The 18/19 season saw Brentford finish 11th in the championship. However, many feel that the upcoming season can see them finally push for a promotion challenge. Thomas Frank and his players will be hoping that they can continue the excellent attacking form they showed last season, which saw them score 70+ goals. Bee’s fans will be optimistic going into the season, with the introduction of several new players and the keeping of key players who are badly needed if a promotion challenge is to happen.
It will be interesting to see whether they can push for promotion, as the quality of the championship seems to be improving year by year. Brentford will be hoping they can sneak into the playoffs, which to most is a realistic goal for the club to aim for this year. This article will look at ways they can do this by identifying key areas they need to improve and looking at their previous season and the squad itself.
Brentford’s 23-man squad has seen some significant changes over the summer window. Moses Odubajo, Daniel Bentley, Romaine Sawyers, and Erzi Konsa, are all significant players that have left the club over the summer window. These were experienced players which brought an element of contribution to the success of the football club. However, Brentford accumulated 16.7 million from all departures, which they reinvested significantly. Pontus Jansson from Leeds, Mathias Jensen from Celta Vigo, Ethan Pinnock from Barnsley, Christian Norgaard from Florentina, and David Raya from Blackburn all came in for a total of around 19 million pounds.
These were all smart additions that will add a range of quality in the squad. Pontus Jansson was a great servant for Leeds and will make Brentford much better defensively. His ability to win duels, his interception rate, and ability to play out from the back will benefit Brentford massively especially with the loss of Konsa to Aston Villa.
Transfers are, of course, important for a club like Brentford to be able to push for a promotion challenge. However, they have so far also kept key players at the club. A good example of this is Neal Maupay who was one of the top scorers in the English football league in the 18/19 season. In 43 games for Brentford last season in the Championship, he managed to score 25 goals and provide eight assists. This made him the 3rd highest goal scorer in the championship behind Tammy Abraham and Timo Pukki. These goals were undoubtedly vital for the excellent attack that Brentford had last season.
Also, players like Ollie Watkins, and Said Benrahma, who both contributed 10 goals each for Brentford last season. Keeping these excellent attacking players at the club will allow them to continue to score goals in a high volume. Last year, Brentford were the 6th highest-scoring team in the division, highlighting the importance of the players mentioned.
One of the main reasons for Brentford not being able to put forward a genuine promotion challenge last season was their awful away form. In the championship they only won three games away from home, one of those wins being automatically handed to them at Bolton due to their financial circumstances. This form away from home was detrimental for any chance of gaining promotion to the premier league.
If Brentford’s away form was anywhere near the form shown at Griffin Park, they would have gained automatic promotion with a potential of 90+ points. One reason for this poor away form would be the style of football Brentford play. Brentford are a team built on pure attacking football, using three forwards to cause problems for the opposite defence. This works wonders at Griffin Park as the pitch suits the way they want to play. However, this works against them away from home as teams can cope with this style of play much better. This is not to say that they need stop their excellent attacking football, however, when playing games away from home it is key to have a balance between the two.
The introduction of players such as Pontus Janson and David Reya should really give them that experience which is sometimes needed to pick up wins away from home. This is potentially something that they were struggling with last season. Brentford’s average squad age is only 24 years old, which highlights a potential reason as to why they were not able to be more pragmatic away from home. Adding experience to the squad could be vital in sorting out this away form, and as a result, ensuring more wins. Therefore, for them to be successful in the 19/20 campaign their away form needs to be a high priority, as similar form next season could lead to mediocrity.
Since Boxing Day of 2018, Brentford have predominantly set up with the 3-4-3 formation. This is the preferred system of manager Thomas Frank. This system worked very well in certain games such as the 5-1 victory over Hull and went against Brentford in other cases such as the 3-0 loss to Swansea. Frank favours this system, as he believes it provides goals and the right sense of attacking football which suit his style of preferred play. Below is the line-up from the last game of the season against Preston where Brentford ran out 3-0 winners. The defence is made up of strong defenders, however, Frank has a preference on having all three being able to be technically gifted and can bring the ball out from the back. The addition of Pontus Janson will certainly fit these criteria.
The wing-backs in this system must be able to get up and down the pitch. Rico Henry and Dealsgaard are very suited to this role and are excellent not only in both boxes but in terms of their individual duels against opposing full-backs and wingers. The centre of midfield is an area that is vital for this system to be able to work. Brentford have a strong range of options in central midfield including Da Sliva, and Marcondes, however the introduction of Mathias Jensen is likely to mean that Marcondes can push into a further position up the pitch. The front three are evidently Brentford’s strongest area. Maupay, Watkins and Canos cause opposition defence nightmares most of the time, and with the addition of Joel Valencia into the squad, their attack is likely to be the key reason they push for a promotion challenge.
It is clear that the 3-4-3 provides Brentford with an incredibly attacking system which allows them to get bodies forward in order to score goals at a high rate. This is mainly because the 3-4-3 formation allows the forwards to press and win the ball back in opposition areas. It also allows the front three the freedom to attack without the major worry of defensive duties. This is usually Mupay, Watkins, and Canos in Brentford’s case. The 3-4-3 also allows fluidity, which means players can constantly switch positions which causes opposition defenders huge confusion as to who to pick up.
As we can see in the picture below in the 5-1 win over Hull, there are five Brentford players in the picture all in differing positions which means the Hull defenders do not know who to pick up. This, in turn, leaves more space for the shooter to have a shot on goal due to the lack of understanding as to which Brentford player to mark. The left-sided full-back/left-sided midfielder can be seen In the box which also highlights the emphasis of both wing-backs getting forward to make up numbers in attack.
Despite these clear advantages of the system that Thomas Frank operates with this Brentford side, it is evident that changes need to be made to ensure that the system can win them more football matches as opposed to simply being a high scoring team. There are evident flaws in the 3-4-3 system. For example, when a flat midfield four is used, as Brentford tend to do, it means they must have the discipline to join the attack and make defensive recoveries aswell.
It is rare to find the perfect balance of midfielders in this case. An example of how this can work is seen with Chelsea’s 16/17 campaign whereby Ngolo Kante and Nemanja Matic were the two sitting midfielders in Chelsea’s 3-4-3 system which gave them the perfect balance. Brentford tended to play with Da Silva and Marcondes, however, additions such as Jensen from Florentina may be able to provide them with an even balance in midfield.
Furthermore, another key aspect of the 3-4-3 which could cause problems for Brentford is the fact that they are more vulnerable to counter-attacks, quick switches of play, and wide attacks. This is due to what was mentioned earlier in terms of the midfield having to be disciplined. Teams that have quick forwards that can get in behind are likely to cause Brentford problems at the back. This was clearly seen in their 3-0 to Swansea. As seen in the image below, the second goal scored by Kieran Dyer, the highlighted section is Brentford’s back 3 on the day Konsa, Jeanvier, and Sorensen.
The ball was kicked over the top from a simple dropkick from the goalkeeper and it managed to find its way over all three of the defenders. This clearly highlights the problem the 3-4-3 creates in terms of defending against the counter attack and fast transitions.
Pre-season is always important for teams to be able to find out where they need to improve, and ways they can approach the season. Brentford started pre-season with a comfortable 3-0 victory over AFC Wimbledon, with Watkins grabbing the 3rd. A 0-0 draw with Dynamo Kyiv was followed by a 2-2 draw at Wycombe Wanderers.
They also picked up an impressive 3-1 win against recently promoted Norwich city with Marcondes picking up a goal and assist. However, they ended on a sour note by losing 1-3 to AFC Bournemouth. In the pre-season the results are not the priority, but instead the way the team plays, and the progression of the squad in general. Watching these games, it is clear to see that this is happening at Brentford, and in Thomas Frank they have a manager who believes not only in attacking football, but also giving youth players a chance which is also vitally important.
In terms of the season ahead, it is a general feeling that Brentford may surprise a few. By all means, it is not likely that they are going to do what Wolves did a few years ago in terms of points gained, however, a push for the playoffs is something that should defiantly be a goal for the club.
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