The champions and the challengers

Umeå IK
Everything points in favour of Umeå - organisation, finances and of course players. Every single player in Umeå's starting eleven would be a key player in almost any other team. It will take a lot for Umeå to fail. Not even longer injuries for one or two players should hurt the team much. A minor reservation though; UIK had, player for player, a better team than Djurgården/Älvsjö, but still lost the championship both 2003 and 2004 and lost the cup final 2005.

Player transfers: They lost most of their bench, but replaced those players with another bunch of talented youngsters, some of the best they could find in Sweden and Norway. Frida Östberg and Jessica Julin (who left already last summer) was pushed out from their preferred midfield positions by the competition from Mäkinen and Elaine, and has now moved to Linköping and Kopparbergs/Göteborg, where they are important players. Norwegian national team star Lise Klaveness was signed after Umeå had closed the door, just because they couldn't turn down such a great player.
In: Lise Klaveness (Asker), Lisa Dahlqvist (KIF Örebro), Johanna Frisk (Bälinge IF), June Pedersen (Grand Bodö), Emma Berglund (Umedalen)
Out: Maria Nordbrandt (Sunnanå SK), Kristina Wiklund (Sunnanå SK), Emma Lindqvist (Bälinge IF), Frida Östberg (Linköpings FC)

Preseason: Somewhat limited matching due to the cold winter. Undefeated against regular competition (Jitex, Göteborg, Sunnanå), dominating without scoring any huge numbers. Lise Klaveness has impressed in an Anne Mäkinen midfield position. With Hanna Ljungberg still on the injury list, they have even tried a 4-4-2 once, but they've got enough good forwards to be able to go with their usual 4-3-3.

Video clip: Umeå training in horrible weather and Malin Moström saying that the team is better than ever. Coach André Jeglertz says the championship stays in Umeå.

The challengers:

The former champions had a tough season last year (finishing 3rd in the league, playing UEFA Cup final and winning the domestic cup would have been a glorious season for almost anybody else) with tired players, lots of injuries and sometimes a lack of real dedication. A large number of players retired or semi-retired after the season, but the club found some great replacements in Norway, where they picked up Bente Nordby, Katrine Pedersen and Dorte Dalum Jensen. That should take care of the defense, but their major problem last year was goalscoring. The team depends very much on Victoria Svensson in the offense, and she must be (and stay) fit. Djurgården's coach Benny Persson promises she's been better than ever this preseason. They really should find someone to replace Sara Johansson, though.

Player transfers: Loads of skill and experience in Nordby, Pedersen and Jensen. Definitely a step up compared to the leaving goalkeeper Maja Åström and retiring defenders like Jenny Curtsdotter and Helen Fagerström. The rest of the new players are young ones, mostly from Djurgården's cooperation clubs in the Stockholm area.
In: Bente Nordby (Asker), Dorte Dalum Jensen (Asker), Katrine Pedersen (Flöya), Malin Engdahl (Bollstanäs), Pernilla Ebberyd (Bollstanäs), Mimmi Nordlander-Andersson (Älvsjö), Jenny Dannberg (Älvsjö), Sofia Simonsson (Alviks IK)
Out: Maja Åström (Bälinge IF), Sara Johansson (Hammarby IF), Jenny Curtsdotter (retiring), Helen Fagerström (retiring), Venus James (back to USA), Malin Nykvist (retiring), Jill Buchwald (AIK), Annica Svensson (Hammarby)

Preseason: Undefeated over 7 matches, including Norway's champions and runners-up, and scoring big numbers against lower level teams. Major problem seems to be losing both Dorte Dalum and Jane Törnqvist to injury.

Video clip: Djurgården/Älvsjö will try to get bigger crowds (a disappointing 622 avarage last year) by  trying internationally themed matches.

Malmö FF
After losing three starters and national team players (and not being able to replace any of them) before the 2005 season and battling with troubled finances, almost everyone had Malmö a long way from a title challenge. But they made their best season since their title winning one some 12 years ago. Team spirit seems to have played a big part. A seasoned player like Malin Andersson said she's never had so much fun playing and wouldn't have exchanged that experience for a gold. This year they are losing 4 starters, three of them national team players, and are still troubled by their finances. A new coach, Jörgen Petersson, has introduced a more fitness-based training and wants to have a faster game pace with more players pushing forward in the attacks than Malmö traditionally has had. The team is in a generation change and their success will depend a lot on how players like Malin Levenstad (17 years) and Dora Stefansdottir (20) manages to replace retired seniors like Denise Reddy and Malin Andersson.

Player transfers: With Malmö's financial situation it is surprising that they managed to present Everton's and England's Rachel Unitt with what she thought was a great offer. She still turned it down to focus in England's World Cup qualification campaign. Malmö did not move on to other big names; "If you need a left-footed defender, you don't suddenly sign a forward instead", coach Petersson commented. Malmö has mostly signed young local players, several from their own youth program, but also Iceland's Dora Stefansdottir.
In: Dora Stefansdottir (Valur), Emma Wilhelmsson (Öster), Matilda Åkerberg (Gislaved), Lina Nilsson (Sjöbo), Johanna Rosén (Kristanstad/Wä), Emelie Ölander and Lina Rehov (Malmö FF youth)
Out: Charlotte Persson (Husie), Malin Andersson (retiring), Sara Stålhammar (retiring?), Formiga (back to Brazil), Denise Reddy (retiring)

Preseason: Lost their first match, against Norwegian champions Kolbotn, but defeated Denmark's Brøndby and Scotland's national team. Doesn't really look very good playing, but still manages to win. Some of the youngsters have been impressing, though, Levenstad for one.

Video clip: Malmö training in reasonable weather, talk about the new team, questions from the fan club chair(wo)man to players.

Linköping FC
So far Djurgården and Malmö has been the only teams in Damallsvenskan that goes to Umeå with the intention to win. If Linköping wants to join them as challengers, they need get rid of the feeling of inferiority that makes them grateful for the lesson after losing to Umeå. Instead they should be angry and disappointed. I guess this is part of the reason why the club signed Frida Östberg. The other part is of course that they needed a defensive midfielder. The team, more or less unchanged, is a year older and a year more experienced than last year and contributes to the national team with more players than any other club. With a bit more attitude on the pitch (you can find loads of it off-pitch) they might move from winning the race in the middle to actually competing with the top.

Player transfers: Frida Östberg from Umeå IK, in competition with among others KIF Örebro, is their most important signing since they promoted. Apart from that, they've replaced a retiring experienced defender (Malin Gustafsson) with a younger but still experienced defender from Qbik and picked up a few talents, Petra Larsson the most promising.
In: Marie-Louise Skålberg (QBIK), Frida Östberg (Umeå IK), Petra Larsson (Ornäs BK), Camilla Johansson (BK Kenty), Frida Carlswärd (BK Kenty)
Out: Therese Andersson (Jitex), Malin Gustafsson (retiring)

Preseason: Linköping has played most of the middle and lower Damallsvenskan teams and all wins except one draw, but with rather close numbers. Defense seems to have worked better than attack so far.

Video clip: Svt talks to Frida Östberg on why she moved to Linköping ("a new challenge, new motivation"), and Linköpings chances ("looking very good") and the future ("a world cup gold and hopefully one with Linköping too).

Posted by: hagabo i exil

Excellent sammanställning (eh.. review?)!

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What hagabo said. And I look forward to an angry Östberg.

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