The 2011 Allsvenskan should be a three-way race between Malmö, Helsingborg and Örebro
If buying players with a championship pedigree was all it took to win a title, the 2011 Allsvenskan would probably come down to a battle between newcomers IFK Norrköping and “Racing” Halmstad.
Both teams invested heavily in new talent during the offseason, with Peking snapping up five players from Elfsborg, all of whom were part of the Borås side’s 2006 championship team. Halmstad went in another direction, bringing in five players from Spain, the reigning world champions. Although none of the five play for the Spanish national team, new head coach Pep Clotet Ruiz, also a Spaniard, is determined to remake his team. HBK also signed a development deal with Spanish club Racing Santander, providing for a free flow of players not quite ready for La Liga to the Allsvenskan.
The problem for both teams is neither strategy is going to pay off, at least not this season.
That’s because the 2011 Allsvenskan will once again be a three-way race between Malmö, Helsingborg and Elfsborg and Malmö will come out on top to become the first team since Djurgården in 2002 and 2003 to win back to back titles.
Malmö is also the first team in more than a decade to spend money to keep its squad together, rather than selling it off piece by piece to the highest bidder. MFF did so with an eye toward its European campaign. The club has made no secret of its desire to at least reach the group stage and by keeping together the team that won the 2010 Swedish title, head coach Roland Nilsson is already heading in the right direction.
The bane of many Swedish European campaigns has been an inability of a team that wins one season to keep its squad intact going into the next. Malmö, with its cast of Under 21 Swedish international stars and veteran Allsvenskan players, has just the right mix and now has the depth to compete in both Europe and Sweden.
Next in line is Helsingborg. Runners-up last year, Helsingborg probably added more to its team than it lost in the offseason, and it really didn’t lose much. Yes, Swedish U-21 defender Joel Ekstrand transferred to Udinese. The Italians paid enough for Helsingtborg to grab Peter Larsson away from FC Copenhagen to fill in the back line. Helsingborg also parted company with team captain Markus Lantz and only time will tell how much that might hurt the team. Still, Helsingborg kept enough of its team from last season that it should almost seamlessly incorporate its new players.
Next is Elfsborg. Bookmakers have the Boras side as a 4-1 favorite to win the Lennart Johansson trophy. However, Elfsborg lost seven players from its 2010 team, including five starters. The reason for the optimism is Elfsborg made millions from the sale of Emir Bajrami and Denni Avdic and the club hasn’t been afraid to spend the money. Whether the big-money signings are actually the stuff of titles, however, is a bit of amystery. AIK, IFK Göteborg and Malmö all tried to buy their way to the title and failed.
by Chipp Reid
Here’s a look at the 16 Allsvenskan teams:
AIK New Faces: Alexander Milosevic, defender, Vasalund, Martin Mutumba, midfielder, Videoton (loan), Teteh Bangura, forward, FC Kallon
Old News: Finished 11th in 2010 with a 10-5-15 record.
The Skinny: Offseason turbulence is nothing new at AIK but this past winter could be a new low, even for the Gnaget. Popular manager Alex Miller quit, saying the board was too intrusive. AIK anointed Andeas Alm and Nebojsa Novakovic as the new coaches, with a little help from Stuart Baxter. Whether that stabilizes the team is anyone’s guess. AIK has so much debt it has made no secret of its desire to sell Nigerian striker Mohamed Bangura to help balance the books. The club didn’t have the money to pursue much in the way of new players, instead concentrating on developing from within. The Gnaget must improve on an offense that scored just 29 goals in 30 matches last year.
Outlook: It could be another grim season at Råsunda.
DJURGÅRDEN New Faces: Joel Riddez, defender Strömsgodset, Gale Agbossoumonde, defender, Miami FC
Old News: Finished 10th in 2010 with an 11-7-12 record.
The Skinny: Djurgården spent more time working on its debt than it did on improving a team that battled relegation for much of last year. Lennart Wass and Carlos Banda are the latest coaches to take up the mantle of leading Djurgården to the promised land of the top-four spots, but that could be too lofty a goal for a team with questionable strength in the midfielder and whose most experience striker – Mattias Jonsson – is now 36 and has missed more matches in the past three season than he has played. Gale Agbossoumonde, an American international originally from Togo could be a true diamond in the rough although at 19 he might not be ready for the bright lights and harsh criticism that accompany playing in Stockholm.
Outlook: DIF likes to talk big and the talk is a finish in the top three. It’s not going to happen and middle of the table is the team’s fate once more.
ELFSBORG New Faces: Andreas Augustsson, Defender, Horsens, David Elm, forward, Fulham, Lasse Nilsson, forward, Vitesse
The Skinny: Elfsborg could build a team out of all the players it either sold, released or loaned out and that team would probably have a respectable season. As for the real A squad in Borås, it might have the best attacking in Sweden in new acquisitions Elm and Nilsson. The arrival of Augustsson allowed Elfsborg to release Mattias Floren and made the back line a bit faster. Elfsborg, on paper, is the team to beat and Swedish oddsmakers agree, making the Borås club a 4-1 favorite to win the Lennart Johansson. Elfsborg already has stars Anders Svensson, Stefan Ishizaki and Daniel Mobaeck in the midfield and Danish international goalkeeper Jesper Christensen as well as versatile Englishman James Keene. If the preseason is any indicator, however, the Boras side could be in for a slow start as all the new parts still need time to gel. Once they do, watch out.
Outlook: It’s going to take at least a year for Elfsborg to reach its true potential. Third place.
GAIS New Faces: Gzim Istrefi, midfielder, Carlstad United, Alexander Angelin, midfielder, Frölunda, Eric Bassombeng, midfielder, Örebro, Muhammed "Mommo" Abdulrahman, forward, Elfsborg (lån), Joakim Edström, forward, Frölunda, Alvaro Santos, forward, Örgryte (loan), Amadiya Rennie, forward, Elfsborg (loan)
Old News: Finished 12th in 2010 with an 8-8-14 record
The Skinny: Talk about turnover. GAIS all but rebuilt the team that finished one step above the relegation zone, and rumor has it the Goteborg-based club isn’t finished. GAIS is pursuing Wanderson do Carmo and Razak Omotoyossi, two former goal leaders in the Allsvenskan. Those acquisitions could make GAIS a goal factory, but suspect defense and a no-name midfield simply won’t cut it at the Allsvenskan level.
Outlook: Better than 12th but no better than eighth.
GEFLE New Faces: Pär Asp, defender, Brommapojkarna Zakaria Abdullai, midfielder, Tudu Mighty Jets
Old News: Finished 13th with a 7-8-15 record; Beat Assyriska in playoff to remain in Allsvenskan
The Skinny: It’s never good when bookmakers give a city’s football worse chances of winning a championship than it gives the city’s Christmas goat odds of surviving the holiday season but that’s the case with Gavle side Gefle. Gefle did little to improve the team that finished in the relegation playoff spot last year, so there is little reason to think this year will be any different. About the best thing anyone can say about Gefle is at least it’s not made out of straw.
Outlook: Relegation battle all season long.
IFK GÖTEBORG New Faces: Logi Valgardsson, defender, Hafnafjördur, Andreas Drugge, forward, Trelleborg
Old News: Finished seventh in 2010 with a 10-10-10 record
The Skinny: After taking a surprise title in 2007, Goteborg has been something of a fizzle. The “Angels” have plenty of talent in Tobias Hysén, Stefan Selakovic, Karl Svensson Thomas Olsson and Robin Söder. However, it simply hasn’t been enough as Göteborg has come to rely more and more on Hysén to provide goals. IFK strengthened its defense by picking up Iceland international Valgardsson while Drugge gives head coach Jonas Olsson exactly what he needs – a big target player. Göteborg certainly has a team that can compete for the title, but its squad is a bit thin and that could hurt as the season goes on.
Outlook: Top four is within reach.
HALMSTAD New Faces: Nauzet Perez, goalkeeper, Ceuta, Ivan Diaz, midfielder, Leganes, José Zamora, Girona, midfielder, Real Madrid, Javier Hernández, midfielder, Real Madrid, Raul Ruiz Matarin, forward, Real Madrid
Old News: Finished 11th with a 10-5-15 record
The Skinny: Yes, that is the real, Real Madrid. Halmstad hired Spaniard Josep Clotet Ruiz to put some pep in the team’s step and Ruiz decided to make that step a salsa. Ruiz signed five Spanish players as he completely remade Halmstad. Just how well the warm-weather, technique-oriented Spanish players gel with cold-weather, long-ball loving Swedes will determine where HBK finishes this season. Many eyes are on HBK, which also has a player development deal with Spanish club Racing Santander. If the experiment works, it could open doors to a flood of new talent from Spanish clubs that buy up any player available but often can’t find a way to develop them.
Outlook: Not this year. Middle of the table at best.
HELSINGBORG Nyförvärv: Daniel Andersson, goalkeeper, Landskrona, Peter Larsson, defender, FC Köpenhamn (loan), Rachid Bouaouzan, forward, Wigan
Old News: Finished second with a 20-5-5 record
The Skinny: Helsingborg has everything it needs to win the Lennart Johansson and after seasons of coming second, probably has the motivation it needs as well.Peter Larsson is a more than capable replacement for Joel Ekstrand, who joined Udinese in Italy. In fact, Larsson probably makes the back line better. Rachid Bouaouzan should be a force up front along with prodigy Alexander Gerndt. HIF has a nasty dustup with former captain Markus Lantz, who eventually left the team to play for Henrik Larsson at Landskrona. HIF will miss the leadership Lantz provided, at least early in the season.
Outlook: Bridesmaids again.
BK HÄCKEN New Faces: Tibor Joza, defender, Falkenberg, Björn Anklev, midfielder, Örgryte, Dioh Williams, forward, Århus
Old News: Finished eighth with an 11-7-12 record
The Skinny: Häcken has turned itself into a solid Allsvenskan club, one that could, with a push, actually contend for a spot in Europe. It is the envy of every small-market team as it somehow manages to keep pace with the big boys without breaking its budget. Häcken led the league for nearly two months last year, but its talent level simply isn’t up to a championship run. Häcken picked up Björn Anklev, the best player on Superettan side Örgryte and lured Dioh Williams back from Denmark but those two players can’t tansform Hacken from outsider to champion.
Outlook: Early run will fizzle.
KALMAR FF New Faces: Alban Dragusha, defender, Skenderbeu Korce, Liridon Leci, midfielder, Kastrioti, Kristoffer Fagercrantz, midfielder, Jönköping Södra
Old News: Finished ninth in 2010 with a 10-10-10 record
The Skinny: Kalmar allowed more goals last year than it scored, a fact head coach Nanne Bergstrand addressed by bulking his midfield. In a twist, rather than look to Brazil for reinforcements, Bergstrand brought in a pair of Kosovo internationals to bolster the center while Kristoffer Fagercrantz is a star in the making. Kalmar kept Brazilian strikers Marcel Sacramento, Ricardo Santos and Daniel Mendes and will need all three to improve on last year’s goal numbers. Defense remains solid but there is simply something lacking. Maybe the opening of the new stadium will light a fire.
Outlook: Somewhere near the top, maybe even a European spot.
MALMÖ New Faces: None.
Old News: Won title with a 21-4-5 record
The Skinny: Malmö managed to do something no champion has done in more than a decade – it kept its title-winning team intact. Malmö is loaded with talent and after winning last year, its young stars are hungry for more. Malmö also has high European ambitions, and these could well determine whether MFF repeats as champion. Malmö faces a grueling schedule in May and June with Swedish Cup, league and Champions League matches and how well the players cope physically will be key. Roland Nilsson apprears to be out as manager and on his way to FC Copenhagen and how much his departure will affect the players is unknown. Still, Malmö has everything it needs to repeat to the point that only team that can really beat Malmo is Malmö.
Outlook: Gold medal
MJÄLLBY New Facesv: Joachim Lantz, defender, Kalmar FF (4-month contract), Pavel Zavadil, midfielder, Örgryte, Samuel Petrone, forward, New Jersey Rangers
Old News: Finished sixth in 2010 with an 11-10-9 record
The Skinny: Mjällby wants to compete with the big boys but lacks the money. Last year, that didn’t matter as Mjällby squeezed every drop of talent out of his bargain-basement squad and this year could well be the same. The addition of Pavel Zavadil gives them a creative midfielder. Mjällby took a trip to south New Jersey to find a new forward – 21-year-old Samuel Petrone. An Under-18 US international, Petrone showed enough for Mjällby to sign him – for much less than a South American or even an African import. Bargain basement? Sure, but if it ain’t broke …
Outlook: Hovering near the top
IFK NORRKÖPING New Faces: Abbas Hassan, goalkeeper, Elfsborg, Marcus Falk-Olander, defender, Elfsborg, Anders Wikström, defender, Elfsborg, Mathias Florén, defender, Elfsborg, Bobbie Friberg da Cruz, defender, Randers, Martin Smedberg-Dalence, midfielder, Ljungskile, Astrit Ajdarevic, midfielder, Örebro, Joonas Tamm, forward, Flora, Gunnar Heidar Torvaldsson, forward, klubblös
Old News: Finished second in Superettan in 2010 to win promotion
The Skinny: Elfsborg West? Norrköping dumped 11 players that helped it win promotion to the Allsvenskan and replaced them plenty of experience. The five Elfsborg players all won a title - in 2006. Gunnar Heidar Torvaldsson won the scoring title – in 2002. Peking did land highly talented and young midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic from Örebro while Bobbie Friberg da Cruz gives them an offensive force on defense. The problem is how to bring a team together after dumping 11 players? It simply doesn’t work no matter how much talent.
Outlook: Here today, gone in November.
SYRIANSKA FC New Faces: Alex Perreira, defender, Örgryte, Omar Jawo, defender, Gefle, David Durmaz, defender, Ljungskile, Erkan Saglik, defender, Nybergssund, Sharbel Touma, midfielder, Djurgården, Johan Arneng, midfielder, Ålesund, Yussuf Saleh, midfielder, AIK (loan)
Old News: Won the Superettan in 2010 to win promotion
The Skinny: Syrianska re-made its Superettan-winning team but did so in a smart way. It built arguably the nastiest, physically strongest midfield in the league by signing Sharbel Touma and Johan Arneng to go along with Agbar Barsom. It also went with youth and looked to add some depth on the bench. That’s all well and good, but can this collection of thugs and kids compete in the Allsvenskan? Probably, just don’t expect pretty football.
Outlook: Near the bottom but will stay up
TRELLEBORG New Faces: Tuomo Turunen, defender, IFK Göteborg, Erdin Demir, midfielder, LB07, Thiago Pinto Borges, midfielder, NK Mosor, Andreas Grahm, midfielder, VMA IK, Niclas Schön, forward, Svedala
Old News: Finished fifth in 2010 with a 13-5-12 record
The Skinny: Trelleborg was the surprise team of 2010. After finishing the first half of the season in dead last, TFF roared to life and reeled off the best record of any team in the second half of the season. Now, players and fans are talking about a top-four finish but that talk might be premature. Trelleborg has one of the most coveted talents in the league in young goalkeeper Victor Norling and a squad of relative no names. If Trelleborg can play all season the way it did in the second half of 2010, anything is possible and if any manager can get his team to play above its head, it’s Tom Prahl.
Outlook: European spot? Probably a little too ambitious
ÖREBRO New Faces: Patrik Haginge, defender, Djurgården, Emil Berger, midfielder, Degerfors, Josef Ibrahim, mmidfielder, Forward, Kushtrim Lushtaku, midfielder, TSV 1860 München, William Atashkadeh, forward, IFK Göteborg, Kalle Holmberg, forward, Karlslund, Miralem Malic, forward, Arboga Södra, Ahmed Yasin, forward, Forward, Andreas Haddad, forward, Assyriska, Valdet Rama, forward, Hannover 96
Old News: Finished in third place in 2010 with a 16-4-10 record
The Skinny: Welcome to Wild Card City. Orebro strengthened the team that finished third last year to the point it could sneak past Malmo and Helsingborg to claim the Lennart Johansson. Andreas Haddad is a star in the making and makes Orebro’s offense a force. OSK also picked up a pair of players with Bundesliga experience and most important, added depth to a team that was pathetically thin after the starting 11.
Outlook: Right there at the end but probably not golden
Lawns on soccer fields all over Sweden have been prepared for the first games of Allsvenskan over the weekend. Here, the lawn at Gamla Ullevi in Göteborg is treated with special lamps to help the grass grow. Bildbyrån photo