After a shocking relegation in 2021, Bergen-based club SK Brann are having an incredible comeback into the top tier of Norwegian football, with the chance of winning silverware in the Norwegian Cup final later this season.

Brann are one of the biggest and best-supported clubs in Norway. Located in the beautiful picture-postcard city of Bergen, this is a club with magnificent potential which has perhaps underachieved down the years. They have suffered some hardships in the last few seasons especially but are now thriving back in the Eliteserien. Brann are also in the Norwegian Cup final which takes place in mid-May. Find out how a club who were brutally relegated in 2021 have rebounded so well in such a short space of time.

Peaks and Troughs in Recent Years

Brann finished in the top five places for three consecutive seasons between 2016 and 2018. It looked like they were back where they wanted to be as a club and mid-way through the 2018 season, they were top of the table, unbeaten with 10 wins from 14 games. Then came the infamous Erling Braut Haaland moment of four goals in the first 21 mins to break Brann hearts against Molde. From that moment on, things spiraled downwards. They eventually finished 3rd that year and then slipped to a disappointing 9th in 2019.

Key defeat in 2018 losing 0-4 at home to Molde

During the COVID-hit year, the following campaign Lars Arne Nilsen was sacked and Kare Ingebrigsten took over. It was the start of a terrible 12 months. Former Rosenborg manager Eirik Horneland took over midway through 2021 and despite only losing 5 out of 17 league games, he couldn’t keep Brann up as they lost 11-12 in a penalty shootout in the playoff match.

Record-Breaking Obos Ligaen Points Total

Brann were the overwhelming favorite to win the second-tier OBOS in 2022, but nobody expected their dominance to be so extensive. They won a remarkable 26 out of 30 games and finished with a record-breaking 81 points. Statistically, Brann were top of nearly all significant metrics. They scored a massive 95 goals and had an xG figure of 87. At the other end of the field, their xGA was just 21.28. They completely smashed the opposition to pieces.

Impressive attacking and defensive metrics in OBOS Ligaen 2022

Tactical System

Brann operate in a 4-3-3 formation which is a high possession and high press system. Their PPDA numbers in the OBOS last season were ridiculously low (6.49) but they have been able to replicate that in the Eliteserien so far this season (7.38). It’s only a five-game sample size but it looks like the transformation back to top-tier football may well be quite comfortable. Brann rank highest for possession and in the top three for progressive runs and deep completions. The fullbacks really make up some ground and attacking players are encouraged to receive the ball close to the opponent’s goal.

Typical Brann 4-3-3 formation and lineup this season

High Press System, but Is It Sustainable?

There have been several reasons why Brann have enjoyed success in the last 18 months, but their strong pressing style must be considered the most striking aspect of their style. They have the third-highest challenge intensity of any team (6.60) and a PPDA (Passes allowed Per Defensive Action) of 7.38, which shows just how much they harass the opposition. Two examples below in matches vs Rosenborg and Bodo Glimt demonstrate how especially in the first half their pressing is to a crazy high level.

The big question mark is how sustainable this is. It’s noticeable in the last 20 mins vs Bodo Glimt that they allowed a much higher PPDA as their press dropped off. Coincidently, it was during that period that Glimt scored their two goals. Over the course of individual matches, it can be really hard to keep up this sort of style.

Brann PPDA vs Rosenborg (2-0)
Brann PPDA vs Bodø/Glimt (2-2)

Key Player – Ruben Kristiansen

Ruben Kristiansen was criticized greatly and described by many in the media as ‘finished’. Now at 35 years of age, manager Eirik Horneland has completely re-vitalized him and retrained Kristensen from left-back to center-back. His aging legs did not suit that wider role anymore, but his vast experience, teamwork and leadership have been key.

So far in the Eliteserien this season he ranks in the top 10 for defensive duels, offensive duels and progressive runs. No player has had more passes per 90 mins than him and his distribution of the ball and positioning has been excellent. He has been a fantastic success story of a player towards the end of his career who has been re-vitalised by the manager making some tactical and coaching changes.

Highlighting Ruben Kristiansen's passing and ball progression (from Wyscout Player Report)

Key Player - Bård Finne

The spearhead to the Brann offense, Finne is another player whom the manager has got the most out of. He was the top scorer in the OBOS Ligaen last season despite only starting half the games. Finne was often unleashed off the bench to make a huge impact if and when required. It’s clear he is the number one striker at the club right now though and an indisputable starter.

Finne ranks first for shots per game (5.72) and for touches in the penalty area (11.22) for any player in the Eliteserien so far this season. Nobody has ever doubted his technique, but he has at times underachieved in his career. Finne is a key cog in the Brann wheel, and we can expect him to hit double digits of goalscoring again this season.

Highlighting Bård Finne's finishing and xG distribution (from Wyscout Player Report)

Optimistic Future

There are a lot of eyes on Brann this season. There almost feels like an ‘overhype’ compared to what is realistically possible. Several pundits in preseason suggested they would compete for a medal position or even for the Eliteserien crown. Overall, this must be classed as a positive though. It almost feels like there needs to be some sort of hype surrounding Brann to get the best out of them. The city is once again in love with its football team which is great to see.

Brann have a Norwegian Cup final on May 20th vs Lillestrøm. The winner will be in the Europa Conference League for the 2023/24 campaign. Brann fans might need to update their passports because an overseas adventure is very possible. It would be the net step of a very quick renaissance and a team literally rising from the ashes.

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