After an inconsistent 2016 season in the OBOS Ligaen it seems Mjondalen are more ready than ever in 2017 to challenge for promotion back to the Eliteserien. After their 5-1 win against Kongsvinger yesterday the side sit in 3rd place in the league, unbeaten in their first five games.
There may only have been 5 weeks played of the new season but the signs are already there that Mjondalen will be a side challenging for the top two spots in the league come the end of the season. Last year, manager Vegard Hansen tried to work a new kind of tactic into the sides' play but their early season form suffered as a result.
This year, it is clear to see how Mjondalen want to play. With pace on the edges in Pellegrino and Bojang, Mjondalen are set up to be an extremely effective counter attacking team. Kongsvinger suffered as a result of this at the weekend, with the Mjondalen forwards finding themselves often in acres of space in the Isachsen Stadion.
With Joachim Olsen Solberg, Morten Sundli, Sousha Makani and Erik Midtgarden all leaving the side since last summer it was clear that Vegard Hansen would have work to do in the transfer market to replace these 4 influential players. Two new signings have really stood out thus far, with new captain Pontus Silfwer already a key cog in the sides' midfield and Cameroonian goalkeeper Georges Bokwe playing so well that most Mjondalen fans will have forgotten who Sousha Makani is already.
The improvements in Mjondalen's play compared to this time last year have been clear to see. Three parts of the squad in particular have stood out in the first 5 games but the squad as a whole seems stronger than ever.
Fotball , 30. april 2017 , OBOSligaen , OBOS-ligaen
Mj¿ndalen - Konsvinger
trener Vegard Hansen , MIF
BOYE FORM AN INDICATOR OF IMPROVEMENTS
It has been pleasing to see Ousseynou Boye beginning to show people what he is all about. Having arrived towards the end of the sides' Eliteserien campaign in 2015, the Senegalese striker failed to hit the ground running and flitted in and out of the Mjondalen squad.
2016 proved to be just as tough for the striker, who had been the top scorer for Diambars in Senegal for the 2014-15 season. Boye never managed to get a run of games in the OBOS Ligaen and often went under the radar during matches when Mjondalen were not the dominant side. Boye's work rate was never in question, but many did start to wonder whether the player possessed the level of skill required to make it in Norway.
With Jibril Bojang and Simonas Stankevicius signing for Mjondalen ahead of the 2017 season, it seemed that Boye would be pushed further back in the pecking order. However, due to injuries and his own good form, Boye has started every single OBOS Ligaen game so far this year scoring 5 goals in 5 games including a hat trick against Kongsvinger this weekend.
Boye looks more confident on the ball than ever. His finishing has dramatically improved and in general just looks a much happier, more confident footballer. Boye said to DT.no after the Kongsvinger game; 'I should have scored four. Thomas Sorum is my teacher when it comes to playing as a striker, I always go up to him in training and ask if what I have done is right or wrong.'
It is this positive, pro-active attitude that is currently serving Boye well. His willingness to learn and constantly improve is great to see, and these improvements will continue to benefit Mjondalen throughout the season.
PELLE PUTS INCONSISTENCY BEHIND HIM?
Bojang, Pellegrino & Boye celebrate a goal against Konsgvinger.
Amahl Pellegrino is hard to pin down. A player who has has the ability to frustrate as much as he excites, his last two years at Mjondalen have been marred with inconsistency punctuated with the occasional dosage of magic.
Links to the Eliteserien in the Winter were not misplaced, Pellegrino had a good 2016 season overall despite a few dips in form and finished the season with 8 goals and 8 assists in 30 matches. The problem with Amahl was never his ability, but his tendency to go missing for a handful of games at a time before regaining his composure and form.
This inconsistency that once defined Pellegrino as a player has not yet been seen in the first 5 games of 2017. Amahl has contributed 4 goals and 1 assist as of writing and has been more involved in Mjondalen's build up play than ever before with his pace perfectly suiting the wider position on the pitch he now operates in.
Last season Pellegrino was used on both the left hand side of the pitch as well as an out & out striker whereas this year he has been used almost exclusively as a left winger. This consistency in position has allowed Amahl to really nail down the role and become one of the most dangerous players in the league. His pace out wide will give teams nightmares, whilst his finishing this season has been more clinical than ever.
Due to this form on the left, it would surprise me if Pellegrino was used as a striker at all this season. Vegard Hansen has a very dangerous weapon at his disposal if his left winger continues to score as frequently as a striker would be expected to.
SOLID DEFENSIVE REPLACEMENTS
Fotball , 30. april 2017 , OBOSligaen , OBOS-ligaen
Mj¿ndalen - Konsvinger
Ulrik Arneberg , MIF
Niklas castro , KIL
As mentioned previously, Mjondalen lost some key players in their defence at the end of last season with former captain Olsen Solberg and first team regular Midtgarden both moving on to new clubs.
Vegard Hansen had a real tough task on his hand replacing these players but has seemingly bought well with Sondre Johansen and Petter Martinsen coming in to provide more competition to the current back four.
Martinsen in particular looks to be a smart signing. The former Nest-Sotra left full back was always a solid option for the side when they played in the OBOS Ligaen in 2015 and has seemingly improved his game since after a good 2016 season in the 2.Divisjon.
Whilst we are yet to see the best of Sondre Johansen, it has been clear from the first handful of games that the defender is extremely talented and more than ready to challenge William Sell & Ulrik Arneberg for a place in the center of defence.
Whilst not a new signing, Mads Hansen has also seemingly nailed down the right back role after a year of adaptation in 2016. The former winger took a while to get used to his new position and often seemed reluctant to get forward as much as he would have done as a true winger, but so far in 2017 Hansen has impressed with his ability to support play at both ends of the field.
HOW FAR CAN MJONDALEN REALISTICALLY GO?
Fotball , 18. april 2017 , OBOSligaen , OBOS-ligaen
Mj¿ndalen - Jerv
Amahl Pellegrino , MIF
There is no doubt that usurping Start & Bodo/Glimt for a chance to gain automatic promotion will be extremely tough. Mjondalen have started the season arguably just as well as their promotion rivals but whether they can sustain this form is yet to be seen.
The one thing Mjondalen have over Start in particular is squad depth. It speaks volumes that players such as Henrik Gulden, Kingsley Olie and Magnus Sylling Olsen have barely played a minute this year but should the side suffer a few injuries in the future they will know that their backup is more than capable of stepping in and immediately hitting the ground running.
Currently sitting 3rd in the table, Mjondalen will have to wait until May 28th until they face off against Bodo/Glimt at Aspmyra Stadion, but if their good form continues until then I would go as far as to say that the game could well end up defining their season. A win away against Glimt would really announce Mjondalen as potential promotion candidates whereas a loss could highlight how far away the side realistically are from the top two.
It's been a great start to 2017 for the side and how far they can go this year remains to be seen but if they keep up this impressive form then the sky really is the limit for Vegard Hansen's squad.