The OBOS Ligaen is known for it’s unpredictability and 2017 has certainly not disappointed in that aspect with many teams over or underachieving based on their pre-season expectations. With almost a third of the season gone already, I take a look at each team to track their progress so far.

1st. Bodo/Glimt – 7/10

Trond Olsen holds off Asane’s Senai Hagos.

The champions elect. Look into many observers’ pre-season predictions and it would be a surprise not to see Glimt placed in 1st position. However, the start of the season hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park for Aasmund Bjorkan’s side.

The team have impressed in their wins against Elverum & Ull/Kisa yet struggled in their victories over Kongsvinger, IK Start and Tromsdalen. Glimt are still sitting pretty in 1st position and whilst all may look well on the outside there have been some glaring issues in the teams’ performances, with their defensive stability especially coming under scrutiny.

Aasmund Bjorkan has a tough task on his hands fitting all of his attacking talent into the classic Glimt 4-3-3 with Jens Petter Hauge, Thomas Drage and Trond Olsen all worthy of starting positions in the team. If other OBOS Ligaen clubs can expose the weaknesses that Glimt have shown in their opening 9 games, then it could be a rough ride for the odds on favourites for the rest of the season.

– Jens Petter Hauge’s fleeting appearances for the side have been a joy to watch and surely he has to now be a candidate to be a regular starter.

– The 3-0 loss to Sandnes that exposed Glimt’s obvious weaknesses. Glimt were simply not at the races and were far too open at the back against a clinical Sandnes side.

2nd. Ranheim – 10/10

Svein Maalen, manager of Ranheim.

Boy, were we all wrong about Ranheim. The side who struggled on the pitch as much as they did off the pitch last season have looked like a well oiled machine this year and are as of writing the only undefeated club in the league.

Svein Maalen’s side are just one point off leaders Glimt but have arguably been the more impressive side tactically this season. Their wonderful defence has conceded just 5 times in 11 games this season, largely down to the form of Christian Eggen Rismark and Alexander Foosnaes.

There’s a long way to go, but with the form and consistency Ranheim are showing right now you wouldn’t bet against them mounting a serious promotion push come the end of the season.

– The recent 1-0 win over IK Start really showcased everything good about Ranheim this season.

– Very hard to pick a low point in Ranheim’s season so far but Oyvind Storflor’s performances have been a little below par considering my expectations of the player when he signed.

3rd. IK Start – 8/10

Niels Vorthoren has been in fine form for Start this season.

Start have been fairly impressive at the start of the season and currently sit in 3rd on 19 points. This position is probably a fair reflection of where the side should be based on performances with good wins over Sandnes and Kongsvinger yet poor losses to promotion rivals Ranheim and Bodo/Glimt.

The side have been interesting to follow due to their lack of a real top class striker. With Lars Jorgen Salvesen ruled out for the season and Dennis Antwi failing to impress, the goalscoring duties in the side have fallen with new signing Niels Vorthorern, who whilst not being a natural striker has taken to his new role very well.

Vorthoren has 5 goals in his first 9 games but it remains to be seen whether this form is sustainable over the course of the season. Start have been very impressive in most of their games and are the joint top scorers in the league, therefore I am happy awarding them a solid 8/10 for their start to the year.

– Niels Vorthoren’s unexpected hat trick against Asane. This was the game where Start’s new signing really showed his class as a ‘number 9’.

– The poor form of striker Dennis Antwi, who can perform so much better than he has done so far this year.

4th. Sandnes Ulf – 7/10

Remi Johansen of Sandnes Ulf.

Sandnes had lost a lot of their key men from the 2016 season prior to the start of 2017 and many wondered whether Bengt Saeternes would be able to lead his side back into the top 6 this season. The side have duly responded and have so far shown that they are more than capable of making a challenge at least for the top six, and maybe even for the top two.

One of the main concerns from fans and pundits was based around how the side would replace Pontus Engblom and his 30+ goals & assists tally from last season. Kjell Rune Sellin has come in and scored 6 whilst Kent Eriksen has scored 3 and assisted 3 in his 9 games.

The side have performed well on the whole, with a couple of defeats to Start and Asane the only blots on their copy as of yet. The 3-0 win over Bodo/Glimt showed what the boys in light blue are capable of and I am sure the best is still yet to come from Sandnes.

– The 3-0 win over Bodo/Glimt really showed that Sandnes were capable of challenging for the top two this season.

– The 4-0 loss to Asane was something of an anomaly from the usually defensively sound team but still exposed some key weaknesses in their side.

5th. Ull/Kisa – 8/10

Niklas Sandberg has been one of many stand out players for Ull/Kisa this season.

Similarly to Ranheim, Ull/Kisa have been one of the surprise packages this season with their performances in these first 9 games. Having started brilliantly with 4 wins in their first 5 games, the side have since gone off the boil slightly yet still maintain a position in the top 6.

Kisa’s new signings have all been playing out of their skin so far and this is a main reason why the club are overperforming based on their pre-season expectations. Niklas Sandberg has arguably been one of the best midfielders in the league this year whilst Nicolay Solberg and Emmanuel Troudart have also both impressed.

It will be interesting to see where Ull/Kisa go from here. Since those 4 wins in the first 5, the side have struggled to just one win in their next 4 matches having faced larger sides such as Start and Bodo/Glimt. It certainly looks like the club will be on course for a mid table finish this year at the very least.

– Nicolay Solberg’s hat trick against Elverum.

– The loss to IK Start and worrying injury to Ciise Abshir, who thankfully is fine now.

6th. Mjondalen – 6/10

Amahl Pellegrino in action for Mjondalen.

It’s been hard analysing Mjondalen this season as the side have looked absolutely brilliant in bursts but have really disappointed when it comes down to their results. They currently sit in 6th position with 3 wins and 5 draws in their 9 games, it is clear that the current problem for the side revolves around turning their draws into wins.

The sides’ early wins over Jerv and Kongsvinger had me very excited, with Mjondalen playing an exciting brand of counter attacking football led in part by the pace of forward players Pellegrino and Bojang. Vegard Hansen certainly had his men playing some lovely football but all too often this season it has come at the expense of defensive structure.

The side have only conceded 12 in their 9 games, but high scoring draws against Asane, Elverum and Sandnes when they could easily have won the games 3 or even 4 nil have cost Mjondalen. Vegard Hansen has not yet played the same back 4 in back to back games, could this be one of the main factors behind their defensive issues?

– The form of Pontus Silfwer and Amahl Pellegrino, both of whom have been brilliant this season and look destined for bigger things.

– The draws to Levanger and Elverum. Mjondalen missed out on taking maximum points from these games in which they dominated and it has affected their league position.

7th. Asane – 7/10

‘Caption this’ Joachim Soltvedt exchanges word with old manager Kjetil Knutsen.

Asane have plodded along this season without making too much noise. They are never a club bludgeoned by fans’ expectation in pre-season but always seem to achieve respectable results and final positions in the league table.

With Mons Ivar Mjelde and Tom Mangersnes at the helm this season, it could be argued that expectations of the side would actually have been higher than ever going into the opening day and it is safe to say that Asane have not yet disappointed. Draws against Bodo/Glimt and Mjondalen have shown how the side can set up to counter a larger side effectively whilst their emphatic win over Sandnes really showcased the talents of the Asane players.

The football may not be the most exciting to watch in the world but it sure is effective and you can bet Mjelde & co. will take Asane to new heights this season if they continue down this path. Getting Geir Andre Herrem back in goalscoring form will be key, but with players all over the pitch chipping in with goals, this cannot be seen as too big an issue right now.

– The 4-0 win over Sandnes was a tactical masterclass from the side, who countered Sandnes perfectly.

– The disappointing first day loss to Tromsdalen set the side back a little in their quest for the top 6.

8th. Levanger – 5/10

Levanger boss Magnus Powell has not had it easy this season.

It seems crazy that a side who have won just twice in their opening 9 games can be sat perfectly in mid table, but that’s the OBOS Ligaen for you. Levanger have been thoroughly underwhelming so far this season yet are currently just 3 points off of the top 6.

The side spent fairly heavily in the Winter, bringing in big names such as Robert Stene, Joakim Wrele and Erik Tonne whilst also signing up young talent such as Horneus Taddese and Jonathan Valberg Lein. It is fair to say that not one of the big name signings has yet lived up to expectation and the team has suffered at times from a lack of creativity in midfield.

Robert Stene’s 2 goals against Fredrikstad at the weekend were hopefully a sign of things to come from the striker who has been disappointing so far this year whilst Aniekpeno Udoh, on loan from Viking, has seemingly lost his starting berth in the side after a string of below par performances.

– The win over Fredrikstad at the weekend has been the main highlight so far for the side this season who have underwhelmed in most of their games. The ‘New Moan’ can also be considered a highlight, with the new stadium development going down well with fans.

– The form of Joakim Wrele has been a disappointment for me personally this year. Having seen Wrele for Hodd these past 2 years I really thought he could make the step up and become a key player for Levanger but has struggled to settle so far.

Part two of the OBOS Ligaen early season rankings will be posted in the next few days.

Ben Wells

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