Before the season started, this was by many fans and pundits regarded as the most difficult fixture for Bodø/Glimt. Away to Molde at Aker Stadion proved to be just that as the northerners experienced their first loss of the season. That said, it is no small feat to go undefeated to the 21st matchday. With nine rounds left to play though, it looks unlikely that they will give up their 16-point lead.
To start off this analysis, first a walkthrough of the lineups of both teams. Molde coach Erling Moe has got one of the teams with the best squad depth. This has shown itself through a steady rotation this season, and there were changes again this match. Molde are yet to field the same eleven starters two matches in a row this season, a stark contrast to Kjetil Knutsen’s men.
Andreas Linde started in goal behind a back four of Marcus Holmgren Pedersen, Martin Bjørnbak, Stian Gregersen and Kristoffer Haugen. Fredrik Aursnes and Etzaz Hussain formed the double pivot with Magnus Wolff Eikrem, formerly of EFL side Cardiff City, ahead of them in the number ten position. Eirik Hestad, Ohi Anthony Omoijuanfo and Mathis Bolly lined up as the trio up front.
Bodø/Glimt came into this match lacking several usual starters. Marius Lode was sidelined through a red card, Alfons Sampsted to quarantine, Sondre Brunstad Fet and Philip Zinckernagel to injury. In addition, newly acquired central midfielder Hugo Vetlesen was also out with injury. It is still fair to say that they are working out how to replace Jens Petter Hauge who just signed for Serie A side AC Milan.
Nikita Haikin started between the sticks. This night’s back four consisted of Morten Konradsen, Brede Mathias Moe, Marius Christopher Høibråten and Fredrik André Bjørkan. Vegard Leikvoll Moberg joined captain duo Patrick Berg and Ulrik Saltnes in midfield. Youngster Sebastian Tounekti started in the front three alongside Kasper Junker and Ola Solbakken.
Molde in possession and directness
Bodø/Glimt is a well-versed team when it comes to the defensive side of the game. Especially in the central lane, it is hard to penetrate their defensive structure. Molde approached this fact by many switches of play. This might be to provoke bigger holes in the opponent structure when they shuffle across the field.
They did so with mainly four players responsible for the first progression. Often forming a diamond structure but rarely finding the top vertex behind the first defensive line. The switching would normally go via the bottom and one of the sides of the diamond from one fullback to the other.
The image below shows how the team structured itself against the Bodø/Glimt defence. Up to four players of Molde would occupy the backline or space between defence and midfield.
From this base opposite movements were a central part of further play. The central position of Aursnes as the top vertex combined with the wide fullbacks aided to open space in the midfield. One or two from the frontline would drop into here, showing for the ball. Simultaneously, the ball-side fullback and winger started runs in behind the backline.
Molde seemed to specifically target the medium/high block at the start of the match and exploit the available space there. The initial showing for the ball would sometimes result in a centre-back taking a step out, enough to gain a small advantage behind him.
Above is an example of the said situation. Instead of attempting to play directly through their structure, they have pulled a central midfielder out of the midfield line of Bodø/Glimt. When that happens, the common follow-up is that Berg closes the gap, which here resulted in a weakened connection between the defence and midfield lines.
Eikrem has dropped from the highest line into this new open space to show for the ball and the ball is played over the top to two players attacking the space behind the medium/high line.
Looking at the passing accuracy and long pass share for Molde in isolation does not say much. Looking at it in conjunction with what can be seen in the images above says a little more. They looked to have a plan to use riskier and longer passes to disrupt the Glimt structure. Especially in the second half when Glimt was pushing to close the gap in the score-line this was evident.
Bodø/Glimt in possession and the significance of Berg
Verticality is central to how Glimt approaches play in possession. Up-back-throughs and ground passes through lines with often high risk associated are common features. This match the same precision from both passer and receiver was missing.
As shown below the pass chosen is to a player who is completely unplayable behind his marker. The same goes for the rest of the Glimt players in this photo. None of the five within the white area are playable. This is both critique worthy of Glimt and testament to Molde’s defensive approach.
What may play into this is the absentee situation at Glimt. Lode is usually the one playing in the left centre-back spot and rarely plays these passes with the first touch. Brunstad Fet at right central midfield would likely be positioned in the open space below the Molde striker.
Here instead, Høibråten plays the ball on the first touch to a bunch of marked players. Moberg is positioned high, pulled over to the left and only possible to reach with a highly unlikely and precise lofted ball. Ideally here then, Berg would be the one to drive to the open space behind the Molde striker but does not. He stays between the presser and his marker.
The name Berg bears meaning in Bodø/Glimt and the easiest comparison is with the Maldinis at AC Milan. Partick Berg’s father, two uncles and grandfather all played for the yellow ones. It is almost mandatory that Berg is one of this season’s two captains, alongside Saltnes.
At the base of the midfield, he controls the entire possession game of Glimt. He interchanges with centre-backs to cover when they advance with the ball and drop deep to surpass the press. Berg is excellent at being available for a pass and when he is not, he rotates with the other central midfielder to disrupt the opponent press.
In the above image, he stays between the striker and attacking midfielder of Molde, as he often does in the start of build-ups. Molde’s structure is tight both vertically and horizontally, and very difficult to penetrate.
A few seconds later in the same move, the ball has been switched to the right and back again to the left where Berg has dropped deep. Here it is visible how significant this little move by Berg is. Comparing the two split-second images shows a significant difference in the available space within the opponent structure.
Saltnes suddenly has plenty of space to receive inside behind the first line of pressure now that Berg has pulled them out with his movement. Berg switches it back to the right where the centre-back carries the ball forward.
In this particular scenario the ball does not reach Saltnes in the middle. However, it is evidently clear to see why they are able to reach the middle in such a large percentage of their usual matches.
Molde kept their structure as tight as possible when they defended in the medium block, and primarily showed Glimt to the right side from Glimt’s perspective. A reason for this might be that the right side was newly composed; a right-back who is originally a central midfielder, a centre mid with his first match this season and an 18-year-old right-winger.
An example of how Molde denied the usual build-up of Glimt in the central parts. Saltnes, the left central midfielder, has dropped to collect the ball. He is followed tightly on the inside, preventing him from turning or playing further centrally. With his pass to Berg there is also applied an aggressive press which prevents him from playing to central parts.
Molde continued to disrupt Glimt’s build-up like this, and as a result, 61% of their attacks came down the newly composed right side. Another consequence where that the goalie played fewer short passes, rather playing long passes to midfield.
This was certainly an excellent showing from Molde, handing Glimt their first league defeat of the season and scoring four goals in the process. It will most likely not matter in the case of the eventual winner of Eliteserien. That said, it is certainly three very important points for Molde. The battle for the European spots behind Glimt is fierce, with only two points separating Molde, Rosenborg and Vålerenga.
Going forward, the biggest interest when watching Bodø/Glimt might be to catch a glimpse of the next season. Having already lost Hauge, there are other players who can leave on a free or are interesting subjects for bigger clubs. The final nine matches might show aspects of potential changes going into next season.