Hamrén on attacking
By Tore Aune Fjellstad, 15 March 2009, 17:33
In their budget, Rosenborg operates with expected player sales during the summer, but competition among the forwards is now so great that Erik Hamrén will be looking to his own ranks for replacements.
What are your thoughts on the collective attacking structures and flow of play during the winter?
"It's a mixed bag. At times not so good, at times very good. Our aspiration is that we will continually improve our teamwork. As I've mentioned earlier we always work on the collective side of our play, but this winter we've also had extra focus on physical and technical training. Now, during March, we will be focusing more on tactics."
"We can't realistically expect everything to go according to plan in every match. More importantly, we can't expect everything to work perfectly from match day one. Take a look at any league anywhere in the world: it usually takes a while for the good teams to hit their stride. If you look at [Manchester] United, the best team in Europe, they're rarely at the top of their game when the season starts. But they still good enough to win matches. This will also be our goal on days when we aren't performing to our best. If you want to be a top side, you'll still want to grab a point and preferably win even those matches."
You've switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders and a lone striker. Does this have the biggest bonus defensively or offensively?
"It's hard to say decisively, but to me they're related. If you're good on the offense, chances are you're also good in defence. And vice versa. If you're solid at the back this will often translate to good offensive play. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? If you want to be a successful team you have to be good at both."
How is the Tettey-Annan constellation on defensive midfield coming along?
"At times they cooperate really well, and at times not quite so well - as you can expect during pre-season. Their level of success will vary on occasion also throughout the season, rarely is anything all bad or all good. Overall, though, I'm satisfied. They're starting to gel. There's a bit of challenge for players to find each other in the triangle between Sapara, Tettey and Annan, and to find their rhythm both on the offence and on the defence. The more work we put into it, the more games we play, the more their game will improve."
How are Tettey's and Annan's roles defined individually?
"I don't want to go into details on this, as we want our opponents to learn this first hand. But if things go according to plan, Tettey's role will be slightly more offensive than Annan's. But even that can be varied throughout".
Tettey does have good offensive qualities.
"He does, and he showed this during our game in Stavanger. He was very creative last season, and we do our very best to help him improve even more. As I pointed out last season, we have to get more goals from our midfielders. Per and Tettey both have room for improvements in that regard, and this is something we're spending a lot of effort on. It was great for Tettey to score that goal."
"The match against Viking saw us score five goals, four of which came from midfielders. This is very good. If we can keep that up we'll be one of the top sides for sure."
Counting, then, Olsen as a midfielder: He seems to have added an extra dimension to the team.
"So far he has delivered exactly what we were hoping for when we bought him. We knew that he would be involved in creating goals, and so far he has even bagged a few of his own - he scored the winning goal against Stabæk, and was involved in several of the five goals against Viking. He is fitting really well into the team."
What are your thoughts on Skjelbred's role on the other wing?
"Well, we have several alternatives - Roar can play there as well. We'll be better off with some alternatives to choose between. Roar and Per will have more similar roles, as opposed to Trond. They're more like side midfielders than Trond's pure outside wing role. I think this will suit us well. We'll be looking to exploiting their "good foot", which I think is a wonderful, prevailing phrase here in Trondheim and Rosenborg."
One alternative might be Sapara and Skjelbred trading roles.
"We played Marek on side midfield when I arrived last year, mostly because I didn't think he had the necessary physique to play centrally. We received some criticism for this, so I'm slightly surprised that you bring it up."
"But yes, Marek can play on the side. We'll have to see. So far this spring we've only played 4-2-3-1, while we only did a 4-4-2 diamond last autumn. Now we have added Rade Prica to the team, and if we can get him going we'll have to very good forwards and might use them both on the pitch."
"This will increase the competition among the midfielders as to who will actually make it to the starting 11. We have some alternatives, and I feel good about that. We have a lot of quality players, and a quality player can usually play in more than one position. And then we also have some experts, to use that expression, who are mainly meant to use their main area expertise, in which they really excel."
Will Sapara be moving to the outside when Skjelbred cuts inside from his side position?
"We're aiming towards a flexible attack with plenty of mobility."
Do you think Olsen will be equally effective in a more drawn back role in the 4-4-2 formation?
"We want to make the whole team play to its full potential, not any one individual player. The players will have to accept this. Sometimes they have to accept that they may be left out of the starting eleven, especially when you have so many quality players to choose between. If things go well and we perform according to our ambition, we will be playing a great many games. This means we can't use the same eleven every match. If we can also vary our mode of play it will be even harder on our opponents."
"This is why we don't want to lock on to one specific system. Replace one player and it may well be that the team will then function better in a different system. We'll have to focus on what we have to do to make the team as strong as possible, not any individual player: "Play like this and Trond Olsen will excel, but the team won't function". Having said that; the better we are individually, the better we can become as a team. We will try to utilise each players main forces - the "good foot". If we can accomplish this we have a great many quality players. Still, it's challenging."
Pelu, Konan and Sellin all tried their luck as lone strikers during Iversen's injury absence. How did this work out?
"There were upsides and downsides, as always during pre-season. For instance, John had a great game against Krylia, but fell through against Fredrikstad and Stabæk. "Didi" has made a good impact coming in from the bench against Stabæk and Viking. "Kjella" has been given some first play experience, and he has developed as a player, his first touch has improved especially. Still, he has a whole lot yet to learn in the game situation. Overall, I think they have made good efforts. Recently we have added another striker, Rade Prica, and this means more competition for these players."
So you mainly view Pelu and Konan as striker alternatives?
"Well, mostly. Until now we've had to do without Steffen, and Rade Prica just arrived. This means that the three abovementioned have been our only forward choices, and John Pelu and "Didi" have been neck and neck all the way. When we substituted Steffen in the game against Viking, it was never a given which of the two would be playing in the second half. "Kjella" has also done well, but he is more of a long-term alternative - he needs more experience."
"Now Steffen is on his way back from his injury, and we have bought another striker. "Didi" and John are both real alternatives in the side forward positions."
While in ASEC Abidjan, Konan mainly played in the offensive central midfielder position. In Rosenborg he has only played in this position in a couple of friendlies.
"He's had some chances in that position with us, but I think he suits us better on the sides or as a striker."
Roy Miller, on the other hand, has been repositioned to midfielder during the winter.
"He was just returning from an injury when we went to the Canary Islands, and he was really impressive there. He is a great footballer. He has great awareness and keeps his cool in a tight spot, which he will have to do in a crowded midfield. He is calm on the ball, and I think he has done well defensively even if, like in the back position, he will benefit from adding some aggression.
"Like I've mentioned earlier, a good footballer can play in more than one position. He is clear evidence of this. He took his chance, and has shown us that he is a definite contender in central midfield. He will also be considered for side midfield and winger positioning.
"There is a lot of competition in midfield. If we use 4-2-3-1 there's five positions to fill, and in my view there are mainly six contenders: the five we fielded in our last game, plus Roar. In addition, Abdou is starting to really step up and has developed a really professional approach in training. He's gained a lot of focus - the talent has always been present. He's a small step behind the six others, but he is coming along."
"Then there's Juska [Savolainen], well on his way back from his injuries. We have Roy, who has shown his worth. We also have Pål [André Helland], who looks interesting and possesses some unique qualities; he has some amazing shots. But his case is similar to Kjell Rune's; the coming season will be more a learning experience, although he has done well when given the opportunity. Also, we have Demidov, who can also play midfield. There's fierce competition, which is good."
The budget suggests some sales during the summer, and midfielders seem to be the hottest commodity. Does the level of competition indicate that there will be less need to acquire replacements if someone is to leave the roster?
"Indeed, we're hoping to further develop the players already at the club. This way, if we should sell a player we won't necessarily have to buy another one immediately. We have plenty of alternatives. It could be tough, because if we avoid injuries there will always be a lot of good players confined to the bench. But at least we know that we need not panic if a player is on his way out - we know that there's one at least as good remaining behind."
"As a coach I'd rather not sell anyone, I'd prefer to keep each one in order to improve the team. But in reality you have to sell players some times. There's a need both with the club and among the players."
Do you think there's a risk that RBK will "sell off" their chances of medals or gold?
"No, during January I think the board showed that there's no such risk. We chose to retain focus on the game, even if we could have sold and made a number of millions. A club shows a lot of strength when it can choose when to sell - or not to sell."