Esbjerg need to evolve after Polman injury
Having taken the DELO EHF Champions League by storm last season, a repeat performance will be no mean feat for Team Esbjerg.
With high-profile absences for the foreseeable future, heralded coach Jesper Jensen will need to restructure his team’s style of play if they are to make another serious push for Budapest.
• were the surprise package of last season, having finished second in their main round group
• won their third national title and second in succession last season
• coach Jesper Jensen’s achievements were also recognised as he took over Danish women’s national team earlier this year
• lost two key players over the summer with Estavana Polman suffering an ACL injury in pre-season and while Line Jørgensen’s pregnancy is decidedly better news, she is also out of action
• Esbjerg’s major summer signing was talented right back Mette Tranborg, a youth World Championship winner, who joined from Odense
Most important question: Who will fill Polman’s shoes?
Disaster struck for Team Esbjerg and Estavana Polman at the end of July as she went down without contact in a joint-training session with Odense, tearing her ACL in her right knee.
The World Championship 2019 MVP’s season was over, just like that, and with it came a huge amount of bother for Jesper Jensen’s team.
A player of this quality is not easily replaced at such short notice, so Esbjerg will need to change their approach in attack, relying on the long-range shooting of Kristine Breistøl and new arrival Mette Tranborg to score easy goals and create space for Sonja Frey to work her magic in the centre.
Under the spotlight – Sonja Frey
Sonja Frey enjoyed arguably the best season of her career last time around, settling into her new club with ease as she helped orchestrate a number of high-profile victories in Europe, combining beautifully with Polman and Line Jørgensen in the back court.
However, with Polman injured and Jørgensen due to give birth in December, Frey must establish a new relationship with Breistøl and Tranborg. They play a different style of handball, which will allow some more freedom for Frey, but that and the fact they are relatively young adds further responsibility on the Austrian centre back’s shoulders.
How they rate themselves
Club captain Marit Malm Frafjord is keen to put the disappointment of last season’s early end behind her and help Esbjerg establish themselves as a regular at the highest level.
“We had some good results last season and my biggest motivation this season is to try to show that last season’s results was not a ‘one-time wonder’. We would like to show that we have a strong team again this year, and that we can be a tough opponent for everyone.
“I will still say we are underdogs against some of the teams in our group, but we have shown that we can take points from almost every team when we play at our best. So I hope we can repeat this again this season.”
Did you know?
Captain Marit Malm Frafjord appears to be enjoying an Indian summer in her career, having recently been recalled to the Norwegian national team, but she actually retired in 2018.
After reaching the EHF FINAL4 with CSM Bucuresti in her one season there, the line player called it a day at the age of 32. Fast-forward half a year later, she was back on court in the red and black of Esbjerg and has not looked back since.
What the numbers say?
A key factor for Esbjerg’s success this season will be their home form. Last season, they won all but one of their matches at the Blue Water Dokken.
CSM Bucuresti were the only side to beat them in Denmark, 24:22 in the season opener, but Esbjerg got their own back in Romania with a 25:21 victory.
Arrivals and departures
Newcomers: Mette Tranborg (Odense Håndbold), Kaja Kamp (TTH Holstebro), Stella Muir (youth team)
Left the club: Clara Monti Danielsson (BV Borussia 09 Dortmund), Rut Jónsdóttir (KA Handball), Lene Østergaard (Randers HK), Pernille Johannsen (SønderjyskE)
EHF Champions League:
Participations (including 2020/21 season): 4
Quarter-finals (1): 2019/20
Main Round (1): 2016/17
Qualification (1): 2015/16
EHF Cup: Runners-up: 2013/14, 2018/19; Quarter-finals: 2010/11, 2014/15
Cup Winners’ Cup: Last 16 2012/13
Danish league: 3 titles (2016, 2019, 2020)
Danish cup: 1 title (2018)