Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.

28 Nov

Well that was awful yesterday. And not the news that Mrs. Brown’s Boys leads the BBC Christmas schedule with two episodes of the alleged ‘favourite’ having been commissioned for the festive period.  Of course we mean football where, being honest, even after sleeping on this one I’m struggling to be positive this morning. That Sheffield United made it 6 defeats out of 7(seven) for Brentford since Dean Smith left is almost secondary. The 3-2 loss contained so many problems that even had we grabbed a last gasp equaliser, it would actually have masked the deficiencies as I’ve no doubt we’d be told how this team never gives up and keeps fighting until the end. Yet the simple fact is this game should have been well out of sight by half-time. How the visitors only led by a single goal as we went in for our bovril I’m still not sure. With a televised trip to West Bromwich Albion next up on Monday night, it’s not going to get any easier for Thomas Frank’s Bees.

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Incredibly…. You HAVE been warned.

It had all started off so brightly. Despite the sparce crowd, Buzz and Buzzette did their level best to get things going before kick-off. The team came out of the traps flying and it wasn’t long before we’d raced into the lead. With just 6 minutes gone, Romaine Sawyers played Neal Maupay through and there was no mistake as the Championship’s top scorer grabbed his 13thof the campaign. What a start. But what a response was to follow.

Straight from the kick-off, the Blades poured forward in a move which culminated with Daniel Bentley’s crossbar left quivering after John Lundstrum blasted it from ten yards out. By all rights he should have scored given the space and position in which he found himself in front of the goal. It was a massive let off for Brentford and alarm bells should have been ringing. If so, nobody was listening.

Just a few minutes later Sheffield United were level as Ezri Konsa turned a corner into his own net for 1-1. And then it was 2. Oliver Norwood giving the visitors the lead with just a quarter hour gone after hitting a beauty from outside the box. Catching it first time the ball rose, curled and then dipped past Bentley high into the back of the net. It was a magnificent strike but saw yet another game where we’d conceded a batch of goals in short space of time to throw things away.

It could, probably should, have been worse after Daniel Bentley made a wonderful save at close range half way through the opening period after denying United from close range with a huge stop.

Yet in return, we offered nothing. The goal aside Brentford were lacklustre. Abject. Masters of our own self-destruction. Sideways and backwards passing saw us unable to make inroads once the visitors had settled. The midfield lacked bite and a leader. Lewis Macleod lightweight. Alan Judge making the effort but getting drawn out of position time and again. Josh McEachran uncharacteristically tetchy. Lucky to escape a booking for a quite blatant push in front of the ref that gave away a free-kick in the heart of Saunders territory. Captain Romaine Sawyers conspicuous by his silence. Where was the desire? Where was the will to win? If it was there then I didn’t see it. And that’s the most disappointing aspect of the night.

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United were head and shoulders above Brentford in the first half.

Yet. Yet. Half-time came and it was only 2-1. Despite it all, we were still very much alive. Whilst United started brightly once more, Brentford soon stepped it up. This was more like it. The pressure built. The ball started to move forward. The crowd started to lift and just after the hour Romaine Sawyers saw his cross-come-shot turned in by John Fleck for the game’s second o.g. as parity was restored. That was better and there was only one team in it from here? Wasn’t there.

Err, yes. Sheffield United.

Instead of pushing on, Brentford allowed the frailties of the first half to return. Sheffield United were given the freedom of Griffin Park as our defence once more turned into vampires. Scared of crosses. If the first goal had seen us concede from a position where we’d have expected Mepham (who missed it) or Konsa (who gifted the goal) the opportunity to clear, Leon Clarke’s winner was even worse. I’ve seen caravans that were less static. Like Middlesbrough at the weekend, a well delivered ball into the box was our undoing.

Clarke may have been embarrassed by the copious space he was left in but he made no mistake. His shot was hard and low past the diving Bentley for 3-2. And that’s how it stayed. The subsequent substitutions making no difference to a Brentford team that limped towards the final whistle.

But for me, the most telling sign was at the death. With the Bees awarded a late free-kick, Thomas Frank was clearly telling Chris Mepham to push up into the box. There followed a quite bizarre looking argument of shrugging, arms open in the ‘what’s going on?’ position and the player refusing to move up. Eventually, he would but it did beg the question what all that was about?

Lack of respect? Frustration? Or just a general confusion about what we should be doing in a dead ball situation? Why isn’t this sort of stuff clarified on the training ground rather than in the public eye? If nothing else, football 101 says that when a team is goal down and awarded a dangerous spot kick at the death, everybody piles up. Sometimes even the ‘keeper. What you don’t do is argue with the boss and keep two defenders back.

I’m not a coach. I’m not a manager. I’m just the numpty on the terrace and you may think I’ve called this all wrong. Fair enough if so. It should have been a quite fantastic night under the floodlights. I take no pleasure from moaning about the team and have looked to remain upbeat this campaign. Yet that was painful last night and don’t let the closeness of the result fool anyone. Brentford were second in every respect. Goals scored. Cohesiveness. Attitude.

We don’t have a divine right to be any good. I’ve said this many times and it’s true. Yet to see players who we know are more than capable looking so out of sorts is just wrong. To see a team looking so bereft of ideas when we’ve torn rivals apart at times is a worry. And whilst Thomas may be on the business end of the bad run, let’s not forget that despite all the ‘deserving’, the culmination of Dean’s time in charge saw only 1 win out of 6. Even Marinus had a better track record at this stage of ‘games played’ into his own start – and that’s a scary thing to acknowledge.

We do have injuries, of course. Who wouldn’t miss the likes of Ollie Watkins or Saïd Benrahma? Rico Henry and Emiliano Marcondes are only just returning to action.  The ability is there amongst those who are fit.

The real question now is not the position of the head coach, which many fans are already questioning, but more what he does to unlock the talent and inspire his team.

Roll on West Brom when we find out.

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The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

14 Responses to “Tough questions to ask, and answer, after an insipid performance under the lights.”

  1. Captain Colon. November 28, 2018 at 8:36 am #

    Lost the dressing room has he found it. If leading spenders in championship are watching then the Brentford ‘stars’ will need to perform if they are going to double their money in January.

  2. Beesfan November 28, 2018 at 8:46 am #

    You’ve summed it up pretty perfectly there Nick with the word insipid.
    Why are we playing so poorly? The Mepham incident was the perfect example of a lack of organisation and leadership.

    I’m sure we’ll come good, but we are in freefall at the moment

  3. David Carney. November 28, 2018 at 9:03 am #

    If players of the calibre at Brentford do not know what to do on the field the it is essential to look at the structure and the leadership. The players are the same quality today as they were at the beginning of the season, so what has changed?
    The answer is the management structure. I am no expert, am far to distant from the club and have no inside knowledge whatsoever, so these are just observations of recent comments:
    1. Post game Thomas Frank was reported to have made the comment that he wants Players, staff and supporters to stick together.
    2. At the same post match appearance he singled out Konza and Mepham for criticism.
    3.The new 1st Assistant Coach I am sure i read that his areas of expertise where he would make a contribution was to improve the defence. Goals have been shipped like water entering the Titanic since her arrived.
    Your comments regarding the apparent conflict between Thomas Frank and Mepham is hardly surprising if Frank criticises individuals in a public forum, whilst at the same time effectively making a public appeal for everyone to support him. Premier League teams are apparently lining up to pay 15 – 20 million for both Mepham and Konsa in the January window. I would not be surprised if both say “I will not put up with this’ then take the extra cash and move on as quickly as possible. If it happens to one or two you can be sure other players would be feeling the same way. There could be a number agitating for a move, potential recruits will be aware of the bushfire and go elsewhere.
    There is no smoke without fire and the media conference comments are a real worry. You have described the team ‘looking bereft of ideas’, etc. Media reports note the frustration displayed by Maupay,
    Where is the leadership, where is the cohesion, where is the bonding and the fighting for each other in the trenches.
    As I said, the players are the same, they are still as good as ever. Where is the cohesion, where is the fight, where is the desire and who put the fire out.

  4. simonsapper November 28, 2018 at 9:48 am #

    You called it right Nick.

    • Biggin Hill Phil November 28, 2018 at 10:42 am #

      Have to agree entirely with you. At the away game at Derby, after conceding a goal players were arguing amongst themselves on the pitch. Dalsgaard ran up to Smith and shouted at him. At the time I thought that a bad sign. I don’t know the cause but the problem was in place before Frank took over.
      Start of last season we were playing well and confidently but not getting the points. Now we are doing neither. It does look like a lost dressing room.
      Again all the possession but most of it in our half. Suits our opposition, particularly if they are in the lead and we are doing their defensive play for them. West Brom might be crunch time.

  5. Rod Davidson November 28, 2018 at 11:15 am #

    There appears to be a blame culture developing.
    I wasn’t aware of the post match comments but I did see the glances and shrugged shoulders between the players during the match. There was no collective closing down of the opposition, when they had possession. There was a phase when there was a complete void in midfield. There were times when a pass would be given, but there was no desire to maintain momentum by working for a quick return pass.
    Having said that, it is true that when Marcondes and DaSilva came on – that changed, and we were probing with some good link up play.
    So what’s the answer to that? Was it fresher legs, or was it that Sheffield Utd sat back on purpose and allowed us to have a go.
    I suppose the last phase of the match does at least show that there is undoubted skill and talent in the team, as we went about probing their defence in a concerted way, with high tempo attacks.
    Is it sustainable over 90 minutes though?
    Probably, if one could use substitutions more creatively. Perhaps last night called for a much earlier intervention of the sequence of substitutions.
    This mantra of subs being used at the 70th minute needs have a much more creative application.
    Last night during the first half, ‘poor’ Sergi Canos was like a fish out of water. His touch was abysmal. It took until the 31st minute to show what he can do, when he jinked inside, beating three men before blasting over the bar. Apart from that, until his early second half substitution, he did nothing that came close to influencing the game.
    Can we afford to rely on just one flash of inspiration during the first 45 minutes plus the additional 11 minutes the poor man endured in the second half.
    I want him to blossom, I want him to bloom, I want him to terrorise all the defences he comes up against but it’s not to be at the moment.
    The answer? If we are not capable of putting an arm around someone’s shoulders, and coaxing the best out of them, then we need, an Alan McCormack type.
    An old ‘pro’ capable of stirring everyone up. Capable of scaring both the opposition and his own team mates with harsh words and some home truths.
    This team is far too talented, to let it whither on the vine!

  6. Robert Smith November 28, 2018 at 1:01 pm #

    Accurate report. Sad but accurate. 😥

  7. Brighton Bee November 28, 2018 at 2:05 pm #

    You callled it right Nick as have all your other correspondents. Last night was bordering on embarassing with the ease with with Sheff Utd brushed us aside. The difference between the two teams in terms of organisation and commitment was very worrying. I don’t blame Thomas Frank entirely as this bad run started whilst Dean Smith was in charge. But I do ask questions of the DofF as they are the ones who, in truth, have recruited a team of lightweight albeit very skilful players who too often get muscled out of games. For example I have been saying for months that we have never adequately replaced Douglas or McCormack as a linchpin / leader and this was once again very evident last night. The difference in physicality was once again very evident. We also need a plan B, teams have worked us out and thanks to our recruitment policy we have nothing available on the bench that will change games or at least give it a bloody good go. Sadly, I think Frank is on borrowed time already. Perhaps he’s the fall guy for others but clearly something needs to be done very quickly before we end up on a relation scenario.

  8. Daniel November 28, 2018 at 6:00 pm #

    Spot on again NIck. Do think that after our great start, other teams found us out – like to play from the back so just push up really high and force us into errors and/or be really physical and break up our preferred game. When teams do this we don’t have any response. Confidence began to go under Smith and just worsened under Franks and as you said, Sheffield had everything we are missing now, confidence, speed, energy. Will be a long season.

  9. Bernard Quackenbush (@BernardQuack) November 28, 2018 at 6:32 pm #

    Now I’m a mild mannered guy, but i completely lost it last night!! I resembled Fenella the witch from Chorlton & the Wheelies berating her toadstools!

    Last night’s performance was dire. It was embarrasing and your use of the word insipid was spot on. We look completely lost and struggling for ideas. Our defence was shocking. Clearly we have a doppelganger as the Dalsgaard who turns out for Denmark is not the same one who turns out for us. Konsa’s own goal was shocking and Mepham seems to be getting more and more petulant.

    McEachran just doesnt have the strength for a DM & lacks the discipline needed. Sergi looked like a lost schoolboy, hanging out on the touchline, waiting for the ball to come to him as the game passed him by. Lewis MacLeod? Was he playing?

    As for Romaine. Carrying on his awful run of form, but the new permanent captain was anonymous. When all was falling apart around him. What does our onfield leader do? Just wanders around without a care in the world. Not a word to anyone. He is no Paul Evans, Big Tel or even Harlee. There is no inspiration and worse of all, appears to have no motivation. That really angered me.

    There is little energy. No oomph to the side. We play too deep with the oppo on our tails in an instead. We dont press anymore. We have no Plan B. Tactically and strategically we look like a bottom 3 side. When we were 2-1 down going into injury time in the first half we were still just knocking it around at the back with no urgency that the whistle was about to g. It went without the ball reaching United’s penalty area. Frank is appearing out of his depth. Not every coach can make the step up. Some players struggle adjusting to a change of relationship and maybe some players are not adjusting & reacting negatively. Singling out two players is going to make things worse and was a huge error of judgement and ultimately could cost Frank his job if he loses the dressing room at this early stage. At the end there were boos and shouts of Frank Out. I have to agree. With games against WBA & Swansea coming up Frank could well be looking at 8 defeats out of 9. Thats completely unacceptable and for me he has to go now.

    • Dave Washer November 29, 2018 at 11:05 am #

      Fantastic comments as usual from BQ.

      Nothing more to add.

      Frank not up to the job.

      No different to Dijkhuizen.

      Need to get rid fast, replace with someone who can give the whole squad a kick up the backside.

      Need to go back to basics.

      Drop players who aren’t performing / can’t be bothered.

      Defend from the back.

      More energy.

      More intensity.

      More desire.

      If (when?) we lost on Monday, Frank’s position is completely untenable and he HAS to go.

  10. Paul Klein November 28, 2018 at 7:23 pm #

    As always Nick, your observations are spot on in that it was a poor performance but it was the attitude that was more worrying. When you get a run like this the spotlight inevitably falls on the manager. As nice a bloke as he his, he looks out of his depth and maybe the attitude of the players is an indication they think the same.

    • Nigel Garrigan November 28, 2018 at 9:38 pm #

      Hi, I agree with you and all of the above. I’ve written about this before and been criticised. I apologise again, but Frank’s is a hopeless novice who in my opinion has never had the respect of the ‘changing room’. We need to get rid of him before this ‘blip’ turns into a real crisis – we are 4 points off 23rd. We have a great squad, we need an experienced Manger/Coach to realise it’s full potential and ‘put an arm round’ the developing younsters – not criticise them in public. I hate to say this, but QPR and Birmingham in my opinion made sensible measured managerial appointments and are reaping the rewards, they may not get promoted but they won’t get relegated either – and before you throw rotten tomato’s at me have a look at the current form table and the league tables – apparently the tables doesn’t lie. The common dominater – an experienced English Manger. Phil Giles will be as good as his word, we’ll sell our prized assets in January if we’re not in contention, and we won’t be – and then what?

  11. Spanish Bee November 28, 2018 at 8:03 pm #

    Unfortunately I don’t get to come to UK much but got to the Bristol City game. I don’t disagree with anything on here but think DFs have to take responsibility.

    The best teams are a mixture of different talents our guys are good and skillful but look too alike to each other. We need more bite more lungs and more years in the mix.

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