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EFL Team in Focus: Brentford Back in Action

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thomas frank brentford

Brentford climbed up to 12th in the Championship on Monday night, thanks to a 3-1 West London Derby victory at QPR.

Gabriel Sutton (@_FootbalLab) says we should see them as genuine promotion contenders.

Raya of light

David Raya signed in the summer from Blackburn, with a reputation for being a good shot-stopper but a goalkeeper somewhat liable to occasional errors.

Raya though appears to be cutting the errors out of his game, he is settling into life at Griffin Park and produced one or two impressive stops at Loftus Road.

Dalsgaard and Henry

When Rico Henry played left-back at Walsall four seasons ago, there were question marks over his defensive awareness.

More recently, though, there are signs that he has matured sufficiently to do that job and he produced an assured performance at QPR, as did his right-sided counterpart.

Henrik Dalsgaard, a Denmark international, is an intelligent operator who, staying by the touchline for many phases of play, can offer a valuable outlet.

J&J do the job

Brentford’s summer signing of Pontus Jansson was a fundamental sign of their growth in status in the Championship market.

When they first came into the division five years ago, there is no way they would have been able to sign the Leeds United captain, regardless of the issues between that player and the manager.

Jansson has brought much-needed leadership and international nous to this Brentford defence while Julian Jeanvier’s physicality has been hugely important too.

The Bees have conceded just 12 goals in 14 games so far this term; a continuation of this defensive record would see them let in only 39 goals all season, a 35% improvement on their record over the previous five campaigns.

Mokotjo magic

Kamohelo Mokotjo might not be the most refined technician in the world, but he loves to play simple forward passes that get the team moving while his energy, tenacity and dynamism are hugely valuable out of possession.

He endured a delayed start to the Championship campaign due to his summer involvement with South Africa but, in six games with the all-action midfielder starting, Brentford have accrued 13 points.

That form, continued for the remainder of the campaign, would give the Bees another 69 points on top of the 21 they already have – and 90 points has been enough for automatic promotion from the Championship in four of the last five seasons.

Of course, football is not quite as simple as that

Josh Da Silva, meanwhile, makes some key runs in from the left channel and loves to get powerful shots away, while Christian Norgaard specialises in long-range forward passes with the outside of his boot.

The attacking trio

The summer departure of top goalscorer Neal Maupay looked potentially problematic for Brentford, but Thomas Frank said, in his post-match interview at Loftus Road, that he was “always confident” Ollie Watkins was capable of scoring 20+ goals.

Frank’s faith in Watkins has certainly been vindicated because the forward has adjusted to a central role very well.

The former Exeter man has found himself in key goalscoring positions but equally, he has also been prepared to make selfless runs to help his teammates.

Bryan Mbuemo loves to drive inside from the right flank and cut onto his left-foot, while Said Benrahma likes to pick up pockets between the lines and can at times drift into the pockets so the front-three sometimes look like being one number 10 and two strikers in certain phases of play.

The rotation of movement is very fluid and keeps teams guessing, which makes Brentford a threat in transition.

More adaptable

Under Dean Smith, Brentford were exciting and enterprising, they played great football in spells but their method of chance creation was largely the same.

Under Frank, Brentford are still exciting and enterprising, but they are also more adaptable.

They have strong centre-backs that mean they are not dominated in the penalty area, plus they are more prepared to play the ball forward earlier when space opens up in behind.

This season, we could be looking at an all-new-and-improved, Brentford 2.0.

Impressive shot data

Brentford average 1.34 Expected Goals For (xGR) per game, the ninth highest rate in the division.

More tellingly, they average 0.88 Against (xGA), which is the second-best behind only Leeds, which shows how good they are at restricting their opponents high-quality shooting opportunities.

The above ratings give them a Ratio (xGR) of 60.31%, the third-best shot data in the Championship.

History tells us that a team’s shot data can be a more accurate predictor of future results than their previous results and, with three consecutive wins, Brentford are very much on an upward trajectory.

Serious contenders?

Monday night’s victory lifts Brentford up to 12th in the Championship table, just three points off the Play-Off places and four off the top two in a fascinatingly congested promotion race.

They have also been cut to 9/4 for promotion with SkyBet which shows the traders see them as serious contenders.

The West Londoners appear to have all the ingredients for a serious promotion push.