Fresh from last year’s league and cup double, and having beaten IFK Gothenburg 1-0 in the pre-season Super Cup, AIK Solna certainly have the self-belief, unity and match-winning talent to keep them at the top end of the table. But, as coach Mikael Stahre says, there is no room for complacency.
Every other side will be gunning for them this term and to make things even more problematic, two of their most influential players have moved on, with Argentinian striker Ivan Obolo heading back to his homeland to join Arsenal and Holland centre-back Jos Hooiveld jumping ship to Celtic for £2million.
To take up the slack up front, AIK are banking on star Brazilian forward Antonio Flavio doing the work of two front runners, while the club have high hopes that Walid Atta, a Swedish Under-21 central defender, will prove a more than able successor to Hooiveld.
AIK look especially strong in midfield, where veteran skipper Daniel Tjernstrom, Bojan Djordjic and bad boy Liberian playmaker Dulee Johnson are joined by new Uruguay enforcer Sebastian Eguren, who is a loan signing from Spanish outfit Villarreal. The latter’s arrival has caused quite a stir in Stockholm as he once played for Hammarby in the capital and their fans are far from pleased that he has chosen to move to rivals AIK.
After finishing as runners-up last season, IFK Gothenburg have several good reasons to believe that they can go one step further, notably their excellent home record and the retention of key men such as attacker Tobias Hysen and Iceland centre-back Ragnar Sigurdsson.
The country’s top scorer in 2009 with 18 goals, Hysen was linked with a number of Bundesliga clubs, while Sigurdsson was reportedly close to a move to the Premier League.
Much more of a goalscoring threat than expected last term, IFK clearly have no intention of standing still in the firepower department, recruiting GAIS’ young striker Par Ericsson. Fans at the Gamla Ullevi stadium must have found it hard to bear when young central defender Mattias Bjarsmyr and midfielder Pontus Wernbloom departed in the close season to Panathinaikos and AZ Alkmaar respectively.
Second in the 2008 championship race and third last season, Elfsborg’s chances of going all the way depend to a great extent on how much more coach Magnus Haglund can wring from his hard-core of thirtysomethings (playmaker Anders Svensson, stopper Teddy Lucic and full-back Mathias Floren). The club from Boras have to be more clinical, translating possession into goals and they need winger Amadou Jawo to be more consistent.
Kalmar, champions in 2008, have the patent for punching above their weight and, as they have done for the past few years, will rely on Samba-style in the attacking third. Diminutive Brazilian striker Danny Mendes was their leading marksman last term and he should be partnered in the current campaign by compatriot Jael, signed from Salvador outfit Bahia. Another new face is Congolese midfielder Yannick Bapupa, who has extensive Allsvenskan experience with Djurgarden, Atvidaberg and Gefle.
Since their last title in 2004, the much-crowned national footballing institution that is Malmo have slipped into the wilderness of mid-table and with the unevenness of the playing material at his disposal, it’s hard to imagine coach Roland Nilsson transforming them into championship challengers, though a top-four spot is not out of the question. The Nigerian-Swedish front-line duo of Edward Ofere and Daniel Larsson represents a ray of hope, as does the leadership and incisive passing in midfield of Daniel Andersson. Greatly improved home form is a must: in 2009 they managed only four wins on their own patch.
Hacken and Orebro are talking up their chances of breaking into the top-four. The former think they have a winning goalscoring hand with Jonas Henriksson and Brazilian loanee Kayke Rodrigues from Flamengo. Orebro, sixth in 2009, boast the reinforced concrete defending of Michael “Iron Mike” Almeback and the nose for goal of the Danish striker Kim Olsen.
Despite the prize signing of battle-hardened Swedish international full-back Erik Edman from Wigan Athletic, the red-shirted Helsingborg could be destined for a season of under-achievement. The retirement of national goal-poaching icon Henrik Larsson leaves a hole impossible to fill, while brilliant young utility player Andreas Landgren was lured away by Udinese early this year.
GAIS will be counting on goals, goals and more goals from their Brazilian attacking midfielder Wanderson, who was on the score-sheet 18 times in 2009, making him the Allsvenskan’s most prolific marksman last term along with Tobias Hysen. The Gothenburg side can only hope he has not been unsettled by on-off talk of a transfer to Holland.
Under resourceful coach Tom Prahl, who has led Malmo and Halmstad to the title, Trelleborg have more than tactical wherewithal to entrench themselves in mid-table. As for Gefle and Brommapojkarna, all that matters is survival and it may be a long, hard season for both. Gefle particularly need a productive season from new striker Mikael Dahlberg, a giant Sweden international bought from Djurgarden.
After dicing with relegation in 2009, ex-Allsvenskan champions Halmstad and Djurgarden will simply want to stay out of trouble. Halmstad have gone the Stateside recruitment route, bringing in midfielder Michael Thomas from San Jose Earthquakes and Ryan Miller, a defender from Swedish second-tier side Ljungskile.
New boys Mjallby and Atvidaberg may find the going tough. However, Mjallby did display commendable ambition in signing the ex-Sweden attacking midfielder Tobias Grahn
from Danish club Randers.
March 13, 2010
November 6, 2010