THE 2017 OBOS LIGAEN DARK HORSES?

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>With the 2017 OBOS Ligaen season shaping up to be one of the toughest in recent memories the ‘smaller’ teams in the league may struggle to make a dent in the top 8 or so positions. Arendal stormed to promotion last season and have impressed many critics with their winter signings so far, but do they have the capabilities to challenge for a spot in the top 6?>

(Photo: DigitalSport)

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>Up until 2017, Arendal was one of the largest towns in Norway without a football club in the top two divisions. Having gained OBOS Ligaen status, the side will now be hoping they can retain this status for next season and maybe even surprise a few with a promotion push. >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>In this piece I will take a look at each area of the pitch for Arendal and try to determine whether they really are capable of surprising many onlookers and making a charge for promotion. >

Goalkeepers

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>The two first team goalkeepers on Arendal’s books both have OBOS Ligaen experience. Jostein Aaland was signed from FK Jerv last season and was named Arendal’s player of the year in 2016. New signing Anders Gundersen was second fiddle to Ingvar Jonsson at Sandefjord last season but impressed when standing in for the Icelandic international. >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>Manager Knut Torum has not yet decided who his number 1 will be going into the 2017 season. It is bound to be a tough choice with both keepers more than good enough to play regularly in the OBOS Ligaen. It would be strange if Anders Gundersen only signed to be backup for Aaland so my bet is that the former Sandefjord and Stromsgodset goalkeeper will be Arendal’s number 1 this year. >

Defence

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>Arendal have strengthened their defence this Winter with two new signings, Sune Kiilerich from Danish side FC Fredericia and Dejan Corovic from FK Jerv. On paper, both look to be brilliant additions to the team with Corovic being a regular in Jerv’s impressive promotion battles in both 2015 and 2016. Kiilerich has a past in both Sampdoria and FC Midtjylland, the defender has made 37 appearances in the Danish Superligaen and 79 appearances in the Danish 1st division. Despite some injury worries last season, there is no doubt as to the players’ ability and if kept fit he could well become a key player for Arendal in 2017.>

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>Both new signings bring a good pedigree with them. Kiilerich and Corovic would walk into a lot of OBOS Ligaen clubs’ first XI. As for the players already contracted to Arendal, Viktor Lovgren has the potential to be one of the stand out defenders for the side in 2017. Lovgren has previously been with IK Sirius and IK Frej, both of the Swedish Superettan, but joined Arendal in the 2.Divisjon last season. The defender impressed in the 2.Divisjon and will be hoping to continue this good form into 2017.>

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>With other solid players such as Sven Fredrik Stray and Matias Olsen, Arendal’s defence looks in very good shape going into the season. >

Midfield

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>The midfield is arguably the one area of the pitch in which Arendal could improve. It is still not a ‘weak’ area as such, but it is clear that the defensive and attacking ability in this side far outweighs that of the midfield. >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>Despite this, impressive players such as Ylldren Ibrahimaj, Jakob Rasmussen and Tobias Henanger are likely to play for Arendal this year. Ibrahimaj in particular has a lot of potential and could well be a surprise a few onlookers this season with his ability. >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>As of yet, the side have not added any new players to their midfield but with the ambition the club has already shown in previous weeks I would not rule out one or two more additions being made here. >

Attack

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>The strongest area of the pitch for Arendal. The side scored goals for fun last season, with Wilhelm Pepa unsurprisingly bagging the most for the side. Whilst Pepa is the clear stand out player in this side, the Arendal attack houses many other players capable of setting the OBOS Ligaen alight. >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>New signing Fabian Ness scored 17 times in 28 games for Moss last season and is an excellent addition to the side. Ness can play out wide or as a natural striker and will likely challenge Steinar Beras for a place in the Arendal XI. The front three of last season (Christensen, Beras, Pepa) will be tough to break, but Ness will be hoping to impress manager Knut Torum with his work ethic in pre-season.>

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>Another fixture in the side is Rasmus Lynge Christensen. The signing of the Danish winger was a massive coup for Arendal at the time, with Christensen joining from recently relegated Superligaen side Hobro IK. After a brilliant first 6 months with Arendal which saw him score 10 times in 11 games, the 25 year old will now want to prove himself in the OBOS Ligaen and could well be capable of playing at an even higher level in the future should he impress during this season.>

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>So, can Arendal be the OBOS Ligaen’s ‘Dark Horses’ this season?
>

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>I don’t see why not. With Fredrikstad bombing and Jerv flying in the last two seasons it is clear that the OBOS Ligaen will always throw up a surprise or two each season, with Arendal’s squad as talented as it is then why rule out a potential top 6 finish? >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>I had a little chat with Adrian Gundersen, a fan of the side who said he would be satisfied with a mid table finish; >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>“The expectation is that i think Arendal will finish around 10th or 12th position this season. Most importantly though I hope that we can finish higher than Start or Jerv.” >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>It seems the general consensus amongst the fans is that the club would be happy to finish in mid-table, which is of course understandable for a newly promoted side. The OBOS Ligaen is extremely strong this season but football is not played out on paper and there is always a big chance sides such as Mjondalen or Sandnes could struggle, allowing sides such as Arendal a chance to take a spot in the top six. >

<

style=»font-weight: 400;»>Arendal clearly have a strong squad and I would not expect them to battle relegation this year. Promotion is a fair way away, but Arendal are more than capable of challenging for the play offs at least. >