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Anton Salestros Sarpsborg 08 scout report

Super Saletros: Sarpsborg’s interesting deep-lying playmaker – scout report

Scandinavia has long been one of the most interesting and fruitful markets from a recruitment perspective within football. There is talent throughout the region with the Danish Superliga, the Norwegian Eliteserien and the Swedish Allsvenskan, in particular, being hotbeds of talent.

With that said, however, we should not ignore the raw talent playing in the top tiers of Finland and Iceland. While the styles differ between each league, and indeed there are many different styles of play on a team level within each league, there is one common theme throughout all Scandinavian leagues which is the trust and use of younger players at first-team level. The Scandinavian leagues are a genuine hotbed of talent with young players offered extensive exposure to football at the first-team level, providing they are good enough of course.

For the most part, when we produce a scout report for this site on players from Scandinavia we are concentrating on those younger players. In this instance, however, the focus of this article will be the 26-year-old Swedish central midfielder Anton Saletros, who is currently contracted to Sarpsborg 08 in the Eliteserien. Saletros is an interesting case as he is actually coming to an end of his contract with the Norwegian side and, at the time of writing, it looks likely that he will be moving on this coming winter.

Let’s start by getting an idea of who Saletros is, both from his data profile and in terms of how he came to be playing for Sarpsborg 08, using tactical analysis to identify his role in the side.

Player profile

Anton Saletros is a 26-year-old central midfielder who is capable of playing either as a ‘6’ or an ‘8’ in the middle of the park. He is a ball progressor who has the capacity to access all areas of the field with his passing range but he also has the touch and vision to break vertical lines when passing the ball in central areas. Saletros is naturally left-footed.

He is a product of the youth academy of AIK in his native Sweden but he has had an interesting career path away from his home country. He spent time on loan with Ujpest FC of Hungary in 2017 before moving to Russia to sign for FC Rostov on a permanent transfer. The Russian side allowed the midfielder to spend the 2019 season on loan with AIK but he then also moved out for the 2020 Norwegian season, where he was on loan to Sarpsborg 08. He then made this transfer permanent in October 2020 for a fee reported to be in the region of £315k.

This reported price is a steal given the impact that Saletros has had in the Eliteserien, as you will see from his data this season.

Anton Salestros Sarpsborg 08 scout report

So, let’s examine the data using the pizza chart above. A quick note on the data and the sources. All data is from Wyscout and the necessary data is run through a code in Python that first converts the data into percentiles rankings before producing the above visual.

The percentiles are based on performance against all other midfielders in the Eliteserien this season so far.

As you can see Saletros has produced a balanced performance across all three key areas of the game so far this season. In the attacking phase, he is in the 86th percentile for goal contributions and the 85th percentile for expected goal contributions. He is also in the 98th percentile for carries and the 97th percentile for area entries.

Saletros also has very good outputs in terms of passing and ball progression as he is in the 97th percentile for passes per 90, the 98th percentile for dangerous passes and the 98th percentile for progressive actions. The weakest part of his game is in the defensive phase, although even then his outputs are at least respectable, as he is in the 72nd percentile for defensive duels per 90, although only the 25th percentile for the percentage of defensive duels won. Conversely, he is only in the 41st percentile for aerial duels per 90 but is in the 73rd percentile for the percentage of aerial duels won.

In short, from a data perspective, Anton Saletros is a very, very interesting midfield player.

Passing range and switches of play

Saletros is a midfielder who has the capacity to play in a number of different roles within the central structure of his team. He is balanced in that he can play equally well whether asked to play as the ‘6’ at the base of the midfield or as an ‘8’ with more licence to move forward and into dangerous areas. For the most part this season, we have seen Sarpsborg 08 line up in a fairly straightforward 4-2-3-1 system with Saletros starting in the double-pivot at the base of the midfield, but acting as the more attacking of the two players in that area of the pitch.

To an extent, this system of play perfectly suits the way that Saletros likes to play. In this system, he is free to move through the thirds and this allows him to really make an impact on the game for his side. In deeper midfield areas, he is press-resistant and willing to take possession of the ball from his central defenders, even when under pressure and, as such, he plays an important role in the build-up phase of the team’s attack.

When in possession at the base of the attacking structure for his team, Saletros has the ability to dictate the play with his passing range and vision. He can comfortably access all areas of the pitch from these positions.

Saletros reads the game very well and he has the vision and composure to allow the play to develop before identifying and taking advantage of any spaces that the opposition are willing to give up in their defensive line. When he is on the ball, we typically see that his teammates have the willingness to make aggressive off-the-ball runs when the Swedish midfielder is in possession because they trust his ability to drop the ball into space to access their runs and create opportunities behind the defensive line.

We can see an example of this here with Saletros in possession of the ball inside his own half. His teammate on the near side makes an aggressive angled run to attack the space in the corner of the penalty area. Saletros allows the play to develop ahead of him, before playing a perfectly weighted pass over the top of the defensive line to find this run. Having a player in your team who can pass the ball in this manner is a highly-effective tool that is exceptionally difficult for the opposition to defend against.

This time Saletros is, again, positioned just inside his own half when he takes possession of the ball. There is some pressure on the ball but nothing too heavy and this time we see the Swedish midfielder switching the play from the right side to the left.

As he takes the ball, the winger on the far side comes towards the ball to narrow the attack. This, in turn, creates the space in the wide area for the fullback to attack aggressively. As soon as this run is made in the wide areas, we see Salatros playing a laser accurate pass over to that side to access it.

Having a player in your midfield like Saletros allows you to do a lot in the attacking phases, in terms of movements and rotations, as you know that the ball can be played to any area of the pitch at any time.

Creative passing

One of the most interesting aspects of Anton Saletros’ game is that he is more than just a player who sits in deep positions and looks for opportunities to play longer passes. The 26-year-old is just as comfortable pushing forward into the final third and finding creative angles by slipping the ball through lines and in between defensive players in order to release teammates into dangerous spaces.

Once again, the fact that Sarpsborg 08 tend to play in a 4-2-3-1 system allows Saletros the freedom of movement to aggressively take these spaces as he steps forward when his side progresses the ball forward.

While he is an accurate long passer, he also displays real touch in terms of his technique when playing shorter passes where the weighting of the pass is key to ensuring that it matches the run from a teammate.

Saletros has the ability to play more driven passes that are low when played in order to break the line and find the run of teammates moving into space behind the defensive line, but he also shows an excellent touch when playing clipped passes over the top of the defensive line for teammates.

In this example, we see Saletros in possession, deep inside the opposition half as the opposition, Odds BK, in this case, are defending in a more compact and deeper defensive block. As you can see, there are easier passing options for Saletros to come out with the ball to the near side. Instead, the Swedish midfielder sees the movement from a teammate at the corner of the penalty area. As the player in question makes a run to gain separation from the defender, we see Saletros clip the ball perfectly over the top of the defensive line to access the run and the space.

This time, against Mjondalen, we see Saletros playing a driven through-pass that finds the space in the opposition half of the field and puts a runner into the penalty area on the far side. The opposition are actually relatively well-positioned, other than the gap between the right-back and the right-sided central defender. They are attempting to put pressure on the ball though.

Saletros beats and outplays five opposition players with the weight and accuracy of his pass that breaks through the defensive line. As the player on the far side makes the move to attack the shoulder of the right-back, Saletros immediately reads the run and plays an accurate through ball to release the runner free into the penalty area.

Decision-making

There is no doubt that Anton Saletros is an intelligent midfielder. We can see this with his ability to find space anywhere on the pitch through his passing range and his ability to read the game. This also extends, however, to his decision-making when in possession of the ball in and around the opposition penalty area.

Saletros, for all of his ability in deeper areas, also shows the potential to break forward and get on the ball around the opposition penalty area. Crucially, when in these areas, the Swedish midfielder displays high levels of decision-making.

We see an example of this as Saletros breaks into the opposition penalty area on the near side. He has an angle at goal and, given the positioning of the opposition defenders who are looking to close him down, he would probably have to hit a shot on his weaker right foot.

As already discussed earlier in this article, Saletros has the ability to almost pause on the ball to allow runs to develop. Here, we see a run from a teammate on the far side of the area and, despite oncoming pressure, Saletros still has the quality to clip the ball to the far post for an easy finish.

This time, we see a similar position for Saletros to be in possession of the ball, although now there are a lot more defenders in position between him and the ball. This time, he is on his stronger left foot. Once again, you can see that there is a run being made on the far side as a teammate crashes towards the far post. For a creative midfielder in this situation, there might be a temptation to find this run, as we saw in the previous example.

However, Saletros just calmly finds the top corner with a curling shot that easily beats the opposition’s goalkeeper.

Conclusion

Anton Saletros is the perfect example of why the Scandinavian leagues are so interesting to watch and follow. He is an extremely modern midfield player who has the ability to hurt opposition teams from a variety of positions on the pitch, as this analysis has discussed. His ability on the ball and, perhaps more importantly, to make good decisions are extremely valuable for his team and their tactics.

Saletros is coming to an end of his time at Sarpsborg and his contract is running out. His next move will be a fascinating one and given his career path so far, it is entirely likely that his next move will be outside of Scandinavia. Perhaps a move to a technical league such as the Eredivisie could be a good option for the 26-year-old midfielder.