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Hear the words ‘football’ and ‘Sweden’ in the same sentence and odds are you will conjure up an image of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in your mind. But there is more to Swedish football than the notorious striker.
Sweden has increasingly caught the attention of the English media in the last few years. No doubt this began when Sweden lost to England in the 2018 World Cup quarter-finals. But it has continued as the Swedes also successfully qualified for the 2021 Euros. Meanwhile, neighbours Norway failed to make the cut, despite their golden generation coming through.
Domestically, Graham Potter’s success there with Östersunds FK showed us another pathway for English coaches. Östersund also famously beat Arsenal at the Emirates in 2018 Europa League.
Using the TransferLab Best XI feature, we can pull up a starting XI of the most impressive young players from the Swedish Allsvenskan. These are the highest-rated U23 players who have played over 900 minutes this season:
Ísak Bergmann Jóhannesson
At just 17 years old, Ísak Bergmann Jóhannesson has impressed for IFK Norrköping and attracted interest from elite clubs. He also made his senior debut for Iceland against England recently.
Jóhannesson is primarily a left winger but can also operate effectively as a 10 and could drop in midfield more if needed. Here are his various profile scores per position in TransferLab:
As you can see, his profile scores highly in a number of roles. TransferLab prefers him playing in either of the playmaking roles which makes sense considering his creative output. Here is Jóhannesson’s TransferLab profile in the wide playmaker role comparing his data to other Allsvenskan wingers:
On the right of the graphic, you can also see a heat map that shows just how versatile Jóhannesson is. While he doesn’t get into the box much nor offer much of a goal threat, his passing and creativity really stand out, and at just 17, he has great potential.
Jóhannesson is a really intelligent player in attack, on and off the ball. Off the ball, he takes up good positions and drifts in spaces well, showing good awareness. He also receives the ball well and retains it well. Defensively, he works hard off the ball and is an intelligent presser.
Jóhannesson is left-footed but comfortable using both feet. In possession, he always wants to play forward and scans for penetrative passes, wanting to take risks and create. His passes had really good weight and speed, allowing him to play teammates into space effectively.
The young winger is happy to carry the ball into space but doesn’t really take on his man that often. At times, his control could be cleaner but he does well in tight spaces. He plays mostly with one or two touches and keeps the tempo high.
The Icelander stands at 5’11” with a fairly slim build and is okay athletically but lacks explosiveness. He isn’t that dynamic with his play but is dangerous and creative. In terms of playstyle compatibility, he is able to break down blocks and likes being in possession but isn’t that effective on the counter.
Jóhannesson is definitely an exciting prospect and it’s obvious why top clubs are interested in him considering his creative output and game intelligence at such a young age. In terms of similar attacking playmakers in the Premier League, TransferLab likened him to Kai Havertz and Tanguy Ndombele. There are also shades of Thomas Müller.
Edi Sylisufaj is a Kosovan U21 international striker who plays for Falkenberg. His team are bottom of the Allsvansken and look like a very poor side. Despite this, Sylisufaj has managed to score 7 goals this season despite largely chasing scraps and managed to impress anyway.
In TransferLab, his profile score as a striker in the ‘goalscorer’ role is his best at 77 and he doesn’t stand out in any other role. Looking at his performance in the ‘Striker – Goalscorer’ profile, his productive stats stand out:
Sylisufaj is an intelligent striker with good movement and is smart on the counter. He often looks to run behind but can also hold up play when needed. At 5’10” with a fairly stocky build, he shows decent strength on the ball. Beyond this, he can receive long passes very well. He’s a good ball striker and scored some great goals this season.
Off the ball, Sylisufaj is intelligent both in terms of his movement but also with his pressing. He has a great work rate and mentality to battle and chase scraps for ninety minutes, fighting for the ball and pressing well. His strong mentality will serve him well and would suit a low possession side.
Although he looks fairly limited outside of his goalscoring numbers, it’s important to acknowledge the effect his team has on them. Falkenburg sit deep, playing very directly. As a result, he doesn’t get to show much creativity. In addition to this, he lacks service and is unable to take many shots. However, he has still had a successful season individually and it would be interesting to see him in a more creative side. According to TransferLab, his similar players in the Premier League are Aaron Connolly and Patrick Bamford.
With Falkenburg looking like they’ll be relegated, Sylisufaj would be a good, cheap option for better Scandinavian sides, especially if they look to play on the counter. It will be interesting to monitor his progress next season.
Aimar Sher plays for Hammarby IF and only just turned 18. The defensive midfielder is a Swedish U16 international and played just over 900 minutes in the Allsvenskan this season despite his age.
Sher is a very capable and versatile midfield player. According to TransferLab, he’s strongest as an all round defensive midfield player but more than capable of playing a bit further forward, especially in a box to box role. Here’s how he shows up in the ‘Defensive Midfield – All Round’ profile in TransferLab:
Sher is extremely elegant on the ball; the sort of player who makes playing football look effortless. He’s calm on the ball and turns away from pressure well, drawing lots of fouls.
Receiving the ball really well, he makes quick decisions in possession. His short passing is crisp with good technique and is able to switch play dangerously. As for his productivity, he takes risks in the final third, showing good vision. However, the execution isn’t always there. He’s able to support the attack and operate between the lines, looking for forward passes.
Only 5’6”, Sher does lack physicality. But with his low centre of gravity, he is agile and able to protect the ball effectively. He’s a very technical player who is fun to watch. Having only just 18 years of age, he has some things to iron out in his game, but as he gains more minutes in the Allsvenskan, he’ll improve across a variety of areas such as mid-range passing and transitioning.
In terms of similar players in the Premier League, TransferLab likens him to Kalvin Phillips, Harry Winks and Jorginho. These seem apt comparisons, particularly the comparison with Winks. Sher needs time to develop further in Sweden but should be one to watch next season as he gets even more minutes.
Yusuf joined Goteborg two years ago, a week after his 18th birthday. Perhaps surprisingly, the 20-year-old Nigerian midfielder hasn’t been capped at youth international level for the Super Eagles. He has, however, played almost 2,500 minutes in the Swedish top flight.
The young midfielder covers lots of ground with great energy and stamina. He has an excellent work rate and presses well in midfield, covering the wide areas and being an effective box-to-box player who supports play in all phases of the game, similar to Xaver Schlager.
In possession, Yusuf receives the ball really well and uses his first touch to evade pressure. His passing is simple, occasionally lacking progression and he could test himself more at times. In transition, he carries into space well but doesn’t take on his man, a fact which is reflected in the data:
Yusuf didn’t develop within a European academy, and at times, this is evident in his tactical immaturity. It sometimes feels as though he doesn’t understand his role in a team. Nevertheless, he is a very capable player and a level of tactical acuity should develop over time.
Beyond this, Yusuf could be more confident and assertive. He lacks physicality, but being young, this will likely improve over time. He is good in chaotic and tight situations but less effective at defending 1v1, lacking technique in the tackle at times.
As you can see from his profile scores in TransferLab, Yusuf is very versatile and can play any midfield role effectively. It will be interesting to see where his well-rounded skill set will take him. It will be interesting to monitor his progress and see if he specialises in one role. Expect him to spend another season in Sweden before moving next year to Denmark or Belgium perhaps.
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