Bodø/Glimt 2022: Why Europe’s sweet Scandinavian darlings have turned sour – tactical analysis
FK Bodø/Glimt quickly became everybody’s Scandinavian darling over the last few seasons.
In 2020, under the guidance of Kjetil Knutsen, the Norwegian side lifted the Eliteserien title for the first time in its history. Glimt did so in style too, scoring 103 goals in 30 games, winning the league by 19 points, and losing merely one match all season.
Norway’s emerging giants lost some incredible talents after their inaugural championship victory, with Philip Zinckernagel and Jens Petter Hauge shifted on to Watford and AC Milan respectively. It was expected that their dominance would be short-lived, yet 2021 through early 2022 was even better.
Knutsen’s killers retained the league title and even reached the quarter-final of the UEFA Europa Conference before losing out to the eventual winners AS Roma. Earlier in the season, Glimt displayed one of the most memorable performances in European competition, putting Jose Mourinho’s side to the sword with a 6-1 victory at the Aspmyra Stadion, handing the legendary coach the heaviest defeat of his career.
Nevertheless, after another solid year, Bodø/Glimt were butchered. Erik Botheim was sold in January 2022, along with star midfielder Patrick Berg, left-back Fredrik André Bjørkan, and central defender Marius Lode.
Looking to complete the three-peat of title wins this season, Bodø/Glimt have found themselves slowly sinking instead. Knutsen, who was in the running for the vacant head coach positions at Norwich City and Burnley, is now staring down an eleven-point mountainous gap at the summit of the table.
It sounds incredibly redundant to pinpoint their issues down to merely a loss of quality in the squad. While it’s certainly been a factor, there are clear deficiencies on the field of play too from a tactical perspective.
Squad profile and formation
Firstly though, let’s start by being redundant, shall we? Bodø/Glimt have seen fewer and fewer players under the age of 23 receive minutes so far in the league this season. The squad is certainly not an ageing one, but most players are well into their peak years or are spilling into the over 30 category.
In 2020, Knutsen boasted the youngest squad in the league, making his achievement all the more impressive. However, in the current campaign, Bodø/Glimt have been resigned to being the eighth-youngest, or eighth-oldest depending on whether you see the glass as half full or half empty.
With the exception of midfielders Hugo Vetlesen and Elias Kristoffersen Hagen, most of Bodø/Glimt’s young stars have struggled to reach 300 minutes yet this season.
In fact, looking at the squad profile graph above, there are just eleven players that have been handed more than 400 minutes of game-time so far in 2022 by the head coach, pointing to a clear trust in certain players over others.
Even while the team are really struggling for form this season, Knutsen has remained stubborn to his ideas, not only utilising the same players consistently but also the same formation.
The 4-3-3 has remained as the 53-year-old’s structural baby regardless of the team’s struggles. The infamous quote from the late musician Marcus Garvey certainly springs to mind here:
“If you haven’t confidence in self, you are twice defeated.” Knutsen trusts the 4-3-3, selecting it in 93 percent of Bodø/Glimt’s games this season. Clearly a dogmatic coach, the Norwegian believes his players and system will turn things around.
But what specific tactical details need to be improved by the Scandinavians? Let’s take a look at some areas Bodø/Glimt have struggled this season so far.
Caught in transition
Irrespective of their struggles this season, Bodø/Glimt are a high-octane, possession-oriented side. Knutsen wants his team to constantly have possession and try to break down the opposition whilst staying in control of matches.
In the 2022 campaign, yet again, Bodø/Glimt are top of the possession charts, boasting an average of 57 percent per game. The Norwegian side are also averaging 14.3 passes per minute of possession while playing the fewest long passes in the league at 34.69 per 90.
As Bodø/Glimt enter the final third, the entire structure shifts into the opponent’s half of the pitch.
Knutsen loves his side to pin the opposition into a deeper block. This makes it much more difficult for them to hit efficient counterattacks given the distance from the players to the goal.
Parking their 4-3-3 positional structure inside the opposition’s half of the pitch also allows Bodø/Glimt to counterpress quickly given that the players are at close proximity to one another. The centre-backs are particularly important in Bodø/Glimt’s counterpressing as they are tasked with stepping out and being aggressive to help shut transitions down at the source.
Nevertheless, with the glimmering benefits of counterpressing, there are also severe deficiencies once the structure is broken.
As Bodø/Glimt pile their players so deep into the opposition’s half of the pitch, if their original counterpress is ruptured, the backline, with its lack of pace centrally, can be exposed to dangerous runs in behind.
In this example, Marius Høibråten steps forward with the ball, looking to pin Strømsgodset deep into the attacking third. However, the 27-year-old loses possession after being closed down in a 2v1 situation.
Immediately, Bodø/Glimt look to counterpress, but this fails desperately, and the opponent is able to quickly transition by taking advantage of the massive gap left in the defensive line. From out of nowhere, Bodø/Glimt find themselves in a 5v4 situation.
Strømsgodset manage to create a wonderful opportunity from this counterattack but fail to convert. Regardless, it’s certainly a blueprint of how to punish Bodø/Glimt’s risqué approach out of possession.
In the past, Bodø/Glimt were excellent at controlling opposition counterattacks, but in the 2022 campaign, it seems to be a clear problem that the side are struggling to manage.
Struggling in possession
Given how strong Bodø/Glimt have been over the past few seasons while playing out from the back, quite a lot of teams prefer to drop deeper into low defensive blocks against the Norwegian champions instead of engaging higher up the pitch.
This season, Den Gule Horde boast a PPDA against of 14.62 in the Eliteserien. This essentially means that teams are allowing Bodø/Glimt to play almost 15 passes per possession before engaging and trying to win back the ball.
As one would easily expect, when analysing Bodø/Glimt’s pass maps from this campaign, the connections between the backline and deeper midfielders is extremely strong. However, these visuals make for perverse reading when looking at the connections to more advanced players within the positional structure.
Here is Bodø/Glimt’s pass map from a 3-1 defeat against league rivals Molde from a recent league outing. The links between the back four are incredibly strong and the connections from the defenders into their number ‘6’ is quite robust too.
Nevertheless, further up the pitch, the links to the advanced midfielders, wingers and centre-forwards are weaker than a sheath of ice thrashing against concrete.
This tells the observer that Bodø/Glimt spent almost the entirety of the game struggling to break through to their attacking players. Knutsen’s team were forced to circulate possession around tiresomely in the hope of finding gaps in Molde’s defensive block.
This is exactly how things panned out too. Molde were defensively astute and stubborn, sitting in a 5-3-2 out of possession. The four-time league champions held a PPDA of merely 14.17 while having less of the ball too, and so it was clear that they were more than happy to allow Bodø/Glimt to have the lion’s share of possession.
Knutsen’s team have always been a possession-oriented team, wanting to be on the front foot to break deep blocks down in their own way. However, this season has been much more of a struggle for the champions in this respect.
Last season, Bodø/Glimt were averaging 62.03 passes to the final third per 90 in the league, which was the highest in the division. However, in this torrid campaign so far, the number has dropped to 55.78 per 90, now just the sixth-highest.
Their key passes dropped too. Last season, Bodø/Glimt averaged 4.82 per 90. This figure stands at just 3.52 now, which is still solid but is still a significant fall.
In previous campaigns, Bodø/Glimt were always excellent at building out from the goalkeeper irrespective of the opposition’s pressing system. Nevertheless, this season, there has been a clear struggle against teams that press higher in a man-oriented fashion.
Losing both Lode and Berg was certainly not ideal for Bodø/Glimt as there seems to be a missing connection between the midfielders and defenders when playing out from the back against teams defending in a high block.
Either the midfielders’ movements behind the opponent’s first line of pressure are not sufficient or else the board need to upgrade the players to be able to pass out from deep better in order to keep in line with the manager’s tactical philosophy.
Quite often, the goalkeeper will either pump it long up the pitch for the forwards if they are under pressure. In the case above, Nikita Haikin made a howler, allowing the Strømsgodset presser to nick the ball and poke it home.
Another area that has been a real weak point for Bodø/Glimt this season is their inability to defend in the wide areas effectively. Defending the wide spaces is one of the most simplistic assignments any side can have out of possession.
Typically, during the low block phase, teams will remain compact between the lines, leaving space out wide for the opposition to play into. From there, the defending side can press aggressively to close down the ball carrier and win the ball.
Bodø/Glimt are no different and adhere to this basic principle of deep defending. During this phase of play, Bodø/Glimt’s wingers will drop into the backline, creating a five-man line, or sometimes even a six-man defensive line.
This allows the back four to remain compact together without the fullbacks needing to push out to try and stop the crosses.
However, this season, there have been issues with stopping crosses from coming into the box and then actually clearing the ball has been problematic too with defenders completely switching off at a concerning rate.
This season in the Eliteserien, Glimt’s opponents have taken 12.75 corners per 90 against them with an accuracy of 35.3 percent, which is more than one in three reaching a target in the area.
Bodø/Glimt’s PPDA this season stands at 12.29, the fourth-highest, while the team’s challenge intensity is 5.1, the second-lowest in the league.
This proves that Knutsen’s side are not aggressive out of possession which translates to their lack of willingness to stop crosses coming into the box. At times, the wingers don’t even bother to track back.
In this instance, Amahl Pellegrino, Glimt’s left-winger does not track back in time to help prevent the 2v1 on the team’s regular left-back, Brice Wembangomo. As a result, Molde can whip the ball into the box and it’s tucked into the net by the midfielder who made a marauding run into the area.
It was such a lethargic piece of defending by Bodø/Glimt, almost as if the video was put into slow-motion. The danger was evident, but the team’s defending was vague. Nobody looked keen to stop the cross, track back, clear the ball, or check their shoulder, a really poor goal which summarised the team’s struggles so far.
Interestingly, Bodø/Glimt have one of the lowest xGA totals this season, conceding just 10.89 so far in the Eliteserien. The side are underperforming in reality though, allowing 14 goals past them in total.
What’s more striking is that Knutsen’s team are conceding an xG per shot of 0.14 on average. Overall, Glimt are allowing the third-fewest number of shots per 90 in Norway’s top-flight division with 9.14 per 90 but the shots they are conceding are of really good quality.
Molde, Lillestrøm, and Viking all look like contenders for this season’s Eliteserien title, a conversation that Bodø/Glimt definitely should be in given how successful the team were over the past two years.
Unfortunately, a failure to recover from their January bludgeoning of the squad as well as their deep Europa Conference League run has gummed up the works and a slow start to the campaign has already made it incredibly unlikely for them to retain their third title on the bounce.