Posted by: Christian Wulff | April 11, 2012

Musings on Round 3

Second?

Somehow, Vålerenga is second. In their first home game this season they needed two late goals to beat 10-man Haugesund, a performance that deserved a lot less than 3 points. They went to Drammen in round two, where an injury time winner from their former player Lars Iver Strand gave Strømsgodset a deserved victory. For most of the match yesterday, Viking impressed with their short, direct passing game, carving out chance after chance against Vålerenga,  before substitute Mohammed Fellah’s cross took a wicked deflection of Indridi Sigurdsson and crept in at the near post. Vålerenga held on for another unconvincing win and have even leapfrogged Molde into second place. If they want to stay there, coach Martin Andresen really needs to stop tinkering in the wrong places and find the formula that will get the most out of his impressive squad.

Yesterday he had dropped his captain Kristoffer Hæstad, preferring instead Fegor Ogude beside the more attack minded Harmeet Singh. It was his third different central midfield pairing in three games, that trio of players playing  two games each. Singh had been sidelined before the season started after saying he would not renew his contract, but after setting up the two goals against Haugesund and another one against Strømsgodset he has proved his inherent quality and worth to the team. He should surely be freed from the strict positional discipline and defensive work required in that central role and be pushed further up into attack. Veigar Páll Gunnarsson, by far one of the best players in Tippeligaen last season, was dropped for the game against Strømsgodset and while he is now struggling with a hamstring injury he should surely be playing behind striker Marcus Pedersen as soon as he is match-fit.

On the wings Andresen has shown consistency in selection when he perhaps shouldn’t have. Håvard Nielsen scored a fine goal against Haugesund but the 18 year old is still not consistent enough to be a first team starter and does not have the speed and creativity to excel in a wide position. On the other flank Morten Berre – twice the age of Nielsen – have had an incredible career with a total of 365 Tippeligaen matches for Skeid, Viking, Haugesund and Vålerenga.  But just like Nielsen, he’s not a typical wide player and his performances so far does not warrant Andresen’s faith in him, especially with the wealth of creative talent sitting on the bench.

For the second home game of the season, it was a marginalised player with an inherent creative and unpredictable nature that came off the bench for Vålerenga and saved their blushes.  Mohamed Fellah’s might have been very lucky when it came to the goal, but he was the breath of fresh air his team needed when he came on at half-time. The 22 year-old played 49 league games the last two seasons and while he may have struggled somewhat in pre-season he is surely now at a stage in his career where he should be trusted to deliver as a permanent  starter. Andresen has simply not been convincing in his four seasons as a top-flight coach and while he is still only 35 he needs to learn quickly, his team still struggling to perform with any kind of consistency or conviction.  Having said that, Vålerenga is – somehow – second.

Since criticism of Andresen never gets boring, another side of his decision making qualities is coming under the spotlight due to Etzaz Hussain’s impressive start to the season. The former Manchester United trainee came to Vålerenga at the start of last season, but only two months later he was sold on to Fredrikstad. Hussain said that the club had claimed he lacked the strength and speed necessarily and would need ‘3 or 4 years‘ to build him up to the level that was needed. Heavily implied in the move was also a lack of chemistry between him and Andresen. In Fredrikstad he started 14 games last season, with another six appearances of the bench. Together with 7 assists he also contributed two goals, one of them the winning strike away to Vålerenga.   This season Hussain, now 19, has really hit the ground running. He scored a sensational goal in the 5-1 demolition of Stabæk, adding two assists in a man of the match performance.  He has formed an instant understanding with Tarik Elyounoussi, his defence splitting pass to the Norway striker beautifully setting up Fredrikstad’s equaliser against Hønefoss this week. Hussain has maybe been the biggest revelation in Tippeligaen so far this season,  his inherent qualities and creative talent evident for everyone to see.

While Ole Gunnar Solskjær nurtured and supported his former Manchester United trainee Magnus Wofff-Eikrem to become an integral part of the Molde team last year, Vålerenga and Andresen shipped their talented youngster off after two months. It smacks of the same head-scratching decision making that made them send Mustafa Abdellaoue on loan to Tromsø before last season. While no Vålerenga players got more than eight goals, Abdellaoue ended up as the league’s top-scorer with 17. And still, Vålerenga is second…

Northern consistency and quirky stats

Viking’s undeserving defeat against Vålerenga means that after 30 games in Tippeligaen this season, Sogndal’s 4-0 win at  Odd Grenland in the first round is still the only away victory. It also kept the longest winning streak for any club this season at, eh, 1.

In the choppy waters of instability and inconsistent results that is Tippeligaen, the steady ship of Tromsø keeps sailing on in their own sea of calm and measured performances. Their 3-0 win at home against Stabæk was never in doubt, and in their on-loan Czech striker Zdenek Ondrásek and the former Glasgow Rangers reserve player Thomas Kind Bendiksen have fitted in perfectly in the hard-working, quick and at times surprisingly creative side. The only team yet to concede a goal, Tromsø have taken top spot, a position they held for several weeks last season. With another home game against newly promoted Sandnes Ulf coming up this weekend, it’ll be no surprise if they are still top when they face their biggest test yet the week after, when they travel to Trondheim to face Rosenborg. Who knows, by the time they play at home against Hønefoss at the end of April, the snow around the pitch might have started to disappear as well. The world’s most northerly top-flight team will again be a real contender.

Strømsgodset and Haugesund will always guarantee you loads of fun, and while there was slightly more slap-stick than quality it was a highly entertaining game in Drammen, a 3-3 draw leaving both teams on 4 points.

Sogndal got their first ever point away to Rosenborg on their 14th attempt, although even this year’s Liverpool side would have been embarrassed by the home team’s wastefulness in front of goal. It was also Lillestrøm’s 14th failed attempt in a row to win a league match, their loss away to Odd Grenland meaning they haven’t taken three points from a game since August last year.

Results round 3:  Odd Grenland – Lillestrøm 2-0, Rosenborg – Sogndal 0-0, Hønefoss – Fredrikstad 1-1, Sandnes Ulf – Aalesund 1-1, Strømsgodset – Haugesund 3-3, Tromsø – Stabæk 3-0, Molde – Brann 2-1, Vålerenga – Viking 1-0.

You can get all the stats and watch free (and legal) highlights of every games at the altomfotball.no website. Click on the result of each game and, eh, press play (there will be a short commercial first). This page will also include all the match facts, line-ups and formations.

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Responses

  1. Great round up and spot on analysis of Vålerenga’s start to the season. I spent most of the day at work discussing how the hell enga are sitting 2nd, and of course enjoying some banter with the many office Lillestrøm fans ahead of next weekends derby!

    • Cheers Dave. I should really have put a disclaimer in saying that I’m a Skeid fan but nobody really care about us anyway! Thing is, I really like most of the players at Vålerenga, I just don’t see Andresen as a good fit for them. The Lillestrøm derby is maybe the greatest game in Norwegian football – have you been to an away one yet?


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