch to me
4) Another viewpoint I’ve seen on social media is that Mourinho played what is effectively his B-team, while Glimt were pretty much full strength (barring the currently injured Ulrik Saltnes (10.5mNOK)). This seems utterly bizarre. Glimt’s total player value in their starting XI tonight comes to a whopping €7.8m while Roma forward Borja Mayoral alone is worth at least €15m (the total squad value coming in at around €85m-100m). a B-team worth €100m? (For context, the total player value for the Eliteserien is roughly €145m…)
This victory came from the very depths of this Glimt team’s ethos. Their spirit, resolve, determination and desire to play football the way they wanted to. The character that has seen them thrive under Knutsen was on show today for the rest of the world to see, rather than just us aficionados of Norwegian football, the best league in the world as some of us might attest.
Yet, as good as the 6-1 score line was, what do the match statistics suggest? What have we missed? This was surely a fluke, right? Roma should, surely do much better? Even if they did find the artificial pitch to be obnoxious and the cold winds incredulous, this should not have happened and the result will be met with embarrassment and shame when the club returns to Italy, of that I have no doubt.
So let’s see what the stats say. The Norwegian side played 63 more passes than their Italian counterparts as well as having almost 100 touches more. They won more duels, completed more dribbles than Roma even attempted (17/26 – 7/15) and in taking the game to Roma, they asked them the question – “How much do you want this?” Apparently, not enough.
Glimt having 691 touches of the ball and completing 194 passes in the opposition half should not come as much of a surprise – domestically they’re averaging 745 touches and 269 opposition half passes so far this season.
Knutsen’s men were positive the entire game, recording 9/13 shots on target compared to just 2/6 for the Special One’s charges. Roma had a very real issue of being able to make any clear cut chances despite the possession stats being fairly even (53/47) and having similar passing accuracy as the hosts. Chances created highlight this brilliantly:
+ Glimt (19 chances created, 5 big chances)
+ Roma (4 chances created, 1 big chance)
Glimt created 5 times more chances than Roma managed throughout the entire game. That’s quite remarkable. They’re also the only team in the Eliteserien who have created at least 13 chances per game (last season’s average) and have taken 331 shots so far, with 215 of them taking place inside the box. Combine this with the capability of shooting outside the box (116 shots – only 3 teams have attempted more) and their average possession of 61.86%, they have been consistently creating and attacking games wherever they can, in whatever way they need to.
In fact, out of every expected stats recorded, chances/big chances, shots (on target to % inside the area) and possession, they are only performing below last season’s averages regarding big chances created (1.5 BC/90 vs 1.95) but even still, the percentage of chances created classified as ‘big’ sits at 11.19%, 1.19% higher than expected. No other team is anywhere near this level – not even Molde.
They’re also in the top 3 for aShots/G (actual shots) minus xShots/G (last season) (2.05 ahead), aShotsinbox/G minus xShotsinbox/G (1.38 ahead) and lead the way for aChances/G minus xChances/G (0.41). Without overloading you with too many stats – Glimt are performing well.
Erik Botheim (10.2mNOK) was in my team at the start of the season from GW1-7 (44pts) and then from GW20 onwards (24pts) meaning I have missed out on 44pts he’s scored this season. He’s consistently getting goals and chipping in when needed. He’s one of Glimt’s more reliable players and I see him as an absolute must from now until the end of the season.
In his last four appearances (domestic) he’s scored in each and every game as well as grabbing his only assist of the season in the GW19 3-1 win over Viking FK. He may not be the league’s top scorer and he may not offer as good points per minute as his main rivals, but he’s emerging to be a key figure for his side, highlighting how his talents were overlooked at Rosenborg last season and how important he could be in upcoming games.
The kid is 21 years old and he put Roma to the sword with a brace and THREE assists. 39 touches of the ball and 5 direct goal involvements (a goal after 8 touches). That’s barmy.
Obviously it wasn’t just him – everyone played their part tonight with stellar performances from the much-overlooked Ola Solbakken (9.8mNOK), everybody’s favourite glass cannon Amahl Pellgrino (12.0mNOK) and the engine that is Patrick Berg (6.1mNOK). Alfons Sampsted (5.6mNOK) and Fredrik André Bjørkan (6.4mNOK) were also reliable on each side of defence, with the former even contributing with a rare assist.
For us as Fantasy managers, all of the above bodes well regarding backing Glimt assets. Even without Saltnes, this team can and most certainly will deliver, despite the opposition. With a crucial away game against Molde on the not-so-distant horizon, I wonder if this team will be able to maintain this form and make a very real, abrupt claim for the throne by putting Erling Moe’s legion to the sword? If you had asked me a day or two ago I’d be backing the boys in blue to get all three points, but now, after such an emphatic victory against Roma? This team will think they can beat anyone, anywhere at any time and with good reason.
I’ll delve much, much further into more relevant statistics in future articles but this was indeed a spur of the moment write up inspired by such a famous victory for the best team in Norway. What a win, what a team, what a manager and what a player Erik Botheim is – he’s in my team at the expense of Pellegrino and I have absolutely no doubts about him being worth it.