Fans in England will be all too familiar with just how quickly Icelandic football has improved in the last few years. There are already a smattering of Iceland internationals playing in the Premier League and Championship, and it’s becoming more and more common for Iceland’s young players to be swept up by some of the top academies in Europe. Regular contributor and Icelandic football expert Lucas Arnold gives us the low-down on three of the brightest talents currently plying their trade in Iceland’s top flight, the Pepsi-Deidlin.
Alex Þór Hauksson – Stjarnan
Where better to start than this young Stjarnan star? He was just 17-years-old when he made his league debut this year and he nailed down a place in the side for the rest of the season. Already lauded as the ‘Icelandic Kante’, Alex Thor definitely showed maturity way beyond his years in his performances this season when sitting in defensive midfield. The thing that sets Alex Thor apart from the other well performing youngsters on this list is his consistency; he rarely had a bad game and his turn of pace and reading of the game, coupled with his ability to make quick decisions made him hard to drop from Stjarnan’s starting XI – even keeping Eyjólfur Héðinsson – a player sixteen years his elder – on the bench towards the end of the season in the sides 3-4-3 formation. He has yet to make an impact at international level for the U21’s despite being included in the squad, but things can only get even better for the youngster this coming season and I expect the 2nd placed side, who will hope to challenge more seriously for the title this year – will put even more faith in him.
Is Alex Thor good enough to be eventually move to top league in Europe and represent the National team? Only time will tell. Given his age he still has a lot of growing to do – in a physical sense too – and still does look quite diminutive in the side at times. It’s important to remember that he’s still only 17, and be it in the 3-4-3 or the 4-3-3 the side deployed throughout the season, he had such a natural control of the midfield and didn’t look out of place alongside Baldur Sigurðsson whatsoever. A great asset for Stjarnan, and the league itself; easily the best youngster in the Pepsi-Deildin this season.
Asgeir Sigurgeirsson – KA
Next up, the young KA striker who is making his impression on the Iceland U21’s as well as the Pepsi. A good breakthrough season for the 20-year-old who underlined what KA were about – fast, penetrative football. The pacy young striker caught my eye in the 1.deild – Iceland’s second tier – last season and I hoped he’d continue to have such an impact in the top flight, and to my delight he did. After a really strong start to the season when the youngster was regularly contributing with goals he did go through a dip, which led to him being dropped a few times while Emil Lyng – who recently made the move to Dundee United – took the limelight, but the side rarely fared better without him and he was always quickly restored to the starting line-up.
One thing that I mentioned in Alex Thor’s comments was his consistency, and it was the one thing I think Asgeir lacked this season and part of that, for me, is down to the position he was playing. He currently plays his best football as a winger, but I think Sigurgeirsson will eventually be more suited to playing as a striker, possibly not on his own, but playing off a more natural target man such as Elfar Aðalsteinsson. He has a natural instinct to be in the right place at the right time but does need to work on his composure – but that will come with chances and game time – which he will continue to get at KA in the coming season where I can only see him improving. Olafur Kristjansson if you’re reading this, I think Asgeir’s fast, direct and relentless style is just what FH need this season.
Gudmundur Andri Tryggvason – KR
Tryggvason is the second 17-year-old to make this list. He only made 4 starts in the Pepsi this season, with 3 of them coming right at the end of KR’s season, and Willum Þórsson’s tenure. However, the young winger or striker, who plays in a similar vein to Asgeir, has a lot of talent which he has shown almost every time he’s come off the bench this season. Perhaps this was one of the mistakes Þórsson made, as the 17-year-old know as ‘GAT’ deserved to get a lot more minutes on the back of his constant impact off the bench, in which he contributed a couple of goals but more importantly he injected pace, direct play and creativity. To think he was behind Garðar Jóhannsson in the pecking order for most of the season is in truth quite laughable but I’m sure that won’t be the same next season. I sincerely hope that the new manager sees GAT as a first team player in the coming year as I don’t think he will look out of place playing every week at this level, and with a decreased budget and no European football – and possibly no André Bjerregaard as well – I think it’s a very sensible option.
I know a lot of KR fans had been calling for the 17-year-old to get more minutes in the second half of the season with players like Finnur Orri playing below par throughout the campaign. A similar situation can be seen at KR with Astbjorn Thordarson, another youngster who really impressed me in the pre-Pepsi cups at the beginning of the year and then failed to play any significant part in the team throughout the season. Logic tells me that had KR used Thordarson, who plays best as a left-back, where they usually played Robert Sandnes, and similarly used GAT instead ofGarðar Jóhannsson as the first offensive sub, they would have had a more exciting season and would now possess two very talented young players with experience similar to one young Alex Thor Hauksson.