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The new Troll kids
By Tore Aune Fjellstad, 30 March 2008, 13:26

With the potentially exciting season looming just ahead, how will Trond Henriksen lay the foundations for a new championship side?

Photo: Thomas Karlsen

"Stability is always a challenge with a young team like ours, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. We have young players who are hungry for success - and then we also have some old warhorses, who will create a feeling of safety and act as tutors and continuity carriers," Henriksen says to

How would you summarise this year's pre-season?

"There have been some good, some poor, but no truly awful matches. To some extent, each match has been a mixed bag - one good half, one bad. We did all right in our two match-ups against Fiorentina, there was only one half of football there that I'm dissatisfied with - especially when you consider what team we were up against.

"We came into the Helsingborg game with a number of injuries. We did well during the first half, but poorly in the second. Still, we managed to stay level and score a late winner. Against Aalesund we were looking good, but even there we didn't do as good in the second half. We've studied the game on video, and one of the reasons is that we became reckless and very vulnerable for counter attacks. Still, we came away victorious. The results have been all right, but I want an improvement in our play in the final third of the pitch, and more goals. It would also bee good if we can continue to avoid too many goals against like we have done lately."

Last season the team looked tired towards the end of some matches. Was the physical condition of the players too poor?

"It's a bit hard to say. So far this year we have scored a number of goals in the finishing minutes of a game, and I hope we can keep that up when the season starts in earnest."

A sign that the players' fitness has been improved?

"I don't think we've trained this hard for many years. Hopefully it will enable us to maintain stability, keep our work rate up throughout the math, and get some late-match deciders."

Home, sweet home
Why did you switch to a 4-4-2 system this autumn?

"As of today we have a squad that is more powerful playing with two rather then three forwards. I think we're more unpredictable now, because we're also not completely relying on the diamond shaped midfield. We can switch to the flat midfield formation, and we always have the opportunity to go back to the 4-3-3 and 4-5-1 formations we know so well."

Why did you choose the flat midfield formation in some of the away matches during pre-season?

"The diamond formation necessitates a lot of running and makes it difficult to cover defensive gaps against other good 4-4-2 teams. The flat four includes more of a zonal principle, which makes it easier to defend against opponents entering your zone."

Will you continue using the flat four on away days?

"We'll see. I think we'll try a little bit of both to get comfortable with them."

Last season RBK suffered eight losses out of thirteen on away matches. What are you going to do about that?

"At times we may have to play differently from what we do at home, to be better suited against different opponents. Also, we are hopefully better trained this season, increasing our stability on away pitches. When you get tangled up like we did last year the players' mentality is affected too. Thankfully we managed to turn the tide towards the end of the season and will not bring it into this one. We won the last away match against Aalesund, and we also won in Valencia. Throughout the winter we've looked good on away pitch, and this season that trend will continue."

Roles to fill
How is the offensive play working?

"We have been trying different approaches and switched players around a bit, but I feel that we are quite confident about how we want to play. Every single player on the team knows how we want to play.

More specifically; how do you want RBK to play?

"The only major difference from earlier is that now, we have two instead of three forwards. We always aim for width, by creating 2-against-1 situations and getting around on their sides. The movement is a bit different in 4-4-2, especially for the side backs, because of the lack of wingers."

How would you define Sapara's role?

"He is a attacking midfielder, which we also tried in 4-3-3 by turning the "midfield V shape" upside down. But he can also play as side midfielder."

Do you see Konan and Skjelbred as alternatives in Sapara's role?

"We do have clearly defined roles for each player, but we also have many players who can fill more than one position. So we're not completely reliant on Marek playing in this position."

Last year it took some trial and testing before Tettey was declared midfield anchor man. Does he now have you full confidence?

"Tettey can fill different roles, but for the most part he will probably play in the central position. Whether Tettey plays as sole anchor man or as one of two will depend on each game."

Where on the midfield do you want to use Savolainen?

"Juska can also play in the same role. He's done very well in Tettey's absence, and he's clearly a man to be reckoned with in the upcoming season. But he can also be played as side midfielder."

Where does Pelu fit in?

"He is quick, good on the ball and a goalgetter. He will be played to his best as a side midfielder, center forward or as a 4-3-3 winger. At the moment he is preferred in the centre forward position."

New defence
How did Demidov do the transition from 1st division to UEFA Cup with such apparent ease?

"Some players adjust quickly to the level they're played at, and Demi is one of them. He has a lot of confidence in his own abilities and firmly believes that he can cut it. I think that's an important ability when you do the switch to a large club like ours. You gotta have a little modesty when you come from a small-time club, but you have to want to contribute from day one."

How does he and Kvarme complement each other? Are they too similar?

"No, I don't think they are. Both are good in one-on-one duels, but Demi is also very calm on the ball and good at passing it forward. Beto, on the other hand, is clearly better defensively than in the attacking play. So far they've complemented each other well. Beto with his routine and authority aids Demi and makes him a better player. That's how we want it. If we have a veteran in each part of the team, they will be the natural leaders and mentors in their roles."

Kvarme and Basma have been susceptible to injuries in the past. Reason for some worry?

"No, I can't live in fear that our players are going to be injured. Beto has been through a solid pre-season with a lot of hard training, and has come to no harm so far. We're a little more careful with the older players who have some previous injury problems. If they feel something on the way we pick them out of regular training."

How does it affect you that no "big fish" has been added to the central defenders' ranks this time either?

"I only care about the players I have at my disposal, and won't dwell on the ones I don't have. Lago has done major strides lately, and we also have Andreas Nordvik."

How would you compare Jarstein to Hirschfeld?

"They are two completely different keepers, really. I guess Rune's strong suits are exactly the things Lars was poorer at. I'd really not like to talk too much about the goalies, as they're Jørn Jamtfall's responsibility. He leads them through training every day, and he's the one I consult when choosing keeper."

Jarstein has been giving some dangerous bounces lately. Is this something you focus on in training?

"Of course, he'll have to avoid giving those bounces, but you'd better talk to Jørn."

How is Aas and Berbatovci going to be matched this season?

"They are a part of a good training group in the first team squad. Their arena will primarily be 2nd division, with the possibilities of being played as subs in our Tippeliga matches if they develop in the way we would like them to."

Are you going to let them play more than just the last couple minutes of a match?

"That will depend on each single match and the players we have at our disposal. We may have just one forward available for one match and four to choose between in the next. Injuries and form will be the deciding factors."

Come fall, what will it take for you to be happy about the 2008 season?

"We must have played well in every single match, and of course tried winning most of them. We never like to lose, at least I don't. Our goal is to qualify for European competitions every season, which means we have to make it to the top 3."

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