Profiling the FC Nordsjælland and Norway teenage talent
Who is Andreas Schjelderup?
Age is no barrier at FC Nordsjælland. With the club’s extreme focus on youth development, talented youngsters are always in with a shout of making it at the Danish club. One of the current crop is Norwegian attacker Andreas Schjelderup.
Born in Bodø, he started his youth career at what is now every football hipster’s favourite club, FK Bodø/Glimt. In 2020, Schjelderup made the decision to leave the club with several European giants reportedly circling, including the likes of Liverpool, Juventus and Bayern München.
Speaking in an interview earlier this year, he admitted that it “hurt” turning down Liverpool in particular, but acknowledged that the right decision had been made in choosing to move to Denmark and Nordsjælland.
Within six months of making the move, the then 16-year-old was promoted from the U-19s to the first-team squad. In February 2021, he made his senior bow at the age of 16 years, 8 months and 3 days to become the club’s second-youngest player ever, two months behind team-mate Tochi Chukwuani, and he became the club’s youngest-ever goalscorer the very next month.
Schjelderup went on to start 12 games in total in 20/21, scoring thrice, including a brace on the final day of the regular season to help his side to a 2-1 victory over SønderjyskE and lift them into the Superligaen championship play-off round.
In the 2021/22 season, Schjelderup broke the 1000-minute barrier for the season, making 22 appearances in total, including 16 starts. Despite a dip in form for the club as a whole, his tally of four goals in total (including two penalties) was still underwhelming.
This season, however, Schjelderup, and Nordsjaelland as a result have been on a different level. The club sits at the top of the Superligaen table at the time of writing, with the Norwegian leading the league scoring charts with seven goals in 12 appearances, starting 11 times.
Andreas Schjelderup's style of play
Schjelderup has been lazily dubbed the ‘new Haaland’ by several online outlets, but such comparisons are wide of the mark. A look at his data profile provides a nice overview of what kind of player he is.
As is clear in the data profile above, Schjelderup ranks highly in terms of dribbling and shooting quantity, as well as touches in the opposition penalty area. This, combined with a low ranking for crosses and other passing metrics such as expected assists and shot assists, might start to paint a picture of a poacher-type of forward, but this isn’t entirely true. What is accurate here, however, is that, from the evidence at hand so far, he is more of a scorer than a creator.
In a video released on Nordsjælland’s YouTube channel last year, there is a segment in which Schjelderup talks about his role model on the pitch, stating the following:
“There’s a lot of players I look up to on the pitch, but the one I like, I enjoy watching the most is probably Neymar. It’s so nice to watch him, the way he can dribble the ball. Just, take every defender on and yeah, just make them look like a fool.”
It’s no wonder, then, that the little Norwegian loves to dribble. Playing primarily as a left winger, Schjelderup tends to hug the touchline off the ball. He receives possession from team-mates out wide before cutting inside and driving towards more central areas, thus ensuring that he can pick up the ball with space and time before looking to make a real impact. This tendency is nicely illustrated by his season heatmap so far, courtesy of SofaScore:
Like Neymar, Schjelderup also has the ability to draw defenders towards him. That opens up space for his team-mates to exploit. This is something that has become even more prevalent this season in particular, and is a big part of the reason why Nordsjælland currently top the Superligaen table.
His gravity demands attention from the opposition, and when he finally releases the ball, gaps have opened up that the likes of Ernest Nuamah and Mohamed Diomandé have thrived off that. A great example of this comes in the following pair of screenshots from this season, when Midtjylland visited the Right to Dream Park.
In the first image, Schjelderup has just picked up the ball in acres of space, and has started to run at the defence with purpose. Within 3 seconds, as he nears the penalty area, the entire orientation of his opponents has changed. They have compressed in an attempt to overcrowd him and as a result, half of Midtjylland’s outfielders are now within ten yards of Schjelderup, creating spaces elsewhere for the Nordsjælland players to exploit.
Another aspect of his dribbling is the element of surprise, not necessarily in what he does but how he does it. Schjelderup is not the fastest sprinter but has extremely quick feet and excellent agility in one-v-one duels, belying his long-for-his-height legs.
There’s a disconnect between his relative lankiness (up close) and how agile he is, which takes defenders by surprise. They are often just not able to compute how he pulls off feints and quick turns. This also makes him difficult to shrug off the ball and enables him to win fouls easily, in a manner similar to Jack Grealish.
Coming back to comparisons with Erling Haaland, though – this is where the data and eye test may seem disconnected. As mentioned earlier, Schjelderup’s data profile seems to suggest that he is a poacher with lessened creative responsibility and/or ability. It’s true that his proficiency as a goalscorer is higher than as a creator, but the way he does it is in stark contrast to his compatriot.
Schjelderup does not possess anywhere near the blistering pace nor the size of Haaland, nor does he quite have the intangible ‘goalscorer’s instinct’. When making attacking runs off the ball, Schjelderup’s main objective is to create lateral separation. He very rarely tries to make runs in behind, and instead prefers to make runs out wide and receive in front of the defence.
From there, his ability to create shots for himself takes over. Particularly from the left wing, there is an almost Arjen Robben-esque inevitability about his creating a chance for himself out of seemingly nothing. Curling shots towards the far post are his trademark.
The only occasion in which Schjelderup tries to separate from defenders vertically is when he’s inside the penalty area, often when a team-mate is advancing in a wider position. As the defenders follow the play back towards their own goal, he chooses to hang back and stay almost stationary, thereby allowing them to do the heavy lifting, for his benefit. This was a trait that another Nordsjaelland alumnus, Mikkel Damsgaard also showcased during his time at the club.
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This aspect of his game is also what makes him an extremely attractive prospect for any club. His independence in terms of chance creation means he can be a supremely talented floor-raiser. Basically, he doesn’t require much facilitation to perform to an optimal level.
He simplifies the game for his team-mates by making himself available for easy passes before then taking on the burden of creating for himself. His gravity, touched upon earlier, also ties quite nicely into this. Schjelderup is the sort of player you can build a team around, even if the other players aren’t quite up to his level.
Defensively, he does more or less what one would expect from a winger; he tracks back reliably to help his full-back and is a willing presser from the front. His ability here is limited given that he’s often beaten easily but this should be ironed out with solid coaching, particularly if he makes the move to a team that prioritises pressing from the front.
This is a part of his game that might limit Schjelderup’s versatility in terms of playing as a number eight, which has been tried before with mixed results. When playing nominally as a midfielder, he tends to drift out wide and interpret the role as very similar to a winger, with the only difference being a deeper starting position.
Schjelderup has also been played at centre-forward but such an endeavour would require the team to incorporate a primary goal scorer elsewhere across the forward line, as he is unlikely to be that kind of player.
Forecasting Andreas Schjelderup's future
His club career aside, Schjelderup’s national team career could be about to take off very soon. Having represented Norway at every age group from U-15 onwards, he could be in line for a senior cap sooner rather than later given his early-season form and burgeoning reputation.
In the short-term, he could well be looking to help his country qualify and then make the squad for Euro 2024. A slightly longer term goal could be to cement his place in the starting XI by the time the World Cup of 2026 rolls around, at which point he will still be just 22 years old.
That being said, with Nordsjælland’s ethos as a development-focused club and Schjelderup’s talent, it’s a matter of when rather than if he leaves the Farum-based club. Arsenal and Liverpool were said to be interested earlier this month, and links with La Liga side Sevilla have also persisted.
The general consensus among Superligaen fans is that he’s unlikely to make a ‘stepping stone’ move to a league such as the Dutch Eredivisie or the Belgian Pro League. Instead, the teenager will go straight to one of Europe’s top-five leagues. There is a very real chance that he could leave as Nordsjælland’s record sale, too.
Schjelderup signed a contract extension with the Danish club in September last year, with the deal running through to 2024. At the end of this season, he will have just one year left on his contract and, if his early-season form continues, he could well have his pick of top clubs to choose from.
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Andreas Schjelderup is a deceptively lengthy attacker that has great close control and skill as a dribbler, which he uses to create his own shots and space for team-mates. His ability to cut inside off the left wing is a constant threat for FC Nordsjælland.
Andreas Schjelderup has a lot of room to improve as a defender, but they are mainly coachable skills. He also lacks instinct as a goalscorer in certain situations.