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Scandinavian Attackers are SO HOT Right Now

3 minute read Published October 26, 2023

What do Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle and Tottenham have in common? Top (arguably) teams in the Premier League? Sure. But, even more significantly, they all have a Scandinavian striker. As if that wasn’t enough, Arsenal's top scorer last season was also Scandinavian.

Manchester United are in the middle of a rebuild so they just got one this summer, you’ll have to forgive them for that, but last season the top scorer in all of those teams were Scandinavian (if you count Isak from when he joined the team.) So why is that?

Language and a Big Interest in the League

Well, first of all, everyone speaks the language. Scandinavian countries famously have the highest degree of English proficiency outside the English speaking world. Partly due to the languages being so small but also in part to stellar education systems.

According to the widely acknowledged EF English Proficiency Index Norway, Denmark and Sweden all place in the top ten in world wide English proficiency.  

The Premier League has also alway been the second largest league in all these countries, ever since way back when. So while kids from the rest of the world grow up wanting to play for Real Madrid or Barcelona, kids in Scandinavia grow up wanting to play for Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool.

Different Financial Starting Point

The economics of Scandinavian teams are very different from the big leagues in terms of international and domestic TV money, shirt sales and matchday receipts. This means Scandinavian teams operate with a smaller budget.

This means two things. First, clubs need to promote youth. Partly because youth players have lower salaries and partly because they need to sell on players to grow. And when big talent comes along, they’re given a lot of responsibility early. Last year for example, one of the leading players in Sweden's biggest clubs was 18 year old Hugo Larsson, who was sold to Frankfurt this summer for a national record fee of €9 million.

Erling Haaland, Martin Ödegaard and Alexander Isak all joined the senior squad of a first tier team before they turned 17. That kind of experience as well as the early adjustment to playing with fully grown players lets the players develop the skills that work in that setting and stop relying on skills that only work while playing with younger players.

Second, there’s no money for an extensive scouting network. Therefore, clubs need to search nationally, rather than internationally. Because of this most talented players will get scouted at some point. It also means that not so talented youngsters get more chances and late bloomers are therefore not neglected as they might for a league with an international pool of talent.

Stronger Teams and Leagues

Recently, the Scandinavian leagues and clubs have grown stronger by European club standards, especially the Danish. Midtjylland and FC Copenhagen play in the European competitions just about every year. Malmö FF or some other Swedish team regularly qualify, this year BK Häcken play in the Europa League.

And with the introduction of the UEFA Conference Cup even more teams and players will get the chance to both try their luck in Europe and get that experience, even at an early age.

With youth promoted to the first team early and the clubs making it to European competitions, young players get a lot of international experience, pretty early.

Final Thoughts

The Scandinavian countries have produced attacking talent for all the top teams in the Premier League. Clubs in these countries have to produce talent both to sell on and to be able to compete, no way they can buy the kind of talent that lets them even qualify for the European competitions.

Scandinavian kids also grow up watching the Premier League and getting a very good education, with high proficiency in English. Moving to a Premier League club 

Why attackers? To this there’s no clear answer. You could argue that a lot of young Swedes grew up wanting to be Zlatan or Norwegians looking up to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, but then there’s also a strong tradition of defensive players coming from the north.

Denmark, to be fair, is producing a lot of talented defensive players too. Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, and Jannik Vestergaard are all active in the top 5 leagues.

Maybe it’s just coincidence, timing.


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