14.09.19

BLOG: Analysing Eliteserien’s unlikely title challengers

Article by Andy Cooper

Key takeaways

– Having finished just above the relegation places last year, Bodø/Glimt are challenging for the Eliteserien title with a team featuring several players aged under 21.

– Left winger Amour Layouni is their standout player in 2019, contributing the highest xG and xA output.

– Full-back Fredrik Bjørkan provides an additional threat down the left, averaging 18.6 touches per 90 in the attacking third and recording the highest xA behind Glimt’s front three.

 

Bodø/Glimt have been one of Scandinavian football’s surprise packages in 2019.

Having finished the 2018 campaign just three points above the relegation zone, Kjetil Knutsen’s side are now involved in a three-way race for the Eliteserien title, sitting just a point behind leaders Molde FK with 10 games to play.

Their turnaround in fortunes has coincided with an increase in involvement of young players in the first-team. They possess four players aged 21 and under who have played over 70% on-field league minutes in 2019 – and three of them have played over 90%, something which will not have gone unnoticed by recruitment departments at leading clubs both at home and abroad.

In this blog we take a closer look at Glimt’s playing style and the key players who are at the heart of their title push, including two of those young prospects.

Working collectively to find high quality scoring locations

Glimt are in their second season back in the top-flight following promotion in 2017 and during both campaigns have consistently set-up in a 4-3-3.

Unlike their title rivals Molde, whose leading scorer Ohikhuaeme Omoijuanfo is responsible for over 35% of their entire xG output, Glimt do not have a single focal point responsible for getting into high probability goalscoring locations.

Their highest individual xG output is from left winger Amour Layouni with 4.9, however the ability of their attacking and midfield players to find good locations is reflected by their collective team xG being the second highest in the league: 32.5.

Building up attacks down the left

In possession, Glimt look to retain the ball and build-up from deep positions. Using Opta’s Phases of Play framework, we can establish that they spend over a quarter of their total possession time in build-up before crossing the halfway line. Only 12th placed Tromsø spend a longer proportion of their time in build-up.

Click on the image to expand

Glimt’s average sequence starting point, 45.2 metres, is below the league average (45.4) and they are in the league’s top 3 for sequences comprising at least 6 passes (25.65 per 90).

Their two central defenders, Brede Moe and Marius Lode, are the players responsible for moving Glimt out of build-up. They rank first and second in Eliteserien for players who move their team out of this phase.

Two of Glimt’s young players who have featured regularly this season are their full backs – Erlend Reitan and Fredrik Bjørkan. Operating at left back, Bjørkan is the more offensive of the two and is a key player once they have moved out of build-up.

As well as being a key outlet for passes played into the attacking half (only Layouni and centre forward Philip Zinckernagel offer a more regular outlet to move Glimt into the established possession phase), the Norway U21 international completes 20.3 passes from the opposition half per 90, the second highest output of any Glimt player. 34% of his passes go forward (the highest proportion of any player in the squad), with the most common recipient being Layouni on the left wing.

End location of Fredrik Bjørkan’s successful passes from the opposition half – 2019 Eliteserien.

Layouni and Bjørkan combine together to offer an offensive threat in the final third down this side. No player in the squad has had more touches per 90 in the attacking third than Layouni (30.1), with Bjørkan ranking fourth (18.6). The full back also has an xA of 1.7 for the season, the highest output outside of Glimt’s regular front three.

The dual threat of Layouni

Whilst Bjørkan is important in building up attacks, Layouni has been Glimt’s standout player in relation to creating chances and providing a goal threat, leading his side in both xG and xA.

At the age of 26, Layouni is only in his second season of top-flight football after spending a number of years in the second and third tiers of Swedish football before moving to Norway in 2017. His performances this season have seen him earn a first senior call-up for Tunisia, winning his first two caps during the September international break.

Layouni ranks second amongst all Eliteserien players for xA this season (4.97) and has created 37 chances, 22 of which have come from crosses. As shown by the location of his assists and key passes worth more than 0.1 xA, he has been particularly productive from wide areas and the inside channel from the left-hand side.

Layouni is also Glimt’s joint-top goalscorer and is one of several players in the side who is exceeding their xG by a large margin.

Despite the majority of his touches occurring in wide areas, he has been able to get the majority of his shots away from locations inside the 18-yard-box and his finishing ability is reflected in his ‘Shooting Goals Added’ total, 2.4, which indicates that the goal probability of his shots increases compared to the xG value from the original shot location.

A different type of threat from the right-hand side

Like Layouni, 19-year-old winger Håkon Evjen has also contributed nine goals so far this season from the opposite side, with regular centre forward Zinckernagel, who often comes deep to receive the ball and link-up play, contributing four.

Unlike Layouni, who predominantly stays wide, Evjen plays as an inverted winger who looks to cut inside onto his preferred left foot to either link up with the central midfielders or get a shot away on goal, with nearly 45% of his attempts occurring outside of the box. Their contrasting styles are highlighted by the pitch maps below, highlighting the location of their ball touches.

Evjen’s take-on success of 60% is the third highest of any Eliteserien player to have recorded at least 40 take-ons in 2019 and he ranks second to Layouni in xA output for Glimt this season. Layouni also likes to take an opposing player on but is more likely to cross, whereas Evjen plays a higher volume of through balls.

Potential defensive weaknesses

One of key standouts of Glimt’s performances so far this season has been their overpeformance on xG, exceeding their projected output by close to 14 clear goals. Despite that, their collective output of 32.5 still ranks them second in the league so even if their performance reverts back to what xG would expect, they should still create opportunities to win games in the coming weeks.

However at the other end, they have conceded 30 goals from their 20 matches, against an xG projection of 22.8.  When looking at their away record in isolation the gap is even more stark, having conceded 23 goals against an xG of 14.15.

From their remaining matches they still need to play Rosenborg and Molde away from home, with the latter potentially being a title decider on the final day, so they will need to find a way to stop conceding goals from lower probability locations during the next three months.

However with their next five matches coming against the bottom five teams in the current league table, they have a fantastic opportunity to keep up the pressure on Molde and retain a chance of securing a first-ever league title in their 102 year history.

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