AIK: matured in Europe

As AIK travel to Naples to open the group stage of the Europa League, Saša Ibrulj talks us through the Stockholm derby and what has changed with Gnaget.

It was supposed to be a big football party – the last Tvillingderbyt at Råsunda in the rich history of this arena – and, at the end, it was. A fun, solid football match with a brilliant atmosphere and plenty of goals…

However, parties in football are like in real life. Some enjoy them, some maybe get lucky, but some go home early feeling disappointed.  In this case AIK have just started their party while DIF were already on the train heading back home.

If we forget all the interruptions because of the flares and the delaying of the kick-off, the last derby at one of the most legendary stadiums in this part of Europe deserves great marks. Two young managers locked in a tactical battle, but both introducing brave and attacking football, without the usual calculations that derbies bring; teams that passionately fought for their colours and the crests on both sides. In the current situation where Allsvenskan and it’s quality are under constant doubt, this is more then we could ask for from AIK and Djurgården.

DIF started well, with much more aggression than AIK, trying to put the pressure on the left side of the opponent’s defence. Keene was keeping Majstorović busy,  Hamalainen was very offensive, while Fejzullahu was supposed to be the key, but, however, he failed to deliver. As time passed, AIK looked more secure, they regained the possession and created the balance on the pitch.

AIK survived the first impact, the blitzkrieg, and responded perfectly. Djurgården, on the other hand, obviously did not have a plan B.

One of the main questions after the match, to Alm and his players, was if the Europa League will cause a disruption to AIK’s focus towards the end of the season. But the truth is, on the contrary, that the European experience that AIK have gained this season could be crucial for them. Simply, compare this team and their response before and after Hafnafjord, Lech and CSKA and you’ll see how Alm and all his players look much more mature today.

They showed that against both Helsingborg and Djurgården. They were in the inferior situation, with their opponents controlling the game and looking better, and easily found a way to respond to that and turn things around to their favour.

AIK are in perfect form and matches in Europa League were perfectly used to establish self-confidence and give them a boost in the title race back home. Coming back to Iceland, after the home disappointment against FH, that brilliant performance against Lech at Råsunda and the miracle in Moscow are details that regained trust in this team, from the people, but themselves as well.

Of course, the work is far from finished. The building of a strong AIK is still a work in progress; the players and Alm are still growing and they are well aware of that. However, the momentum they now have could be a huge advantage in the title race.

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