The experts preview the start of the 2012 season…
“It’s time to get started and fight for the points” - Daniel Kristofferson, SPORT-Expressen
It’s always an impossible job to come up with the correct answers. But the men who know best have offered their opinions on what they believe will happen. Blågul Fotboll interrupted the pre-season break of some of the top experts around to ask eight questions ahead of the 2012 season.
There’s certainly a high level of interest in this year’s Allsvenskan. The appointment of Mikael Stahre, who guided AIK to Allsvenskan and Svenska Cupen victory in 2009, at IFK Göteborg has caused a stir with a flurry of signings, with the majority of our experts suggesting Blåvitt will be the team to beat. But the majority was slim.
Hammarby are also strongly tipped to return to Allsvenskan at the end of this season while the new boys this year are expected to face a long season of struggle.
The men tasked with identifying who will be winners and losers come November, our experts, are:
Pelle Blohm – after a football career that took him from Allsvenskan to China and Norway, Pelle now writes about football and is an expert summariser on televised matches in Sweden.
Daniel Kristofferson - reporter for SPORT-Expressen and one of the leading football journalists in Sweden. Daniel gets to watch more football than seems possible.
Marcus Leifby – football reporter for Sportbladet and host of a new web TV show covering English football: Leifby’s Big Ten.
Anton Boström – freelance journalist working for Eurosport, Sveriges Radio and various websites. Anton also contributes to Blågul Fotboll.
Andy Hudson – freelance writer for various newspapers, websites and magazines in the UK. Andy is also editor of Blågul Fotboll.
First question and we’re starting with the big one: who will win the Allsvenskan this year and why?
Marcus - IFK Göteborg. They have signed the best players, they have a really competitive squad and the new coach, Mikael Stahre, knows how to do it.
Pelle - I think Helsingborg will be the the champions again. They have a really strong team even this season. I might be a little worried about who´s going to score the goals. And of course it will be a problem for the team when the international games starts. Many games could make them tired and unfocused but one good thing for the club is that they have been really successful to replace good and important players who have moved to bigger clubs outside Sweden.
Daniel - Elsfborg. They are the team who have the best mix of young, talented, stars and older players with good quality such as Anders Svensson and Andreas Augustsson. They also have the best bench-players among the teams in Allsvenskan.
Andy - As it stands on the eve of the season then I have to go for IFK Göteborg because of the quality they have brought in both on and off the pitch. They now have an experienced ‘keeper in John Alvbåge and he will be vital to their title hopes, especially if he captures the form he had in 2010 after a disappointing campaign last year.
Anton - IFK Göteborg. This is the hardest question to answer. I reckon there are six or seven teams that could win it this season but I feel that IFK Göteborg have made sensible signings and want to make up for two poor seasons. That just about edges it for me.
What team(s) do you expect to see challenging for the title?
Pelle - I think, and hope, it will be harder to win the title this year. Malmö FF, Elfsborg, IFK Göteborg and AIK have strong sides at the moment but, as everyone knows, it could be completely different after the summer.
Daniel – AIK, Helsingborgs IF, IFK Göteborg, Elfsborg and Malmö FF are the five teams that will fight for the title. No other teams have the quality to compete with these.
Anton - Helsingborg, Malmö, Elfsborg, AIK and Kalmar. Allsvenskan is hard to predict. These teams could all win it. It’s all about getting a good start and being able to hold on to your good players in the summer transfer window.
Andy – AIK will fight all the way and much will rest on how Celso Borges plays as to how serious the challenge is. Helsingborg will continue to be tough to beat.
Marcus – Elfsborg, Helsingborg and Malmö FF. They have the best squads. As simple as that.
Who will fight a losing battle against relegation this season?
Andy – I don’t believe that any team will be as bad as Halmstad were last season and the bottom two could come from a number of teams. I think Sundsvall will stay up via the play-offs both Åvidaberg and Syrianska to go down, but Örebro could be a team that has a big fight on to stay away from the bottom three, especially with the quality they have lost on their team since last summer.
Marcus - Åvidaberg, Sundsvall, both promoted from Superettan, and Syrianska.
Anton – Syrianska and Åtvidaberg. They aren’t good enough.
Daniel – It will be between Åtvidaberg, GIF Sundsvall, Örebro, Syrianska and Gefle.
Pelle - Syrianska FC and GIF Sundsvall will have big problems. Then you never know. Åtvidaberg, Mjällby, Norrköping, Gefle and ÖSK could also be down there.
Which signing made in pre-season do you see as being the most important for their team?
Anton - I think John Alvbåge will be a good signing for IFK Göteborg; they’ve needed a solid keeper ever since Kim Christensen left. Kalmar’s Nenad Djordjevic looks like a brilliant signing as well.
Pelle - The most important is impossible to say. But the signings of John Alvbåge and Kjetil Waehler by IFK Göteborg are important for them. The club have always been at their best with a strong defence.
Marcus - Jörgen Lennartsson, Elfsborg. Magnus Haglund has had everything the last couple of years; that should have been enough, but it wasn’t.
Andy - As I have already mentioned, Alvbåge will be vital to IFK Göteborg if they are to be successful this season, and the capture of Borges was an very important signing for AIK. If Andreas Alm can get the best of the Costa Rican then Gnaget have a fantastic player who should excel in Allsvenskan. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Mohammed Saeid performs for ÖSK this season. I watched him play for BK Forward last season and he really stood out as being capable of playing at a far higher level. If he can adjust quickly then he could be a real surprise this year.
Daniel – Walid Atta to Helsingborg. They needed so bad a replacement for Markus Nilsson and Markus Holgersson. He’s a very good signing. And of course Pontus Farnerud to IFK Göteborg.
Every season there’s a surprise performance where a team overperforms compared to expectation; who do you think will be that team this year?
Daniel – I cant see anyone, but maybe Gefle will surprise us to be a mid-table team and maybe fight for the 6th-8th place. Maybe Mjällby also can be a surprise.
Marcus - GAIS again. If Wanderson stays for the whole season.
Andy - I loved watching GAIS last season and they deservedly finished in fifth place behind some very strong sides. I can’t see them improving upon that as the quality of IFK Göteborg and Djurgården has improved from last season, but I think GAIS could replicate their position from last year.
Pelle - Djurgården or ÖSK.
Anton - I don’t know if it can be called an overperformance, but BK Häcken really could go a long way with the team they have.
Any tips for who you think will be promoted from Superettan?
Andy - Ängelholm were so close to going up last season. After finishing two points behind Sundsvall, they then conceded in injury time against Syrianska to lose the play-off. All eyes will be on Hammarby and the exciting Billy Schuler, who is one to watch next season. He’s rated very highly in America and there was surprise when he moved to Sweden as he was expected to be one of the main draft picks. For Bajen to have a chance of promotion then Gregg Barhalter has to get the team playing well from the first minute against Halmstad in the season opener. Whatever happens, Bajen will be better than last year; that’s for sure. Trelleborg will also fancy their chances of making a swift return to Allsvenskan.
Daniel – Brommapojkarna and Hammarby.
Pelle – I don’t know enough about Superettan to have an opinion.
Marcus - Hammarby had a terrible season last year. I think they will be much better this season, and they will make it.
Anton - I would love to say Hammarby…but I think Halmstad and Brommapojkarna will take the two promotion spots.
How excited are you for the start of the new season?
Marcus - To be honest: not much. I haven’t got the time to think about it. But I will now.
Anton - Very. There are a lot of good teams this year; a number of exciting new signings; and many teams strive to play good football. There are better stadiums this year. This could be the best season in a long time.
Daniel – Very. Sweden has had a very long pre-season so it’s time to get started and fight for the points.
Pelle - Very! I havn´t worked with any international football this winter so I’ve waited since last November for this week.
Andy - I’ve missed my trips to Sweden and so I’m excited to be able to get back over. The part of the season that really excites me is the summer months when the English league has finished. I’m certainly looking forward more to Swedish football during the summer than Euro 2012.
Which one player would you love to (realistically) see join an Allsvenskan team?
Anton - Henok Goitom to AIK. I think that could very well happen in the summer.
Pelle - I don´t have a clue!
Andy - There’s been much talk about AIK looking to bring Henok Goitom home from Spain, where he’s playing for Almería, and a partnership with Celso Borges could potentially be lethal in Allsvenskan as well as being a major positive when AIK embark upon their European campaign during the summer.
Daniel – Rade Prica from Rosenborg or Per Nilsson from Nürnberg.
Marcus - Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Malmö FF or Dexter Blackstock for IFK Göteborg.