When Dave (my footballing soulmate) come calling and ask you for a scouting report on Norwegian midfield talent Sander Berge, you have no other choice but to deliver. Although I do not know that much about Berge. I have seen him play twice for the Norwegian national team, and that is it. He did impress me when I saw him play but 105 minutes of watching with one eye is not good enough for a serious report. So what do I do? Well, fortunately I happen to always know a guy or know a guy who knows a guy! In this case, I not only know a guy, I have a close friend who works for the Norwegian Football Federation (NFF), who used to coach Berge at youth level for Norway. I rang him up to get some ideas about Sander Berge’s attributes and if he could be a decent signing for The Arsenal.
First, some short facts:
Date of birth: February 14th 1998 (19 years old).
Height: 190 cm
Weight: 88 kg
Current club: Genk
25 games at Norwegian youth team level and three games for the Norwegian senior team.
My mate at NFF, Paal, had this to say about Berge:
Q: What do you know about Berge?
I would say that most of what you hear in the media is accurate about him. A talented, strong and composed DM. Strong in the air and good on the ball.
Q: But you used to work with him at youth level right?
Yes, I did indeed. I had the pleasure of working with him when he was 15 and 16 year-old. Beside what you see on the field, he really is a wonderful and nice boy who is extremely serious, tidy, dedicated in training and he takes on feedback very well. I would describe him as the prototype of what a fan and a manager would want from a player.
On the field, he makes good choices with the ball, is extremely composed on the ball for his age. He is physically strong (and will be a real beast when he learns to use that more in his favour). Berge is good in the air, and clever on the ball in regards to lead the ball through the opponent’s midfield.
He does not appear to be that quick, but tests show that he is among the fastest in Norwegian football at 10 to 40 metre sprints.
Q: Where can he improve?
He can and should get better going forward. He is not a big threat in the last third of the pitch. This is how he has always been, and in my opinion, a player rarely changes character around such things.
Q: So you see him more as a holding midfielder in a pivot with a b2b player?
Yes, he is definitely best as a sitting midfielder. A bit like Guye at Everton or Kante (without comparison by the way).
Q: Finally, do you see Berge as good enough for The Arsenal and PL? Both now or in the future?
I do not see why he can’t get to that level, but I think he needs to play as a regular first teamer for a few more years at European level, before he is put into a demanding group of top level players like at Arsenal (in terms of pressure, media and competition for starting places). He is still only 19 years old, so he has plenty of time to develop as long as he plays regularly. If he goes to Arsenal, I think he would and should be loaned out to a place where he is a starter every week. Maybe back to Genk.
So there you have, it guys. A big talent, but will he improve us right away? I think not and at a reported price tag of £18 mill, a big gamble if you ask me. On the other hand, as a Norwegian I would love to see a fellow Viking succeed at my beloved Arsenal!
Here is Berge in action:
Looks the part!
My thanks to my good friend Anders Berntsen, a top Gunner and a great follow @BerntsenAnders