6. Stabæk Fotball – Alltid. Uansett

Kappitel Seks – Fremdriftsrapport
Chapter SixProgress Report

In-game date: Saturday July 9th, 2022

Authors Note

By now you’ll be well aware of the chaos that has happened in this save since my last blog post. I had to do some emergency surgery of sorts and the post that I had planned to write got split in two and this is the second part. If you missed the first part then you’ll find it here Chapter Five – Recruitment.

In this part I plan to get the ship back on course. You’ll notice above that it’s now July in game, that’s the halfway point on our league calendar and I’ve not long finished the fifteenth game of the OBOS-ligaen season. Without giving too much away prematurely I think it’s safe to say that things are going fairly well so far and you’ll have to read on to find out more.

Club News

As July approached I was made aware of a handful of contracts that were due to expire at the end of the year. Marcus Sandberg was an obvious extension and duly gets another four years. Neither of the young goalkeepers at the club is close to ready for a first-team role yet and Sandberg also plays a vital role in mentoring them. Everybody knows that it’s a position that peaks late so I have no problem with extending a goalkeeper already in his thirties.

The big contract question mark in the first team is Fitim Azemi who is currently still recovering from a hip injury that he sustained almost two months ago. I had concerns about our forward depth when he first went down because both Geelmuyden and Hansen were also out with minor injuries. During that time I had to lean on the youth options that were available and I was convinced enough that they could fill the void in an emergency. Now factor in their cost, the youth players are currently on £45 per week versus £1000 for Azemi and that’s just his base wage. I entered into negotiations with Azemi but he is adamant that he wants to maintain his squad status as a regular starter, but I just don’t see how that’s possible, especially with the performances of the other guys ahead of him. So, for now, his contract status will remain up in the air to be revisited at a later date.

Thomas Vold has signed for another two years, a young wing-back who has made a handful of appearances this season. Mathis Haugen was informed that we would be letting him move on after his current deal ends. He is already twenty years old and not showing nearly enough potential to be worth keeping on the books. Not only that but I already have plenty of depth in his position, so I’d much prefer to allow him to get his career started properly elsewhere.

There are another eight lads from the Stabæk 2 team who have contracts due to expire at the end of this season, some of which I can already tell don’t have a future at first-team level. Despite that though, I am leaning towards keeping most of them so that my reserve teams remain competitive because that will be required for developing any future talents. I’ll address this on a case-by-case basis though, depending on each player’s demands and also like in Haugen’s case the depth we already have in that position.

It wasn’t due to an expiring contract but Nicholas Pignatel Jenssen is the first player to receive a long-term contract extension, putting pen to paper on a new five-year deal that will see him remain under contract until the end of the 2026 season. You already know how I feel about this guy so this was a no brainer. His performances have been sensational so far but I also needed to deter some early interest that was being shown in him by clubs like Danish side FC København and RC Strasbourg of France.

An overview of the club finances. Swipe for a detailed look at expenditure.

You’ll remember that when I first started the save that we were already over the allocated wage budget. Well, a couple of early contract extensions allowed me to get that under control. I opted to offer players a more bonus-based contract so that they had to earn their wages rather than just be doled out a hefty weekly wage. A page possibly taken out of the, dare I say it, Daniel Levy handbook. I’m totally okay with paying bonuses if it means that guys are scoring goals or that we’re earning clean sheets, that’s the way I’ve tended to structure contracts on this game for as long as I can remember.

Back to the point at hand though, you’ll see the glaringly obvious negative bank balance. I had a feeling that money was going to be tight in the first place and given the current situation I am now even more regretful of my decision to fully staff the Stabæk 3 team. This regret stems from the fact that on closer inspection I discovered that staff wages are our number one expense this season, aside from tax (three things are certain and all that).

This also ties in with the expiring contracts that I was just talking about above. At the same time that I was informed about the expiring player contracts, I was also informed of three staff members who found themselves in a similar situation. Chief Scout Pål Berg was handed another two years immediately based on the difficulty I had while trying to find regular scouts, but also the fact that he’s actually pretty good at his job. On a more sentimental note, he’s also only one year short of celebrating his twentieth anniversary working for Stabæk.

The same can’t be said for one of my two assistant managers though, based on the criteria that I discussed previously it looks like it might be the end of Bård Wiggen. It’s a shame because he is an excellent staff member in terms of his quality but there are a few big flaws in his profile. The most major being his motivating attribute is only a four. I’m sure you could make an argument that the rest of his attributes make up for that shortcoming, but I might have an option that kills two birds with one stone, metaphorically of course.

The current manager of the Stabæk 3 squad, Tom Kåre Staurvik is a more than capable replacement and thus could improve the first team coaching picture while also beginning to reduce the spending on Stabæk 3. I also prefer his personality type and the fact he works better with youngsters which suits us as we currently have one of the youngest squads in the league.

While still on the subject of finances it was interesting to see that our youth setup comes in a very close second in terms of expenditure, but thanks again to the wonderful message Marius sent me I was made aware of a few factors about the academy and the spending in relation to it.

I’m paraphrasing here to not copy and paste his entire message, but I can give you a general idea. It dates back to the time of Stabæk’s move to the Telenor Arena and the subsequent move back to Nadderud. Now despite all the financial insecurity that surrounded the club at this time (and I am led to believe it was pretty dire) the money that the club was spending on the academy was left largely untouched. So much so that Stabæk actually spent more on the academy in 2013 while in the second tier than they did while pushing for European qualification in the Eliteserien only a couple of years earlier.

This thought process will become the driving force in my future decision making for this save. In the sense that no matter what happens during the save the academy will remain at the front and centre of the club’s identity.

The story so far

As I alluded to earlier, things have been going pretty well so far. We currently lead the league and boast a very healthy goal difference. On it’s own though, our goal scoring isn’t particularly standout (28), while that leads the league there are another seven clubs within a goal or two of that total. It’s our goals conceded (9) that I am most proud of, a total that is also a league-best, but by a healthier margin compared to our nearest opposition Start (14).

When looking around the rest of the league it might be Brann’s struggles that are one of the most interesting stories of the season so far. They started slowly not getting a win until they played us in match week four. A couple of weeks later it looked like that might have had things figured out after putting seven past Byrne before going the rest of May without recording a win. June on the other hand saw them go unbeaten but you can see by the xG table that they have scored less and conceded more than was expected of them. Interestingly, at the time of writing, they have just sacked their manager following a loss to KFUM Oslo.

Kongsvinger too were a surprise package earlier in the season when they quickly raced away to lead the league, shrugging off their preseason prediction of a bottom half placed finish. In fact they managed to hold onto that top spot until losing it to us during a visit to Nadderud on match day twelve. A day when a Gift Orban brace led us to a four-goal victory.

A similar point can also be made about Skeid, the newly promoted side was predicted to finish twelfth based on the season preview but currently find themselves sitting fairly comfortably in the playoff picture right now. The performances of goal-scoring Kristoffer Hoven and playmaker Bendik Rise are the most likely candidates for their success. Bendik is a bit of a cult icon among Chuck and me based on our first Norwegian save and the subsequent interactions that we had with him.

The bottom end of the table, Åsane aside looks almost exactly as it should at least based on expected points. Bryne has so graciously allowed themselves to be the league whipping boys, having currently conceded a league-highest (33) goals, including the seven that Brann put past them. They’ve only managed to keep two clean sheets in total this season.

Onto the individual player stats, you can see that in terms of our own goal-scoring, it is Gift Orban (10) who is doing the damage as predicted and he currently finds himself second in the golden boot race behind Skeid’s Kristoffer Hoven (11), who I just mentioned before. Frederik Krogstad is our next highest goal scorer (6) from his central midfield position.

It’s also excellent to see Herman Geelmuyden leading the way in the assist department especially after an early season injury forced him to miss six games. Meanwhile, his partner in crime and new contract earner Jenssen features in the top three placings for both average rating and player of the match awards. I am beginning to wonder if he could well be our best chance at a Player of the Season award.

To back up our stellar defensive performance so far Marcus Sandberg sees himself alone at the top of the clean sheets pile. For comparison’s sake, Makani, who was in the media eleven only has four clean sheets of his own so far, but he does lead the way in many of the detailed metrics. So it’s more than likely that his defenders are letting him down rather than him having a bad season personally. I’ll save the advanced data for a proper end-of-season review though.

Overview of the results so far.

Looking back there aren’t too many standout results in the league, I panicked briefly after the loss at Start but was thrilled with the way that we bounced back immediately against Størdals-Blink. Perhaps the win against Kongsvinger and taking the top spot off them at the time might be one of the highlights so far.

Overall I believe that it has been the defensive consistency that we’ve displayed that has allowed us to put together such a good run so far this season. Ten clean sheets in fifteen games is no joke, on average we concede just over half a goal per game. There have been a few instances where we’ve not looked like scoring or we’ve left it very late to grab a winner but the performances of the back line have been sensational. As the saying goes, defence wins championships.

That Kongsvinger result certainly appeared to give us the confidence to go head-to-head with Bodø/Glimt in the NM Cup. You might have seen me tweet the result at the time, but seventeen-year-old Aleksander Andresen came off the bench to score the equaliser that took the game to penalties. It’s hard to argue that we didn’t deserve the win, we had a game plan and executed it to perfection.

Even though it was a home tie for us I knew that Bodø, as the bigger team, would have the lion’s share of possession and I didn’t bother to fight it. I opted for a low block making us even more compact than usual but maintained our normal pressing intensity. What this meant was that when we won the ball back we had more room to attack and our opposition would find themselves stretched due to the higher position on the pitch that we had allowed them.

It was one of these counterattacks that very nearly won us the game during the second half of extra time. Andresen again linked up beautifully with Gift Orban before having an effort cleared off the line by an opposition defender. Ultimately though it didn’t matter as Marcus Sandberg saved an Ola Solbakken penalty during the shootout while all our boys converted their own attempts, including teenager Kaloyan Kostadinov who is having himself quite a season with three goals and three assists in all competitions.

If I were to be picky about a fixture then I’d like to have seen us make less of a hash of the third-round tie against KFUM Oslo. During this game, we had to make two separate comebacks to ensure the victory that saw us secure a spot in the fourth round. The subsequent draw set us up for a visit to our local rivals Vålerenga, where I’ll get my first attempt of this save to give our fans the success they want in this derby.

Looking Ahead

With the transfer window opening this month I will look into the possibility of bringing Kristoffer Lassen Harrison back early from his loan spell at Grorud. He is the player that I have in mind as the potential successor to Næss anyway, I just hadn’t expected to need him this early on. If I’m unable to bring him back then there’s a high likelihood that I will try and play out the remainder of the season with the centre-backs that I have on hand and the left-hand side will be covered by a combination of Kasper Pedersen and Olav Veum.

The end of July will offer me an opportunity to make some adjustments to our squad registration for the second half of the season and after the injury, to Nicolai Næss my hand is going to be forced into making some changes. Those changes will begin with Næss himself getting removed from the squad due to the fact his injury will likely keep him out for longer than the season has remaining.

There will also be the chance to add a couple more of the lads on youth contracts to replace the ones used earlier in the season and I already have a couple in mind to help buff up the front line. Elton Llullaku, twin brother of Eliot who used his allocation at the start of the season and Andreas Victorio whom my staff keep telling me is training like a madman.

Scouting for wing-backs and wide-centre-backs will continue but I struggle to envision a reality where we have enough time to compile a suitable list of players to sign someone for this window. Any scouting completed now is most likely in preparation for the closed season ahead of a hopeful return to the Eliteserien.

Conclusion

There you have it. We’re caught up, I think. We’ve finally got some games to look back on at the very least and I hope you’re as impressed by our form as I have been. The big cup game against Vålerenga is just around the corner too!

Thanks for sticking with me through the sudden change of plans, I felt it was the best way to get through the situation without inundating you with thousands and thousands of words. I can’t tell you how much I’m enjoying writing this series, we’re already six blogs in and barely scratching the surface of what I want to do with it.

See you in the next one and if you want to get hold of me in the meantime then you can find me on Twitter @horsleyjchris.

Alltid. Uansett

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