Malmo’s toils shows both strength and weakness of Allsvenskan

by Back Page Football

Swedish champions Malmo slipped to another disappointing result against Gefle in mid-week and their continuing struggles typifies the modern day Allsvenskan.

While a number of teams of similar skill battling for the title ensures excitement – though not necessarily quality – it has recently proved impossible for one club to establish itself as powerhouse in the division.

No one has successfully defended the Swedish title since Djurgarden achieved the feat in 2003 and even multiple championships over the space of a few years is rare.

Only Malmo have managed two championships since 2004 as the last seven titles have been split up between six clubs.

But while that makes the Swedish top flight one of the most fascinating divisions in the continent, it is also a severe weakness which causes problems when the clubs attempt to compete in Europe.

Other countries have an elite few clubs with more resources than the opposition which allows them to collect the cream of the domestic talent and afford the best of the imports.

Instead in Sweden star players are spread across a wide range of teams and often end up sharing the pitch with players notably below their level.

IFK Gothenburg’s Tobias Hysen must wonder just what more he can do as he watches the best of his teammates being sold abroad and replaced by untried youngsters or journeymen pros such as Hannes Stiller and Par Ericsson.

This is a situation which is replicated up and down the country and combined with the need for clubs to sell talent almost as soon as it emerges is proving a major problem.

AIK may have discovered the magnificent Bangura brothers and the wonder-teen Alexander Milosevic but it is doubtful any of the trio will see out a full Rasunda season before being transferred.

And it is occurrences like this which explain why Sweden has not had a representative in the Champions League group stage since Helsingborg in 2000.

Helsingborg flew the flag in 2008 when they reached the knock out stages of the UEFA Cup but that this is now considered a major success shows just how far the country has fallen since it supplied regular European finalists in the 1980s.

Even glorious Gothenburg, two time UEFA Cup winners, have contributed to the decline with a loss to Moldovans Zimbru Chisinau being one of the biggest embarrassments in recent years.

The Swedes themselves seem to have stopped panicking about their declining coefficient and have adopted an attitude of weary acceptance to their European fate.

After all, perhaps the only thing worse than an exciting domestic league which hampers European success is a boring domestic league which hampers European success.  Scotland, anyone?

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