Erik Botheim: Norway’s latest prolific goalscorer – scout report
The last round of European fixtures brought one of the most shocking results of the season so far. An AS Roma side led by the legendary Jose Mourinho fell to a humiliating 6-1 defeat in the UEFA Europa Conference League to FK Bodø/Glimt from the Eliteserien.
The defeat was the Special One’s heaviest loss in the history of his sensational career which spans over 1,000 matches. The Norwegian side were utterly sumptuous on the day but one of the key instigators of the conquering of Roma was 21-year-old centre-forward Erik Botheim.
Botheim made his senior debut as a 15-year-old for Lyn before applying his trade with Rosenborg for four seasons, including a loan spell at Stabæk before eventually moving to the small town of Bodø in Norway.
The centre-forward has undoubtedly set his sights on a future international first-team call-up, having been with the youth set-up since U-15s, and if he continues with his impressive performances, his dream could become a reality very soon.
Botheim is a nice height for a centre-forward, standing at 5ft 11, or 180cm. As the player is 21, there is unlikely to be any more growth in terms of his overall stature and so this will remain a constant for the rest of his career.
He is also quite a lean player, weighing in at 70kg (154lbs or roughly 11st). He does not possess immense physicality or have an imposing stereotypical target man figure but Botheim doesn’t get shrugged off the ball too easily either and can still hold his own when playing with his back to goal.
Botheim is right-footed and tends to lead the line on his own. Bodø/Glimt manager Kjetil Knutsen has trusted the inexperienced striker to play as the number ‘9’ in his 4-3-3 possession-based system.
The 4-3-3 has been used by the 2020 Eliteserien champions in 83 percent of their games this season and Botheim has started the majority of these matches in all competitions.
What is interesting is that the Norwegian forward has yet to play in a two-man strike partnership for Bodø/Glimt which could be very interesting to witness as it is important that frontmen can play as lone strikers and in a two-man pairing.
Nonetheless, it would be unfair to classify Botheim as a centre-forward. He is anything but. Instead, it would be fairer to regard the 21-year-old as more of a poacher with the ability to drop short and link up with his teammates in the final third.
The player’s heatmap backs up this point. There is an immense amount of action from Botheim within the 18-yard box and even in the six-yard box, but the player is also having many touches of the ball in much deeper areas of the pitch in the central corridors, the halfspaces, and zone 14.
Again, this is due to the player’s tendency to drop short and look to receive the ball with his back turned to goal while linking in other players around him and even shifting the ball out to the wide areas where he can then make a move to get himself into a good goalscoring position in the box. This will be analysed in further detail later on though.
Shot location and penalty area movement
As Botheim is somewhat of a poacher in front of goal, the vast majority of his shot come from inside the penalty area and quite a large quantity are inside the six-yard box.
The data visualisation above plots all of Botheim’s last 75 shots on goal in all competitions. What is noticeable about this data visual is that the striker takes very few shots from outside the penalty area in true poacher fashion.
A large volume of his shots on goal also come from the central area in the box which is an impressive showing as this is where centre-forwards have the highest chance of scoring from due to their positioning as there is more of the goal to aim at as opposed to if the shots were from a wider position meaning the angle would be tighter and the goalkeeper would have a better chance of making a save.
The 21-year-old is taking 2.22 shots per 90 in all competitions this season and is currently boasting the fifth-highest shot accuracies in the Eliteserien as of writing with 51.92 percent.
In the league, Botheim has scored 13 goals but has an xG of 11.02 which is still one of the highest accumulated tallies in the division. However, his overperformance by almost 2 shows just how lethal he can be in front of goal.
Botheim’s movement inside the box is exceptional to watch at times. The young striker can look rather lethargic and stagnant with his positioning until he rapidly sprints away from his marker to get free and put himself into an excellent goalscoring position.
There are two main techniques and positions that Botheim uses to get free inside the penalty area. Firstly, he likes to position himself at the back-post in the blindside of the opposition centre-back.
Quite often during matches, Botheim can be seen sneakily drifting over towards the back-post, out of sight of the defender marking him. It must be stated that this back-post movement only generally occurs when the ball is out wide as he prepares to attack a cross into the box.
In this example taken from the recent thriller against AS Roma, Bodø/Glimt have just entered the final third and Botheim has already positioned himself in the channel between the fullback and central defender in the centre-back’s blindside.
This is excellent positioning and anticipation. Botheim expects that his teammates will be able to get down the line successfully and put a cross into the box and so has already gotten himself into a position to do so at the back-post.
Botheim, despite not being the tallest player, feeds off of crosses into the box. The player has scored more headed goals in the Eliteserien than any other player this season so far with 5.
Here is a goal from a recent game against Stabæk. The midfielder reaches the by-line and floats a cross to the back-post where Botheim is to head home. Botheim is very capable of out-jumping anyone at the far post. For a player under 6ft, his running leap is very impressive and helps him score a lot of headed goals.
The second way Botheim looks to get free in the box is by making runs across the defender. Once again, in preparation to do this, the Norwegian striker positions himself at the back-post on the centre-back’s blindside before making a darting run in front of the defender.
These runs in front of the defender from the blindside are typically triggered when a teammate is set to whip an inswinging ball into the box, which can be seen in the above image. This is what separates whether Botheim goes in front or remains behind the defenders.
If the ball is crossed from deep or the by-line, the 21-year-old generally sticks to the back-post, preparing for a floated cross but if it is an early inswinging cross, he makes a move across the defender. Here is another example of this movement across the defender after an inswinger.
Link-up play, assists, and attacking the depth
Botheim’s role when Bodø/Glimt are in deeper areas of the pitch is quite straightforward. The young centre-forward is tasked with staying high during the early possession phases, constantly making runs in behind the backline in order to vertically stretch the other team’s defence.
Bodø/Glimt use a 4-3-3 formation, as already stated. When in possession in the deeper areas of the pitch, this does not change much at all as they keep their fullbacks low and wingers high and wide to stretch vertically.
Botheim’s job is to constantly occupy the two centre-backs by positioning himself in between the two and making runs in behind.
Naturally, this will force the backline to drop, creating a spatial division with the defending team’s midfield which leaves more space for the midfielders to receive the ball into.
Bodø/Glimt took advantage of this against Mourinho’s Roma and caused the Giallorossi a lot of issues.
When the play progresses to the final third though, and the ball is in the central corridors which includes the halfspaces, Botheim stops making these runs in behind. Instead, he offers himself as a short passing option to help circulate the ball while Bodø/Glimt are trying to break down the opposition’s low block.
His hold-up play is excellent which allows his teammates to play to his feet knowing that he can keep the ball with his back to goal and lay off other players.
In this image, Botheim had dropped short and made an angle for a pass between the lines of Roma. On reception of the ball, he turned his back to the player pressurising him, laid it off the Patrick Berg who let fly and scored a wonderful goal.
Botheim is an incredible goalscorer but he is also a very solid focal point in the final third for his side in terms of trying to break down a defensive low block. While the Norwegian likes to finish off moves, he does not shy away from his responsibility to drop deep with his back turned to the goal and help link up with his teammates to create chances.
Botheim is averaging 0.23 assists per 90 in all competitions this season for Bodø/Glimt. He is also currently averaging 1.43 passes to the penalty area per 90 and 0.26 through passes per 90 as well 0.87 shot assists per 90.
It is not just his final third play though, Botheim is decent at threading a through ball when the opportunity arises although this is generally when there is a lot of space ahead of the opposition’s backline. The most recent example of this came against Roma last Thursday when the striker bagged his second assist of the match.
Pressing from the front
Bodø/Glimt are a very modern, high pressing team under Knutsen and have been since the manager’s arrival back in 2018. To play this system, the manager needs a centre-forward leading the line that is willing to constantly commit to their role in the defensive phases.
Botheim does just that and is reliable at leading the press when triggers arise such as when the opposition plays a backwards pass. Botheim is the first player to push up and press, urging his teammates up in support to ensure that the press is executed successfully.
Given the current crisis surrounding Manchester United’s high pressing, and Cristiano Ronaldo in particular, the need for a disciplined centre-forward in the defensive phases has been highlighted more so than ever.
Here, the Stabaek centre-back has played to his partner in defence. Botheim is sitting off and holding the line, blocking the passing lane into the opposition’s pivot player. The lateral pass has triggered a high-press from Bodø/Glimt with Botheim leading it which eventually forces the ball-receiver backwards.
Botheim is averaging 2.17 ball recoveries per 90 in all competitions this season with two-thirds of these being in the opposition’s half of the field. He also makes 1.08 interceptions per 90 and wins 58.7 percent of his 2.88 defensive duels per 90 which is very solid for a striker in a possession-dominant team.
Botheim does the basics of defending for a centre-forward very well. Even when the team are sitting in a deeper defensive block and are not pressing the opposition’s backline, the 21-year-old blocks the passing lane to the opponent’s pivot player.
Surprisingly, quite a weak part of Botheim’s overall game is his inability to long balls. The striker is extremely potent in the box from the air and is an immense aerial threat in the penalty area, but his actual ability to challenge and win a long ball is quite poor.
One of the reasons for this is because, in the box, Botheim is able to get more of a run-up on the defenders as he tends to linger at the back-post which gives him an edge using his intelligent movement.
However, in an old-school aerial duel from a goal-kick, per se, the player tends to get out-jumped most of the time. Botheim partakes in 4.2 aerial duels per 90 with a success percentage of 34.4 percent.
This is not so much a weakness, as a limit of his game. From a dead standing position, Botheim is not the tallest centre-forward at 5ft 11 and so can only do his best in these aerial challenges. It more so affects the team as they don’t have the ability to play long if needed to their number ‘9’.
In certain sides, this would not be an issue as play styles differ with every team. Botheim’s lack of success in his aerial duels simply means that he perhaps would not be Burnley’s number one choice of striker.
Another limitation of his game is a lack of experience playing in a two-striker system. It has been quite a while since the player has done so and he clearly thrives better as a lone striker which could be problematic in the future, although this is easily coachable under the correct coaching team.
Botheim is quite an interesting centre-forward because it is difficult to categorise him into a specific style of play. The 21-year-old is very flexible and unpredictable which is never a bad thing.
He is having a stellar campaign from an individual point of view as well as with Bodø/Glimt who are top of the Eliteserien. After the wonderful five-goal contributions performance against Roma in the Europa Conference League, more and more eyes will undoubtedly be on the player and perhaps some clubs are already eyeing up a move for him in the future.