Last season Bodø/Glimt bullied their way to the league title, winning all of their opening 10 games and then picking up 26/30 points in their next 10. Second placed Molde were the only team to beat them but finished a huge 19 points behind the eventual champions.
Glimt were ravenous – scoring 103 times and conceding a league-low 32 goals. It was as if they were challenging themselves to win every game and they almost did. Knutsen’s men were warriors and showmen but the very definition of professional every time they went out onto the pitch. It was one of the most one-sided league wins in the history of the game.
This season? Not so much. The title will be decided this Sunday, on the last day of the season, along with the relegation places. As long as Glimt avoid defeat they will win their second consecutive league title, as Molde are 3 points behind. Only the foolhardy amongst us would surely bet on a Mjøndalen victory to throw the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons but stranger things have happened (most notably Strømsgodset beating Molde 6-0 a few weeks ago…) and the Eliteserien is as wild and erratic as the weather in recent games.
When you resort to using tractors to clear the pitch of snow, you’re already accepting that ‘normal’ means something quite different in these parts to what you’re used to.
As we approach the final Runde, I’d like to look at which players have stood out from every position and put forward my team of the year as well as best in each position along with player of the season. This analysis has been put together after a season-long commitment to collate all relevant player performance data from FotMob.com. Any opinions and summations from this point are my own and are the result of my analysis which I will go into.
For each position I will be looking at multiple KPIs to determine player performance as well as applying relevant context to groups of KPIs. For example, when analysing the best midfielders, we need to understand what we mean by the term ‘midfielder’ as a CM will have different duties to a RW, for example.
KPIs, then, will be grouped together in their own categories in order to determine player performance across the board, and in specialist areas. This application of statistics combined with my relative points scoring system (RPSS), should highlight the highest performing players.
The top 15 performers in each KPI will need to have played at least 1350 minutes (15 games) – unless otherwise stated – to be part of the analysis. Also, any quoted assists will be actual assists only, not including any given fantasy assists unless otherwise stated. Some players who have fewer minutes might be included if they’ve been involved in the vast majority of games. For example, Agon Mucolli (6.2m) has featured in 25 games, yet has clocked up just 1335 minutes and will be included.
I want to look at both sides of being a goalkeeper rather than focusing solely on clean sheets and saves as there is much more – in real life – to being a goalkeeper than those two aspects of the game.
What I hardly ever see is the distinction between clean sheets and clean sheets earned, that is, how responsible was the goalkeeper for that clean sheet? If he had nothing to do, why do we celebrate that clean sheet against his name and not the defence? It’s always puzzled me as it’s statistics 101 – we need context!
All keepers have played in at least 10 games/900 minutes
• Goals conceded
• xGC-GC Delta (note, xGC will NOT be used to rank goalkeepers)
• Clean Sheets
• Clean Sheet Saves
• Saves/Clean Sheet
• Clean Sheet Saves (% of Total)
• Saves (Shots inside Box)
• Saves in Box (% of Total)
• Diving Saves
• High Claims
• Attempted Passes
• Attempted Passes/90
• Accurate Passes
• Accurate Passes/90
• Accurate Opposition Half Passes
• Accurate Opposition Half Passes/90
• Passing Accuracy
• Key Passes
• Attempted Long Balls
• Attempted Long Balls/90
• Accurate Long Balls
• Accurate Long Balls/90
• Despite playing for relegation threatened Stabæk Fotball, Marcus Sandberg (5.5m) has probably performed as well as he could have expected to. In Fantasy terms he’s clearly overpriced and there are far better options than him, but when we look at his actual performances, he’s been brilliant. Let’s compare him to joint-highest point scorers Sean McDermott (5.8m) and Egil Selvik (5.4m):
• It’s remarkable how similar their stats are, most notably they have all made 24 punches and between 3.44 and 3.78 saves for every clean sheet they’ve kept. Sandberg clearly excels at high claims and recoveries and unsurprisingly has been the busier of the three
• McDermott boasts the second most goals prevented (6.86) behind Bodø/Glimt’s Nikita Khaykin (5.7m), who has conceded just 22 goals from an expected 29.63 (7.63 prevented goals). He’s proof that you win leagues and tournaments from having a quality goalkeeper behind a stable defence, not just the best offensive players
• McDermott’s and Selvik’s PPM is a beefy 24.00 and while Jacob Karlstrøm (4.7m) misses out on the top 5, his PPM is almost as good at 23.56 and a PPM/90min value of 0.81. The Tromsø keeper has played his part in ensuring they avoided relegation on their return to the topflight, and has provided a cheap, reliable source of Fantasy points from the off
• Top Performer: Marcus Sandberg (12.43/14 RPSS)
• Runner Up: Sean McDermott (12.03)
• Third Place: Nikita Khaykin (11.01)
Star Bastion: Marcus Sandberg
I said at the start of the season don’t be surprised if I hurl plaudits at this guy and here I am, waxing lyrical with one game to go. He’s a formidable problem for attacking players to have to deal with as he can pick out crosses better than anyone, get down faster than his physique would suggest (he’s 1.91m tall…) and is more than happy to clean up after his defence. He has it all.
Star Fantasy Bastion: Sean McDermott
McDermott has scored more points than Sandberg, conceded fewer goals, kept more clean sheets etc… As a Fantasy asset, he’s the more reliable, obvious choice especially as he was half a million cheaper at the start of the season! That still baffles me to this day – he should’ve been 5.5m. Sandberg has been called upon more than McDermott and has a much worse defence in front of him – to post similar stats says it all about the Swede’s performances. McDermott gets the nod ahead of Selvik as he’s prevented more goals. Other than that, as Fantasy assets, there’s hardly been much between them.
Below is a table detailing all penalties our goalkeepers have faced over the course of the season. I’ve left it out of the final analysis as giving away a penalty in the first place can be for a whole range of reasons, making it difficult to apportion blame to the correct parties. Also, if a goalkeeper hasn’t faced a single penalty, it seems wholly strange to ‘mark him down’ against his peers who have. Statistically I’m not too sure there’s much more to be said here other than, of all the goalkeepers who have faced penalties, this is their performance:
I’ll leave it up to you to determine what that means.
• Karlstrøm is the only goalkeeper with an ACTUAL assist – versus Molde, no less – and has played twice as many key passes (4) as any other keeper. Would it surprise you to learn he’s the only number 1 to attempt over one thousand passes? That’s 45 every 90 minutes and 186 of his 840 accurate passes were completed in the opposition half. He also has a passing accuracy of 63.14% (4th). The only reason he’s fourth is because the three goalkeepers above him play most of their passes short, safely in their own half. (He’s top for every other KPI mentioned here)
• Sandberg perhaps surprisingly beats Jacob Storevik (5.0m) into second place though I’d suggest there’s not too much daylight between the two. Sandberg is happier to play the ball long (280-255) and has more success per 90 minutes (10.17-8.79)
• Top Performer: Jacob Karlstrøm (15.33/16 RPSS!)
• Runner Up: Marcus Sandberg (12.81)
• Third Place: Jacob Storevik (12.17)
Star Distributor & Fantasy Distributor: Jacob Karlstrøm
Cheap, scores points, value for money. Oh, and he’s actually the most progressive, intelligent goalkeeper in the league. He dropped 0.67 points out of 16 in my RPS system – I’m not sure I’ve seen that before…
GUARDIAN GOALKEEPER – Best Overall
If I’ve said it before, I’ve said it, well, a lot, and that is, Marcus Sandberg is pretty good at goalkeeping. He’s a shot-stopper, a brick wall, a flea; hope in the face of adversity. He may play for one of the worst teams in the division but that hasn’t prevented him from being the most consistent, all-round player between the sticks this year. The big Swede really can do it all.
Best Overall Goalkeeper: Marcus Sandberg (25.24/30)
Sandberg would be a great addition to any of the bigger teams in Norway. Whatever metric we’re looking at, he tends to score well. Across an entire range of KPIs that makes him incredibly difficult to outperform as his score (84%) proves. Viking need to prioritise him for next season, it’s that simple.
Karlstrøm (23.54) is a bit behind but takes second just ahead of McDermott (22.24). His passing ability and desire to look for any pass that might be on makes him a very interesting goalkeeper in the Eliteserien as that kind of play doesn’t seem to be as prevalent as it is in the Premier League, for example.
My XI of the Year (4-2-3-1):
GK: Marcus Sandberg
GK: Jacob Karlstrøm
Defenders will be broken down into two categories before deciding an overall best-performer across the board. The categories are:
• Attempted and Successful Tackles + Success Rate (%)
• Recoveries + per 90 min
• Interceptions + per 90 min
• Clearances + per 90 min
• Headed Clearances
• Duels Won + % Won
• Aerial Duels Won + % Won
• Times Dispossessed
• Passing Accuracy (%)
Hotfoots (Creative & Attacking)
• Assists – xA
• Goals – xG
• Accurate Opposition Half Passes + per 90 min
• Key Passes + per 90 min
• Big Chances Created
• Attempted and Accurate Crosses + per 90 min
• Attempted and Accurate Long Balls + per 90 mins
• Attempted and Successful Dribbles + per 90 mins
• Dribble Success Rate (%)
• Shots + per 90 min and Shots on Target
• Times Fouled
• Touches + per 90 min
• Gustav Valsvik (5.7m) beats Markus Nakkim (5.0m) by over an entire point in the RPS system. When Strømsgodset bought him off Rosenborg, I knew in that moment that Hareide’s men were going to struggle defensively and that’s exactly what’s happened. And is it any wonder? According to these statistics, I’m inclined to say, “I told you so.”
• Valsvik completed more total clearances (141) and headed clearances (90) than any other defender as well as averaging 6.14 recoveries every 90 minutes (For reference, Glimt duo Marius Lode (5.0m) and Brede Moe (5.2m) are on 6.44 and 6.33 respectively). The Godset Giant has also completed the most interceptions (70) and interceptions per 90 minutes (2.51)
• Nakkim is one of the best defenders in the league for duels (142 won – 3rd including 107 aerial duels 2nd) and has made just 3 fewer clearances (138) than Valsvik. Remarkably the Mjøndalen man has been dispossessed on but one solitary occasion and he’s actually one of the more accomplished passers amongst his peers, with an accuracy of 80.57%
• The fact we have not one, but two Lillestrøm defenders in our top five goes to show how far above expectations they have been playing. Espen Garnås (4.7m) and Igoh Ogbu (4.8) have proven themselves to be decent, cheap Fantasy options (Ogbu is almost as good value for money as Valsvik) as well as within the statistical rankings. Lillestrøm have a decent crop of defence-minded players to build around ahead of next season – if they hold onto them all, maybe 3rd place isn’t a step too far next time around?
• Top Performer: Gustav Valsvik (12.50/17 RPSS)
• Runner Up: Markus Nakkim (11.42)
• Third Place: Espen Garnås
All three have been a credit to their teams and all deserve any plaudits heading their way. No doubt Valsvik stands out somewhat due to his goalscoring tendencies, but they’ve all had their moments at multiple stages of the season.
I thought Nakkim was off last season and surely taking a step down to play in the OBOS is not on the cards for the 25-year-old. Transfer rumours will be flying around with wild abandon in no time and wherever he ends up, I’m confident success will follow.
Star Sentinel & Fantasy Sentinel: Gustav Valsvik
Might seem like a cop out, but he’s been great value for money, offers more goal threat than any of other Sentinels and has managed to get into triple figures while playing for Godset. As a centre back. Statistically he’s been more consistent, reliable and a better all-round defensive player than anyone else AND the five defenders who have scored more points than him are all full-backs/play in advanced roles.
• Fredrik André Bjørkan (6.6m) was under-priced at 6m. That seems absurd, yet it’s impossible to dispute. Out of our top 15, he offers the third best PPM and is a mere 0.4 PPM/90min behind Tomas Totland (6.0m). 9 DGI, 132 Fantasy points, 42 key passes (1st), 7 big chances created (joint 3rd), 97 attempted dribbles (1st), 2242 touches (3rd) – the fella has it all. He joins Hertha Berlin in January and while we shall certainly mourn the loss of such a talent, I think deep down we all knew his days were numbered in the Eliteserien – he was made for bigger things
• Christian Dahle Borchgrevink (5.9m) might have gone off the boil a bit this time round, but he’s almost matched Bjørkan for DGI and he perhaps should have beaten him – he’s actually provided 2.11 fewer assists than he should have done. Key passes (25) seem somewhat mediocre, yet his big chance creation (8) trumps the Glimt left-back and only Kristoffer Aasbak (5.4m) and Lars-Christopher Vilsvik (4.6m) – with 139 and 173 respectively – have attempted more crosses (128)
• Totland has backed up his impressive Fantasy outings with sturdy statistics, as he has an almost identical total RPSS score to Molde’s Kristoffer Haugen (6.8m). He offers far greater value and despite not quite being able to match Haugen’s key passes (28-36) he does dribble almost twice as much and twice as well
• Erlend Dahl Reitan (6.2m) is one of those players that might seem frustrating to own in a Fantasy game when in actual fact he’s consistently putting in good performances. And let’s not forget, the guy has contributed 10 DGI for Rosenborg this season, even if he is a tad more expensive than he should be in ESF. One to watch for 21/22 (Yes, I am aware he’s 24!)
• Snorre Strand Nilsen (6.0m) falls shy of the top 10 by 0.01 point, while in Fantasy he’s second for points only to Bjørkan (132-119). The optimist in me thinks this means he might be an absolute essential player for the entire 21/22 campaign. Statistically speaking he did well, but he can do better. 119pts, 8 DGI, 23.8 PPM and he can improve? Consider my interest well and truly piqued
• Top Performer: Fredrik André Bjørkan (15.14/26 RPSS)
• Runner Up: Christian Dahle Borchgrevink (13.29)
• Third Place: Erlend Dahl Reitan (12.44)
Star Hotfoot: Fredrik André Bjørkan
If we’re being brutally honest, he wins both distinctions, but to be interesting, I’m choosing someone else for the Fantasy Hotfoot. Either way I’m happy to be disagreed with here because despite his cost, he’s offered fantastic value all season and has outscored every other defender along with every midfielder bar two. Incredible.
Star Fantasy Hotfoot: Snorre Strand Nilsen & Tomas Totland
I don’t see how I can separate these two. 6 Fantasy points separate them, identical DGI and they’re almost as good value for money as each other. They’ve both played for inconsistent teams, though Totland wins that comparison by virtue of being part of a newly promoted side. Either way the duo have become mainstays in many of our teams and at the time of writing brag ownership of around 20% each.
DYNAMIC DEFENDER – Best Overall
When you combine a Sentinel with a Hotfoot, you get a Dynamic Defender and that’s obviously Fredrik André Bjørkan isn’t it? Yup. It is. Valsvik (23.04) finishes in second place and Dahl Reitan (21.8) snatches bronze away from Borchgrevink (21.5). All in all I find it hard to disagree with those placings but I’m perhaps a bit more interested in seeing Brice Wembangomo (4.3m) in 6th (20.8) and Sturla Ottesen (4.5m) in 9th (20.18).
Both are talented chaps but Ottesen is 20, yet he’s scored so well in both categories he’s finished the season ahead of Alfons Sampsted (6.1m) in our rankings (20.1). Another example of a player who is ‘too good to go down’ as Stabæk’s only way of remaining in the Eliteserien is via the relegation play-offs and despite his age, not a chance does Ottesen drop a league at this point in his career.
Best Overall Defender: Fredrik André Bjørkan (23.9/43)
My XI of the Year (4-2-3-1):
GK: Marcus Sandberg
RB: Erlend Dahl Reitan
CB: Gustav Valsvik
CB: Markus Nakkim
LB: Fredrik André Bjørkan
GK: Jacob Karlstrøm
LB: Kristoffer Haugen
RB: Christian Dahle Borchgrevink
CB: Espen Garnås
My team of the year is based on the statistical analysis rather than Fantasy performances/points as, well, it’s pretty obvious who has been the best Fantasy players per position. Also, it can become quite a subjective topic when people start discussing who is better than who because of however they’ve decided to value those players. For me, deciding a player’s worth in Fantasy boils down to a few things:
• Value for Money (PPM & PPM/90)
• DGI Threat (Goals and Assists)
• Team Played for
We want our money to go as far as possible so PPM and PPM/90 are really important to consider when analysing players. So regarding defenders it’s easy enough to say Bjørkan, Totland and Snorre Nilsen are probably the best defenders to have owned this season. OK? What does that mean? It means we’re using hindsight to say which Fantasy options we should have had for the game. It’s not exactly helpful – it’s the statistical equivalent of point chasing.
The best thing we can do is analyse the statistical data to suggest who could be a ‘sleeping giant’ as well as those players who might be lucky (to a point) to be where they are when it comes to Fantasy ranking. Don’t forget that Fantasy assists aren’t actually assists and there is something of a lottery to how they are attributed at times.
While Borchgrevink, Dahl Reitan and Aasbak might be a bit off the pace when it comes to value for money, statistically they’ve performed well – perhaps that translates to more points next season? Who knows. And that’s the point, who does know? Admitting that a Fantasy game is going to be determined not only by skill and analysis but happenstance and fortune is pretty much step one in being able to see the Fantasy season as a whole but also compartmentalise it into Rundes.
For defenders we’re not only looking at DGIs but clean sheet potential. Obviously if they play for better teams, their price usually scales due to that fact. Sheriff Sinyan (5.4m) stands out as he’s been a regular part of the Molde defence (2007 minutes played) and not only has he cashed in on some clean sheets, he’s scored 3 goals and got 2 assists. Not a chance he’s 5.5m next season but he’s the exact kind of player we strive to identify. Affordable, part of a good defence and gets involved in goals.
The midfield and forward analysis will follow this article so watch out for that.