There’s now less than a month to go before the 2009 Tippeliga kicks off, so it’s about time NFN took a slightly cross-eyed look how the teams’ pre-season preparations seem to be going. With little to go by apart from hearsay and friendly-results, these observations should be taken with an almighty pinch of salt.
Bodø/Glimt – Ich Habe Keine Angst?
After winning their first couple of friendlies Glimt were given a swift kick in the goolies in the shape of a 3-2 defeat against Northern minnows Alta, prompting veteran (which is just a polite word for “old”) winger Jan Derek Sørensen to tell the press that “Last season we were good partly because all of the players had a certain angst about being relegated”, and that he felt this particular angst had left the squad. In their next friendly they beat Brann 2-1, so presumably the angst is returning.
Brann – Who Wants To Be Elbowed In The Face?
Sighs of relief were heard all over Bergen as Brann managed to offload über-flop Njogu Demba-Nyréen to Danish side OB, but those sighs were soon turned into shrieks of horror as it became apparent that the deal sent David Nielsen the other way. Yes, the controversial (which in this case is a polite word for “unsympathetic f**kwit”) striker is back in the Tippeliga, and even though the season hasn’t started yet and nothing is at stake he has already started elbowing people in the face. As if this wasn’t enough to worry Brann-fans, friendly-results have been quite poor as well, with the most recent game a 3-1 defeat against Strømsgodset.
Fredrikstad – Not Quite There Yet
..and we’re not just talking about Raymond Kvisvik’s weight-watchers targets. After undermining their ambitious sporting director Tor Kristian Karlsen for having the gall to doubt manager Anders Grönhagen and giving the latter a new two-year contract, Fredrikstad have been, well, a bit rubbish really. Defeats at the hands of Nordsjælland, Stabæk, Rosenborg and most recently a 6-2 spanking by IFK Gøteborg gives the distinct impression of a side that has a lot of work to do before the season gets under way.
Lillestrøm – Oh Dear, They’re Really Rather Good
Early indications are that, as expected, in the hands of manager Henning Berg the team everyone loves to hate will actually be quite good. Long gone are the hilarious days of last season when everything was going pear-shaped for the yellow-clad thugs, and while you should never read too much into friendly results (unless Norway beat Germany, obviously), their 5-2 tonking of reigning Russian champions Rubin Kazan must be seen as a warning-shot for the rest of the league. Lillestrøm may well mean business this season.
Lyn – Could You Spare A Few Coins?
Still financially buggered, but still playing some impressive stuff. The omens are that the 2009-edition of Lyn won’t be all that different from the 2008 one, even if some pretty high-profile people have left the club since then. Results have been mixed, but there has been flashes of some pretty terrific football, particularly in the 2-1 win over Rosenborg.
Molde – No News Is Good News
It’s been pretty damned quiet around Molde this pre-season, but they probably won’t mind. Results have been mixed, with very little to draw any sort of conclusions from. They’ll be pretty pleased about managing to keep the squad intact in the transfer-window though, with quality players like Magne Hoseth and Vegard Forren attracting interest from abroad but sticking around for now.
Odd Grenland – Here To Stay?
Of the three promoted teams Odd Grenland look by far the strongest, and decent performances against Tippeliga-opposition this winter would seem to back that up. The only major stories coming out of their training-camp has been that promising midfielder Magnus Lekven (21) is finally starting to come out of his shell and fulfill his potential, while Rosenborg wanted to spend 5million NOK on their hulking Hungarian hitman Peter Kovacs.
Rosenborg – Title challenge ahoi?
Like so many other teams, Rosenborg’s friendlies have yielded mixed results. Defender Vadim Demidov feels they are well under way though, telling Dagbladet that “We are playing better than the same time last year”. Off the pitch Rosenborg are desperately looking for a big burly striker to provide relief to the aging and injury-prone limbs of Steffen Iversen, with burly men like Rade Prica and Peter Kovacs being mentioned in the press. The capture of winger/forward Trond Olsen from Bodø/Glimt is a major coup though, as he gives them a different option both wide left and up front.
Sandefjord – Half Full/Half Empty
In assessing Sandefjord’s pre-season, it’s all about wether or not you want to be optimistic. Obvious candidates for the drop this season, Sandefjord will take their 1-0 win against Strømsgodset as a sign that they can mingle with the big boys on their day. However, their 1-0 defeat to Adeccoliga outfit Hønefoss was slightly more worrying. More worrying still is the fact that they’ve barely strengthened their squad since earning promotion.
Stabæk – Players Wanted: Must Be Quite Good
It would be unfair to read much into Stabæk’s pre-season results so far as they clearly have more shopping to do. The departures of Veigar Pall Gunnarsson and Alanzinho along with the long-term injury to Johan Andersson leaves Daniel Nannskog as the only remaining member of that devastating attacking quadrant which no Tippeliga-team fully managed to deal with last season. As Nannskog himself so eloquently put it: “We need new players”. The arrival of Japanese playmaker Daigo Kobayashi is curious and exciting in equal measure, but surely more arrivals are required if the boys in blue are to have any chance of defending their title?
Start – Half Full/Half Empty Part 2
Like Sandefjord, their squad looks some way short of what is required in the Tippeliga, but wins against heavyweights like Vålerenga and Viking would indicate that there is some there. On the other hand, being beaten by fellow promotees Sandefjord and Odd Grenland is rather less impressive.
Strømsgodset – Yawn
Life is too short.
Tromsø – Life After Nilsen
Raised a few eyebrows by holding Shakhtar Donetsk to a 2-2 draw, but apart from that their pre-season has been unspectacular. Looks a solid enough outfit at this stage, particularly since they persuaded both Bosnian nutcase goalkeeper Sead Ramovic and veteran forward Sigurd Rushfeldt to stay at the club. There is one question that has to be raised though: What is the state of their finances like? Considering they reportedly budgeted on receiving 16million through player-sales last season and ended up receiving bugger all. Perhaps pissing off Fulham when they expressed an interest in Tore Reginiussen this winter wasn’t very clever after all..
Viking – Uwe, was ist los?
That is indeed the question. In spite of having a young and exciting squad with several potential internationals Viking have been struggling. Badly. Manager Uwe Rösler seems uncertain about what formation to play, star signing Tomasz Sokolowski has missed out on a lot of pre-season work due to a spell of niggling injuries, no-one look particularly likely to score any goals and the defense looks even more gaffe-prone than it did last season. Seriously Uwe, what’s going on? What’s wrong?
Vålerenga – Silence Is The New Loud
Being the biggest club in Oslo inevitably means an amount of media-coverage that is woefully disproportionate to the club’s actual significance in Norwegian football, but this pre-season it’s been awfully quiet around Vålerenga. Results have been too good to whinge about but not good enough to send expectations through the roof, there’s been no major signings as there isn’t a lot of money around and nothing particularly scandalous has been going on off the pitch. Hopefully this means that supreme overlord player manager Martin Andresen has been given some peace and quiet in which to prepare his team for the upcoming campaign, and hopefully that in turn will mean that the 2009-edition of Vålerenga will be less terrible to watch than the 2008 one.
Aalesund – Player Wanted: Must Be, Well, At Least Half-Decent.
Aside from the arrival of Demar Phillips from Stoke, AaFK manager Kjetil Rekdal is still playing the waiting-game in the transfer-market. Considering the current economic climate, many clubs will be desperate to get players off their wage-bills before the Norwegian transfer window shuts on the 31st of March, so this waiting-game could well earn Aalesund a few bargains. On the other hand it could backfire badly and leave Aalesund with a paper-thin squad. Nervous times ahead for the AaFK faithful, in other words.