The former academy player at Manchester United is well known to most of the supporters in Norway. The fact that his previous coach, Ole Gunnar Solskjær, was named as the new manager for Molde FK surely played some part in convincing the young midfielder in returning to Norway. In their first season with Molde FK they won the title, a bit unexpected as most people thought it would take more time building a team that would be a serious title container. Much of the team success was due to Magnus Wolf Eikrem consistent performances in the middle of the park.
His passing and vision stands out as his major qualities. He combines those two skills with lots of creativity and eagerness/desire to always wanting the ball. The Norwegian league hasn`t been blessed with players wanting the ball in every situation. He was therefore labeled as an “untypical-Norwegian player” by the Norwegian media. In that sense it was inevitable that he were going to stand out as a player in the league – but it is more to it than him just wanting the ball.
As one of my scouts remarked to me earlier this season is spot on: Eikrem possess the skills of getting past/dribble past the opponent, before he opens up the defense with a long ball through to his strikers – with deadly precision. Many Scandinavians has got the first ability, a lot fewer has got the second ability and only a handful possesses both skills to the fully. Magnus Wolff Eikrem skills with the ball have proven to be one of the key factors for highflying Molde FK.
When receiving the ball he is a bit similar to one of my favorites in Sweden, Oscar Hiljemark (Elfsborg). Eikrem bides his time, just as the young Swede when looking for alternatives upfront. He isn`t stressed by the possible threat of having one or two defenders hanging around his shoulders. He just uses his vision and plays the ball on one touch to his teammates before he receives the ball back. If his teammate is expecting Eikrem`s short pass, but is unaware of the threat behind him, Eikrem will immediately seek new alternatives. If required he just holds on to the ball as he knows that if the opponent lash out a foot then he will get the free kick. He can drive opponents mad with his technique as he`s able hold the ball up field for extra crucial minutes when his team need to get the time going.
It is the same story with Eikrem and Hiljemark`s expectations regarding their teammates passing and play in general. Both has got a repertoire way above the Scandinavian normal standard, if there is any, so their expectations seem to be the same. They can both be frustrated when their teammates can`t keep up with their pace, but it just gives you a hint that they will not lower their game plan by making more simple solutions. Their teammates will have to learn from the mistake and get on with it by improving their own passing skills and ability of reading their game. This also is a factor which I have seen great improvement at both Molde FK and Elfsborg last season and this year.
He got critics in the start of his season with Molde FK of rarely scoring any goals. I was also a bit concerned about the lack of goals, but he got his act together and started to produce goals as well as assist. Being the architect of free kicks and corners, it was only a matter of time before he would use his blessed right foot by having a shot himself every now and then. 4 goals last season in 28 league matches isn`t fantastic, but it gives evidence of a player that is willing to try his luck. We see the tendency this season as well, he is always looking for a shot at goal. He still could improve in this area and the same thing applies his defensive work. One got to remember that he still is 21 year old so time is defiantly on his side.
I am sure that his success last season wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. That might seem a bit hash towards the talented midfielder, but I stick by it. Solskjaer brought with him the system he knew Eikrem would fit into. In some sense Eikrem has got a designed role for himself at the club by Solskjaer. For a manager that doesn’t know his full ability, it would have taken a longer time settling in. What also needs to be taken into account is the amount of experience Magnus Wolff Eikrem brought with him from Manchester United.
During the matches he can switch midfield roles when required to change a match picture. That is the essence with Solskjaer knowing where he should and could play Eikrem to achieve what you want. His probably best role at Molde FK is when he is laying deep in the midfield, letting him take full advantage of his passing skills. He could also fill in role higher up in the middle of park, behind his striker allowing him to be more involved in the offensive play. Playing in any of the roles in middle of the park he will contribute both in defense and the offensive play. His engine is good which makes him able to take the runs required for such roles.
It is only a matter of time before Eikrem gets the real attention by bigger clubs. Which league is another case. We have all witnessed players moving to bigger clubs at levels that wouldn’t wouldn`t be a natural stepping stone. The players from Norway have failed more often than they have succeeded recent years. Picture yourself a similar scenario with a boxer in featherweight up against a boxer from a higher weight class. Wrong platform and you are bound to fail. In those cases one can`t really blame the player. He wants to prove himself amongst the best and often doesn’t know his own limits. The one to blame is his agent and the lack of scouting skills from the club. In Magnus Wolff Eikrem`s case it is a different story. His previous England-experience is a factor that shouldn’t be underestimated as it clearly has matured him as a player.
Ole Gunnar Solskjær told the press in Norway that he would try and sign Eikrem if he were offered the job at Aston Villa. In that specific scenario I think Magnus Wolff Eikrem would have been able to deliver the goods on the pitch for such big club. But that is when you take the whole picture into account. With Solskjær not being the new manager at Aston Villa, who then are able to give Eikrem a similar designed role, as Ole Gunnar Solskær, where can prove himself amongst the best? Only then, at this moment in time, I believe Eikrem will be able to deliver immediately in the Top 4-leagues.
Scouting report on Magnus Wolff Eikrem written on 09.06.2012
Øyvind Christoffer Johansen
Chief scout, Scandinavian Scouting Agency