We’ve won promotion three years in a row to Sweden’s top division, Allsvenskan! I’ve gone rogue with how I usually operate. Still, I wanted to achieve promotion to the first tier as quick as possible. But I didn’t expect to get through this many seasons so quickly. As the seasons in Swedish lower leagues are short, I won’t be discussing the club’s infrastructure, finances, transfers, or getting into many details in later posts. These are straight-to-the-point season updates!
Let’s take a look at how we performed in each season.
2022 – Div 2 Norrland
My first season at Kiruna FF was definitely an overachievement. The bookies had us in 11th place at the beginning of the season, and as you might have read in the last post, our first-team squad was below average. I identified seventeen players that were not going to cut it. I won’t go over too many details, but I was able to slowly replace those players as the season went on. These players gave us the extra quality that was required to achieve promotion. Thankfully, my bet paid off.
We managed to go undefeated in our first 15 matches. Still, a loss in form had us slip twice against promotion rivals Bodens BK and Friska Viljor FC, but soon after, it was 🟢 all the way to the end of the season. Our performances were often not as dominant as you might have assumed by looking at the results.
Goalkeepers, Fernando Milioli & Måns Nygren, conceded 28 goals in 26 matches. Their combined stats are some of the worst in the league. Their save percentage was 70.68 vs. their expected save percentage of 85.57. Our defense was perfectly described as quiet and leaky. My stubbornness to play with a mid & high line came back to bite me as our defenders were often beaten by long passes from the opposition keeper. We were also the fifth-worst tackling team in the league.
Our midfield players’ creativity and the forwards’ ability to convert those chances were the difference. New midfield signing, Oliver Verona, was our most creative player finishing the season with 7 assists and 2.59 key passes per ninety. He was also our best tackler on the team, with 83% of tackles won.
We finished the season as top scorers with 72 goals, 23 goals ahead of second-place Friska Viljor FC. Adam Johnson was the top scorer with 23 goals, and new(gen) signing Richard Bengtsson was second with 18 goals. Richard came in as a free agent a few matches into the season and was a revelation; the kid was a monster in the air but also assisted his teammates six times. Although Bengtsson would be an excellent shout for our crucial player of the season, the key player of the season is Adam Johnson.
The English forward’s second stint at the club was just as fruitful as his last one. The Pressing Forward was the most clinical striker in the league. He finished the season with 23 goals, 6 assists, and 9 MotM awards in 26 matches with an average rating of 7.78.
Johnson’s numbers (in blue) are too good for the Swedish 4th tier. Two metrics that stand out to me are his conversation rate (26%), and headers won (9.17). I was worried that I would have to replace Johnson with a more clinical striker after seeing so many missed chances; luckily, that won’t be happening.
Time will tell whether he will be a starter once we make it to the promised land.
2023 – Ettan 1 Norra
My main priority for the season was to strengthen our goalkeepers and defense. In came newgen free agent, Peter Lucian Stipkovič, to provide cover for Måns Nygren. Centerbacks Adel Ziarat (£500 from Team TG FF) and Adnan Čatič (£2.8k from Örebro IF) came in as starters. We also needed some depth in the midfield; Kevin Roberts (£0 from Bodens BK) joined alongside utility/injury-prone winger Nebiyou Perry. These five transfers were precisely what we needed.
The season began with back-to-back wins, followed by a tie and a loss. During these matches, I tinkered with the formation. Although the results were positive, they weren’t clicking the way I wanted them to. I was then inspired by a tactic that @Jord used during his “Seven Nation Slalom” save. He dropped to a low block and a low defensive line to create direct counter-attacks. I dropped my lines, and there was no looking back. New midfield signing, Kevin Roberts, was everywhere on the field. The midfielder was able to recycle the ball to his more creative teammates. If anything went wrong in the midfield, we had Adnan Čatič and Adel Ziarat, who were rock solid at the back.
Our fluid counter-attacking style was deadly. We scored 36 goals more than the second-best scoring team. Adam Johnson and Robert Bengtsson finished within the top 3 goalscorers, with 19 and 16 goals, respectively. Adel Ziarat, Luca Gomes (free signing towards the end of last season), and young superstar Robert Bengtsson had the three highest average ratings in the league. Unlike last season, there were no doubts about who was the best team in the league. We went 26 matches undefeated, with 21 wins and 5 ties, finishing 19 points clear from second place IF Karlstad Fotball.
Carl Andersson is one of the 17 players that joined the club last season. He was a free agent newgen. After having him on trial for a couple of weeks, I decided to give him a youth contract. He played a few matches last season, mainly as a sub. He impressed me enough that he became the starter at the end of the 2022 season. The decision paid off; Carl finished the 2023 season with the most open play assists in the league (12), even though he missed 8 matches due to injury.
Looking at his numbers, he is not tackling enough, but his role in the team as a WB(A) is to be an attacking threat on the right-hand side. His successful pressures (11.32 p/90) are also the most in the league. His stamina (9) isn’t anywhere near as I’d like it to be, so he will be working on it next season. The 16 y/o is undoubtedly one to look out for in the future.
2023 – Superettan
After achieving promotion to the second tier, the club’s chairman decided it was time for the club to turn professional. Doing so helped us attract better players to the club, such as Robin Freij from IF Brommapojkarna (free), Benié Traoré from BK Hacken (£200k), Diego Campos (Costa Rica) from Degerfors IF (£70k) and Ramon-Pascal Lundqvist(Sweden/Nicaragua) from FC Groningen (free). We were also able to crank up our recruitment of South Americans, with 7 players joining throughout the season.
Tactically, I decided to stick with the 4-3-1-2 and switch roles instead of changing formations whenever things got rough. I also switched our playing mentality from ‘balanced’ to ‘cautious.’ The last tactical change was adding counter-pressing to our game. These changes were the right ones, as we began the season with three clean sheets. We would finish the season with 14 clean sheets, just one behind GIF Sundsvall. The team improved their defensive record year after year, conceding only 22 goals from 30 matches. Due to having a high possession rate, we were not amongst the leaders in blocks, clearances, interceptions, or tackles attempted. We excelled in not allowing the opposing team to have many goalscoring opportunities. We were top in shots against (240), 3rd in shots on target (89), passes attempted + passes completed, and 1st in OPPDA (3.49).
It’s hard to say that we could have been better up front as we scored 77 goals in 30 matches, 27 more than second-place GAIS. The team could have been even more clinical. Creatively were outstanding, creating 160 chances (57 more than the next team). But we only had the 6th best shots on target ratio (37%) with the most shots in the league (524, 114 more than the next team) and the most shots on target (199). Again leading the line were Robert Bengtsson (16) and Adam Johnson (14). They were also joined by Benié Traoré (11) and Ariagner Smith (10). Smith joined us last season from Lativia club Spartaks (free) to become the first Nicaraguan player at the club.
This season’s success was indeed a group effort. We featured 20 players with at least 700 minutes. Seven of those players were 21 y/o or younger, with Johan Nyholm (17 y/o) featuring most out of all of them with 1,700 minutes. We also featured eight players in the average rating table, an incredible feature for any team, let alone a newly promoted team.
Diego Campos was brought in as the first choice WB(A) as Carl Andersson needs more time to develop. I’ve included metrics for fullbacks and wingers to show how he performed as an attacking wingback.
The Costa Rican was outstanding. Campos led the league in every creative metric, including open-play key passes, open-play assists, and chances created. He completed the most dribbles, sprints, and successful pressures.
His metrics are impressive for a player with such average attributes. I’m curious how he will perform next season in the Allsvenskan.
These first three seasons felt like a big blur. I’ve never played through so many seasons this quickly. So much has happened that I couldn’t fit everything into this post. Otherwise, it would have been 15x longer! I have already begun working on a couple of posts. The next is on the club’s finances, and lastly, a recap of the main goal, signing and developing Central American players.
Thanks again for stopping by. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and on FM Slack for more updates on the save.