The established order has been turned on its head in Denmark this season with even AGF Århus taking their turn to top a table now led by Esbjerg fB, relegation candidates last term.
Aside from Aalborg BK's 2007/08 triumph the Superligaen trophy has switched between FC København and Brøndby IF for the past nine years, a duopoly underlined as even Odense BK's second-placed finish behind FCK last term represented a shock. This season things are different. The big guns are fourth and sixth as a few unheralded names enjoy their day in the sun. Having beaten København, AGF had their first summit spell in 27 years and control passed briefly to AaB before current leaders EfB ended their own six-season wait for a return to the top.
It represents a remarkable turnaround for the western outfit, who finished just two places above the relegation zone last season and lost the services of several established names during the summer. Ole Bruun, sports editor of Esbjerg newspaper JydskeVestkysten, attributes the dramatic upturn on a team playing without the weight of expectation. "It is mainly about pressure," he said. "Last season's relegation struggle and an apparently less impressive squad this term has reduced outside expectations of the team. It has taken a lot of pressure off the players – and free of that burden they can perform all of a sudden."
Lack of depth
It could not have come at a better time for the club, the upturn combining with the completion of stadium modernisation to bring increased attendances. The fans have been duly rewarded, both home and away, as EfB claimed a fifth successive win by beating FC Nordsjælland 4-0 on Sunday, a performance that is causing some to rethink the suggestion that their rise is merely temporary. Yet coach Ove Pedersen sounds a note of caution: "We have the perfect team but we do not have the perfect squad. All we need to do is avoid injuries and a dip in form; then we will stay top!" Pedersen may be light-hearted, but the challenge to FCK and Brøndby is serious.
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