Danish Superliga Scouting: Part I by Max Graves
I first started watching the Danish Superliga in 2016, when visiting some family friends in Aarhus we went to see their team Viborg FF. After watching a thrilling 0–0 against SønderjyskE, I was hooked. Since then, I have regularly checked the Viborg scores, keeping a keen eye on their progress. In the 20/21 season they gained promotion back to the Superliga, I watched games when I could and really enjoyed their free flowing attacking style. I was particularly impressed by Tobias Bech, who was due to be on my list of players to watch, until he was recently purchased by FC Ingolstadt 04.
Starting a role in scouting at the start of 2022, I thought it would be a great time to watch the Superliga closely and share reports on some of the incredible young players in Denmark. Due to the vast amounts of talent, I am going to split my ‘Ones to watch’ in two parts. Part One will look at players who had strong seasons last year and look certain to develop over the coming season. Following that I’ll look at players who have had a great start in the current season.
Andreas Schjelderup began his youth career at the respected Bodø/Glimt academy and joined FC Nordsjælland in 2020. Schjelderup made his FC Nordsjælland first team debut against OB in February 2021, aged just 16 years and 248 days old, becoming the 13th youngest player in Superliga history. In his debut season, Schjelderup scored 3 goals making 1013 minutes aged 16. In his second season (21/22 season), Schjelderup played 1428 minutes making 22 appearances, an average of 64 minutes per 90, for FC Nordsjælland, scoring 4 goals with a 3.41 xG. Four matches into the new Superliga season, FC Nordsjælland are top of the league winning all four of their opening games with Schjelderup already scoring 3 goals with a 2.42 xG.
Schjelderup is primarily used as a winger or as a ‘False 9’ used in a very fluid attacking system at FC Nordsjælland. Schjelderup is able to receive the ball on his left and right foot and when receiving the ball he is very aware of the space around him, creating space for himself with his impressive quick feet and creativity to get himself out of crowded areas of the pitch. Schjelderup is extremely comfortable in possession, dribbling with the ball on his right and left foot at pace. Last season, Schjelderup attempted 6.74 dribbles per 90 with a dribbles successful percentage of 42.99% and this season he has attempted 4.7 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 50%. In the four opening games of this season he has made 13 progressive runs, 4.37 per 90 in comparison to last seasons 2.9 per 90. Schjelderup last season had an average of 13.42 offensive duels per 90 with a 35.7% success rate and has started this season with similar figures, 12.43 per 90 with a 40.5% success rate.
Schjelderup has an impressive range of passes and has the ability to use different parts of the foot when passing. Schjelderup’s link up play and creativity and awareness of space and dangerous areas makes him not only a threat dribbling at defenders but also takes on the role of a playmaker creating opportunities for his team mates.
In the 21/22 season he made on average 27.98 passes per 90 with an accuracy rate of 84.7%. 70.3% of his passes into the final third were accurate, averaging 2.33 per 90. Schjelderup has great awareness of space but occasionally lacks the accuracy when attempting passes that will cut open defences that will create goal scoring opportunities. This can be seen with his slightly lower accuracy rate of 62.2% when passing into the penalty area, averaging 2.84 per 90.
Schjelderup’s movement off the ball means he is very difficult to mark and finds himself in dangerous areas, and this season he has shown that he has become a more clinical finisher. Last season Schjelderup averaged 1.45 shots per 90 with an accuracy rate of 43.5%. This season we have seen Schjelderup develop this area of his game, averaging 2.69 shots per 90 with a 62.5% accuracy.
Schjelderup’s attitude and hard working nature is evident when looking at his defensive stats. Schjelderup is confident in a system with a high press, capable of dispossessing the opposition with speed and high intensity. Last season, Schjelderup made on average 3.4 recoveries per 90 with 55.6% of his recoveries coming in the opposition half. Schjelderup won 69% of his defensive duels, averaging 4.47 defensive duels per 90. Schjelderup also made on average 1.2 interceptions per 90 and won 25% of the loose ball duels last season.
Similar player to: Luis Diaz, Eberechi Eze
Raphael Onyedika joined the FC Midtjylland academy from an affiliate club, FC Ebedei in Nigeria, shortly after his 18th birthday. For the 20/21 season Onyedika was loaned out to another of Midtjylland’s affiliate clubs, FC Fredericia, in the second tier of Denmark. After returning from his loan, in his first season playing for FC Midtjylland, Onyedika was voted the Best Young Player of the Season in the Danish Superliga, contributing 2 goals and 1 assist.
Onyedika is a defensive minded central midfielder who could be considered as a ‘Ball Winning Midfielder’ or ‘Midfield Destroyer’ and has impressed with his physicality and ability to press the opposition, by breaking up play and retrieving the ball. Onyedika covers great distances showing great stamina throughout the game whilst also showing impressive positional awareness. Onyedika ranked 7th last season in the Danish Superliga for most tackles won and also ranked top for fouls committed (Fbref). In the 21/22 season, Onyedika made 307 recoveries, 10.05 per 90 minutes, with 49.5% of his recoveries being in the opposition’s half. Onyedika, as shown on the heatmap, has shown his ability to win the ball further up the field, differing from the traditional ‘Holding Midfielder’ that screens the back-line. During the 21/22 season, Onyedika won 56% of his 250 defensive duels (8.19 duels per 90). Onyedika also made 149 interceptions, 4.88 per 90 minutes.
Onyedika’s passing stats from last season were impressive and showed a great range of passing with his predominant right foot. In the 21/22 season, Onyedika made on average 38.68 passes per 90 with a 87.5% accuracy rate. Looking closer at this, he plays more forward passes, 10.19 per 90 with a 71.1% accuracy rate, compared with 7.4 backward passes per 90 with a 99.1% accuracy rate. Onyedika has shown that he is capable of playing more of a deep lying playmaker role with impressive longer range passes with an average last season of 2.26 long passes per 90 with a 46.4% accuracy rate.
Onyedika shows great strength to shield the ball and has a good awareness of space. Although Onyedika’s role of ‘Midfield Destroyer’ does not require him to be outstanding in possession, an area that Onyedika could improve on is his ball carrying and progressive runs. Last season, he only made 11 progressive runs throughout the season and 1.74 dribbles per 90 with a 56.6% success rate.
Similar player to: Christian Nørgaard, Yves Bissouma
Gustav Isaksen moved to the FC Midtjylland academy from Roslev IK at U12-level and signed his first professional contract in May 2019 and made his professional debut in August 2019 aged 18. Isaksen has represented Denmark at every age group from the U16s up to the U21s and was part of the Danish U21 side reaching the quarter finals of the U21 Euros, scoring 1 goal. Last season was Isaksen’s most prolific season, scoring 5 goals and 4 assists and this year already has 2 goals from the first 4 games of the Superliga season.
Isaksen is primarily used as an inverted winger on the right wing cutting on to his left foot but has played on the left wing and in the ‘False 9’ role. Isaksen shows impressive technical ability, in particular how comfortable he is passing, dribbling and shooting with his left and right foot. Isaksen’s greatest strength is his explosive acceleration driving forward with the ball, beating defenders in 1v1 situations with his quick footwork, close control of the ball and unpredictability. Isaksen ranked 7th in the Danish Superliga for fouls drawn (Fbref), showing how difficult he is to defend against.
In the 21/22 season, Isaksen attempted 7.22 dribbles per 90 with a dribbles successful percentage of 48.1% and this season he has attempted 9.73 dribbles per 90 with a success rate of 57.1%. Last season, Isaksen had an average of 14.94 offensive duels per 90 with a 37.6% success rate and in the opening four games of this season he has similar figures, 14.94 per 90 with a 53.5% success rate. Isaksen made 79 progressive runs last season, 3.52 per 90 and this season has made 14 progressive runs, 4.86 per 90.
Another area that Isaksen has developed over his time at FC Midtjylland is his ball striking with his left and right foot and has shown that he can be an aerial threat in the box drifting in off the wing. Last season, Isaksen scored 2 headed goals, 2 with his left foot and one with his right foot and both the goals he has scored this season have both been with his right foot. Isaksen is very difficult to defend against in 1v1 situations due to his awareness of space, pace and the ability to shift the ball onto his left or right foot.
In the 21/22 season, Isaksen averaged 2.5 shots per 90 with an accuracy rate of 55.4%. Comparatively, from the first 4 games of the Superliga season, Isaksen has averaged 2.78 shots per 90 with an accuracy rate of 25%. Isaksen ranked 5th in the Danish Superliga for shots on target per 90 and 7th overall for the most shots on target (Fbref).
Isaksen shows good accuracy with his short to mid range passing with his right and left foot. His passing statistics show that he is a more direct winger rather than playmaker. In the 21/22 season, Isaksen averaged 19.94 passes per 90 with an accuracy rate of 76.3%. 60% of his passes into the final third were accurate, averaging 1.11 per 90. Isaksen averaged 2.23 passes into the penalty with an accuracy rate of 44%. Last season, Isaksen averaged 2.45 crosses per 90 with a 30.9% accuracy rate and is averaging 3.82 crosses per 90 with an 18.2% accuracy rate. His general decision making in the final third and end product is an area that Isaksen needs to improve in order to contribute more goals and assists. Isaksen is capable of getting into dangerous areas in the final third and penalty area, however his final pass often lacks accuracy.
Isaksen shows good positional awareness when he is playing on the wing and his off the ball movement in attacking transitions creates space for himself and his teammates. Isaksen shows examples of drawing the defender out of position due to him positioning himself in very wide positions. Isaksen is very capable playing in a high pressing team, working very hard and accelerating towards the opposition alongside his positional awareness in defensive transitions. Isaksen occasionally loses out on defensive duels due to his timing of tackles and lack of strength when putting in a challenge. Last season, Isaksen made on average 2.9 recoveries per 90 with 72.3% of his recoveries coming in the opposition half. Isaksen won 53.4% of his defensive duels, averaging 3.26 defensive duels per 90. Isaksen also made on average 1.29 interceptions per 90 and won 30.7% of the loose ball duels last season.
Similar player to: Dejan Kulusevski, Jarrod Bowen