Last season was likely one of frustration for Valerenga. The Oslo club had a cup semi-final but ended the season mid-table in eighth place. Never really in danger of falling into the relegation fight, but never really threatening for a medal, Ronny Deila and company were in mid-table limbo. The club averaged 1.30 points per game last season, while they were 6th in the league in expected goal difference at 1.40, suggesting that perhaps they underachieved slightly but still were not among the top teams in Eliteserien.

Five matches into the new campaign and there are signs of improvement for VIF.Group.jpg They currently sit 4th in the table, averaging 1.80 points per game despite drubbings from Sarpsborg and Stromsgodset. Looking at their underlying metrics, the club is currently 1st in the league in xG difference at 4.19. Last season, they averaged 1.22 xG per game and conceded 1.17 xG Against per match. Compare this to this season, where they are averaging 1.78 xG per match and conceding 0.94 xG per match. These numbers show there has been an improvement on both sides of the ball for Valerenga.

On the attacking side of the ball, VIF’s improvement has been lead by a new signing and a player who has been at the club for awhile in Sam Johnson and Simen Juklerod. Johnson was brought in after spending a season in the second division of China. In his first five league matches for Valerenga, Johnson is second in Eliteserien in xG at 3.35 and averaging 0.71 xG per 90. This has lead to 3 goals so far for the Liberian striker.

Johnson Shot Map

Johnson’s early success has come from his ability to get chances in dangerous areas. He is averaging 0.19 xG per attempt taken, above the average xG of a shot taken of 0.11. Not only is he taking dangerous shots, but he is also getting a high number of shots, averaging 3.6 shots per 90 minutes which is third in the league. 72.2% of the shots Sam Johnson have taken have come from the Danger Zone, or the area in the pitch in the 18 yard box in between the lines of the 6 yard box.

We have also discussed measuring what percentage of xG a player has contributed to a team’s total before. Perhaps unsurprisingly Sam Johnson has contributed the largest percentage of his club’s xG total this season, accounting for 47.42% of Valerenga’s xG. That is nearly half! All of these numbers show that getting a lot of good quality shots are the reason Sam Johnson has been able to get his Valerenga career off to a great start.

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The above clip is a great example of what Sam Johnson has been able to do so far this season. The striker makes a great run after holding the ball up to start the Valerenga break. He gets into a high goal probability area centrally in the six yard box. He gets the ball from a good pass and puts the 0.57 xG chance into the back of the net. Johnson getting these types of good chances has lead to start this fast start to his season..

In the clip above where Johnson scores, Norwegian midfielder Simen Juklerod is the one setting the striker up with the low cross through the box. The 23 year old midfelder has been key in Valerenga’s play making in the early portion of this season, with an Expected Assist total of 1.60 which is 4th in the league and averaging 0.46 xA per 90 minutes. Looking at Juklerod’s combined play making metrics by combining his Expected Assists and Expected Secondary Assists, he is at 1.83, good for 11th in the league.

Juklerod Assist.gif

Like in the clip featuring Sam Johnson scoring, we see Juklerod notching an assist doing what he has been successful in this season, making magic on the wing. He is able to to get a cross off from the wing into the danger zone where Jonatan Tollas head it home.

Simen Juklerod Pass Map.png

Looking at the pass map for Juklerod above we see that similar to his his two assists in the clips, he is mostly working on the wing but is able to find his teammates in dangerous areas. The average location for 3 of the 4 teammates Simen Juklerod has provided a key pass to is in the danger zone. This means the winger has been able to set his teammates up in areas they are more likely to score. We also see that Juklerod has completed the most Key Passes to Johnson so far this season. With the start that Johnson has had, Juklerod will continue to amass impressive metrics as long as the two continue connecting on the pitch.

With the size of the club and the reputation of their manager, a club like Valerengajuke.jpg should be aiming higher than 8th place. As mentioned earlier, they currently sit 4th in the table and have good underlying metrics supporting their position. Molde and Brann have gotten off to better starts to the season in the table. Rosenborg are actually below VIF in the table currently, but looking at their stats we can guess they will start to rise up in the standings. Stromsgodset dispatched of Valerenga easily in their first match-up, but have been inconsistent in their other matches and have a point less than Valerenga.

Clearly there are a lot of competitors to Valerenga for medals in Eliteserien. If we are to consider VIF a threat for one, they will need to show more consistency in their form as the season progresses. However, the play of Sam Johnson and Simen Juklerod, among others, provides hope that the Oslo club can be among those fighting for the gold, silver, or bronze.

This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.