In this series, we take a look at some of the most interesting young talents in the world of football. Next up is Norwegian side Tromsø’s 21-year old advanced midfielder August Mikkelsen.

The north of Norway might be an exposed, isolated and historically neglected footballing region. However, its two major teams Tromsø and Bodø/Glimt have always produced decent young talent. All the focus has been on Bodø/Glimt recently due to their supreme title win last season and players such as Jens Petter Hauge and Håkon Evjen making eye-catching remunerative moves to the European continent.

Their local rivals Tromsø have fallen on harder times with relegation from the Eliteserien in 2019 a particular low-light. However, an immediate bounce-back promotion means they have regained their position as the world's most northerly top-flight professional club. It is never particularly easy to attract players to a club so far north, so historically they have always leaned on their own home-grown talent. One of the latest stand-out young starlets is attacker August Mikkelsen, who has really made a big impression this season in the Eliteserien.

As a youngster, he was poached by Tromsø from local semi-professional outfit Tromsdalen. He was loaned there during the 2018 season but did not make many appearances. The next two years yielded more game time, but nothing significant. Even during the 2020 promotion campaign from the 2nd tier OBOS, Mikkelsen only played 345 total minutes. He was not a player particularly on the radar and most expectations placed him as a bench/impact player for Tromsø for the current 2021 campaign.

As is often the case, a lucky break gave him his chance. Tromsø lost striker Runar Espejord to injury in just the 32nd minute of the opening fixture. This was the opportunity Mikkelsen needed. He had now become effectively a converted striker and operated alongside a partner in a 3-5-2 system. He has not looked back and apart from when injured he has started every other Eliteserien match for Tromsø this season.

From a positional sense, Mikkelsen started off life as a winger. He is quite a small player, registering a height of just 1.67m. He has been converted into a more central position though, in between a striker and attacking midfielder. In today’s terminology, a False Nine or Trequartista is probably his best definition. Mikkelsen is not the type of player to lead the attacking line on his own and would probably struggle as a lone striker. However, alongside a more physical presence he has proven to be very useful.

Some of his biggest strengths are dribbling, agility, the ability to see a pass and an elusive nature which leads to him winning a lot of fouls. He ranks 16th in the league for dribbling per 90 mins, 14th for smart passes, 20th for progressive runs and 25th for through passes. Mikkelsen is the 2nd most fouled player in the Eliteserien this season, sometimes that has been the only way for the opposition to stop him.

August Mikkelsen – dribbles and ball progression maps

Mikkelsen’s strongest foot is his right. However, he has a reasonable left boot as well. He tends to operate slightly more on the left-hand side in the final third and this gives him the chance to cut inside the defense. Progressive runs and dribbles are a big part of his game and his excellent balance, quick burst of acceleration and being light on his feet are some of his biggest strengths. He could easily become a central attacking midfielder and play as a #10, with probably a shadow striker role fitting very well where he could run at the defense.

The young star is the second most fouled player in the Eliteserien, with only Haugesund’s Kristoffer Velde toppling him in this category. Obviously, winning fouls is a major positive for Tromsø with several free kicks in some very dangerous areas. It is noticeable how the opposition are going in hard on the player which shows how much they consider him to be dangerous. Mikkelsen has taken quite a few ‘kickings’ but has mostly stood up to this quite well considering his small physique. A good first touch combined with an ability to turn fast has often been the key to him winning fouls.

Considering he has been playing as part of a strike duo upfront, a return of just 5 goals in 20 starts might seem slightly on the low side. A lot depends on which position he ends up playing in. As aforementioned, Mikkelsen shouldn’t be considered as a genuine #9 type striker who can lead the line. He is definitely better in a deeper role, but it stands out how he has improved positionally as the season has progressed. He even recently scored a headed goal from closer range which felt more like a natural instinctive striker type of finish.

It is very noticeable that nearly all his shots on target in the last calendar year have been either centrally on goal or to the right. This is something he could work on in order to be less predictable, and more adaptable when presented with a shooting opportunity.

The future is obviously very bright for August Mikkelsen. Already, it feels like he has probably outgrown Tromsø, but at least one more season in the Norwegian Eliteserien would likely be beneficial. An ideal move for him would probably be to a bigger Norwegian team such as Molde or Rosenborg and that would be the next challenge to see how he performs with better players.

He is an adaptable attacker who can clearly fulfill several roles centrally or out wide. Long term there would be some question marks as to whether his small physique and stature could stand up in the really top leagues. One thing is for sure though, this is a player who will attract considerable interest after the excellent season he’s had.

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