The extreme high of last season’s unbeaten domestic season was always going to be difficult to top, especially with such a young squad.
I didn’t think a sixth consecutive Eliteserien title was in doubt at any stage of the season, but there was a late wobble in performances and results that concerned me.
Here’s the summary of my sixth season in charge of Vålerenga.
It was a far quieter season in Oslo compared to last season. The £60m we made from selling players dropped to £23m this time round, with the vast majority coming from selling Hoang Thanh Tuan.
He arrived from Stabæk for £2.5m in 2024, made 62 appearances in a season and a half, developed into a Wonderkid and made the move to Man City for £17m plus 35% of his next sale. He joins fellow Norwegians Martin Ødegaard and Erling Haaland at the Etihad.
As I approached the traditional European transfer window opening, I decided to splash a little bit of that cash I’ve been moaning about for the past few posts. I kept to my strategy though, and brought a Norwegian back to ply his trade in the country.
The move to two up top brought a need to strengthen our attacking options, so Jørgen Strand Larsen joined for a fee of £9m from Groningen. He’s got some great attributes and some that could certainly be improved upon, although at 25-years-old it’s unlikely that’ll happen now. In the grand scheme of things, he’s an excellent Eliteserien forward and should do well. He hit seven goals and created six in his 19 appearances since his move at the beginning of August.
As alluded to in the opening paragraphs, we’re 13 points worse off this season in comparison to last season’s unbeaten league season. Brann inflicted our first loss in the league since the 23rd of July 2023, interestingly also against Brann. Daouda Bamba scored in both of those surprise victories as well.
We still scored relatively well this season, hitting 86, but conceded 24 across the 30 matches, our highest figure yet across any season. We’ve gone from being impenetrable to being a little bit ropey when tested.
The loss and the six draws weren’t quite enough for there to be a title race but it definitely leaves some food for thought next season. What approach do I take? What’s happened to the back line? Has the definitive shift to more of a 4-2-4 away from the 3-3-2-1-1 seen us become more lax? Will I probably win the league next season anyway?
The biggest headline other than our sixth consecutive title win is Kristiansund’s relegation! In my first three seasons at the club they were 2nd place behind us, in 2023 they finished 3rd. Two seasons later and they’ve dropped out of the top flight. It’s a fall so stark that I don’t even want to poach any of their players.
Bodø/Glimt must really hate playing us in the Mesterfinalen, we’ve beaten them on all three occasions we’ve played against them in the competition.
We finally conceded a goal in the Norwegian Cup this season. Minnows, Rana, got a consolation against us in the first round, the first goal we’ve conceded in the cup since the 2022 final. The 6-1 demolition of 2nd place in the league, Odds, was a particular highlight, as was the late show in the final. Emil Ceide came on as a second half substitute to score a double and assist the other.
A run to the Quarter Final of last season’s Champions League was the furthest we’ve gone in the competition so far. Manchester City showed their class though, that 6-1 reverse at home was particularly harsh.
The next aim for the save is to ensure automatic qualification into the group stage for the Eliteserien winners. We’re so close to achieving it, being just 0.125 coefficient points away from 10th place Ukraine. We need to ensure we keep earning points and hope that our league rivals do too, which they certainly haven’t been so far.
We’ve got a chance to earn more points this season as we qualified from our group in 2nd place behind Barcelona. I was delighted to grab a home draw with them on matchday 1 and to take 14 goals off Club Brugge across our two matches. Ultimately that 3-1 defeat on matchday 5 saw us finish 2nd and we’ll face Chelsea in the first knockout round.
A Look At – Edvard Tagseth
Tagseth is now a two-time Norwegian Eliteserien Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year. He scooped his second consecutive award double this season after another superb season where he increased his goalscoring record, hitting five compared to last season’s two, but decreased his assists, laying on seven instead of 14.
It’s not bad for his first two seasons in Oslo since his £4.2m move from underachievers, Rosenborg. Last season he was our Regista, controlling proceedings. This season he’s still our playmaker but his role has shifted slightly into a Deep-Lying Playmaker in a midfield two that’s tasked with a lot of work going forward and back.
I’ve got to admit though, the majority of his assists do come from set pieces. He’s actually the best corner taker at the club despite having only 12 for it. Maybe I should be like Ondrej and put a bit more effort into that…
He’s been the subject of a whole host of bids for the past 12 months. Chinese clubs are desperate to land him, as are a few European giants. I’ve set a £20m asking price, but I get a lot of bids closer to his current value. Will anyone pay up to land him? Or will I persuade him to sign an extension to his deal that’s currently only got a year left to run?
I chose to single out Tagseth this season, but it is worth mentioning that Albert Braut Tjåland continues to score ridiculously well for us. He hit 41 goals in 44 appearances this season, just shy of last season’s 47-goal season.
One of the big aims of the save is to continuously bring through generations of talent. At the time of writing, 42% of the first team squad are homegrown at the club with a further 33% homegrown in Norway. It feels strange to be talking about the players who’re looking likely to be next to make the step up to the first team when my first team only contains four players over the age of 23, but here we are.
Sakda Wongpradit came through the 2023 youth intake and was instantly one of the standouts. He’s absolutely demolished the u19 scoring charts and completely deserves a call up to the first team. Some might have gotten him involved sooner, but I tried to be patient.
The move to 4-2-4, and two strikers, means he should get more opportunities going forward too. I’ve got high hopes for the Thai-born Norwegian u21 forward.
The aim for season seven is improvement. We need to be more like season five Vålerenga rather than season six Vålerenga. If we get some bids for players they’ll be considered but the aim right now ahead of the season is to keep the bulk of the squad together for at least one more season before another selling spree.
Will we win our seventh consecutive league title?
United to Prevent Suicide
Hopefully you haven’t just skipped over this final section. United to Prevent Suicide is a new campaign aimed at breaking down the perceived barriers of talking about suicide, as a means of preventing it. Talking saves lives, and we should be comfortable talking about suicide to ensure we can do our upmost to prevent it. You can find out more information on the below website.