It feels like only yesterday the Eliteserien resumed after the COVID-19 lockdown, but we have now already played 11 rounds... More than a 3rd of the season has been & gone. Glimt & Molde are the clear standouts and dominate the 'Team of the Year... So Far' which is why I have decided to produce two teams. One, being the true 'Team of the Year... So Far' and the other being a 'Best of the Rest XI' as I would feel fraudulent not mentioning other players outside of the Molde/Glimt bubble.
As ever, let me know what you think in the comments and send me your own Teams of the Year... So Far. I am sure they will be just as dominated by the top two clubs so far this season!
by Ben Wells
GK - Andreas Linde (Molde)
It seemed that in 2019 we were spoiled with vast riches of Eliteserien goalkeepers, with Sean McDermott, Andre Hansen & Marcus Sandberg all competing to elite levels. 2020 so far has not seen the same standard of goalkeeping, partly due to injuries to the likes of McDermott & Hansen. Andreas Linde is always a solid GK for Molde but looks to have improved his game even more this season. 4 clean sheets & 2 penalties saved at the time of writing, Linde is clearly the best performing goalkeeper in the league.
RB - Mats Solheim (Stabaek)
I guess this is a bit of a cheeky inclusion on my part as Solheim has played the majority of his Stabaek matches so far at CB due to Yaw Amankwah's injury. However, Solheim was signed primarily to play as a full back and has impressed there when featuring in the role. He adds depth and experience to a young Stabaek team and is 1/4th of possibly the most underrated defensive unit in the league (I would rank Stabaek's defence as top 3, comfortably).
CB - Andreas Hanche-Olsen (Stabaek)
The best defender in the league this season, which is quite a bold claim when comparing Hanche to the likes of Moe & Lode at Glimt. However, the Stabaek captain continues to improve and build on his fantastic year in 2019. Looks like a future international in the making with the leadership skills to match, I would be surprised if he stayed in the Eliteserien for much longer at this rate.
CB - Brede Moe (Glimt)
Lode or Moe... It's a very tough call... But my vote goes to the former Rosenborg & Ranheim player. It feels like Brede Moe has been about forever but he is still just 28 years old and it's great to see his development as a player continuing on an upward trend despite some problematic injury issues in recent seasons. Moe's ability to play out from the back & resist the press means he is incredibly effective in this fantastic Glimt team and it is this that puts him just ahead of Marius Lode in my team of the year so far.
LB - Fredrik Bjorkan (Glimt)
A lock at LB. Bjorkan has been the best full back in the league over the last two seasons (yes, even over Birger Meling) and his form shows no sign of stopping at present. The complete package at LB with the ability to quickly burst forward and overlap Hauge down the left hand flank, but Bjorkan also has the key defensive skills to back up his offensive prowess.
CM - Etzaz Hussain (Molde)
If you had told me that Etzaz Hussain would be Molde's joint top scorer after 11 rounds of the Eliteserien season I would have laughed in your face. Hussain has 6 goals in 11 games, matching Leke James' tally for the season. 2020 strikes again. Goals aside though, Hussain has been excellent for Molde and it speaks volumes that Eirik Hestad's omission from the XI at present is barely noticed. For me, Hussain has been the most impressive Molde player this season, just surpassing the excellent Magnus Wolff Eikrem, who has been impressive but is rarely able to complete a full game.
CM - Ulrik Saltnes (Glimt)
5 goals & 4 assists in 11 games so far this season, Glimt's joint-captain Ulrik Saltnes has been in excellent form. A fan favourite up North and a major driving force behind Glimt's unbelievable form this season, Saltnes' inclusion here will come as no surprise to those who have watched him over the last two seasons. Saltnes is fast becoming the all round package in midfield and you wouldn't rule out a potential future international call up if this form continues.
CM - Patrick Berg (Glimt)
In my eyes, Patrick Berg is the main man for table-topping Glimt. It's easy to notice the brilliance of Hauge & Zinckernagel out wide but Berg's role is possibly a little more understated. Berg is the man conducting the game from the middle of the park. He sets the tempo whilst being relentless in his work rate and running. Berg's development from a bit-part player in 2018 to a key man in 2019 & 2020 has been wonderful to see.
LW - Jens-Petter Hauge (Glimt)
Back in 2017, when Hauge was racking up more assists than hot dinners, I hoped that he could one day translate that form into the Eliteserien. 3 seasons later in 2020 and Hauge is bossing it, for want of a better term. The perfect 'winger' in Glimt's system due to the fact that he loves to cut inside and open up space for others, Hauge has also contributed himself with 6 goals & 4 assists in 11 games. A sure-shot contender for player of the year at the end of the season, Hauge's inclusion here is obvious.
ST - Kasper Junker (Glimt)
I had seriously considered Amahl Pellegrino for the striker role in my team of the year so far but due to the fact that he mostly plays as a LW I prefer to give this spot to Kasper Junker. Another Glimt player, I know... But, Junker has been excellent with 10 league goals in 10 games. He is the top scorer in the league with an average of a goal every 76 minutes of play. Kjetil Knutsen thinks he's the best striker in the league & frankly it is hard to disagree.
RW - Philip Zinckernagel (Glimt)
THE player of the season so far. Zinckernagel has always been good for Glimt but without the serious returns of a player to be considered as the best in the league. This year, the Dane has 7 goals and 9 (NINE!!) assists in just 11 games, an incredible return at this stage of the season. At this rate, he will surely be named player of the year come the end of the season and I would be surprised if clubs from top leagues were not looking at his returns with a view to making a contract offer in the near future.
Due to the Molde & Glimt dominance of the 'Team of the Year So Far' I wanted to highlight some other impressive players this season, who may not be performing to the elite levels of Molde & Glimt players, but deserve a shoutout nonetheless. The rules for this team are that no player can be included if they play for Molde or Glimt, nor if they made the actual Team of the Year, such as Solheim & Hanche did .
GK - Julian Faye Lund (Rosenborg)
The best compliment I can pay him is that Rosenborg are not currently missing Andre Hansen. Incredibly impressive since taking over from Hansen in goal of late.
RB - Bent Sormo (Kristiansund)
Consistently good in 2020. Has improved his attacking game this season, too. Part of an extremely solid Kristiansund back four.
CB - Bjorn Inge Utvik (Sarpsborg)
Sarpsborg's defensive record this season is very good & Utvik is at the heart of that. Has looked solid ever since recovering from long term injury last season.
CB - Jesper Daland (IK Start)
Heavily involved in pre-season & a regular all of 2020 so far. In a pretty poor defensive unit down in Kristiansand, Daland has really stood out despite his tender age.
LB - Birk Risa (Odd)
Rarely mentioned amongst the best young players in the league but is becoming a thoroughly impressive player. Would be greatly missed by Odd if he were to leave for pastures new at the end of the year.
CM - Josh Kitolano (Odd)
Could 2020 finally be Kitolano's breakout season? Whilst 18 year old Filip Jorgensen gets all the plaudits at the base of Odd's midfield, Kitolano is quietly being consistently excellent. It's easy to forget that Kitolano himself is still just 18 years old.
CM - Kristoffer Zachariassen (Rosenborg)
After a fairly tough start to life in Trondheim, under Trond Henriksen Doff has kicked on massively and has quickly become one of the sides' most important players this season.
DM - Ipalibo Jack (Stromsgodset)
Whilst Johan Hove has taken many of the plaudits in the Godset midfield due to the fact that he tends to score important goals, Ibalibo Jack is the glue that keeps the side together and is generally the one player mopping up when the Godset press goes awry.
RW - Gilbert Koomson (Brann)
Unlucky not to make the full team of the year but unfortunately just misses out with competition from Hauge & Zinckernagel. Koomson has been excellent for Brann in another poor season for the club. 8 goals in 11 games is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his importance for the Bergen side.
LW - Amahl Pellegrino (Kristiansund)
Similarly to Koomson, unlucky not to make the full team of the year so far. Has scored some wonderful goals for KBK this season & is their best player by a distance. 9 goals in 11 games & surely more to come from the pacey forward.
ST - Holmbert Fridjonsson (Aalesund)
Having an AaFK player in a potential team of the year so far seems odd considering how bad the tangerines have been this year. But, Fridjonsson has been excellent. 8 goals in just 9 games (7 starts) is an excellent return for a forward who at times looks far too good for this level.