Allsvenskan is on a break waiting for the World Cup, and so am I – so why not write a quick recap of the action so far? Well I hadn’t planned on it, but with this first part of the season being far more interesting than what we’ve seen in a long time, I simply couldn’t resist.
The number of matches played are a bit unevenly distributed so far, with Malmö, AIK and Djurgården all having played one extra match each to give room for the European qualifiers later this summer, while Sirius‘ season opener against Sundsvall was postponed due to poor pitch conditions.
The main (and I mean MAIN) narratives so far have been Malmö’s fall from grace and Hammarby‘s surprisingly flying start to the season. A mini narrative this season is also Östersund with their poor start, criminal investigations into chairman Kindberg‘s business and manager of the year for the last two seasons, Graham Potter, leaving to take over Swansea in the Championship.
Title defenders Malmö very disappointingly sit in 10th and are nowhere near their usual standard which has seen them claim the top spot 4 times in the last 5 seasons. Magnus Pehrsson was under a lot of pressure early on and after failing to bounce back after the 3-0 defeat to Djurgården in the Swedish Cup final, he was soon fired.
Hammarby on the other hand got off to a great start, winning 8 and drawing once before finishing with their first defeat of the season (against rivals AIK) and another draw. For a team that finished 9th last season, looked quite poor, sacked their manager and promoted his assistant in a move that looked like a huge gamble, this is surprising even for Allsvenskan. Fair play to Hammarby and Stefan Billborn though, they have undeniably been the best team so far, playing a very entertaining attacking football.
That said, let’s get on with some scatterplots:
Looking at chances we can see that Hammarby spend a lot of time attacking, while at the same time limiting their opponents. Häcken does a good job as well, and Malmö actually don’t look too bad quantity-wise. AIK is a curious case with Rikard Norling as usual having his side focus more on game control than chance dominance, limiting their attack even more than last season. A bottom quartet of Dalkurd, Trelleborg, Sirius and Brommapojkarna can be easily distinguished here, with especially promoted BP looking really poor when it comes to raw chance numbers, facing a whopping 17 chances per match.
Hammarby have been effective in front of goal, which when combined with their many chances of course is a big part of their impressive run so far. Malmö and Häcken on the other hand have seen their good numbers spoiled by some ineffective finishing, while AIK’s effectiveness has compensated for their low quantity and allows them to aim for the top. Brommapojkarna’s performance is dismal here as well, and we can also note that IFK Göteborg worryingly combine low chance quantity with ineffective scoring.
Looking at defensive effectiveness we see how Hammarby are actually quite poor, proving the point that their success is mostly down to their impressive attack. Malmö and Östersund look surprisingly bad as well, on par with bottom teams Sirius and Dalkurd. Had they defended better they would have gone into the summer break with far more confidence of a top 3 finish, and I don’t even want to think about how Hammarby would look if they get their defense in shape.
AIK is of course the master defenders, handling the few chances faced very effectively, as is Norling’s trademark. As we’ve seen though, they’ve done so by giving up some attacking ambition, relying more on effectiveness in front of goal. There could be a fine line between success and utter failure with this approach but I suspect AIK to be in the race for the title up until November.
Bottom placed Sirius look really poor defensively and as usual they are plagued by injuries as well. They’ve also had to start with their goalkeeping coach a few matches as their only fit goalkeeper was suspended after a cocaine-related offense, which certainly didn’t make things easier. Brommapojkarna’s defensive effectiveness look OK but they still face way too many chances to avoid being involved in the relegation battle.
Lastly, Örebro have dramatically improved their defense under new manager Axel Kjäll, going from around 7.5 chances faced per goal conceded last season, to almost 12 so far. They still face a lot of chances but defend these well, looking very much to have a deliberate strategy to defend the box and let the opposition bomb away from poorer chance locations.
Looking at the Expected goals scatter we see just how different Hammarby and AIK’s approaches are. Interestingly, this fits very well with the traditional values of the clubs with AIK focusing a lot on a solid defense looking for a controlled 1-0 win while Hammarby attack head on carefree, not minding conceding a goal or two as they can always score more if needed.
Besides the top 2 teams, there seems to be some clustering going on xG-wise. A group of 5 clubs including Malmö and Djurgården look to be in contention for a top 3 spot with average or better defenses and strong attacking, while a roughly average quartet are lead by Örebro. Lastly, we see how the bottom quartet is actually a quintet with Sundsvall also showing poor underlying performances in both ends of the pitch.
The clustering shows up when looking at Expected Goals Difference as well, also showing that Häcken is actually on par with AIK and that Östersund is slightly worse than the other top 3 contenders. Sirius are just bad.
How about a prediction then – will the main narratives continue or will Malmö regain their form and will Hammarby drop back to their former mediocrity? Who will be relegated? Well, even if I wanted to make a prediction, we’ve seen just a bit more than one third of the season so far and there’s still a lot to come, including a very interesting transfer window which could see most clubs look very different come mid August. The only thing I can say is that the remainder of the season could very well get even more interesting than what we’ve seen so far.
That’s it for now, but I will hopefully be back soon with an update on individual player performances.
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.