OBOS-LIGAEN 2017 - HER ER BEN WELLS SIN VURDERING AV LAGENE

I fjor så han samtlige kamper fra det nest-øverste nivået i Norge. Han har sett så godt som alle filmede treningskamper i vinter, vært i La Manga og snakket med en rekke trenere, spillere og supportere gjennom hele vinteren. Slik tror Fotballkanalens OBOS-liga ekspert Ben Wells at OBOS-ligaen 2017 ender.

Arendal Fotball

The Team:

Arendal go into the 2017 OBOS Ligaen season as dark horses. Generally, at least one of the newly promoted sides from the 2.Divisjon will go on to defy all expectations and perform well above their means. That side could well be Arendal this year.

The team’s preseason form has been exceptional and included wins over Odd Grenland and Ranheim as well as draws with Brann and Sandnes. Their counter attacking style of play is easy on the eye and there are a number of extremely talented young players in the squad.

In goal, Jostein Aaland and Anders Gundersen will fight it out for the Number 1 Jersey. Aaland was named Arendal’s player of the year last season but will face stiff competition from Gundersen who impressed when filling in for Icelandic international Ingvar Jonsson last season for Sandefjord.

The Arendal defence has looked solid all pre season. New signing Sune Kiilerich joins from FC Fredericia of Denmark and will provide good experience and a level head in the center of defence. Viktor Lovgren has performed brilliantly at Left Back all pre-season and will be one of the stand out players for Arendal in the coming season. Elsewhere, Dejan Corovic is a smart signing from FK Jerv and 38 year old former striker Petar Rnkovic will fight it out with Sven Fredrik Stray and Marius Andersen for the second CB spot.

In midfield Arendal have one of the most exciting OBOS Ligaen prospects in Ylldren Ibrahimaj. Ibrahimaj wowed audiences in La Manga with his displays in attacking midfield and will be key to Arendal’s successes this season. Jakob Rasmussen and Tobias Henanger are likely to partner Ibrahimaj in the middle and will balance out the midfield trio well with their respective defensive and attacking qualities.

Up front, Arendal have some extremely strong players fighting to score the goals for the side. Wilhelm Pepa is a 2.Divisjon legend and he will test the water in the OBOS Ligaen for the first time in his career this season, if he can replicate his recent goalscoring record then Arendal will find scoring goals no problem. Rasmus Christensen scored 10 in 11 last season for the side and will also be a key member of the team. Supporting these two main men are Steinar Beras, Fabian Ness and Tobias Olsvik, all of whom could be valuable additions to the side this year.

Prediction

A lot of Arendal’s potential success this year depends on whether Ylldren Ibrahimaj and Wilhelm Pepa can do the business in the OBOS Ligaen. As mentioned above, though, I do feel the side are stronger than at least a half of the other OBOS Ligaen sides.

Most Arendal fans will be happy to finish around 12th this year, but I feel they could do much better. In my eyes the side is capable of finishing in the top 10 and so I feel a final position of 8th is more than achievable for the side.

Key Man
– Wilhelm Pepa

One to Watch
– Ylldren Ibrahimaj

Nøkkelspiller:
Wilhelm Pepa får endelig muligheten til å vise seg frem i OBOS-ligaen. Sist han rykket opp med Jerv valgte han å bli igjen i 2.divisjon med Arendal fremfor å prøve seg på nest-øverste nivå. Foto: Digitalsport

 

Aasane

Team

Åsane have a new manager in Mons Ivar Mjelde this season and a new assistant in the shape of analysis guru Tom Mangersnes. Mjelde is famous for winning the Eliteserien title for Brann in 2007 but will have a lot of work on his hands this year attempting to turn Asane into a side capable of challenging for a playoff spot.

Despite the managerial changes, not much is different with the Asane squad. In goal, Eirik Ostgaard is likely to keep his place as Asane’s number 1. The veteran had a good season for Asane last year and is trusted in goal for the side. Borger Thomas signed from Stromsgodset but looked shaky against Arendal in La Manga and may have to settle for a spot on the bench this season.

Asane lost last year’s key defender Fredrik Pallesen Knudsen to Haugesund in the Winter. To replace him, Asane once again looked to their Bergen neighbours and brought in Fredrik Heggland. Heggland had his Brann career marred by injuries but the 21 year old is a great fit for the OBOS Ligaen and should do well. Otherwise, the Asane defence is as it was last season with Ueland unmovable at Left Back and Eirik Wollen Steen the main man in the middle of the back four.

Jonas Hestetun was signed to bolster Asane’s midfield ranks this year and will fight it out with players such as Soltvedt and Nygard for a spot in the XI. The 23 year old has impressed in pre season and looks to have settled in well with his new side. Joachim Soltvedt could become a key member of the Asane XI this year, I seem to say this every year but in Mjelde’s 4-4-2 with big strikers Herrem and Manzon up top, Soltvedt’s delivery could be crucial for Asane this year.

Up front, there has been a lot of excitement around new signing Manzon who joins the side after a pretty average stint with Bodo/Glimt in the Eliteserien last season. Manzon has been poor in pre season but should do some damage in the OBOS Ligaen once he has settled into his new surroundings. Aside him is likely to be Geir Andre Herrem, who is more than proven at this level and is a key cog in this Asane side.

Prediction

Asane look like a solid side going into the 2017 season. There is no obvious weak spot in the group, but a failure to replace last season’s rock in midfield Vegard Moberg could hurt the team. Moberg is close to joining Glimt from Sogndal and it is hard to understand why Asane did not try and get their former captain back. Mo Fuseini has been on trial with the side in recent weeks but I wouldn’t understand a decision to offer him a new deal, as he was released at the end of last season.

Mjelde will want his side to push towards the top 6 this season, but i think a more realistic aim would be to finish in mid table. I expect Asane to comfortably survive the drop and finish around 10th position.

Key Man
– Joachim Soltvedt

One to Watch
– Olve Opsvik

Nøkkelspiller:
Joachim Soltvedt er med sitt følsomme venstrebein et viktig angrepsvåpen for Åsane. I år må han treffe både lagkamerater og nettmaskene om Åsane skal klare å overlever i OBOS-ligaen. Foto: Digitalsport

Bodo/Glimt

Team

In my opinion, the strength of Glimt’s team eclipses any other side’s squad in the OBOS Ligaen by some way. There is no doubt as to the quality of the side this year but how will manager Aasmund Bjorkan manage the many dominant personalities in the Glimt dressing room this year with such a large squad to work with?

In goal, Brazilian Ricardo Friedrich has been signed to battle with Canadian International Simon Thomas for the starting place in Glimt’s team. Thomas has a good pedigree at this level after a successful stint with Strommen two seasons ago and is likely to be the man Glimt put their faith in at from the start of the season at least.

The defence has arguably been the only weak spot for Glimt going into the 2017 season. With Brede Moe absent, Marius Lode was signed from Bryne to cover the 25 year old until he returns and Lode should be a more than capable deputy for the side. Players such as Martin Bjornbakk and Emil Jonassen are on paper two of the best defenders in the league and so Glimt’s defence should be solid this season unless a few injuries start to come into play, in which case their lack of depth may be highlighted.

The midfield for Glimt is very strong, but is starting to become saturated with all the new signings. A month or so ago, Normann, Konradsen, Berg, Saltnes and Jacobsen all looked to be challenging for a starting berth in Glimt’s midfield three, but recently the team has brought in Jose Jurado from Almeria, Thomas Drage from Falkenberg and also Vegard Moberg from Sogndal who is now close to signing. This means that there may be around 8 players all fighting to start for Glimt in midfield this year, manager Bjorkan will have a huge task to manage all the players’ game time this season.

Up front, Kristian Opseth will be with the side at least until the Summer after he signed on loan from Sogndal. Opseth has a great record in the OBOS Ligaen previously and should come close to topping the goalscoring charts in the first half of the season if his brilliant record continues. Trond Olsen is arguably the best player in the OBOS Ligaen right now and should contribute a fair share of goals, whilst Jens Petter Hauge and Nemanja Mladenovic will fight it out for a spot on the opposite flank. One thing is for sure, Glimt should have no problem scoring this season.

Prediction

I have my concerns about Glimt due to their squad size but the quality of players within the team go a long way to offset this concern. There is no doubt that the side are the strongest in the league on paper and if this quality shows itself on the pitch then it is hard to see any other side apart from Glimt finishing 1st.

The OBOS Ligaen is stronger than ever this year and so there is always room for a potential upset but if Glimt perform to a level that they are capable of then 1st should be the only goal for them this season.

Se opp for:
G19-landslagets Jens Petter Hauge er en av de som kan profitere på nedrykket til OBOS-ligaen. Unggutten får trolig flere sjanser til å vise seg frem for Glimt denne sesongen. Foto: Digitalsport

Key Player
– Trond Olsen

One to Watch
– Jens Petter Hauge

Elverum

Team

Similarly to Arendal, Elverum have strengthened their side massively this winter and have brought in a number of players capable of having a big impact in the OBOS Ligaen. If manager Tore Fossum can harness the potential of talents like Svindland and Hagen then Elverum could finishing even higher than most would predict.

In goal, nothing has changed from their last season in the 2.Divisjon. Fredrik Tervaniemi will remain first choice at 36 years of age, with Vegar Berntsen playing backup for the coming season.

The defence is definitely a strong area of the pitch for Elverum. As of writing, they have the impressive Rebin Sulaka in the heart of the defence. The Iraqi international has experience in the Superettan in Sweden and played a full year for Elverum in the 2.Divisjon in 2016. Sulaka has had Eliteserien sides following him for a while now and will be key to Elverum’s successes this coming season. New boy Igor Cukovic was signed from Macedonian side FK Iskra Danilovgrad and should be a strong partner for Sulaka this season, he has caps for the Macedonian U’21 side and is an imposing figure at 191cm tall.

Remi Andre Svindland was a revelation for Elverum last season and despite being on trial with Lillestrom for most of preseason, he will join back up with Elverum and be a key member of the sides’ three man midfield in the OBOS Ligaen. Re-signing Svindland has arguably been the most impressive piece of business Elverum have completed so far in the build up to the 2017 season but the signing of Carlos Gaete Moggia on a free transfer may be just as important. Moggia has a lot of experience in the Superettan in Sweden and will offer invaluable experience in a young Elverum side. Marius Hagen will complete the midfield trio and will be hoping to kick start a career that has stalled so far.

Up front, Elverum have two great strikers competing for one spot. Robin Hjelmseth scored 19 in 26 for the side last year, whilst Adnan Cirak bagged 13 in 17 for both Nest Sotra and Elverum. Only one of the two strikers will get given the starting berth in the side but both are capable of contributing at least 10+ goals each for the OBOS Ligaen team. Sivert Solli looks to be an excellent signing from Rosenborg and Elmahdi Bellhcen will offer something different to the team when he plays.

Prediction

I expect Elverum will surprise a few people this year with their performances. The interest in Elverum Fotball may be minimal in their hometown due to the prominence of Handball but if the side can defy expectations and stay up this year they could generate much more interest in the club going forward.

Elverum will be happy to simply stay up, but I believe they could go one better and finish around mid table. My prediction for the side is 12th, but it would not surprise me to see them finish a couple of places higher either.

Årets råtass?
Marius Hagen er kjent for sin svært aggressive spillestil og går ikke av veien for å hisse på seg sine motstandere på fotballbanen. i årets OBOS-liga blir han en av de det er mest spennende å følge med på i Elverum. Foto: Digitalsport

Key Man
– Remi Andre Svindland

One to Watch
– Marius Hagen

 

FK Jerv

Team

The perennial overachievers of Norwegian football. Every season, without doubt, Jerv will be written off as relegation candidates or mid table dwellers and every season the Grimstad club defies their doubters in mounting a promotion charge. 2017 will be tougher due to the increasing strength of the league, but can the plucky side go one better and achieve automatic promotion to the Eliteserien?

Nothing has changed this year with Jerv’s goalkeeping situation. Oyvind Knutsen has nailed down his spot as the sides’ number one and has even earned a call up to the U’21 side in the last year. Knutsen is a great shot stopper, but his poor distribution is keeping him from currently being an option for an Eliteserien side.

Brice Wembangomo has been added to the Jerv defence and is likely to walk into the right back spot in the side. Kristoffer Tonnessen capped off a brilliant 2016 by earning a call up to the U’21 side this month and Glenn Andersen is still going strong at CB. The only worry in defence is the other CB spot with Nils Petter Andersen and Espen Knudsen likely to fight it out for a spot in the starting eleven and it is an area that could be exploited by the quicker attacks in the league.

In midfield, Jerv made an interesting signing in Martin Hoel Andersen. Andersen is likely to play in Jerv’s midfield trio as the most advanced midfielder. He signed from Kvik Halden having scored 21 goals in 50 games for the side and so clearly can be a danger going forward in the OBOS Ligaen, the 22 year old will be hoping for a breakthrough season. Hagen & Ogungbaro will also be key members of the Jerv side this year and should make up the other two thirds of the team’s’ midfield.

In attack, Alex Lind still needs to convince a lot of pundits that he is good enough and fit enough to play OBOS Ligaen football. On his day, Lind can be one of the best finishers in the league but his 2016 season was marred by an illness that left him fatigued for most of the year. The alternative to Lind up front is the relatively untested Jakob Toft, so Lind will need to convince boss Arne Sandsto that he is good enough to lead the line for the entirety of the season. Erixon Danso signed from Ukrainian side FC Stal Kamianske and is an extremely exciting addition to the OBOS Ligaen. Danso could become a regular goalscorer for Jerv should he settle. Ulrik Berglann will likely complete the front three and if he can replicate the form he showed in 2016 then Arne Sandsto will be a very happy man..

Prediction

FK Jerv will be aiming for promotion once more and you’d be a fool to write them off once again. The loss of last season’s player of the year Tonny Brochmann has been offset by some exciting signings from the side and they should do as well if not even better than last season.

I think Jerv will make the top 6, but still don’t have quite enough to fight for automatic promotion. My prediction for them is 5th in the league, and maybe yet another exciting run in the playoffs..

Martin Hoel Andersen fikk lov til å trene med Jerv når han var på besøk hos kompisen Brice Wembangomo i Grimstad. Han imponerte både på prøvespill og i vinterens treningskamper. Nå kan den tidligere S08-spilleren bli en joker for sørlendingene i 2017. Foto: Digitalsport

Key Man
– Erixon Danso

One to Watch
– Martin Hoel Andersen

Floro SK

Team

Floro will be a really interesting side to follow in the OBOS Ligaen this season. Manager Terje Rognso has overseen the club’s rise to the OBOS Ligaen the last 10 years and many of the players currently in the Floro side have been under Rognso’s command since they were 14 or 15 years old.

In goal, Nicklas Frenderup will be the club’s first choice despite former Levanger backup Jacob Storevik being at the club to challenge the Danish goalkeeper. Frenderup does not have much experience at this level but has looked solid in preseason. The presence of Storevik waiting in the wings for his chance will only spur the 24 year old on.

The defence is a strong area for Floro, who house big defenders such as Vegar Gjermundstad and Runar Hove in their ranks. It is also the most experienced area of the field for Floro, with the rest of their side generally aged 23 and under on average. Former captain Andre Reksten and full back Christer Husa offer experience in the full back positions for the team whilst Floro have also signed Stromsgodset’s full back Christopher Lindquist, who will offer a more attacking option down the flanks should his side need it.

The Aase twins’ development for Floro will be interesting to follow this year. The midfielders will both be expecting to see a lot of game time this year and Peter Aase in particular has a lot to prove after poor stints with Asane and Sogndal of late. Brother Stefan offers a bit more flair from midfield and is expected to be a big contributor to Floro’s attacking strength this season. There is strength in depth in this area for the side with Erlend Hove, Halvor Solheim Olsen & Luc Jeggo all also hoping to start games for Floro.

Floro’s strikeforce looks like a talented group going into the 2017 season. Endre Kupen aka ‘The Norwegian Vardy’ (As I have been told multiple times…) scored 26 goals in 23 games for the side last season and his movement and finishing should test even the best of OBOS defences. Rashad Muhammed is an interesting character, the forward has been scouted heavily by Valerenga and Brann this preseason after a brilliant end to his 2016 campaign. Rashad cannot speak a word of Norwegian or English, nor can cook for himself, but his talent is undeniable. If Rognso can harness Rashad’s potential then Floro have a potentially great player on their hands. Alioune ‘Badou’ Ndour and Monir Benmoussa also offer Floro some interesting options from the bench.

Prediction

It is shaping up to be a tough year for Floro who have not strengthened their side as much as other teams’ in the transfer market. The group are extremely close, though, and this camaraderie may work in the team’s favour during the season when points may become hard to come by.

My prediction for Floro is unfortunately relegation. I would love to be surprised, as the project Floro have undertaken with their club is an extremely interesting one, but I feel as though 15th is the likely end position for the club.

Key Man – Stefan Aase

One to Watch – Rashad Muhammed

Se opp for:
Stefan Aase blir mannen som skal styre midtbanen til nyopprykkede Florø. Den unge midtbanespilleren har lært mye av oppholdet i Sogndal og er klar for gjennombruddet etter å ha vært en lovende talent lenge. Foto: Digitalsport

Fredrikstad

Team

Oh Fredrikstad, the one team no one can ever successfully predict. Season on season the club show their ambition in the transfer market only for their campaign to collapse by mid May. Can this year be different though? The side have a new, young, exciting manager in Andrea Loberto and 8 new first team signings to potentially achieve wonderful feats with the side. But, despite the strong squad, you just never know with Fredrikstad…

Per Morten Kristiansen left the side in the summer after a less than impressive 2016 season with the team and the veterans departure opens the door for one of Havar Jensen or Jon Masalin to become Fredrikstad’s Number 1 goalkeeper this season. Jensen has shown time and time again that he has what it takes to be a regular in the side, but, Loberto has seemingly chosen the more experienced Masalin as his first choice for the upcoming campaign.

In defence there has been a complete overhaul from the regulars of last season. Gone are Netan Sansara, Adam Straith, Erik Tonne, Brice Wembangomo and Martin Thomt Jensen and in come Mislav Leko, Edvard Skagestad, Razak Nuhu, Kevin Wright and Jarkko Lahdenmaki. The obvious issue surrounds whether the new defenders will gel together or not, Loberto has experimented with a 3-5-2 formation in preseason but has now seemingly settled on playing 4-4-2 due to the arrival of Nuhu. It means that one of Lahdenmaki, Skagestad or Leko will miss out on the starting XI going forward.

The midfield for Fredrikstad should be seen as their strongest area going into the 2017 season. Planning for a 3-5-2 system, Loberto signed up Rino Falk Larsen, Dinko Trebotic and Joona Veteli to become first team regulars. With the side now looking like they will play one less man in midfield, it means that more players will end up missing out on the XI. Dinko Trebotic looks to be an excellent signing and has impressed greatly in preseason so far. Aside from Trebotic, signing Ludvig Begby down to a new deal could prove to be essential with the youngster’s importance to the side growing season on season.

Up front, Ulrik Flo and Sanel Kapidzic are now cemented into the Fredrikstad starting XI. Both went a long way to prove their worth to the side last season and will now be looking to further enhance their already blossoming partnership in 2017.

Prediction

As mentioned above, predicting Fredrikstad’s final league position is nigh on impossible. The strength of the squad leads me to believe they should be pushing for the play off spots at least but the lack of a defensive midfielder and indecisive tactics from Loberto push me more towards mid table.

I believe a prediction of 9th position is fair right now. The side’s business in the transfer market has been impressive yet flawed. Having signed players for a 3-5-2 they are now left with 3 left sided players all wanting to start in Nuhu, Begby and Wright. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Fredrikstad finish in the top 6, but on the flip side nor would I be surprised to see them in another relegation scrap.

Key Player
– Dinko Trebotic

One to Watch
– Joona Veteli

Se opp for:
Lite har fungert for FFK i vinter. En av få lyspunkter er den unge finske nysigneringen Joona Veteli. Midtbanespilleren kan bli en viktig mann for Fredrikstad denne sesongen.

Kongsvinger

Team

Kongsvinger’s 2016 season was sensational, to say the least. Former manager Luis Pimenta led his side to a cup final appearance against Rosenborg and a play off semi final, bowing out to FK Jerv. Going into 2017, Kongsvinger now have a new manager in the shape of Hans-Erik Eriksen and the expectation will be that the side goes one better in the league and achieves promotion to the Eliteserien automatically or via the play offs. Eriksen will know that the task he has to undertake will be made all the more difficult by the achievements of last season and also that this may well be his last shot at taking charge of a big OBOS Ligaen club.

Much has been said about the tactics Eriksen will use with his Kongsvinger side. In reality, the change will not be too drastic as the tactics Eriksen uses are generally aligned with former coach Pimenta. Eriksen likes to see his team build their attacks patiently so expect to see multiple pass combinations before any attempt on the opposition goal. It is a style of play that is easy on the eye, but whether it can be effective in the OBOS Ligaen is another matter entirely.

Otto Fredrikson hung up his boots in the Winter and so Alexey Gorodovoy, who was on trial with the side last season, joins as Kongsvinger’s new first choice goalkeeper. Simen Lillevik was signed on loan from Stabaek to compete with the Russian but truthfully looked poor in his few preseason appearances.

The defence has not changed since last season. Espen Nystuen is considering retirement from his playing position but the mainstays of last season remain. An injury to Fredrik Palerud will mean that one of Markus Skjellum, Christian Roer or Dylan Murnane will come into the starting XI but aside from that players such as Jorgen Richardsen and Kirill Suslov remain. Kongsvinger are still looking to recruit more players for the coming season and so this area may need to be bolstered before the start of the OBOS Ligaen.

In midfield, Martin Ellingsen’s importance to the side will only grow after a brilliant 2016 season saw him linked to almost every Eliteserien side in Norwegian media. An interesting player who has broken through in preseason is Martin Tangen Vinjor. Vinjor was talked up to me last year by former assistant Goncalo Pereira and has shown in this season’s build up that he is ready to impress on a bigger stage. Vinjor signed his first professional deal this month aged just 17 and will be an interesting player to follow during the next year. Fredrik Sjolstad of Hodd is also rumoured to be close to signing for the side and this would only enhance the quality of the team in my opinion.

Up top, Kongsvinger have bolstered their attack with the enigmatic Par Ericsson. Ericsson has a lot of experience in the Swedish Allsvenskan and so looks to be a very good signing on paper, but disciplinary and fitness issues have seemingly tarnished his reputation in his home country. Kongsvinger could be a good platform for the striker to impress, if he wants to. Adem Guven will be just as important to the side this year and is certainly a player who can potentially win the OBOS Ligaen’s golden boot come the end of the year.

Prediction

Kongsvinger will be hoping for at least a top 6 finish and I think this is definitely achievable. Despite some injury concerns, the side is still a strong one and if Eriksen’s methods stick then I can see the side in around 6th position. If the side struggle to adapt immediately then this prediction could come under threat.

Key Man –
Adem Guven

One to Watch –
Martin Vinjor

En mann å stole på:
Adem Güven ledet laget sitt ut på Ullevål i fjorårets cupfinale mot Rosenborg. I 2017-sesongen blir KIL-kapteinen både lagets viktigste angrepsvåpen og leder. Foto: Digitalsport

Levanger

Team

It has been a strange pre-season for Levanger. The side performed well above their means last year under new manager Magnus Powell and were chasing promotion for the first half of the campaign but a sharp dip in form meant the side ended up in mid table. Powell has complained this pre-season about the lack of players in his squad and the team is certainly thin in some areas, this lack of depth could well affect the club in 2017.

In goal, the side have seemingly lost faith in usual number one Ola Rygge. Levanger signed GIF Sundsvall’s English goalkeeper Lloyd Saxton on loan for the season but he will now miss the entire first half of the campaign. Julian Faye Lund, Rosenborg’s 17 year old goalkeeper looks likely to sign on loan and may well go into the season first choice. Faye Lund is certainly talented, but can a teenager be the dominating presence Levanger need in goal?

The defence is arguably Levanger’s strongest area. New signing Erik Tonne will take the captain’s armband for the season and is certainly an impressive addition to this team. Alongside him will be the experienced Per Verner Ronning and Tom Erik Nordberg whilst the less experienced but still very talented Bent Sormo and Espen Berger will also be fighting it out for a spot in the starting lineup. Andreas Wrele was signed from Raufoss as cover on both full back positions whilst 16 year old Jonathan Valberg Lein is certainly one to look out for this year.

Levanger strengthened their midfield with the signings of Pal Aamodt, Joakim Wrele and Kim Robert Nyborg this winter. The main issue here is that Levanger really miss an element of pace out wide, with Marcus Astvald and one of Andreas Strand or Pal Aamodt likely to play on the other flank. Defensively, this midfield could be set up to really stifle teams who will look to attack Levanger but I do worry about their ability to create chances for the strikers in the side.

Up top, Levanger’s impressive signing of Robert Stene from rivals Ranheim is certainly one of the stand out deals of the window. Stene is fluent at OBOS Ligaen level and will guarantee the side at least 10 to 15 goals if he can stay fully fit. Alongside him will be Jo Sondre Aas, a player who found his groove at certain points last season but was all too inconsistent. Both forwards have goals in them, but I worry that if one gets injured then there really is not enough good backup to successfully replace the goals lost from the injured player.

Prediction

I doubt Levanger will ever reach the heights they soared to last year at any point this season. The squad may be small but the starting XI is easily good enough to cement a mid table finish for Levanger. I feel that this year will see the side finish around 11th in the table although it would not surprise me if they dropped as low as 13th at some point. There is certainly work to do for Magnus Powell and his side.

Key Player
– Erik Tonne

One to Watch
– Bent Sormo

Slår han igjennom i år?
Den unge midtbanespilleren med en fortid i RBKs junioravdeling kan få sitt definitive gjennombrudd for Levanger i årets OBOS-ligaen. Foto: Digitalsport

 

Mjøndalen

Team

Mjondalen will have been happy to finish in the top 6 last season after such an inconsistent start to their campaign. The side attempted to change their usual winning formula of direct football for something more pleasing on the eye but after this change proved tough to adapt to, manager Vegard Hansen decided that it was back to direct football and strong set plays. It will be interesting to see how the side line up this season, but one thing that is for certain is that Mjondalen go into this season with an extremely strong squad.

In goal, Sousha Makani departed for rivals Stromsgodset in strange circumstances which saw him join the side on a loan deal until the summer, at which time he will supposedly return to Mjondalen to play out the rest of the year. Frankly, no one believes this will happen and most think that the goalkeeper will simply opt to stay with Stromsgodset for the rest of the year. This has put Vegard Hansen in a tough position, how was he going to replace a goalkeeper who stood out massively in his 13 games for the side last season? The answer was not Marco Priis Jorgensen, who is simply an accident waiting to happen, so the side signed up Cameroonian international Georges Bokwe. Bokwe is something of an unknown quantity but if his debut against Lillestrom was anything to go by then we are certainly in for some hilarity with him in goal.

The defence is the weakest area of the field for Mjondalen, despite the signings of Petter Martinsen from Nest-Sotra and Quint Jansen on a free agent. The impressive youngster William Sell looked a class above his counterparts last season despite being just 18 years old and his progress this season will be an interesting one to follow. Arneberg, Hansen and Martinsen are all safe pairs of hands in the back four but not much more, the startling lack of backup in this area will surely be exposed this season with Jansen and Magnus Sylling Olsen likely to stand in for the defence should any injuries or suspensions occur.

Similarly to last season, the midfield for Mjondalen looks extremely strong. New signing from IK Frej, Pontus Silfwer, has been named captain of the side already and looks to be the perfect midfielder to sit back and soak up pressure for the team. With him will likely be Christian Gauseth, Jonathan Lindseth and Amahl Pellegrino; all of whom know the OBOS Ligaen well now and are more than good enough to perform wonders at this level. In contrast to the defence, the backup in midfield is startling. Henrik Gulden, Kingsley Olie, Mads Gundersen and Mathias Fredriksen are all good enough on their own to start in most OBOS clubs’ XI.

Up top, Thomas Sorum will likely lead the line and be the man Mjondalen look to for goals if he can keep his ageing body fit for the season. New signing Simonas Stankevicius may have national team caps for Lithuania but has not yet scored goals at domestic level and so this signing seems to be one that could end up going either way. At just 21, the former Leicester City player certainly has a lot of potential to produce the goods at this level but will need to show Vegard Hansen early on that he is capable of leading the line up top. Ousseynou Boye showed last season he can be more than good enough to start games for Mjondalen whilst Andreas Hellum will be looking to break back into the club’s XI having got a handful of games under his belt last season.

Prediction

The strengths in this Mjondalen team far outweigh their weaknesses. Despite my concerns about the depth in defence, if Mjondalen can keep their best XI fit for 75% of the season they could well be in with a great shot at promotion. My prediction for this team is 4th, i do not think they are quite at the level of Sandnes, Start and Bodo/Glimt but could well end up challenging at the top of the league.

Key Player
– Pontus Silfwer

One to Watch
– Simonas Stankevicius

Se opp for:
Simonas Stankevicius blir en spennende offensiv tilvekst til Mjøndalen som har savnet en spiss som kan score mål de siste sesongene. Foto: Digitalsport

Ranheim

Team

I had expressed my concerns about the strength of this Ranheim team early on in pre-season, but some good results and reassuring buys since the time of writing have settled my nerves slightly. Ranheim’s monetary woes have seemingly been eased for the moment and so the side can focus fully on their football in the 2017 season.

In goal, Even Barli was the best OBOS Ligaen goalkeeper of 2016 by a fair distance. Links to Molde only went to further cement his title as the best goalkeeper in the league and the 25 year old will play a big part in Ranheim’s potential successes this season. Despite signing former Kristiansund number two Alexander Hovdevik, Ranheim’s backup goalie seems less than settled with Magnus Lene getting a fair amount of game time in pre-season.

For me, the defence is still not as solid as i would have hoped at this stage of pre-season. The only strengthening here has been the signing of Joakim Solem from Nardo but the 26 year old left back has hardly featured for the side in pre-season. Otherwise, it is as you were for the Ranheim back four with newly crowned captain Christian Eggen Rismark leading the side out along with Alexander Foosnaes, Aslak Fonn Witry and Daniel Kvande.

In midfield, Mads Reginiussen and Kris Lokberg will be key to the sides’ successes in 2017. With Lokberg now back playing after a long time out with a knee injury the Ranheim midfielder general will be looking to get a full season of football under his belt. One to look out for is Sondre Sorlokk who broke onto the scene last season in the sides’ 7-1 demolition of Fredrikstad and will be looking to turn in more performances like that this year as the former Orkla youngster tries to make his mark on this team.

In the forward areas, Ranheim look extremely strong. The signing of Oyvind Storflor was one of the deals of the window as the former Norwegian international looks to end his career with Ranheim. There is no doubt that Storflor has more in the tank and much to offer this side, and his ability to control games from out wide will be invaluable. On the other side of the pitch, Torgil Gjertsen will be looking to put past inconsistencies behind him and perform to a high level all season whilst new striker Michael Karlsen will want to shut up his many critics by scoring freely for his new side. My doubts about Karlsen and Ranheim’s other strikers persist, but there will for sure not be a lack of determination from the Ranheim front line this year.

Prediction

I expect it to be a tough season for Ranheim on the pitch although I do believe the side will end up safe from the drop. Their side is still clearly better than a number of other teams’ in the league but the lack of top class backup in all areas of the pitch is a worry. I expect Ranheim to finish in 13th position in the league, as long as the side stay up I am sure they will be happy as they can then start to build for next season with *hopefully* some more money in the bank to sign top class players, rather than 2nd or 3rd division footballers.

Key Man
– Even Barli

One to Watch
– Michael Karlsen

Tilbake i gamleklubben:
Michael Karlsen er tilbake i Ranheim hvor han spilte sist i 2013 og ser ut til å ha funnet formen under Svein Maalen i gamleklubben. Tankspissen har levert varene i pre-season og blir en spennende mann å følge denne sesongen.

Sandnes/Ulf

Sandnes’ inconsistency cost them dearly last season as the side missed out on a top two spot they were more than capable of achieving. The board have placed their faith in coach Bengt Saeternes in the form of a new contract and the manager will be desperate to now take his side back up to the Eliteserien.

Team:

Saku Pekka Sahlgren had a tough start to life in Sandnes but grew into his role as the teams’ first choice goalkeeper and quickly became an invaluable member of the side. To challenge him this season is former Bryne man Jonas Hoidal, who but for a bad shoulder injury last season, would have been Bryne’s first choice goalkeeper.

In defence, nothing has changed and why should it? Sandnes had the best defensive record of all the OBOS Ligaen teams last season largely down to the form of captain Nicolai Geertsen and partner Mads Nielsen at center back. At full back, Jorgen Olsen and Viljar Vevatne are two of the strongest defensive players in the league and will offer a good outlet down the flank for what is shaping up to be a very narrow set Sandnes formation. 19 year old Axel Kryger will be hoping for his big first team break this year but will have to move mountains to dislodge the solid Sandnes CB pairing.

Sandnes lost key midfielders Eirik Schulze, Anel Raskaj and Aksel Skjolsvik last season but have been impressive in the transfer market when seeking replacements. In come Brann’s Remi Johansen, Haugesund’s Roy Miljeteig and Tromsdalen’s Tomas Kristoffersen. When you consider that Sandnes are likely to also have one of Vidar Nisja or Bojan Zajic on the bench this season, the midfield is certainly looking like an extremely strong area of the squad. 18 year old Eric Larsson has been brilliant in pre-season and he as well as Norwegian youth international Andreas Dybevik will be knocking on the door of the first team this year.

Up top, the loss of last season’s miracle aligner Pontus Engblom will have hit the side hard but replacements Kjell Rune Sellin and Oddbjorn Skartun go a long way to fill the Engblom shaped hole in this Sandnes side. Sellin and Skartun have scored goals at this level for a long time now and Sellin especially will fit the sides’ system like a glove. Kent Eriksen was in fine form last season and will retain his spot in the Sandnes starting XI this season it seems, he will be extremely key to how the side play especially in his support role to new goalscorer Sellin.

Prediction

Sandnes clearly have one of the strongest squads in the league and I think this is the season they finally make the top 2 and return to the Eliteserien. With a new stadium on the way there would be no better time to move back up to Norway’s top tier and I am sure Bengt Saeternes will be desperate to make this dream become a reality. Therefore, I see Sandnes finishing in 2nd position.

Key Player
– Kent Håvard Eriksen

One to Watch
– Eric Larsson/Jon Petter Stangeland

Stort ansvar:
Kent Håvard Eriksen leverte en gnistrende sesong i fjor. Nå som spissmakker Pontus Engblom må den hardskytende spissen trolig fortsette å levere om det skal være realistisk med et opprykk for de lyseblå. Foto: Digitalsport

 

IK Start

Team

After a disastrous first year in charge, Steinar Pedersen will be hoping to put the woes of last season behind him and his side and focus on taking Start back to the Eliteserien as soon as possible.

In goal, Hakon Opdal will be one of the best if not the single best goalkeeper in the OBOS Ligaen. He does have his critics, but at this level the former Norwegian international has more than enough pedigree to succeed. To keep Opdal on his toes is former Vindbjart keeper Benjamin Boujar, the 23 year old played a full year in the 2.Divisjon last season and is seem as the long term replacement for the 34 year old Opdal.

With Simon Larsen coming in from Valerenga, the Start defence looks to be one of the most formidable in the league. Despite a poor season last year, the fact that Tapio Heikkila has not been able to get into the starting XI of late just goes to show how strong the back four currently is. An interesting battle at right back will be fun to watch as Jens Kristian Skogmo and Eirik Wichne battle it out for a spot in the XI.

Start’s midfield has been strengthened this off season by former Hacken midfielder Niels Vorthoren and Abubakar Ibrahim Aliyu who according to Wikipedia has 4 caps for Nigeria. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but the fact is that both new signings have considerably improved Start’s midfield options. Espen Borufsen is expected to be the main man in midfield and should dominate many OBOS Ligaen defences due to his far superior ability on and off the ball. The Start midfield is looking strong this season and should be able to compete with the best in the OBOS Ligaen.

Up front, Lars Jorgen Salvesen will be hoping to prove his doubters wrong with a prolific season in the OBOS Ligaen. The striker has a wicked left foot as demonstrated against Odd in a recent friendly and should score more goals than ever at a level in which he could thrive. Alongside him is Denny Antwi, who impressed at Jerv due to his high workrate. Antwi will need to score more goals to prove he can be a top class player but should feel at home in the OBOS Ligaen having thrived here previously for FK Jerv. An interesting youngster to follow this year will be 16 year old Tobias Christensen. Christensen has been involved heavily in pre-season and could well get a shot at the first team squad this year.

Prediction

There is no doubt that Start can mix it with the best in the OBOS Ligaen, their squad should be capable of challenging for promotion. I do have my doubts about whether the side will score enough goals to secure their place in the top two and so my prediction for the side is that they will finish 3rd, narrowly missing out on automatic promotion.

Key Player
– Espen Borufsen

One to Watch
– Tobias Christensen

Stortalent:
Tobias Christensen er et av landets største spisstalenter. I vinter har han vist at han er klar for å bidra på årets Start-lag. Foto: Digitalsport

Strommen

Team

Strommen performed well above their means last season to finish just outside of the promotion play off spots. Coach Espen Olsen is something of a perfectionist and will want to go one better this year and make the top six, but can a team with such a small budget go even further than the heights of last season?

In goal, the erratic Tarjei Omenaas has left to join Sogndal opening the door for newcomer Tobias Trautner to take the number one jersey. Trautner has previously played with the Stuttgart youth side and was signed from the German regional leagues. The German has looked good in pre-season but for the odd error, his reflexes look good and the player is strong when coming to take the ball from the air. Stian Bolstad will be hoping to challenge Trautner for a spot in the starting lineup but still seems a long way off right now.

Strommen’s midfield last season was characterised by players who were not necessarily the best or most skilful but worked hard for the side and supported both the defence and attack in equal measure, the midfield four of Blaarud, Oby, Rasch and Achrifi were central to Strommen’s successes in 2016. Not much has changed going into the 2017 season but the addition of some flair in the form of Sami Loulanti out wide is very much welcomed. Loulanti has not been tested in the OBOS Ligaen previously but will offer a different outlet out wide to the usual variants of Rasch, Ness etc.

Strommen are at their strongest in the forward positions. It is a far cry from the beginning of last season when the side found regular goals extremely hard to come by and now Strommen have at least four different strong options up top. Martin Troen joined from Eidsvold Turn last season where he had scored a ridiculous amount of goals in the first half of the season and continued this form for his new side. The signing of last season’s breakout star Markus Braendsrod from Lillestrom represents a really good deal for the club also, Braendsrod started the 2016 season poorly but quickly became a key player for Strommen as the season progressed and he will reprise this role in 2017 having now signed permanently. Finally, the signings of Magnus Solum and Emil Sildnes will offer even more different alternatives up front for Strommen who should definitely not be short of goals this year.

Prediction

Strommen have their doubters and their budget would dictate that any finish above 10th would be brilliant for the club. I think that with the strength in depth the team now has, they can do just as well as last season and mount a serious push for the top six positions in the league. Ultimately I do believe that this may be a step too far for Strommen, who would be very happy indeed with a finish in 7th position which is the prediction I will be making for the club.

Key Player
– Markus Braendsrod

One to Watch
– Mathias Blaarud

Omskolert:
Markus Brændsrød trives utmerket i sin nye rolle som spiss og bruker sin ekstreme hurtighet til å løpe fra slitne forsvarere. I 2017 blir han Strømmens giftigst angrepsvåpen. Foto: Digitalsport

Tromsdalen

Team

I think Tromsdalen manager Gaute Helstrup would agree that his side’s’ preparations for the 2017 season have been less than idea. The northern club spent most of their pre season without a first choice goalkeeper nor many key players due to various injury issues. Finally, the side is starting to take shape just days before the season starts but is it a case of too little too late for Tromsdalen?

After number one goalkeeper Eirik Sorensen retired before the start of this season, Helstrup was left with former number two Adrian Mikkelsen and academy graduate Theodor Nilsen to choose from, with neither having any OBOS Ligaen experience. Helstrup was desperate to bring a new goalkeeper in and having flirted with former Baerum man Grzegorz Flasza all pre-season the Pole finally decided to join the side just before their final preparation friendly against Alta. The deal is a massive one for the side as Flasza has had prior experience in the OBOS Ligaen and showed during his time with the side that he is more than capable of being a great goalkeeper at this level.

The Tromsdalen defence has been strengthened this pre-season with the signing of Tromso full back Lasse Nilsen. The 22 year old may have fallen out of favour at Tromso but will become a key player for Tromsdalen due to his experience in the top flight. Alongside him will be Tobias Vibe who went on trial with Glimt for a period in pre-season, Steffen Pedersen and Anders Jenssen. The defence has little OBOS Ligaen experience but should be strong enough to cause some teams trouble when they try and break Gaute Helstrup’s side down.

Tromsdalen’s midfield is a difficult one to analyse as it looks very strong on paper but if you dig below the surface a little, there is a surprising lack of experience there. Lars Henrik Andreassen will be a key man for the team this season but has not played much football bar his two seasons with Tromsdalen, the same can be said for captain Lars Gunnar Johnsen who despite being one of the more experienced members of the team has not played all that often in past seasons for Tromso. There is, however, strength in depth in this side with players such as former Alta player of the year Mathias Abelsen recently joining the club. Abelsen has been on trial with Fredrikstad and Strommen this pre-season but Tromsdalen looks to be a good fit for the midfielder as they will more than likely offer him more first team football than anyone else.

Up front is where Tromsdalen’s main strengths lie. Christer Johnsgard has an outstanding record in the lower divisions but has had his side career get in the way of his progress all too often, the OBOS Ligaen could offer him an opportunity to showcase his talents with a little less pressure than when the striker was with Tromso in the Eliteserien last year. ‘Mo’ Jama will be an interesting character to follow this seasonn as the striker’s goals to games record with Tromsdalen is sensational when injury free. The problem is that Mo’s knees are not what they once were and frequent injuries may stall his progress this year but that being said if the striker can remain fit and continue his burgeoning partnership with Vegard Lysvoll the two could become regular goalscorers for the club.

Prediction

Tromsdalen’s scatty pre-season may affect them this year with the club seemingly not fully prepared going into the season. That being said, Gaute Helstrup has assembled a side of talented footballers all eager to showcase their talents on a bigger stage than the 2.Divisjon. Tromsdalen will likely struggle this year and I unfortunately have to place them in 16th for my predictions. I would love to be proven wrong, but a lot will depend on whether Johnsgard, Lysvoll and Mo can find their scoring boots this season.

Key Player
– Lars Henrik Andreassen

One to Watch
– ‘Mo’ Jama

Skadefri:
«Mo» har slitt med skader gjennom hele sin karriere. Enedelig er den kvikke spissen skadefri og kan bruke sin rutine til å hjelpe TUIL å beholde plassen i OBOS-ligaen. Foto: Digitalsport

Ull/Kisa

Team

Ull/Kisa have proven tough to analyse this pre-season after such a poor start experiencing big losses such as 7-1 to Sarpsborg and 3-2 to Fredrikstad the side now seem to have found their groove after signing big names such as Andreas Aalbu and re-signing last season’s player of the year Nicolay Solberg. The club is ambitious and will have the top half in their sights, but is this achievable in such a strong OBOS Ligaen?

Ull/Kisa benefited from having Sean McDermott for the second half of last season and the Irish goalkeeper kept his side afloat game after game before moving on to Kristiansund this winter. To replace him is former Sogndal loanee Stefan Hagerup who is best described as a safe pair of hands. Hagerup will offer this side no thrills but is tidy between the sticks and more than capable of making that number one jersey his own this season.

I have often criticised the Ull/Kisa defence this pre-season as they have shipped goals left right and center. Despite the additions of Aden Abshir Ciisse, Emmanuel Troudart and Nikolas Walstad the back four looks a little more fragile than it did last year. In Vetle Dragsnes and Jan Tore Amundsen however the team has two solid and dependable full backs to at least partially compensate for the less than reliable centre backs at the club currently. It has to be said that the lanky Emmanuel Troudart has looked good in pre-season and may be the domineering center back this club has long been looking for.

In contrast to the defence, Ull/Kisa’s midfield looks to be arguably stronger than last season. Having re-signed Nicolay Solberg and kept ahold of hot prospect Kristoffer Odemarksbakken, Kisa have now strengthened with the signings of Ole Andreas Nesset from Elverum and Niklas Sandberg from Sandnes. With Markus Stensby and Herman Henriksen also knocking on the first team door, the club now has more options than ever in the middle of the park. Truls Jorstad, Martin Torp and Christian Aas offer reliability in the middle whilst the wingers all offer something different to the side, there is a nice mix there to say the least.

Up front, Ole Kristian Langas and Andreas Aalbu have the potential to form an extremely deadly strike partnership. Aalbu can play as the traditional target man with Langas working alongside him, neither have been extremely prolific in their careers to date but if the duo clicks then I cannot foresee goals being an issue for this Ull/Kisa side. Versatility is key to this team, with Jonas Fjeldberg, Nicolay Solberg and Kristoffer Odemarksbakken all able to fill in up top should one of Langas or Aalbu suffer an injury.

Prediction

Ull/Kisa could go either way this year. A really insightful chat with Assistant Tomas Halvorsen and Goalkeeping Coach Fredrik Vestgard suggested to me that the club would be happy to simply secure their place in the OBOS Ligaen once more before maybe pushing on to bigger and better things in the future. For now, I have too many worries about this defence to place them much higher than 14th. The side is strong, but if Aalbu and Langas do not click up front then I struggle to see where a regular source of goals will come from. I do however feel that Ull/Kisa may be the side in this batch of predictions to potentially go on and surprise me with a mid table finish.

Key Man
– Nicolay Solberg

One to Watch
– Kristoffer Odemarksbakken

Midtbanemotor:
Kristoffer Ødemarksbakken er drivkraften på årets Ull/Kisa midtbane, og har blitt viktigere og viktigere med sin store løpskraft og duellstyrke. Foto: Digitalsport

Tabelltipset:
<

class=»_5yl5″>1. Bodø/Glimt>

<

class=»_5yl5″>2. Sandnes>

<

class=»_5yl5″>3. Start>

<

class=»_5yl5″>4. Mjondalen>

<

class=»_5yl5″>5. Jerv>

<

class=»_5yl5″>6. Kongsvinger>

<

class=»_5yl5″>7. Strømmen>

<

class=»_5yl5″>8. Arendal>

<

class=»_5yl5″>9. Fredrikstad>

<

class=»_5yl5″>10. Asane>

<

class=»_5yl5″>11. Levanger>

<

class=»_5yl5″>12. Elverum>

<

class=»_5yl5″>13. Ranheim>

<

class=»_5yl5″>14. Ull/Kisa>

<

class=»_5yl5″>15. Florø>

<

class=»_5yl5″>16. Tromsdalen>