For decades, Sweden has been synonymous with its fine exports. You’ve got Volvo, ABBA, and IKEA to name a few and well, probably according to himself anyway, you cannot think of football without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But since the focus is so often on what comes out of Sweden, The Analyst wonders what is currently going on within the country? Here, we focus on the Swedish top tier, the Allsvenskan.
The Race for the Swedish Crown
After their disastrous 2021 campaign, in which BK Häcken recorded their lowest league position (12th) since their most recent promotion in 2008, the Göteborg side have collected 23 points in their first 10 league games of the 2022 season. That’s exactly as many as AIK, although the Solna side have played 11 games in the current season, making Häcken the current Allsvenskan leaders. Per-Mathias Høgmo’s team have been a spectacular side to watch.
When comparing the Allsvenskan 2022 with the top five leagues in Europe, it might seem the Swedish competition isn’t the most attractive when it comes to goals per game. With 212 goals in 82 Allsvenskan matches in 2022 so far, the competition’s average of 2.59 is just a little higher than the lowest average among the big five European competitions – La Liga’s 2.50 goals per game.
Although the league isn’t a guarantee for goals, Häcken are breaking that habit. They are the top goal scorers with 22 goals, with only five of the 15 other teams conceding as often (14 goals conceded). This adds up to an average of 3.6 goals per Häcken league game, the highest average in the competition and the fourth-highest compared to all teams from the big five leagues in Europe, only behind Bayer 04 Leverkusen, Bordeaux, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
The Crown Prince
The Allsvenskan 2022 has seen 99 different goal scorers so far, with 98 of those failing to net more than five times. But in a league of equality, there is one player standing out and unsurprisingly, he plays for Häcken. Striker Alexander Jeremejeff has found the net 10 times this campaign, at least double that of any other player’s total.
Jeremejeff kicked off the season with a hat-trick and an assist in Häcken’s 4-2 win over AIK on MD 1 and is currently enjoying a six-game scoring streak, in which he has bagged seven. His fast start is even more remarkable considering he’s broken the 10-goal barrier just once in his previous seven Allsvenskan campaigns. Moreover, Jeremejeff ranks only 20th when it comes to touches in the opposition box and seventh when looking at shots, showing he’s certainly made the most of his chances so far.
Although six players attempted more shots than Jeremejeff in the Allsvenskan 2022, his expected goals value of 5.9 is a league-high. This shows that when he does come to shoot at goal, Jeremejeff makes sure that it’s from a high-quality position as shown by his 0.21 xG per shot value.
This quality puts the 28-year-old Swede amongst Europe’s most effective goal scorers in the big five leagues over the last season. Robert Lewandowski (0.22 xG / shot) and Erling Haaland (0.23 xG / shot) rank just above Jeremejeff, who even outperforms Ciro Immobile (0.20 xG / shot) and Karim Benzema (0.19 xG / shot).
The single-capped international has been worth his weight in gold for BK Häcken, with Jeremejeff’s goal involvements responsible for 15 of their total 23 points this season. As well as his 10 goals, Jeremejeff has also provided three assists this campaign.
If we were to remove all of Alexander Jeremejeff’s 13 goals and assists, Häcken would be left with just eight points.
Could the Swedish Crown go to Häcken in 2022? It’ll surely go hand in hand with Jeremejeff’s performances in the remaining two-thirds of the competition.
It would be Häcken’s first-ever title in the Swedish top-flight, making them the 16th champion since the inception of the Allsvenskan.
Just below league leaders Häcken and AIK, we find no fewer than nine teams within six points of each other. One of these sides is Kalmar FF in sixth, the exact spot they ended in 2021 after narrowly avoiding relegation in the 2019 and 2020 campaigns.
Their most important addition to the squad over the winter period has turned out to be Brazilian goalkeeper Ricardo Friedrich, who had been without a club for six months after being released by his previous club Ankaragücü in the summer. After finishing as runner-up in both the Finnish Veikkausliiga in 2015 and the Norwegian Eliteserien in 2019, Friedrich is now on the hunt for glory in the Swedish Allsvenskan.
With four clean sheets and a save percentage rate of 79.1% over his first 10 league games in Sweden, the Kalmar keeper has started exceptionally well. Also impressive is his league-high 6.3 goals prevented total, outperforming every other goalkeeper in the league by over three goals on that metric.
In fact, a goals prevented total of 6.3 is the highest tally for a goalkeeper in a single Allsvenskan campaign in five years. Lucas Hagg-Johansson – Ricardo Friedrich’s predecessor as the first-choice Kalmar FF goalkeeper –prevented 6.6 goals in the 2017 season.
Friedrich’s season has the makings of being one for the ages. While the cliché says that goals win games, Kalmar can rely on Friedrich to prove that preventing them goes a long way to getting results too.
Allsvenskan’s Young Royal
In April, most of the football-loving world tuned in to the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Champions League, while domestic competitions all over Europe were beginning to reach the final stages of their campaigns. But in amongst the excitement, clubs were sending their scouts up North, to see a gifted Swede at work.
The biggest talent of the current Allsvenskan goes by the name of Williot Swedberg. Swedberg only turned 18 in February, but the left-footed teenager has reportedly already sparked interest from clubs like Lokomotiv Moscow, PSV Eindhoven, Celta de Vigo and Club Brugge.
Although Swedberg’s talent was recognised before – not many play 19 games as a 17-year-old as he did in the 2021 Allsvenskan – his final breakthrough came last April. While Karim Benzema set the Champions League on fire, Williot Swedberg did the same in the Allsvenskan, scoring five goals in his first five matches of the 2022 season. Especially noteworthy was a first-half brace against GIF Sundsvall, with one goal being a mighty strike from distance.
Swedberg’s versatility is a huge part of his allure. He can play as a central midfielder, as a striker, or as a false nine, cutting in from the left wing. These feats, combined with his five goals in the newly started season, suggest that Swedberg boasts mostly offensive qualities. While this is true – he shoots as easily with his right foot as with his left and gets almost 60% of his shots on target – Swedberg possesses some defensive qualities as well. Most notably, he’s won 16 of his 20 tackles this Allsvenskan campaign, a remarkable statistic for a forward.
In fact, Swedberg is the only Allsvenskan player to have recorded the unusual combination of both 20 tackles and 10 shots on target this season. As he is young, there is still much to learn. A move to a top league might help him develop further, while a move to a top team in a tier just below that could also mean playing time in the Champions League for the young Swede
While AIK have found their match in terms of goalscoring prowess in joint-league leaders Häcken, lovers of the frivolous will likely enjoy watching the Stockholm-based club. AIK are the dribbling kings in the Allsvenskan, making just shy of 13 successful dribbles per game.
This is in no small part thanks to full-back Erick Otieno. Last season, only Edward Chilufya completed more dribbles in the Allsvenskan than Otieno, but since Chilufya moved to FC Midtjylland Otieno has asserted himself as the best dribbler in the league. The Kenyan both has the most successful dribbles and the highest success rate of all players with more than 30 attempts.
But Otieno is not just dribbling past opponents, he is also covering distance with the ball. In his 11 games this season Otieno moved the ball more than five metres upfield 104 times, with a total carry progress distance of 1263 metres. Only Helsingborg winger Taha Ali made more progress with his carries.
All of the above is only useful if it adds to the most important thing in football: scoring goals. And it does: since the start of 2021 Otieno has provided more assists than any other defender (7) and only one defender has created more chances from open play (33) or generated more expected assists (5.9) than the AIK full-back.
Otieno has been wonderful at pairing style with substance and in a way that encapsulates what the Swedes would like their brand of football to be. With talents like Otieno, Friedrich, Swedberg and surprising storylines such as that of Häcken, the league will surely feel confident of being able to draw the eye of the fan that can’t handle a summer without competitive club football.
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