In defence of the defence. And Dean. A special guest looks at the positives

16 Feb

There’s been nothing on these pages for a few days. When you wake up with a head full of nightmares about Tom Field embroiled in a Twitter spat with Donald Trump regarding Matthew Benham’s question – ‘how do you kill the zombie?’  –  its probably time to step back from the football. Or The Walking Dead. So there was no preamble for the Reading game and no post match analysis of how Brentford had fought back from John Swift’s opener to take the lead before two goals in the final 15 minutes handed our hosts a 3-2 win.

Whether yours truly writes any nonsense, nothing really changes. Arsenal have begun their annual last 16 capitulation in the Champions League (please note: does not contain Champions), Jordan Rhodes wrote a letter to a supporter which is fast going viral and up in Scotland, Aberdeen achieved brackets with a 7(seven) – 0 win over Motherwell. Although given it is a win which takes the second placed team in the Premiership to within a mere 24 points of leaders Celtic, one does have to question the level of competition which allowed them to achieve this magical score.

So I had planned on leaving things for another day. To see if Dean comes out with any pearls of wisdom ahead of our next game, away to Sheffield Wednesday, when Dave Washer (aka beesyellow22 on twitter) got in touch. He has penned his own thoughts about Brentford post Reading and you can find them next up.

Thanks Dave. Much appreciated.

Trying to focus on the positives – Dave Washer

After Tuesday night’s stirring, yet ultimately disappointing, game at Reading, I was all set to write a piece today focusing on the negative. My subject: a Twitter poll I ran a couple of weeks ago, asking how many wins we would need out of the four games just gone (Villa, Brighton, Preston, Reading) for Dean Smith’s position as head coach to remain tenable.

Admittedly, not many people took part in my survey (I only got 16 votes!) but of those that did, 63% said we needed to win two games. Looking back now that the dust has settled, we obviously know now what happened. One win, one draw and two defeats. But it’s the manner of the performances that has convinced me to write a positive, rather than negative, blog.

Anyone who saw the Villa game will know how well we played. From back to front we were superb and played a pretty awful Villa team off the park. In fact, we could easily have had more than three goals.

And talking of three goals, we then move onto Brighton. A tough game against a side who have lost only four times this season, yet a performance that was uplifting and positive in equal measure. Yes, we should have killed it off with the penalty, and yes, we should have clung onto the lead with a minute of added time to go, but Brighton aren’t where they are by accident. So yes, a bitter pill to swallow but still an excellent point against a team that will probably be playing the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City next season.

Preston we can probably gloss over – poor defending, wayward passing and a distinct lack of tackling in midfield making Saturday a day to forget at Deepdale. And then there’s that game at the Madejski. 1-0 down. 2-1 up. 3-2 defeat. Yet 23 shots on target and, on another day, we could have scored six or 7 (seven).

And it’s the Reading game that has given me pause for thought. Okay, so we only won one out of those four matches, which, statistically isn’t great. But very often the final scoreline doesn’t tell the whole story. We should have beaten Brighton and we should have beaten Reading. That we didn’t is down to a combination of naivety, midfield frailty and inexperience. But that we’re all disappointed we didn’t beat two of this season’s best (and most consistent) Championship teams says a lot about the undoubted quality we possess in our squad.


You just knew that if Reading won, he’d have a hand in proceedings

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not about to join the Dean Smith fan club anytime soon. I still don’t particularly think he’s the right man for the job and I find him about as inspiring as a Russell Slade half-time team talk – but at least since the Chelsea game he has gone all out to actually win the match. Jota. Canos. Josefzoon. Great players with loads of attacking threat. And on another day against Reading we would have surely scored five or six.

The worrying thing is surely our frailty when it comes to keeping clean sheets. Or not conceding four. Or three. Here’s where I find myself asking why Smith can’t see what, apparently, Warburton and Carsley both could: that we need at least one, if not two, ball-winning midfielders protecting our back four. My solution next Tuesday against Wednesday: play McCormack (if fit) and Barbet. Or, if McCormack isn’t fit, stick Clarke at right back and play Barbet and Colin in front of Dean and Egan. Essentially, they are tough tackling, cultured defenders (who both literally speak the same language) – so why couldn’t they do a job that so desperately needs doing – i.e. protecting our porous-like back four?

But we could discuss tactics, formations and personnel until the cows come home. So, back to my earlier point: I want to focus on the positives rather than the negatives. Positives like the fact that we had 23 attempts at Reading… we were one minute away from beating Brighton… we should have scored five or six at the Madejski… we have a talented group of young players who maybe need a break and rub of the green… and, after Wednesday (on Tuesday) we have five winnable games at home (Rotherham, Wolves, Bristol City, QPR and Blackburn) and four away from home (Ipswich, Forest, Burton and Cardiff).

It has been a season of consistent inconsistency, and unfortunately we happen to currently be in the middle of yet another slump. But we should have won three out of the last four games, and at least we are now scoring lots of goals (more than Hogan is scoring for Villa, that’s for sure).

So, for now I will hold off on being too negative of Smith or critical of the team. (Although, if we only manage one win from the next four, I might change my mind…)


Half time at Reading. Things could be worse…

12 Responses to “In defence of the defence. And Dean. A special guest looks at the positives”

  1. Gordonbankole February 16, 2017 at 7:57 am #

    Dear All

    I keep hearing this word inconsistency. I would argue that results have been consistently poor since we turned Reading over at home – played 21, points 20.

    I keep hearing “should have won”, but in many of these games we don’t even get a draw. How many times can a team be that unlucky?

    And then after Tuesday we heard from DS the time-honoured “play like that next Tuesday and we’ll beat Sheffield Wednesday”. Football doesn’t work like that and never has. I heard that one after Newcastle – we were going to give Wigan a right pasting on that showing. Obviously.

    We’re actually very lucky that there are a number of poor sides this year, otherwise we could be in trouble right now. And we might still be if a couple of these teams get their act together. At which point no doubt we’ll hear that one about us “being too good to go down.”

    Yes, the attacking threat in the last few games has been very refreshing after a few months of turgid football, but you have to get the balance right. And at the moment we are shipping goals for fun, which does not seem to be having a good effect on our keeper’s confidence in particular.

    Contract extension or no contract extension, DS still has much to prove to show he’s the right man for the job.



    • steve lennon February 16, 2017 at 12:10 pm #

      Definition of madness – doing the same thing time after time and expecting a different outcome.

    • Dave Washer February 16, 2017 at 2:56 pm #

      I do agree with you, Gordon. And after the Reading game, I wanted to submit a piece to Nick about the lamentable results we are seeing under Smith’s stewardship. But I then had a slight change of heart and thought I’d try to be positive! Well, there’s a first time for everything!

      I hate making excuses and I agree that this has happened far too many times this season now. There is absolutely nothing to suggest we won’t get absolutely battered up at Hillsborough. I am trying to remain upbeat as it is easy to criticise, hence the stance of my piece. But it is true that it has been a tough watch this season, and now that we’re finally scoring goals and playing decent football going forward, we are getting horribly exposed at the back.

      I personally don’t think Smith is the man to take us forward, whether that’s challenging for promotion, or maintaining a Barnsley/Preston-like position of upper mid-table safety. As I mentioned in my piece, I cannot understand why he cannot see that the defence desperately needs protection. Where is McCormack? Who are the ball-winning midfielders? And why not consider playing someone like Barbet in there?

      Overall, a rather forgettable campaign under the leadership of a man lacking in either inspiration or charisma. What we desperately need in my opinion: some steel at the heart of that midfield. But, to be fair to Smith, if we’d taken our chances on Tuesday, I’m sure we’d all be feeling a lot more positive about his team selection, tactics and man management than we do at the moment!

  2. Mark Hardy February 16, 2017 at 8:30 am #

    Well-balanced responses fellas – and just about enough to stop me throwing the noose over the garage rafters …at least for another week… The scribes on here certainly have more balance than a Dean Smith team selection, that’s for sure…

  3. Bernard Quackenbush (@BernardQuack) February 16, 2017 at 10:33 am #

    Firstly. Nick! You missed a great comedy opportunity with the last pic. You should have cropped the TV out.

    Great to see the thoughts of Mr Washer, and good to see im not the only member of the Yoann Barbet Fan Club. I was surprised to see Bjelland picked on Tuesday after the awful defending at Deepdale and was expecting to see John Egan back. Bjelland is constantly exposed to pace and opposition sides seem very aware of that, being that its pretty much the English way of football. His clear strength is 1 on 1. Barbet meanwhile can cope with pace, and has that special ability to put in a Des Walker style perfect last minute tackle to save the day as we saw many times at the successful back end of last season. I do wonder how Bjelland keeps being picked over Egan & Barbet. Are we trying to justify his much higher wages?

    Otherwise I cannot see their being much change in team for the rest of the season. Im not saying there shouldnt be, but I just dont think Smith is the sort of manager who likes change. The Rico Henry/Tom Field dilemma will prove interesting and surely, once fit, Alan Judge should come in for Nico. For me at the moment the team needs to be built around the King. He needs to be loved and wanted. We want him to stay. We want him to run the show in the position and formation where he can flourish the most.

    • Dave Washer February 16, 2017 at 3:02 pm #

      Thank you, Bernard! Agree with you about Bjelland. Can only assume he is picked because a) he cost a lot of money, b) he’s on a lot of money and c) he’s a current Danish international.

      Also agree about Jota. He is our Messi and needs to dictate the play. The only thing that is keeping me going at the moment is the thought of him hopefully taking to the field with Judge before the end of the season. Please God.

    • Rob February 16, 2017 at 6:11 pm #

      I’ll chip in my own personal thoughts on Bjelland for what its worth. He’s calm on the ball has ability to pick a pass and brings it out of defence well. What has surprised me is that he does lunge at a long ball (and misses) and he’s clearly got tunnel vision because he never seems to see the opposition around him when the ball’s in the air. I’m a little disappointed with his defending and agree, he could be dropped…or push him into the holding midfield role and bring Egan / Barbet back in.
      And its fine margins between being perceived a good or bad manager in this game. Some people are calling Staam a tactically astute manager because of his 3 substitutions ‘created’ 2 goals and the win. Rubbish! Yes, he deserves a bit of credit for bringing on 3 subs (nice to have the option to replace a striker for a striker) but ultimately we gifted the points to them as we have done far to often this season, and Vibe really should have scored at the death but again hesitated. Nailed on penalty in the 1st half too (but probably would have missed anyway!)

  4. Stephen O'Brien February 16, 2017 at 1:04 pm #

    How has our video analysis team failed on a constant basis when reviewing games, after they’ve happened, to see Harlee Dean either completely static when the ball is still in play and bouncing around the danger zone, or merely putting in a token jog or minimal effort when the danger is totally apparent. Look back at video highlights of Readings 1st goal on Tuesday and see Harlee come in to shot at end jogging back aimlessly whilst Reading l,a years are sniffing out the goal opportunity and rest of Bees defence throwing and diving in front of shots on goal.

    This could be picked out in pretty much every game he’s played. Not to be too harsh on him, he’s improved no end this season but he is still not able for competition at the level of mid to top Championsip football and until we address it, we will remain with the problem of conceding goals galore. He remains the on player left from the Warburton era and I highly suspect that’s because we’ve never had any interest in him from any other team, especially those in the same division or above. Longevity and appearances does not make for loyalty and this ill used John Terry phrase of ‘#captainleaderlegend’ nonsense, it simply screams no bids received to cash in on him, or else he’d be long gone by the wayside.

    I also concur with Bernard above who has noticed Bjellands complete lack of pace. He runs like he’s in sand whilst others are on an Olympic running track. He’s causing fear and confusion in Bentley and Dean and the full backs who have a duty to push on down their flanks are leaving a feeble core at the back behind them. Once again highlighting how important a holding, tackling, protective midfielder is but sadly missing.

    Egan, although also woefully short of pace, seemed at the start of the season to be brilliant but tailing off badly now and his confidence is also well below where it should be and like the comments above, I don’t buy in to Dean Smith at all. Nice guy, perhaps too nice. No dynamism though and I still stand by the fact that not a single player has improved under his over a year now, guideship. He’s got lucky with the signing of Jozefzoon and how direct and attacking he is and the fact that Jota had to practically beg to come back as he wasn’t being recalled by Smith at all but now we have him, he’s stand out greatness is clear to see but none of this is down to Smiths foresight or tactical nous, more sheer luck.

    Smith is quite clearly a yes man to remain in charge in the interim period whilst the stadium is under construction but a 12 month contract extension screams to me that the hierarchy in the club know full well that he’ll never be the man to take this team forward for a promotion push, but perhaps that’s not where we want to be right now when finances are already committed to building Lionel Road in the next couple of years???

    • peter lumley February 16, 2017 at 1:45 pm #

      As a long-suffering Brentford fan(since 1942) for me the performance against Reading summed up the agonises of the current season.With a squad that “on its day” is capable of beating any side in the Championship why are we languishing in the bottom half of the table with an outside chance of “achieving” relegation ? Is it due to the inconsistency of the players or the lack of ability of the senior management and the coaches?Perhaps Matthew Benham could provide us with an answer to that one.!!

      • Peter Lane February 16, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

        Dean Smith is the reason , I would like him for once to take responsibility when we lose or things go wrong. He can’t keep blaming players , individual errors and age all the time being as he is picking them. By taking some of the blame takes focus away from young inexperienced players and that’s what I believe a good leader should do. I always remember a Walsall fan saying ‘look out for Smiths excuses , he always blames someone else’ and this has rung true. He doesn’t come across very bright to me !!

  5. peter lumley February 16, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

    If DeanSmith really is the reason why on earth have the owner and the Ds of F given him an extended contract? Surely MB’s faith in his statistical analysts should have led to a different outcome..Bring back the frailties of human judgement !!

  6. peter lumley February 16, 2017 at 8:14 pm #

    If Dean Smith really is the reason why on earth have the owner and the Ds of F given him an extended contract? Surely MB’s faith in statistical analyses should have led to a different outcome. Perhaps we should bring back the frailties of human judgement!!!

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