Nå nærmer det seg sesongstart i Norge, og i den anledning har vi fått Eliteserie-ekspert, Ben Wells, som skriver om Eliteserien for Football Radar, til å rangere de fem beste kjøpene i overgangsvinduet hittil.
Skrevet av Ben Wells
Eirik Ulland Andersen
After an impressive second half to the 2018 season, it became clear that Molde could well be the side in 2019 to finally topple Rosenborg and end an era of dominance for the Trondheim based club.
Molde’s goal this season will be to win the league and to do that, top class signings would need to be made. The side responded swiftly with the additions of former Bodo/Glimt defender Martin Bjørnbak and Haugesund full back Kristoffer Haraldseid, both of whom improved what was an already strong area of the squad.
Mathis Bolly and Erling Knudtzon followed soon after, the former being an impressive albeit injury prone addition to the side and the latter adding good depth to the forward line. However, one major signing in particular stood out the most, that of Eirik Ulland Andersen who joined the side for around 4.5m NOK from Stromsgodset.
Ulland Andersen first caught my eye during his spell with Hødd in the OBOS Ligaen where he scored 27 times in 77 league appearances between the years of 2013 and 2016. It was always clear that Ulland Andersen was destined for bigger things, his ability both on and off the ball was always impressive and it was rare to see a defence in the OBOS Ligaen comfortable with dealing him coming in off the flanks. Despite a poor season in 2016, by which time his head had already been turned by interest from multiple Eliteserien sides, the forward made the move to Stromsgodset for the second half of the season and quickly racked up 3 goals in 8 impressive performances.
2017 saw Ulland Andersen become the player many thought he would always be, as he became a key man in the Stromsgodset XI, notching 11 goals in 26 league appearances. Comparisons had always been drawn between Ulland Andersen and Rosenborg winger Pal Andre Helland due to their similar styles of play and past in Hødd, but the 2017 season was the first year it would have been arguable to rate both players equally as highly.
Despite a poor 2018 season for Stromsgodset as a club, Ulland Andersen continued to build his reputation as one of the most feared forwards in the league with more improvements in what was an underperforming squad. His move to Molde this Winter was not a surprise, it is now time for Ulland Andersen to make another step up in standard to a side who will be expected to challenge on all fronts in the 2019 season. In a side such as Molde, who put a lot of emphasis on their attacking play, I think Ulland Andersen will flourish and end the season as one one of the best players in the league. A bold claim, but one that Ulland Andersen would also suggest could become true if he continues to improve in the same manner as he has in recent seasons.
Petter Strand is destined to always be the dark horse in midfield for any side he joins up with. Whilst he may not be the flashiest, most skilful nor easy on the eye in terms of playing style, there is a reason why so many top Norwegian managers want or have wanted him in their side.
At Sogndal, the dynamic duo of Kristian Opseth & Mahatma Otoo up front outshone the work rate of Strand in midfield. At Molde, the extreme talent of Eling Haaland and solid defensive displays of Vegard Forren and Ruben Gabrielsen masked the effectiveness and tactical flexibility of Strand when he played.
However, in his own right, Petter Strand is a player worth his salt in any top Eliteserien squad. He is the kind of player teammates will rave about, whilst fans praise other members of the squad who are the main ‘ticket sellers’.
His energetic pressing and ability to get up and down the field quickly will be key to Brann’s play this season. Lars Arne Nilsen had been trying to sign Strand from Molde for a while, but he was already blessed with a number of top quality central midfielders this season in the shapes of Fredrik Haugen, Kristoffer Barmen, Ruben Yttergård Jenssen, Kristoffer Løkberg and Amer Ordagic. It would not surprise me one bit however if Strand manages to cement his place in the XI before Christmas this year and could quickly become one of Nilsen’s most trusted men in midfield.
Strand is someone who may be overlooked once more come the end of the season, but due to the fact that he has featured heavily, and played well, in pre-season plus the seemingly constant praise from new boss Nilsen, I have a feeling that he could well be seen as one of the signings of the season come the end of the year if Brann achieve their pre-season goals.
Haugesund had been oddly quiet in the transfer window this Winter, after a poor financial year in 2018 left them needing to sell before they would be able to buy. However, the side then proceeded to pull off arguably the biggest and most talked about pre-season signing of any Norwegian club.
Martin Samuelsen’s career has been stalling somewhat for a little while now. Unsuccessful loans with Blackburn, Burton, VVV and Peterborough have meant that his progress at parent club West Ham has been put on ice for the moment, despite the player gaining 3 international caps and one goal for Norway during his time in London.
Samuelsen was born in Haugesund and has always had an affiliation with the side from Rogaland county despite never playing for them previously. Samuelsen’s only spell with a locally based side was with the Vard youth team between 2011 and 2012 before he made his first move abroad to the Manchester City academy.
Whilst his career history is not the most impressive at the moment, there is no doubt that Samuelsen will be one of the first names on the team sheet in Haugesund if he manages to impress new manager Jostein Grindhaug. The local fans will be fully expecting him to deliver on his undoubted potential whilst on loan with the side this season.
Journalist Terje Flateby, who works for Haugesunds Avis, tells me; “Samuelsen will do well and is a great signing for FKH, but he will need more time than most people seem to think.
He has been very well received by the fans but I think many expect too much from him too soon. He has to adapt to Haugesund’s way of playing to get in the physical condition required to play that way.”
Clearly, Samuelsen is a player who could well set the league alight. Should he settle in well, as Terje suggests, then there is no doubt he could become one of the players of the season. Whilst he may need more time with the side to fully get used to their way of playing, Samuelsen will surely be one to watch this year.
Having impressed greatly in Norway for both Notodden and Odd between the years of 2008 to 2014, it is probably fair to say that Herolind Shala’s career has been on something of a downward trajectory since. Unimpressive stints with Sparta Prague, Kasimpasa and Lyngby followed before IK Start’s Sporting Director, Tor-Kristian Karlsen, brought him into their squad mid-2018.
Start were struggling in the Eliteserien and needed Shala to deliver the goods immediately for them to have any chance of survival. The exciting midfielder responded with 3 goals & 3 assists in 14 games and became an immediate hit with the Start fans despite their inevitable relegation.
Valerenga moved quickly to sign Shala amid interest from a number of fellow Eliteserien clubs. The signing, on paper, is an excellent one due to Shala’s ability to play in a number of offensive positions. This will be very useful to Ronny Deila, who is looking to implement a 4-2-3-1 formation this year.
Shala would be wasted at the base of a midfield pivot and could cause a defensive imbalance in Valerenga’s side should he feature there. I would hope to see him playing as either an attacking midfielder or wide playmaker in 2019. If Shala can continue the form he showed in 2018, there is no doubt in my mind he could become one of the signings of the season and potentially catapult Valerenga to a medal position in the league.
Babajide David Akintola
It’s been quite the rise for Babajide David Akintola of late. The pacy winger moved from FC Ebedei in his native Nigeria to Midtjylland in Denmark aged just 18 years old before playing for the reserve team and a brief loan spell with lower league club Thisted.
Akintola made his first strides into Norwegian football with a loan spell at FK Jerv in 2017. Having initially been signed as cover down the right hand side, Akintola soon grew into the team and by the mid-point of the season had nailed down his starting spot in the XI.
It was during this spell at Jerv where Akintola seemingly changed his style of play to a more attacking forward, rather than the winger he had originally been signed as. He finished the season as the club’s main outlet up front and racked up 8 goals in 25 appearances in the process.
Kristoffer Tonnessen played with Akintola during the 2017 OBOS Ligaen season and had this to say on the player; “Akintola has incredible speed and all the abilities to become a great attacking player. He impressed us a lot during training that year and clearly had a lot of talent.
At times he could be difficult to combine with on the pitch but it looks like he has made great improvements in that aspect of late. I think he could do very well for Rosenborg and definitely improves their attacking options.”
At times last season, Rosenborg struggled in attack due to the lack of pace and guile in their frontline. Samuel Adegbenro, usually tasked with providing these abilities, was injured for much of the season as was fellow wide player Pal Andre Helland. It was clear for much of the season that reinforcements in attack were needed and David Akintola will provide them with much needed pace and goals from out wide.
His improvements whilst on loan at Haugesund last season were evident and culminated with a place in most pundits’ team of the season come the end of the year. New Rosenborg manager Eirik Horneland will know the player well from his spell last season, so settling should not be too much of an issue.
Rosenborg have made some smart signings this window, one of the most notable being Gjermund Asen, but I have chosen to focus on Akintola specifically here as I feel he directly improves a weak area of this current Rosenborg squad whilst Asen simply re-enforces an already strong area of the pitch. With Molde hot on the heels of Rosenborg for the title in 2019, Akintola could be the difference between a disappointing 2nd place finish or a first season title win for new boss Horneland.