Oscar Hiljemark 21 Midfielder PSV Sweden
2013 has been…
Given that Swedish football has a relatively small pool of talent to choose from, Oscar Hiljemark has been in the spotlight since making his debut as an 18 year-old. He made an impressive impact on the Swedish game and was soon awarded the prestigious Månadens Tipselitspelare prize; an accolade previously won by internationals Fredrik Ljungberg, Johan Elmander, Olof Mellberg and Kim Kallstrom.
The award jury declared Oscar as “a talented player who works hard and takes a mature responsibility from his midfield position”. It perhaps his maturity that has been the stand-out for Oscar through much of his fledgling career and a reason why PSV Eindhoven sought to replace the retiring Mark van Bommel in their midfield with the player in January of this year. At the tender age of 19, he was handed the armband for the Swedish under-21 team and seemed to relish the responsibility that came with the honour.
Following his club debut, Oscar formed quite an impressive midfield partnership with former Southampton midfielder Anders Svensson at Elfsborg and their axis in midfield was a big driving force behind their recent success. Last year, they were both crucial players as the club captured their sixth Swedish Championship.
However, it remained hard for many to judge Hiljemark and his potential, when compared with the rest of the Swedish game. The drop-off in quality is huge in the league and made Oscar’s job of proving himself that little bit harder as few gave him credit for standing out in the division.
Hiljemark tries to be everything that you’d need from a midfielder in a single player. He enjoys being in possession and on the ball to set attacks in motion, breaking late towards the area and doing the grunt work to break up play. He likes to anchors the midfield, dictating and orchestrating the play from midfield. Though he does weigh in with a handful of goals; there needs to be an improvement upon his return in both the goals and assists column to be seen as a complete all-rounder.
Right now, he is in a battle to improve himself in Eredivisie as quickly as possible. Having joined PSV in January, he has had nearly 10 months to settle in and we remain unconvinced. There have been flashes of quality that do just enough to make you wonder if we are perhaps being too harsh. He’ll not turn 22 until June and has plenty of learning about the game to do. The Dutch top-flight is proving itself as a fine testing ground for players within the European game and at PSV, there is a new team currently being shaped that Oscar can be a part of.
Hiljemark needs to be playing and performing regularly so he can prove he is able to cope with the demands of PSV and their expectant fans. Based on his first year outside Sweden, we can’t help but think the jump up in quality is too much for him to handle.
That could be his downfall if he isn’t looked after and nurtured to become a better, stronger player. PSV need someone capable of dictating games and inspiring them to victories when others, such as Georginio Wijnaldum and Adam Maher, are having a day off. Hiljemark won’t be allowed too much longer to prove himself.
Once he gets settled, we expect the pressure of leading the Swedish national team may start to grow. He’s already got senior caps to his name and is becoming a regular part of the training panel. With Zlatan Ibrahimovic turning 32 this year, the Paris Saint-Germain striker has probably only got one more qualifying campaign in him.
Oscar has been groomed from a young age to carry the mantle of the country, as we mentioned with him being named under-21 captain while still a teenager. However, if he’s struggling for a place at club level, he’ll struggle to cope with leading his country. The next six months could make or break his chances of enjoying the next 10 years at the very top of the game.
"Brought in at PSV to succeed Mark van Bommel, a tough, tough task. Showed glimpses of quality so far, but has not been a regular starter all year. Was the step too big?" - Michiel Jongsma, Benefoot
D Needs to prove he belongs in Europe’s biggest competitions quickly