EFL Team in Focus: Brentford’s Plan Bee

Ambition to challenge for the Play-Offs

Since Mark Warburton left Griffin Park in 2015, Brentford’s seasons have generally followed similar patterns.

The Bees have played sufficiently high-quality football to challenge for the Play-Offs, but perhaps lacked the adaptability, tenacity and strength in both boxes to make inroads into the top six.

The West Londoners’ first full season under Thomas Frank, though, could be different; despite having been on the coaching team during the previous regime, the Dane has made some pragmatic tweaks in his 10 months in charge.

Frank’s troops entered the final Saturday of August with a modest four points from five games; they would have accumulated more had dominant displays against Birmingham and Charlton been rewarded, rather than ended in 1-0 defeats.

The 3-0 victory over Derby though, not only lifts Brentford up to 13th – three points off the embryonic top six – it also gives them confidence that they can challenge.

Brentford began 2017-18 in similar circumstances – dominating games without killing teams off – and were winless in eight, but then the 3-0 win at Bolton sparked off a nine-game unbeaten run.

Frank will hope the thumping of the Rams by the same scoreline can have a similar impact.

Playing forward earlier

Under Dean Smith, Brentford were keen to try to score the perfect goal.

If they had the opportunity to pop the ball down the channel early, they would often pass it up in favour of going sideways.

Of course, this meant they controlled possession in most of their games and created a lot of half-chances – yet equally, struggled to create clear cut goalscoring opportunities.

Frank is trying to change that: April’s 2-0 win over Leeds, in which they released Neal Maupay for the opener with a simple through ball, hinted at a willingness to play more direct at times.

In their last game, Frank’s side scored one of their goals from just two passes, then bagged the other two without needing any passes – they managed to score through turning the ball over high up the pitch and then via a set piece.

This shows that while Brentford can still play out from the back, they have other ways of opening teams up and can adapt to different circumstances.

Jansson’s impact

Pontus Jansson’s arrival at Brentford shows how the club is now shopping in a much higher market than it used to be.

Of course, for the move to happen, Leeds had to be willing to let the Swede leave in order to fund another deal – but it says a lot that it was the Bees who were able to pounce.

Until this summer, they had not signed one player for as big a fee as £3 million, so the fact they added a 28-year-old for a reported £5.5 million shows that, after a half-decade of being the club that invests in potential and then sells on, Brentford are now showing short-term ambition – and they have more than earned the right to do that.

Jansson has had a positive impact on Brentford’s rear-guard, which has benefited hugely from their new captain’s leadership, organisational qualities and stout defending of the penalty area.

In contrast, for example, with the 2016-17 campaign, in which they conceded as many as 65 goals, so far this year they have shipped just four in six.

Two of those goals happened to be the only shots on target they faced in clashes with Birmingham and Charlton.

Another came at Leeds, who are arguably the best team in the league, so while they were wrong to leave Jarrod Bowen in space high up for Hull’s goal at Griffin Park in the 1-1 draw in week two, they have got a lot of things right at the back.

Dalsgaard further back

One of the problems for Brentford in their first few games was being short of a Yoan Barbet replacement.

They did not have someone to push out of the back-three in Frank’s 3-4-3, join up with the midfield and link play from there.

Against Derby, though, Frank started Sergi Canos at right wing-back and dropped Henrik Dalsgaard into a wide centre-back role.

That looks a masterstroke as Brentford not only have the energy, direct running and instinctively positive play of Canos, they also have Dalsgaard overlapping from behind if needed.

Promotion chances?

Brentford are currently 13/8 with SkyBet for a top six finish.

Considering how many different aspects they have to their game, considering that they have the all-important confidence booster of a convincing victory after a couple of unlucky defeats and considering how impressive they can be, it could be worth backing the Bees to make their mark on the promotion picture.

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