Before diving head first into Eliteserien, Strømsgodset were one of the clubs in Norway that I was already familiar with. This is due to Ronny Deila, who led the Drammen club to their second ever title in 2013, disrobed celebrating that title, and then became the manger of my beloved Celtic. While Godset have not won the title since Deila headed to bonny Scotland, they have finished in the top half of Norweigan football’s top division every season since.
With five matches remaining in the 2018 Eliteserien campaign, it seems that streak of top half finishes could be coming to an end for Strømsgodset. Even worse, the club are very much in the danger zone of relegation as they currently sit 12th on 26 points, ahead of 13th place Lillestrom and 14th place (and relegation playoff spot) only on goal difference. Godset are only 2 points ahead of Start in 15th place. With five matches remaining to try and keep from getting relegated, it seems a good time to investigate how Strømsgodset went from a sure-fire top half finish each season to being out of a relegation spot only through goal difference.
Looking at the numbers around Godset, there is plenty of blame to dish out for the Drammen club’s predicament. Without even getting into the “advanced stats”, one number sticks out when looking at the club is their goal difference, which is at -1. This is not a number that would typically set off relegation alarms. Going a little deeper though and looking at Godset’s expected goal difference we see it is at 6.50, good for 5th in Eliteserien. Both these numbers would suggest a middle of the table to even a top quarter of the table club. So to understand how Strømsgodset find themselves in this situation, we need to go even deeper into the numbers.
First let us look at the Strømsgodset attack. With a good xG difference, we would expect Godset to have good attacking xG numbers. Indeed the club does, with an xG for of 35.81 (excluding penalties and free kicks) which is fifth best in Eliteserien. Strømsgodset also have no trouble getting shots off in Eliteserien matches, haven taken 284 in total so far which, 4th highest in the league. Despite these good attacking metrics, Strømsgodset have only scored 35 goals this season and 31 if you exclude penalties. This non-penalty goal total is 11th in Norway’s top flight so far. So why aren’t Godset scoring more? It might be down to the type of chances they are taking.
With the good xG and shot numbers we see above, it may be confusing why Godset cannot find the net, but we need to go a bit deeper to diagnose the problem. We know the club has no issue getting shots off, but the type of shots they get seem to be an issue. 108 of Strømsgodset’s shots have come from outside the box in open play where goals are less likely to be scored, which accounts for 41.5% of their shots in Eliteserien. These totals are the second and third highest in the league. They have taken 72 shots in the “danger zone” (or the area in the box between the two goal posts) in open play, which accounts for 32.4% of their total shots in Eliteserien. These figures are twelfth and fourteenth in Norway’s top flight. Strømsgodset may be getting plenty of shots, but too many of these shots are coming from lower scoring probability areas that much of the rest of the league and as a result they have not scored enough goals.
It is really something to have a striker like Marcus Pedersen and not be able to as a team get enough quality shots. The veteran Norwegian striker has seemingly carried Strømsgodset much of this year, scoring 11 non-penalty goals. Pedersen has the third highest xG in Eliteserien at 10.38 and the 2nd highest xG per 90 at 0.52. He has averaged a very impressive 0.21 xG per attempt taken this season.
The issue is that Pedersen seems to be one of the few goal threats Godset have. Only Tomkmac Chol Nguen is among the top 30 in Eliteserien in xG at 5.39 (20th). Half of Nguen’s xG numbers come from shots outside the box, and the winger averages a middle of the road 0.11 xG per attempt taken. Strømsgodset did have another goal threat in midfield in Bassel Jradi, who averaged a very good 0.27 xG per 90 minutes. But the attacking midfielder moved on to Hajduk Split and Godset seemed to not find an ample replacement for the goal threat the Lebanese midfielder posed. This is shown in the goal scoring numbers for Strømsgodset, with no other players besides Pedersen and Nguen scoring at least 5 non-penalty goals for the club.
The lack of goals for Strømsgodset cannot be blamed on the midfield playmaking abilities of players such as Eirik Ulland Andersen and Nguen. Andersen has the highest total expected assist numbers in the league at 9.29 and the highest xA per 90 at 0.39. Nguen is 16th in xA at 4.76 and 19th in xA per 90 at 0.22. The club have playmakers in midfield, but these skills have largely gone to waste this season.
On the other side of the ball, the issues the Strømsgodset defense have are a sort of mirror image of the issues their attack have. The Godset backline have conceded 220 shots so far this season. Only Brann have conceded fewer shots in Eliteserien. They have an xG conceded of 29.31, which is fourth lowest in the league. Yet, the club has conceded 36 non-penalty goals, the eleventh fewest in Eliteserien.
While the Godset attack takes lots of shots, but from lower goal probability locations the Godset defense allows few shots but they seem to be from mostly high goal probability spots on the pitch. 60 of the attempts conceded by Strømsgodset in open play have come from the danger zone, second highest in Eliteserien. Opponents average 0.133 xG per attempt against Godset, with only fellow relegation candidates Stabaek and Sandefjord allowing their opponents a higher average xG per attempt in Norway. While Strømsgodset only concede 8.8 shots per match this season, too many of those shots are in areas where their opponents have a good chance to score.
So we know that Strømsgodset opponents can get opportunities to score in the box near the goal, but we can drill down on the Strømsgodset defense and see where the majority of key passes are originating from. Looking at these numbers, two locations stick out in the left and right half-space. So what are the stats that are alarming in these spots?
25.7% of the key passes Godset have allowed originated from the left half-space, the highest percentage of any club in Eliteserien. A high number of key passes Strømsgodset have conceded have come from the left half space, but a high portion of the xG they have conceded have come from key passes that originated in the right half space on the pitch. 4.49 of the total xG Godset conceded so far this season has come from key passes originating in that right half space, which is the 3rd highest in Eliteserien. This is 27% of the xG Strømsgodset have conceded this year, again 3rd highest in Eliteserien.
With these defensive numbers in both the left and right half-space, it seems Strømsgodset might need to upgrade in these positions to move forward. Center back has been a bit of a revolving door for Strømsgodset this season, Jakob Glesnes has been the only constant for Godset in the middle of defense, appearing in 2,250 minutes in Eliteserien play. Besides Glesnes, Lars Saetra is the only center back on the squad currently that has appeared over 1,000 minutes in league play. Kim Andre Madsen and Mounir Hamoud have made a few spot starts with Glesnes, but with the revolving door for the spot next to Glesnes, it seems Strømsgodset are aware that center back is a role that needs addressed in the next window.
Despite all of these flaws and the precarious position they find themselves in, Strømsgodset still seem likely to survive this season and remain in Eliteserien. Our friends at Analytic Minds have Godset projected to finish 13th, with a 11.2% chance of relegation and a 14.7% chance of finishing in the playoff. At FiveThirtyEight, Strømsgodset have a 10% chance of being relegated. The club are even on points with Lillestrom and Start, but have a ten and seventeen goal cushion over each in goal difference. They should have enough talent to guide themselves to safety. Yet, even if Strømsgodset do manage to stay up this season, there are areas that the statistics we looked at suggest need upgrading if Strømsgodset want to return to the top half form we have seen from them in recent history.