As the temperatures continue to plummet and with daylight now a distant memory in Sweden, the domestic football season has officially entered hibernation mode.
But who won what, who went down and who caught the eye?
Let’s take a look at the story of Allsvenskan 2016…
Malmö FF brushed aside the disappointment of losing the league title to IFK Norrköping on the final day of the last campaign to wrestle back the Allsvenskan crown and claim their 22nd title, firmly reasserting themselves as the dominant force in Sweden once again.
Having been nip and tuck with IFK Norrköping for a large part of the year, Malmö effectively sealed the championship on match day 26 by winning at the home of their closest rivals, a near role reversal of what transpired last year.
However, despite regaining the Gold medal and fulfilling the season’s objectives, manager Allan Kuhn has since been sacked with players and supporters reportedly unhappy with the dreary style of play implemented by the Dane.
Malmö, with their new manager, will tackle the second qualifying round of the Champions League as Swedish Champions, aiming to qualify for the Group Stage for the second time in three years.
AIK Stockolm and IFK Norrköping, second and third respectively, will compete in the 2017/18 Europa League providing they progress through qualifying. Could one emulate IFK Göteborg’s famous UEFA Cup win back in 1987?
If the Malmö FF fans thought they had it tough winning the league whilst watching pedestrian football, spare a thought for the supporters of Falkenberg who watched their team concede 84 goals in 30 games on their way to a total points haul of 10, a goal difference of -59 and a 7-0 drubbing in their final game of a wretched season.
Joining them are Gefle who, despite winning their last three games, ultimately left themselves with too much to do and will play their football in Sweden’s second tier, the Superettan, next year.
The third and final relegation spot is always determined by a play off between 14th place in the Allsvenskan and 3rd position in the Superettan. This year pitted Henrik Larsson’s Helsingborg against Halmstad.
With the first leg in ending in a 1-1 draw, Helsingborg took charge of the second leg and the tie courtesy of Jordan Larsson (son of Henrik) after 82 minutes. However, a quickfire double from Halmstad’s defender Marcus Mathisen in the final three minutes clinched a famous win and an instant return to the top flight for Halmstad.
The manner of the defeat and subsequent relegation prompted disturbing scenes as a small army of Helsingborg supporters took to the pitch to assault Henrik Larsson’s son, Jordan, ripping off his shirt in the process. The masked ‘ultras’ also looked to attack Larsson Senior as emotions boiled over on a disastrous evening for the five-time Swedish champions and the legendary striker.
Stain on the Swedish game
As has been the case in several Allsvenskan games this year, the behaviour of so-called supporters has tarnished Swedish football somewhat.
Back in April, the fixture between IFK Göteborg and Malmö was abandoned after a firework exploded at the feet of a Malmö substitute warming up on the sidelines.
Even more alarming was the case of Östersunds goalkeeper Aly Keita who was quite unbelievably knocked to the ground by a masked intruder in their game at Jönköping in August. Again, the match was abandoned with police and match officials unable to guarantee the player’s safety, not for the first time this year.
John Owoeri of Häcken finished the season with 17 goals and the Golden Boot, capping a fine season for him personally despite Häcken’s mid-table finish.
Sebastian Andersson and Vidar Kjartansson of IFK Norrköping and Malmö respectively contributed 14 goals apiece to their teams title push with Andersson now the focal point of his side’s attack following the mid-season departure of Christoffer Nyman to German second division club Eintracht Braunschweig.
Who caught the eye?
Despite propelling a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic to prominence at the start of the millennium, The Allsvenskan isn’t the first place you’d expect to find scouts flocking to check out the latest talent.
However, a certain Alexander Isak of AIK Stockholm is causing quite a stir with some of the giants of European football chasing his signature.
Isak stands tall at 6 foot 3 inches but is by no means a one trick pony. A clear threat in the air, the striker is technically gifted and possesses a glorious first touch for a young man with a level of maturity beyond his 17 years.
Of his ten league strikes this year, half were the first goals in fiercely contested games – Isak has quickly become the figurehead of AIK despite his tender age.
With his natural ability and mental strength, many believe Isak is the real deal and is on course to assume the mantle of the new Swedish football star since ‘you know who.’
The Sweden under-21 international will most certainly leave Northern Europe in order to develop his career. Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain are hotly pursuing the youngster while it has emerged Arsenal are expected to make a bid for the young prodigy as soon as the January transfer window opens.
A move to one of the European super clubs is inevitable but AIK and Allsvenskan fans will hope Isak is still around come the start of the new season in April 2017.