My introduction to Norwegian football (what’s the name of the league again?) was the same introduction that we all get to life. I came into the world of football in Norway naked. Rather, Ronny Deila was naked, celebrating Strømsgodset winning their second league title in club history. Deila was about to take over as manager for my club Celtic and I had no idea who this naked man was that would be leading the Hoops for the next few years. Fast forward two years and Ronny left Glasgow with two SPFL Premier League Winner’s Medals, a Scottish League Cup Winner’s medal, and memories of a lost Scottish Cup Semi-Final in which one could wonder what may have been if Patrick Roberts could finish from 2 yards away into an open net and Tom Rogic could have just not sent his penalty into row Z.
Along those two years, I met Christian Wulff. Somehow an American Celtic supporter and Norwegian living in Glasgow could discuss advanced stats and analytics in football over the internet. What a time to be alive. When Ronny left Celtic and found his way back to Norway and Vålerenga, Christian somehow convinced me to work with him in applying these stats I have used for Scottish football to Norwegian football. I agreed to this, despite my knowledge of Norwegian football consisting of Ronny Deila, Harald Brattbakk, Tor Andre Flo, Molde making Ronny’s Celtic look silly, and Rosenborg being much better than everyone else in the league. I was told the latter was fundamental in my journey in Norwegian football.
So if I am not as familiar with a league, I can look at the stats from last season to try and get an idea where each club is at. Christian already discussed expected goals compared to how many goals each club scored and strikers performances compared to their expected goal output. Now we can look at expected goal difference (xG For-xG Against) compared to the points each club had last year. Boy, Rosenborg…maybe I knew more than I thought. Looking at their xG difference compared to their points, one could argue they underperformed points wise, which is a scary thought to the rest of the league.
Most of the league seems to have performed about where they should have when looking at their xG difference and points, but my eye is also drawn to Brann. Brann only had an xG difference of 1.97, which was 7th best in the league last year. Yet, Brann finished 2nd in the league. In a year where Leicester City won the EPL despite not having stats that would suggest so, Brann had a similar phenomenon seeing middle of the table stats earn them 2nd. We see my main principle of Norwegian football return, with Brann enjoying a Leicester-like performance but it only being good enough to get to 2nd and nowhere near the freight train that is Rosenborg.
We can also use expected goals for and expected goals against to see how each club fared on each side of the ball. Principle #1 of Rosenborg dominance remains, with Troillongan (that means The Troll Kids in English, which may be the best nickname of a football team I’ve heard) having the highest xG for and lowerst xG conceded. Brann’s success seemed to come from a solid defense and over-peforming the xG for like crazy. Molde, Strømsgodset, Odd, Sarpsborg, and Haugesund inhabit the “best of the rest” category. Old friend Ronny Deila seems to have a decent, if not spectacular defensive club but will need to bring in some offensive fire-power to make some headway in the league. The two relegated clubs thoroughly deserved it. Finally, how on earth did Stabaek stay up(well, Wikipedia tells me through a relegation playoff)?!
We will be updating the expected goals numbers throughout the season, so you can see how your club is doing. Will Brann continue to over-achieve? Probably not. Will Rosenborg run away with the title? Probably. Who will be the “best of the rest”? This question actually is up in the air! Who’s going down? If there’s any justice in the world, it will be Stabaek (sorry Stabaek fans).