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THE SUPERLIGAEN – EUROPE’S STEPPING STONE

  1. Introduction
  2. Lucas Andersen
  3. Mikkel Damsgaard
  4. Evander
  5. Conclusion

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1. Introduction

As part of our analysis of the Danish Superliga, we can’t help but take a closer look at three particular players who have been especially strong in the 2019/20 season. Lucas Andersen captained and led Aalborg BK to 6th position and a place in the championship play-offs. FC Nordsjaelland finished 5th with Mikkel Damsgaard, with the team’s star playing so strongly that he has since left the club for Italy to join Sampdoria Genoa for €6.5m. The third player in the bunch now has the highest market value of all professionals in the Danish league at €7 million, following Mohammed Kudus’ move to Ajax Amsterdam: Evander da Silva Ferreira (Evander for short) won the championship in his second season in Europe with FC Midtjylland, impressing across the board.

We have taken a detailed look at the statistical data of the 2019/20 Superliga season and the first games of the new season to bring you closer to the strengths and weaknesses of all players. In addition, we dare to look ahead, because with Evander in particular, a move to a top league might only be a matter of time.

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2. Lucas Andersen – The quiet captain

Lucas Andersen is at home on the left wing, at the age of 26 he is in his prime and has already had an interesting career. His career began in the academy of Aalborg BK, where he made his professional debut at the age of 16 and shortly afterwards moved to Ajax Amsterdam. He failed to make an impact there and was first loaned to Willem II for a year and then to Grasshoppers Zurich for two seasons. In 2018, he returned to Aalborg and is now an absolute starter as captain.

Offensively, Andersen impresses as an inverted winger who likes to move inside with his strong right foot (6 dribbles per game, 58% successful). In 27 games he scored 10 goals and directly assisted 7 more. He has a strong finish from distance but is equally happy to set his teammates into action with precise crosses or passes behind the opponent’s defence. His passing rate of 80% is more than solid, with particular emphasis on playing many key passes (3 per game) and passes into the penalty area (4.6 per game), more than half of which find teammates. With his strong technique and high play intelligence, he often takes the initiative in Aalborg’s offensive. Sometimes he holds the ball too long or loses it carelessly, creating counter-attacking opportunities for the opponent.

Defensively, Andersen runs high into opposing defenders, but his pressing is often not persistent enough. He often avoids defensive duels, as he is rather slender with a height of 1.84m and a weight of about 72 kg and therefore often cannot impose himself in aerial duels. He has an average of five duels on the ground and two in the air per game, of which he only wins about a third. He has an above-average low value for fouls, as he hardly commits any fouls due to his passive defensive behaviour.

In the new season, Aalborg has not yet found the perfect offensive formation. At the beginning of the season Andersen was slightly injured, later he was mostly used centrally in the forward position. So far, he has only 1 assist and creates 0.4 chances less per game, as he was more sought after as a finishing player in the centre. But this role with his back to the goal does not suit the 26-year-old at all, from a good 1.8 finishes last year to a weak 0.9. The switch back to the left wing in the last game against Randers obviously did Andersen good, here he delivered his best game of the season so far.

In addition to the athletic strengths and weaknesses, we also took a closer look at the personalities of all the players. It is striking that Andersen, despite his role as captain, acts rather calmly on the pitch and gives few instructions to his teammates. Moreover, the impression is that despite his great potential, he is content with his current role and shows no ambition to recommend himself for better clubs. In the case of a possible transfer, his lack of mentality could stand in his way, which may also have been the reason for his failure at Ajax.

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3. Mikkel Damsgaard – The Danish Dream

Mikkel Damsgaard is the great role model for all the talents of his home club FC Nordsjaelland. The youngster came through all the youth teams of the Copenhagen suburbs, which rely heavily on their own young talents as well as talents from their own “Right to Dream” football school in Accra, Ghana. He played mostly as a left winger last season but can also play as a striker or in central midfield. In his first two professional years, the lively attacker increased his market value from € 400,000 to € 6.5 million. Last season he scored 11 goals and 6 assists in 35 games. Since the first of September, he has been under contract with Claudio Ranieri’s Sampdoria Genoa, where he wants to take his first development steps in a European top league at the age of 20.

The right-footer says he feels more comfortable in the centre, although it has not been his main position in recent years. His strengths clearly lie in his offensive play, where he likes to set the scene for his teammates with long passes (81% pass rate) or to finish himself (2.1 shots per game). He mostly looks for his own finishes from a distance, but even more often he uses his very good overview and play intelligence to put a better-positioned teammate in a promising situation with a key pass/assist (2.8 per game). In the build-up to the game, Damsgaard moves around a lot and creates spaces for teammates or to be played to and initiate the attack. Due to his rather small stature (1.76m) and a low centre of gravity, he is a mobile and agile striker who has a high level of ball control.

Defensively, Damsgaard uses his dynamism and strong positional play primarily to open up passing lanes and prevent the opposition’s first touch points in the build-up to the game. He only wins 40% of his defensive duels, which often has to do with a lack of perseverance but is nevertheless considered tenacious in his behaviour against the ball. His stamina helps him to carry out the high pressing that was demanded of him at FC Nordsjaelland for the entire 90 minutes.

On a personal level, Damsgaard can be described both on and off the pitch as a rather calm guy who doesn’t show many emotions but still always exudes a positive aggressiveness and passion – a typical Scandinavian. Off the pitch, he stands out neither for scandals nor for high social media activity.

The first months in Genoa have been average for the newly appointed Danish international (debut on 11. November 2020) – in 7 possible games, he has made 3 starting appearances, 3 substitute appearances, 1 goal and 1 assist also stand to his name. Damsgaard continues to be used almost exclusively on the left wing, which is one of Sampdoria’s most common attacking positions in the league – however, it is striking that they have the lowest efficiency of all 20 Serie A teams when attacking from the Dane’s side. Previously, his great strength was to skilfully position the man next to him, but now, due to the much stronger league level, he only manages 0.17 successful key passes per game and just under 0.8 of his own completions. His tackling and passing rate must also return to a higher level in the next few games, so it will definitely be exciting to see how the youngster’s career progresses.

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4. Evander – The Strategic Jutland Brazilian

Evander da Silva Ferreira – once again a Brazilian with a name that stands for high playing culture! Born near Rio’s Copacabana, Evander is at home in central midfield, and at FC Midtjylland he is used in both defensive and attacking midfield. After training with Vasco da Gama, the 22-year-old was loaned to the Danish champions in the 2018/19 season and then signed permanently below market value for €2.5 million via a purchase option. His current contract runs until the summer of 2024, but he is expected to make the move to a top European league before the end of his contract, having already been linked with FC Porto and Atlético Madrid this summer.

On the offensive side, Evander, whose style of play is somewhere between a box-to-box and a deep-lying playmaker, takes on the role of playmaker and standard shooter, who excels at dangerous free kicks and corners, among other things. Also, out of the game, one of his greatest strengths is passing into the box (10 per game, 60% successful). He moves extremely well on the pitch, setting important highlights both offensively and defensively – almost 70 successful actions per game speak for themselves. A good passing rate of 81% and 2.7 key passes per game show his passing strength. When Evander himself looks for a finish (3 shots per game), he usually tries it from the middle distance. In the last Superliga season, he scored 8 goals (2 from outside the sixteen) and 10 assists.

Evander’s defensive strengths lie in positional play and tackling. Although he only has seven defensive tackles per game (44% successful), he often reacts very well to opponents’ mistakes and can therefore cause turnovers and pick up as many as 6 free balls per game. In pressing, he not only acts in the centre, but also likes to move to the outside (primarily to the left) to support his teammates. With four interceptions per game, he makes an important contribution to the defensive success of FC Midtjylland but is below average compared to other players in his position. Due to his rather small height of 1.79m, he is rarely successful in physical duels.

In the new season, things have not been going quite right for Evander so far, he has been struggling with some performance inconsistencies and accordingly has only managed 2 scorer points. Only in the last two games against Nordsjelland and FC Copenhagen did he play on his favoured “10”, before that loan returnee Bozhidar Kraev showed strong performances here and Evander was moved one position back (competing with Frank Onyeka and Jens Cajuste). Especially the key passes have gone down dramatically due to performance and position, from an average of 2.7 to just under 1 per game. Noticeable: In the Champions League group phase, coach Brian Priske focused on speed in attacking play and defensive strength on the “6”. Accordingly, newcomer Sisto was set offensively and the duo Cajuste/Onyeka defensively – Evander only came off the bench three times.

In contrast to some of his South American colleagues, Evander is considered emotionally stable, who has not attracted attention with emotional outbursts so far. He is a team player who likes to support his teammates, but sometimes he acts too selfishly. Off the pitch, he is rather reserved and mainly shares football content or impressions from his holidays with his fans.

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5. Conclusion

All three players are an example of how the Danish Superliga offers an excellent opportunity for young, talented players to develop and attract interest from top European leagues through positive performances. While Andersen has found his way back to his homeland in a roundabout way and seems to be comfortable in his role there, it will continue to be exciting to see how Damsgaard performs in the Italian Serie A. With Evander, it is probably only a matter of time before he also joins a club in one of Europe’s top five leagues to take his game to the next level. Nevertheless, one notices a certain drop in performance in all three players under consideration compared to the previous season, but the Superliga in particular can forgive that compared to Serie A. We are curious to see where the paths of Lucas Andersen, Mikkel Damsgaard and Evander will lead in the future and look forward to following their development – because all three still have potential for improvement in different areas.

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