Only one OBOS-Ligaen player has more assists this season than Jens Petter Hauge. The 17 year old Norwegian U'19 international has had to settle for a place on the Bodo/Glimt bench for most of the season so far, but is it time for Aasmund Bjorkan to include the youngster in his starting XI more often?
Having broken into the Glimt first team last season in the Eliteserien, Hauge has since announced himself as one of the hottest young prospects in Norwegian football. Last year the winger had to settle for a spot on the bench most of the time with the majority of his appearances seeing him introduced in the latter stages of matches.
With Glimt suffering relegation to the OBOS Ligaen, many expected Hauge to break into the first XI almost immediately but a number of strong signings from the side in the Winter seemingly pushed Hauge back down in the pecking order.
Thomas Drage, Katchi and Nemanja Mladenovic were all brought into the side to cover either the wide or central attacking positions. Hauge has, however, appeared in every OBOS Ligaen game so far this year, starting twice.
The question for Aasmund Bjorkan is; After impressive in his few appearances this year so far, is it now time to include Hauge in the starting eleven more often?
'My goal this year is definitely to become an important first team player, and improve as an individual too.' said Hauge when we spoke today.
'Since I started to get regular minutes in the Norwegian top division last year and in the OBOS Ligaen this year, I've gotten used to a higher speed and faced better defenders. I think faster and make decisions quicker because of it.
We (Glimt) need a deep and good squad to achieve our goals this year, so competition for me is not a problem. It just makes me even more motivated.'
It is interesting to compare Hauge to Glimt's 33 year old almost legendary forward Trond Olsen. This season, Hauge is averaging more key passes per game (2.6) than Olsen (2.2) and his pass completion (76%) has been significantly better than the veteran's (54%).
To compare the positions of the two players also, it is clear to see that whilst Olsen tends to hug the touchline and play the role of a classic winger, Hauge is much more likely to drift inside into a 'Number 10' position when he plays from the right hand side.
Jens Petter Hauge's positional map vs Fredrikstad (23/04/17) demonstrating how the player will often find himself in a more central position despite playing out wide.
Trond Olsen's positional map vs. Start (02/05/17) clearly showing how the 33 year old plays the role of a classical winger, hugging the touchline and only occasionally coming inside.
Am I saying that Olsen should be dropped for Hauge? Of course not. Olsen is still a very key component in the way Glimt play and his years of experience and undeniable quality on the ball are invaluable for the side. Hauge should, however, be considered for selection on the right hand side in my opinion. The slight contrast in his style of play to Olsen's could give opposition defenses nightmares, with Olsen sticking wide doing what he does best and Hauge being allowed to drift inside on occasion to act as a wide playmaker.
It will be tough for Hauge, especially now with Thomas Drage back fit and fighting for a spot in the XI. Drage would be the obvious choice to play with Olsen and Opseth in a three pronged forward line, simply as he has shown in previous seasons for Sogndal and Tromso how good he can be when playing regularly.
This of course would push Hauge back onto the bench. But, if Aasmund Bjorkan wanted to be a bit more daring there is one other option he could potentially pursue with the 17 year old.
Hauge is already a regular at national teams, and now he deserves more gametime in OBOS-ligaen aswell. Photo: Digitalsport
Hauge has shown in all of his appearances this season that he has every attribute needed to succeed as a 'Number 10'. His creativity, good range of passing and dribbling skills could all lend themselves to Hauge playing at the tip of Glimt's midfield trio.
It would be a bold move from Aasmund Bjorkan, but one that could prove to be fruitful in the long run. Glimt currently play with three midfielders all capable of sitting deep in Moberg, Normann and Jurado. What if Bjorkan allowed two of these players to sit deep, whilst Hauge was left to be the creative outlet in the midfield trio?
As well as the potential on field benefits of Hauge playing in this position, it could also push the youngsters' transfer value up. Attacking midfielders tend to cost a fair amount more than wingers in general and with Hauge already attracting interest from clubs around the world, adding a new valuable position to his arsenal could mean a more profitable move for Glimt in the future if they decide to sell their prized youngster.
This is of course just me thinking out loud. Wherever Hauge has played so far for Glimt he has looked impressive and Aasmund Bjorkan has done a good job in developing the youngster already.
Regular first team action cannot be far away, though. With the 17 year old offering a spark of energy and creativity whenever he enters the field it is hard to ignore the potential benefits of the player starting regularly for Glimt in the near future. Bjorkan will of course want to protect the youngster from a 'too much too soon' situation, but with fans and onlookers calling for more of Hauge the temptation to play him in the first XI may prove too much for Bjorkan in the near future.
Top 5 U17's in the OBOS Ligaen
- Jens Petter Hauge (Bodo/Glimt, 17)
- Tobias Christensen (Start, 16)
- Martin Tangen Vinjor (Kongsvinger, 17)
- Julian Faye Lund (Levanger, 17)
- Mikael Ugland (Start, 17)