On the 6th July 2021, for the second time in his career, it was announced that Maikil “Golden“ Kunda Selim had been moved to Fnatic’s bench. Here’s exactly how and why things turned sour with Golden, and where Fnatic might turn to transform their fortunes.
Following the Swedes’ failure to qualify for the StarLadder Berlin Major in the autumn of 2019, Fnatic announced the re-signing of Golden, initially on loan from Cloud9. The org had been struggling for the better part of a year, however, Golden had led the Swedes to the DreamHack Masters Malmö 2019 title just a month after his return. It was the side’s first piece of silverware since March 2018.
From that win on home soil, Golden led Fnatic to one of the greatest resurgences in CS:GO history with the org achieving top-four finishes in their next six events from October 2019 to April 2020.
Their win at ESL Pro League Season 11, the first event in the online era, saw the side reach the summit of the HLTV world rankings for the first time since 2016.
However, instantly on from that win at Pro League, the issues that would lead to Golden’s departure were already starting to make themselves known. From being top four finishers at every event they attended, Fnatic embarked on a solid run of disappointing performances at the likes of ESL One: Road to Rio, DreamHack Spring Masters, ESL One: Cologne 2020, Flashpoint Season 2, and IEM Beijing.
From being the world’s top-ranked side in April 2020, Fnatic rounded out the year clinging onto their top fifteen status.
It was clear that the org were lacking in ambition in the online environment, with the side denied the big stages and roaring crowds that they had become so familiar with in the six months under Golden. One look at the types of matches Fnatic were losing during the past year or so really showcases this lack of drive in the org, with the likes of MAD Lions, Dignitas, MIBR, GODSENT, and Movistar Riders all securing memorable wins over the Swedes.
Golden (and Fnatic) hitting rock bottom
2021 began with some promise for Fnatic, with Jack “Jackinho” Ström Mattsson introduced as a breath of fresh air and the side managing an impressive second-place finish in the first event of the year at cs_summit 7.
However, Fnatic’s obsolete style of play in the online era would soon be put back on the show as the org hit rock bottom, failing to qualify for IEM Katowice, exiting ESL Pro League Season 13 in the group stage, becoming the first side knocked out of Flashpoint Season 3, and eventually dropping out of the top thirty for the first time in over five years in June 2021, denying the org a spot at the first LAN event back at IEM Cologne.
Teams have disappointing runs of form all the time, however, it’s hard to think of a core of players who had seemingly been at rock bottom for as long as Fnatic by the time Golden’s benching was eventually announced. The org had gone from ever-present in the latter stages of every major event to being a team that reliant on partner status to even qualify, and one that bowed out with a lackluster whimper at the earliest stages each time.
Motivation and drive within the org aside, Fnatic have looked increasingly unconvincing in terms of roles within the lineup under Golden’s leadership, especially since the acquisition of Jackinho. The AWPer role has been split between Jackinho and Jesper “JW” Wecksell despite the latter’s continued struggles. The lack of a go-to map pick and the decision to put the two rookies of Jackinho and Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin as B site anchors on Dust II and Inferno have also contributed to Fnatic looking like an org without much of a clue in the current climate.
Following the announcement of Golden’s benching, Fnatic co-owner Patrik Sättermon gave the community this insight into the direction the org would be `taking following the loss of their IGL.
Promoting young talents such as Linus “LNZ” Holtäng, Nicolas “Plopski” Gonzalez Zamora and Fredrik “REZ” Sterner has worked wonders for Swedish rivals Ninjas in Pyjamas, and the emergence of Brollan is a case study Fnatic could take some encouragement from. It should be noted as well that Fnatic did add sixteen-year-old rookie Peppe “Peppzor” Borak to their substitute bench earlier this year, the first such player in the org’s history.
With that being said, NiP have done an excellent job in hoovering up the young talent from the region with their Young Ninjas setup, and the current state of the Swedish scene (with only one side currently in the top thirty at the time of writing) might just suggest Fnatic might not have the choice of pickings they were once able to select from.
Either way, Fnatic have a long road back to the top table ahead of them, and there are still plenty of questions needed to be answered before the Swedes can expect to be treated seriously again.