FK Bodø/Glimt 2020 Season Tactical Analysis

A full breakdown of Bodø/Glimt's historic title winning season looking at the playing style and tactical concepts employed by coach Kjetil Knutsen.


Bodø/Glimt dominated the Eliteserien in 2020, winning the league for the first time in the clubs history. They won 26 out of the 30 matches whilst only losing once, finishing on a total of 81 points. 19 more than second placed Molde. Achieving this feat by scoring 103 goals and finishing the season with a positive goal difference of 71. This is arguably the greatest Norwegian team ever. They broke the record for most wins in a season, biggest title winning margin, most home wins, most away wins, most goals scored in a season, best goal difference in a season and most points in a season among others.

FK Bodø/Glimt achieved all this with the youngest squad in the Eliteserien with an average age of just 24. The youth of the Glimt side showed, with there never ending energy and fearlessness. Jens Petter Hauge was 20 years of age for the most of the season before he was bought by AC Milan after lighting up the San Siro in the Europa League qualifier against them. He was the poster boy of this golden generation at FK Bodø/Glimt.

Its a sudden rise to the top of Norwegian football as it was only three years ago they were promoted to the top tier. It was head coach Aasmund Bjørkan who got them promoted, Knutsen was his assistant coach at the time. In 2018 Aasmund Bjørkan was appointed sporting director of the club and Kjetil Knutsen was promoted to head coach. In 2019 Knutsen surprisingly achieved a second place finish and won Eliteserien coach of the year as a result. This is a feat he then replicated in 2020 when his Bodø/Glimt side bettered themselves and finished one place better than the season before.

Main Playing Style

Knutsen’s playing style revolved around dominating the ball using a positional play system in possession and counter pressing the opposition using a high block out of possession. The system employed was simple, effective and very well drilled. The players understood their roles in every phase of play and executed these to perfection. Above is the most common lineup used in the Eliteserien.

The most common change to the system was with the centre backs. When Høibråten was out, Lode would shift across to the left sided spot and Moe would come in as the right centre back. Which is noticeable in Lode’s heatmap.

Bodø/Glimt used a 4-3-3 in possession and a 4-5-1/4-1-4-1 out of possession. When they had the ball they stayed very wide and spaced out, This allows their positional play to work. Below is a team radar of FK Bodø/Glimt compared to all other Eliteserien teams. Explaining quite how dominant they were is hard with just words, so I thought this radar would give you an idea of the complete dominance they had in the 2020 season. This radar below shows us that Glimt created an abundance of dangerous scoring opportunities by accumulating a total of 78.57xG throughout the whole season. They also created 0.157xG per shot and scored an insane 3.25 goals per 90.

It also shows how they controlled the game with the ball. Knutsen’s team averaged 61.4% possession with a high of 75.29% against Aalesund. The opponents averaged a PPDA of 17.03 against them and Bodø/Glimt had a passing rate of 14.3, which is the passes per minute of possession. They moved the ball about at such a pace that the opposition just couldn’t get near Glimt. This was due to their positional play and how they always stuck to their principles. Staying wide and offering offensive depth at all times. They stretched teams and they couldn’t deal with it.

Defensively Bodø/Glimt like to take the initiative. They had the second highest PPDA (Passes Per Defensive Action) and the second highest challenge intensity in the league, as shown in the above team radar. They were aggressive and ferocious defensively, squeezing the opposition into their own half. Despite the high press by Glimt they didn’t leave themselves completly open at the back. Knutsen’s well oiled machine had the least expected goals against with 34.57 and only conceded 32 goals, the best defensive record in the league.

Defensive Style

Knutsen wanted to squeeze the opposition into their own half as much as possible. Glimt used a high block when possible and pressed the opponents relentlessly. The following clip shows just how high Bodø/Glimt were willing to push up. Bjørkan the left back, number 5, is just outside the penalty area covering the right winger from receiving cleanly. They forced the opposition long so often. Another common outcome of the constant pressure was the opposition defenders making a mistake. Glimt scored many goals after intercepting a pass or nicking the ball of the defenders high up the pitch. Once they recovered that ball high up the pitch they were ruthless and took no mercy in front of goal.

This pressure often started as soon as they lost the ball. Counter pressing the opponent was a major part of their game. It stopped the opposing players from having time to look and play a good ball into the space left in behind. Delayed the counter attack and often meant they won possession back to start another barrage of attacks. This video clip below is an example of their counter pressing.

As soon as Glimt lose the ball the players have such positive reactions and immediately switch their minds into winning the ball back. The players press with purpose and have the positional awareness to cover each other if necessary. Two key things happen in this video as well as pressing. When the ball is lost the two wide defenders make inward diagonal runs to stay compact and force the opposition as wide as they can. The other point is the understanding of when to press and when to delay. Glimt’s right back executed this perfectly and delayed the player on the ball while others pressed him, rushing him into a decision and ultimately a poor pass as a result.

When they are pushed back into a mid block they stayed in their compact 4-1-4-1. The holding midfielder would often vary his position creating a 4-5-1 at times. A situation depicted in the above image. If the opposition were not moving the ball forward quickly, one of the central midfielders would push to press with the striker. The holding midfielder would step into his place creating a momentary 4-4-2 out of possession. Below is an example of this.

Build Up Phase

The most common shape Glimt take up in the build up phase is a 2-3-2-3. The front three pin the opposition defensive line back. Meaning the opposition defenders cannot help without leaving space. This allows FK Bodø/Glimt numerical superiority in the build up. They make sure to make the most of this and use it too devastating effect. Below are the passing lanes created by using this shape in the build up. The amount of passing triangles the 4-3-3 creates is one of the reasons it is so widely used. This graphic showcases the passing lanes and passing triangles presented to the players in the build up phase.

A positional play system has a main principle of creating numerical superiority and using this to find the free man to progress than ball unopposed, pulling the opposition out of shape. If done effectively its a relatively simple concept yet incredibly effective. Glimt made 1000 progressive runs in the 2020 season, the team with the next most had 610, almost half of Bodø/Glimt’s tally. Per 90 minutes they make 31.6 progressive runs which is double the league average in the Eliteserien. This is because of their ability to create and find the free man in the build up, as well as their fitness and the players wanting to make the hard yards. They so often just outran their opponents which was especially evident in the two transition phases.

The below video clip shows their principles in action. As you can see the two fullbacks are keeping their width along with the wingers, stretching the opponents. All the other players have maintained positional discipline, meaning the opposition cannot squeeze and press without being vulnerable to a switch of play.

The centre back, left back and left central midfielder then solve the 3v2 using the triangle they have created. They use this to draw the opponents onto them, creating space for a pass into the centre mid which broke the line of pressure. The left back, Bjørkan, then overlapped and they used their 2v1 perfectly. Waiting for the right moment to release the ball and finding the free man to make a progressive run.

Attacking Phase

In the middle and final third FK Bodø/Glimt form a 2-3-5 shape. Not too dissimilar from the shape and positioning Guardiola’s City have used. If the play develops quickly then we often see the 2-3-5 formed from the the wingers, Hauge and Zinckernagel staying out wide. The two 8s, Saltnes and Fet push up into the half spaces with Junker remaining in the middle. The two full backs come inside to form the line of 3 with Berg in the centre.

This 2-3-5 shape was also constructed by different players. If the build up was patient and they couldn’t break the lines in their own third. Then the wingers would often come inside into the half spaces. The 8s would drop to make a midfield three with Berg once again in the center. The width must be maintained at all times so the full back’s took on this responsibility positioning themselves high and wide. The 2-3-5 shape that Knutsen wanted to create in the attacking phase was the most important, it didn’t necessarily matter who occupied which position. For example, Saltnes would drop into the midfield line, Hauge would come inside into the left half space and Bjørkan would go out to the touchline. The variations of this one shape were endless and caused the opposition a lot of confusion as they didn’t know who to mark.

Above shows how the shape actually formed on the pitch in a game. The overhead graphic clearly shows us the positioning. The two advanced 8s, Saltnes and Fet in this example, have positioned themselves in the right and left half spaces between the full back and centre back on either side. They are also positioned in between the lines. Saltnes’s receiving ability in this left half space is especially excellent. The positioning of the front three means the centre backs and full backs cannot step up to pressure them without leaving gaps. The Glimt defenders ability and willingness to carry the ball forward meant that the opposing central midfielders had to step up to press, opening the passing lane to the advanced 8s.

Lode’s ability in particular to bring the ball out of defense and progress it if the opposition didn’t press him was outstanding. He also has the ability of knowing just when to release the ball. Above is an example of this maneuver where Bodø/Glimt scored from.

Third man runs are a key component of Bodø/Glimt’s attacking phase. It unlocks the defense and is almost undefendable when performed correctly. A key weapon coached by Knutsen and requires a collective understanding and recognition of the situation. The example below shows how Glimt use the third man run to open up the opponents. They go from having the ball with a centre back to driving at the opposing back line in 5 touches from 5 separate players. The collective game understanding is extremely difficult and requires a high level of cognitive demands.

The positional structure of the players already identified shows the amount of triangles present in their shape. This allows and opens up the possibility for many third man runs and is why they are a key weapon in Knutsen’s arsenal. The passing rate previously mentioned in the team radar also is explained by this. The ball can be moved quickly via one and two touches because of the constant passing options available to the players due to their positional play.

Although Glimt kept the width at all times and slow attacks often ended up in wide areas. They only crossed 14.41 time per 90, the 6th least in the Eliteserien. Opting for short sharp combination play on the edge of the oppositions box. Even though they didn’t cross the ball as often as other teams, they were very good at it when they did. They had the 5th highest cross accuracy and crosses into the six yard box. Showcasing their ability to get into dangerous positions and scoring opportunities. Glimt were

Attacking Transition

Bodø/Glimt made the most passes in the league, had the most possession and made the second least long passes in the league. These stats could suggest a reluctance to penetrate and having possession for possession’s sake. This however couldnt be more from the truth. They were ruthless and lightning quick on the break. Aggressive with and without the ball. The opposition didn’t react like Glimt did when they lost the ball. No, they let there heads drop and were hesitant to get back and match the intensity set by the Knutsens boys.

There positional game understanding and spatial awareness carried over into attacking transitions. The amount of runners and men they committed forward often meant in attacking transitions that they created overloads and numerical superiority. This can be killed by players making the wrong runs or all focusing on the ball. Instead the players revert back to the main principles ingrained in them. Two players immediately go wide to offer passing options and three players move in between the defenders. The ball carrier progresses until he pulls a defender in. The striker pulls in the left fullback and the ball is released at the perfect time out wide to Hauge who is left free. The space vacated by the defender who stepped up is now penetrated by Saltnes who identifies the space and taps home.

This concludes my team analysis and tactical breakdown on FK Bodø/Glimt. They had a historic and incredible 2020 season and deserve all the plaudits. After winning the Eliteserien and Eliteserien coach of the year award with FK Bodø/Glimt you have to wonder where Kjetil Knutsen next job will be. For the mean time he has extended his contract and will take charge of them next season as qualified for the Champions League for the first ever time after winning the league.

Thank you for reading this piece, hope you enjoyed reading,

Data from Wyscout. Thanks to @EricLaurie for the inspiration behind the shape animations. Thanks to @FRfotballBen for his insight and thanks to @rondosfutbol for allowing me to use his Football UI Kit. Go check it out!