Posted by: Christian Wulff | March 22, 2012

Tippeligaen Season Review – Part 2

Tippeligaen Season Review – Part 2

In terms of player talent, squad size, and top flight experience Tippeligaen 2012 quickly divides itself into three different parts. Champions Molde, Rosenborg, the undisputed giants of Norwegian football, and Vålerenga – the undisputed underachievers – are the natural favourites. After the top three teams, it is only a slight exaggeration to say that the most exact method of predicting which teams will finish in 4th to 12th place is to draw them out of a hat. The four remaining clubs will need to severely overachieve not to fulfil their expected destiny of a difficult season but they are all very similar in quality, again making a potential mockery of any attempts to predict who will occupy the two automatic relegation spots.

In part two of the season review I’ll try to make some sense of what is likely to be a very closely fought part of table.

The Muddled Middle

After the top three teams, predicting the order in which the next nine teams will finish starts to blur the line between qualified guessing and closing your eyes while pointing at a piece of paper. Last year, only six points separated third from ninth, while there was only another nine points down to 14th. If anything, this year looks set to be even tighter.  

There are teams that are likely to finish high up in this middle group, none more so than Tromsø. Having finished a very strong second last season, they’ve been in the top 6 every year since 2007, a level of consistency only Rosenborg can match. While Aalesund and Brann are expected to join Tromsø high up on the table, they are notoriously unpredictable and especially the former seems to have been given a status of potential outsider that their player material to not justify. Kjetil Rekdal have done an impressive job with his young team, with a 4th place finish in 2009, winning the cup twice in three years and putting in the most respectable performance in Europe by a Norwegian team last season. Still, their squad just isn’t strong enough to realistically expect anything other than a slight improvement on last year’s 9th place.

Viking is faced with a situation that is almost the complete opposite; predicted to challenge for a top three position last year, they severely underachieved and finished 11th, with many observers expecting a similar fate this season. Which seems very short-sighted as the potential quality in the squad is undeniable, the large group of very talented youngsters having gained invaluable experience from a difficult year. It’s not a far-fetch assumption that Viking’s young team, hardened by a troubled season and with far lower expectations placed upon them, might have a far better season than an Aalesund side with similar, if not less, quality throughout the squad and with a somewhat unfamiliar hype surrounding them.

Odd Grenland and Haugesund are teams that can fly so low under the radar that you’ll be forgiven for forgetting they are in the league altogether. That is until you realise that the continuity and stability surrounding the teams and their sense of a clear playing style have resulted in two straight league positions of 5th and 6th respectively. Odd Grenland even finished 4th in 2009, the year after they were promoted. The two teams are again expected to finish further down the league this year, below more fancied teams filled with bigger names, but they will prove to be very tough opponents for any club.

A Fredrikstad team stripped of almost half their first team starters since last summer and with a perilous financial situation looming over them, looks the most likely to slip down towards trouble this year. However, they have sign two very experienced players in Jon Knudsen and Thomas Holm on free transfer and they if they can keep hold of Tarik Elyounoussi until at least the late summer, they will possess one of the greatest attacking threats in the league.

Lillestrøm and Strømsgodset are both relying on a young squad, the latter having done impressively well over the last two seasons with an effective youth policy guided by their 36 year old coach Ronny Deila. Lillestrøm made an excellent and necessarily signing when they brought Petter Vidar Moen back from reserve football wilderness at Queens Park Rangers, giving him the central attacking midfield role he should prosper in. With the veteran centre-back Frode Kippe and the signing of experienced Bosnian goalkeeper goalkeeper Saed Ramovic, they have a central line that should help guide and stabilise a young team to a better league position than last season.

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Responses

  1. […] Tippeligaen 2012 Season Preview by Christian on A Hell of a Beating The Norwegian Premier League 2012 season got underway this month and Christian’s excellent Norwegian football blog gives you the lowdown on what to expect. It’s split into three parts dealing with the bottom four, the title challengers and the rest. […]


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