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Time to shed the L plates and get back to business

11 Feb

Brentford are back at home on Saturday for a clash with Crystal Palace where getting a point or three on the board is very much top of the priorities. Wednesday night’s 2-0 reverse at Manchester City felt like Liverpool away all over. Whilst a performance to give huge swathes of encouragement for the rest of the campaign, it still ended with another L being added to our current run of league form. At face value, our record is worse than The England Supporters Band World Cup singalong EP. Current results seeing the letter L becoming as unwelcome as one hanging around Mrs. Brown’s (of Boys infamy) neck on a hen night. Sounds and sights that nobody needs. The big question being how we get to reverse this blip before it moves form a statistical anomaly to an albatross?

Sights and sounds nobody needs

First things first, Manchester City away. The highlights of that one were covered off in the player review which you can find here. An already tough task was made inifinitely harder before the game had even started when it was revealed there would be no Ivan Toney, no Vitaly Janelt, no Bryan Mbeumo and no Yoanne Wissa. Striking options reduced to Sergi Canos and Saman Ghoddos.

We love Sergi in our house but if those two knew each other like the back of their hand then they must have been wearing gloves. Those rare opportunities where a break was made possible immediately snuffed out by a wayward pass or the offside flag.

The positive news being our performance in keeping our hosts at bay. Many had expected Manchester City to score at will but an ultra-disciplined performance at the back – where Kris Ajer and Rico Henry in particular were standout – saw the attacking threat nullified. The midfield, likewise. Something which made the manner of the two goals we did concede all the more frustrating.

Sergi spurning chances to release the ball in midfield, losing possession and Mads Roerslev giving away a clumsy penalty form the resultant ball forward. It was all a bit Laurel and Hardy yet so avoidable. From Sergi’s part, last season’s Norwich City away all over again. An infrequent but glaring howler. For Mads, perhaps a bit of inexperience and big game rabbit in the headlights but, again, he didn’t even get close to the ball and it was as clumsy as they come. David Raya with no chance from the spot kick. Much as the game in Liverpool, forty plus minutes of resolute defending undone with one lapse minutes before half-time.

If the first had been Liverpool away, the second was a carbon copy. Perhaps even tougher to swallow given we’d been playing our way back in to the game. Rico had almost equalised moments after the penalty and now the Bees were actually breaking forward. Putting City on the backfoot. Yoanne Wissa was all set to join the fray when more sloppiness, from the unlikeliest of sources. David Raya passing it out of defence and straight to Raheem Sterling. It was Alvaro Fernandez at Anfield all over again. One that we will, perhaps, be generous and chalk down to being out of action for all those months. If nothing else, his performance the rest of the game was as welcome and confidence inspiring as they come.

Let’s be clear, having David Raya back is a magnificent thing. No Brentford fan would deny that. Form started to wobble the moment he went away and, whilst it may take a game or so to reacquaint himself with the defence, long term our prospects are infinitely sounder. Likewise Josh Dasilva, who came off the bench for a pre-planned substitution. He was our star man against Everton and continues to show what we’ve been missing. Cautious reintegration to the team – it was a LONG injury break – will surely be the way here as fitness returns.

Then there’s Christian Eriksen. Is Crystal Palace too soon for him to have a run out? He’s been in training this week and says he’s in better shape than ever , albeit obviously lacking competitive minutes.

When might he step from training ground to first XI ?

However, with two goalkeepers being maned on the bench for Manchester City, I’m half expecting him, to be added to the substitutes for Palace. Even if there’s no chance of getting an actual run out. Just think of the boost it will give the crowd when his name is read out. When we see him warming up. Running down the touchline. Perhaps as important a move to make as actually bringing a player on. As for the noise if / when Christian finally enters the fray. Whether it is against Crystal Palace or elsewhere. Thomas has a wonderful card up his sleeve and when he plays it is a decision that has everyone guessing. Everyone talking. Everyone anticipating.

As for Crystal Palace, they’re only a point ahead of the Bees following a 1-1 draw with Norwich City midweek. I don’t think even Dean Smith would claim his side deserved to win after the Eagles had a gola disallowed and were guilty of missing what has been described as one of the worst Premier League penalties of all time. If only Manchester City had followed that script.

The game at Selhurst Park ended in a 0-0 draw. Our first Premier League away day played out in a cauldron of noise – even if it did require, shudders, a drummer to help crank things up. Likewise, there was fake Hans Gruber in the supermarket end, Doing his best to wind up the visitors and falling flat on his face (metaphorically speaking) after being invited to leave by the stewards.

Goodbye

Despite the mayhem and chaos all around, Brentford more than held their own. Recreating similar (perhaps without the drum) will be huge tomorrow. Ivan Toney being declared fit, equally so. Thomas Frank used his press conference yesterday to share the update that, “We found out late on Monday afternoon that Ivan Toney would be a big doubt for the City game (with a calf injury) but fingers crossed he’ll be ready for Saturday. It will be a race against time but we’re hoping he’ll be okay for the Palace game.

Only time will tell if Ivan is involved. If Bryan starts or Vitaly is fit. Whether Christian Eriksen could make a gladiatorial entry into the fray. Roll on 2.01pm when the team is named and we find out.

Bring it on. See you there.

Nick Bruzon

Manchester City post match debrief

10 Feb

Our evening in the North-West ended with a 2-0 defeat for Brentford. A much changed team, which included David Raya for his first Premier League start in over four months, was unable to hold off the might of Manchester City despite giving it their all. With Ivan Toney presumably held back for Crystal Palace on Saturday, who were the top performers for Brentford? What were the highlights? And the lowlights, if any?

As ever, you can read it here in the post match catch up to find the leading player of the season aswell as our regular top five. It was close. It was disciplined but, in the end, it was Manchester City away….

Nick Bruzon

Might City take a tumble? Could we go top ten?

9 Feb

After the euphoria of Saturday’s 4-1 FA Cup victory, time for a massive dose of reality and coming back down to earth with a bump. Manchester City may have breezed into the fifth round at the weekend but their challenge tonight is as tough as it comes when Brentford make another trip to the North-West for a Premier League fixture. Just as for Frank Lampard’s Everton, who discovered that the same level of high scoring success in the pursuit of Wembley may not translate to the league when they were thumped at Newcastle United. Defeat for Watford at West Ham, whose selection of cat kicking Kurt Zouma was about as shameless as it gets given the words out of the club and manager David Moyes, and another draw for Burnley mean that the bottom three, or even five, remain relatively detatched. Whilst some Brentford fans are feeling the angst about getting potentially sucked into that pack, the simple fact is that victory over Manchester City by 9 goals or more will see us back in the top ten. Simple.

Granted, you can’t bet on higher than a 5-0 victory for Brentford or more than six goals being scored in total (at least, not on my bookmaker’s site). Even then the odds of 250-1 and 5-1 respectively suggest that victory by the magic margin may be something best confined to the realms of wishful thinking. The Manchester City squad one which runs so deep that even if they picked Mr. Tumble, you’d still expect the bookies to back them.

Pick him, Pep. Please

Thomas Frank would use his press conference yesterday to outline the challenge although also acknowledging the fact that, “It’s still 11 vs 11 tomorrow night. We are looking forward to a massive challenge, maybe our biggest of the season, but it is about believing that you can get something out of it and giving it a massive go.”

He was also savvy enough to note that, “If we go and get something out of the match it’ll be one of the biggest surprises in this year’s Premier League. Manchester City are the clear number one in the league, playing some brilliant football and having a fantastic season“.

This, very much, the expectation from just about everyone outside TW8. It is a free hit of a game. On paper a seemingly impossible task in a match with nothing to lose, barring the presumed result, and everything to gain.  Manchester City are league leaders and champions. Expected to romp home. To pick up where they left off against Fulham on Saturday afternoon. It’s a shame the EFL club were unable to offer any real resistance to City. Even to take them to extra time. But there you go.

Indeed, if there was any consolation to take from our own thing at Frank Lamp etc etc (we’ll take that as assumed from now on) Everton, it was that at least our torture was over in regulation time. There was no dragging it out any longer. No extended runout for a largely first choice XI.  Likewise, the returns of David Raya and that wonderful cameo from Josh Dasilva late on. Christian Eriksen is not available for selection as yet (in itself, about as bizarre a statement as one might have considered commiting to paper at the start of the season) but Yoanne Wissa and Bryan Mbeumo are both back in contention after missing out at Goodison Park.  

Christian remains in training, for now

For those expecting a change in formation, keep on waiting. Thomas also using his conference to confirm that the three centre back set up remains for now. It is more how we get the best out of it. With no word given on Ethan Pinnock – that I saw – short of this being some double bluff then one would expect things to remain as they were on Saturday. Hopefully the set piece coach has done his thing in training. With opposition corner kicks being the equivalent of a penalty kick at present, such is the ease with which goals come, the ability to head the ball (and outwards) will be crititcal. For all we were talking up the rewards that racing to and and past brackets could afford Brentford in terms of table position by full time, the simple fact of the matter is that unless we’ve upped our defensive game rapidly since the Everton debacle, it could be City relying on the abacus to keep track.

For what its worth, I’m expecting a ten times better performance tonight. Win, lose or draw this is about as big as it gets. As hard as it comes. Manchester City away is always the toughest game of a campaign for any other side, let alone a team who have never played at this level before. Then again, perhaps going into it without the baggage of past experience  – given that for most other sides that experience is usually a brutal one – is the best weapon up our sleeves.

If anything, it is our performances against the top teams that have seen Brentford at their very best. Whilst the trips to Burnley, Southampton and Everton have been amongst the real low points, faced with top six opposition the opposite has been true. The Bees raising their game to quite wonderful levels against Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea. Blitzing Man United in that first half before eventually being outplayed and, of course, that wonderful win at West Ham – Wissa’s late, late winner still up there with my favourite moments of the season. As much for the reaction of the home support just to our left. Meow!!

A shame the club didn’t share the same passion for animal rights but, there you go.

West Ham away – wonderful. Especially the 94th minute

Even the visit from Manchester City in December only saw them win it by the odd goal in one. Again, there had been early chances for Brentford before our opponents showed their class and speed to break down the other end and open us up as easily as a can of baked beans. 0-0 and on the backfoot became 0-1 in a matter of seconds. Close but no cigar.

Will tonight be any different? Nobody gives us a prayer, that’s for sure. Whether blind optimism is enough to carry us through or Thomas Frank has something special up his sleeve will become clear when things start at 7.45 pm.

Bring it on !

There’d be scenes to rival this moment if we can get a result tonight

Nick Bruzon

Josh a rare Raya sunshine on an otherwise dreadful day.

6 Feb

At least we can concentrate on the league…. There you go. Tick. That said, it would be nice if Brentford could concentrate on actual defending because dial in anywhere near that level of backline based ineptitude against Manchester City on Wednesday night and it’s going to get grammatical (if you know what I mean). Do we need to spell it out? Brackets!! Brentford gave Frank Lampard the most generous of debuts as Frank Lampard’s Everton went through to the FA Cup fifth round on Saturday afternoon. A 4-1 victory for the Toffees the result that, as ever, doesn’t tell half the story. Thankfully. Lampard given the warmest of welcomes by the Bees in the most miserable of conditions. It was wretched. Dismal. Dank. Overcast. The weather was shite too, matching the performance of our centre backs as the goals rained in.   

Two goals conceded from corners. Nobody moving to try and direct the ball outwards for either.  The second corner in particular an absolute horror show as Mads Bech elected to head the ball goalwards and right into the path of Mason Holgate – one of several unmarked players btw. The Everton man making no mistake from close in but, then again, presented such an opportunity even Ian Moose might have come close to an early birthday present (tomorrow is the day). Possibly. 

If you pause the highlights, you can see the defensive masterclass in full effect

It was the nail in the coffin of a relatively even game which Ivan Toney had pulled us back into with a trade mark penalty for 2-1 down and then come painfully close to levelling things up. Brentford had been in the ascendency at that point. The travelling support sensing the chance to reassert ourselves into a cup tie that had looked like getting away from us.

This, after Yerry Mina had been left unchallenged in a first half corner routine and danger man Allan (hey, we did say before) freed Richarlison to burst clear with the second half barely minutes old. David Raya (not a typo !!!!!!) in nets left cruelly exposed and despite rushing off his line, unable to stop the lead being doubled.

Raya was back – and played the whole game

Ah yes, David Raya. The cheer from the few Brentford fans pitch side when his name was announced at 2pm (the crowded vomitories a much better idea in hindsight) was louder than anything our hosts mustered most of the game. It was a strangely lacklustre atmosphere, with the singing not even starting until the third goal had rained in. Not even as the teams entered the pitch to the shrill whistling of the theme tune from TV’s Z-Cars. Dogs left howling at the moon all around Goodison.

It should have set the mood for the messiah but instead, the mood felt more one of caution amongst a fanbase who hadn’t seen their team take the lead since October 23rd 2020. They needn’t have worried. It’s Brentford, inniit. Our defending of – and also, for the record, taking – set pieces as atrocious as it comes. And has been for much of the season. Long throws are predictable. Free kicks tepid. Corners need to be headed clear. Not watched. 

Ethan Pinnock had been named initially at 2pm before going awol when the players came out and the team sheet recirculated. No idea what happened here. Late Covid test ( sadly, Bryan also missed out after testing positive for the dreaded c word  once more)? Dressing room bust up? Fat fingered typos from ‘official’? Whatever the reason, his aerial presence was missed. Much like our attempts to head the ball clear. Mads and Pontus amongst those who really won’t want to watch this one back but should be forced to, in full. Twice.

Now you see him, now you don’t

Poor Alvaro Fernandez. The stick he has taken. Understandably for a lot of it (oh, that Liverpool backpass thing alone) but perhaps not just down to one man as the frenzied mob on Twitter may have you believe.

Look, at least David Raya was back. Being honest, I didn’t expect him. Surely this was too soon with just 60 minutes of a friendly under his belt? Apparently not. Seeing him warm up was reason alone to brave the elements rather than go backstage for that prematch pint. Oh, the throws, The catches. The confidence. His distribution once things got going for real was reason enough to feel the optimism coursing through the veins even moreso than usual. That we were back to our old selves.  Then he was sold up the river as the midfield and defence invited Everton to help themselves.

The other huge plus point was the return of Josh Dasilva. My word, his twenty minute cameo late on was about as welcome as they get. Not just the relief in seeing him back out there for the first time this season but, like David Raya, the comfort with which he slipped straight back in. The excitement he engenders. The optimism he inspires. That ‘next level’ movement on the ball. “Shoooot’ implored the crowd as he worked it round the edge of a crowded penalty box. Alas, it didn’t come this time. Instead, the net only rippled at the other end when Andros Townsend was invited to administer one final, injury time kick to the private parts of the Brentford faithful. Down and now very much out. Out of the cup. Out of the game. Out of the misery of desperately hanging on for a late goal then last gasp blitzkrieg assault. Of David Raya heading home for 3-3 on 90+4.

Ahh. One can dream. Instead, we endured a living nightmare.

Look – I hate to put the boot into our team. We’ve made the step up to top flight football with a largely Championship side (Kris Ajer aside). We’ve mostly held our own, too. I don’t care for getting upset about our transfer policy. Keep on shouting into the echo chamber of social media, kids. It won’t change what or how we do things. It certainly won’t change the ability of those players out there to show some guts. Show some fire in the belly when under the cosh.

And they didn’t do that yesterday. Not even close.

Everton were there for the taking. Instead, we offered them hope, comfort and the ball. They took all three gifts and fully deserved to win the game. You could see them grow from strength to strength as the Bees became shakier and shakier. No sour grapes there. Well played. I just wish Brentford could have done similar.

sledgehammer like unsubtlty to show how shaky we were

The other way to look at this was that the game was a ‘free hit’. True, we’ve fuelled the Frank Lampard hype train which nobody needs (and it will be interesting to see if this goes on to become a flash in the pan or solid foundations) but haven’t, actually, dropped any points. If we were going to go ‘full abject’ then at least this was the time to do it rather than when chasing a top ten finish.  

The league table still sees us in 14th place with Watford and Burnley drawing 0-0 in their much postponed game last night. We’ve got another free hit on Wednesday evening with the trip to Manchester City. Nobody outside TW8 expects anything of us given their all conquering squad, form and current performance levels. The team are 9 points clear at the top of the Premier League with Liverpool the closest to think about about trying to hang on to their coat tails. They’ll win the league at a canter. You don’t need to be Nostradmus to see that. The only question being if Brentford can possibly slow them down.

Play like this and there’s no hope. It’ll take more than Josh, David and Christian Eriksen (who only arrives in West London today). Forget the set piece coach. We might need an actual coach on the goal line. Yet if Thomas can do his usual ‘dwell on it for 24 hours only’ thing then move on, who knows what might happen? We’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is the chance to truly test ourselves at the very highest level. On the toughest of stages. 

Don’t expect any formation rejig. Three CB has been the way we’ve played all season – and the back end of last.

Manchester City away is not the place to experiment.

Manchester City away IS the place to up your performance levels and, at Everton, they were sub zero. 

No more said. We all know. We were all there (well, 2.300 of us). We’ve all seen the highlights although here if you want to torture yourself again they’re here. We can’t change what happened. We can change what comes next. 

Now bring on City.  

It all looked so good pre kick off

Nick Bruzon

Is he the best new player we didn’t sign in the window?

2 Feb

Oh my word. After the week began with nothing but Christian Eriksen (and rightly so) there was a further bombshell – of the good sort – out of Brentford official on Tuesday afternoon. Just two words needed: David Raya. Make that four words: David. Raya. Josh. Dasilva. Both featured in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Aston Villa in which our much missed goalkeeper made a return to action, mirroring those earlier steps on the road to recovery made by Josh. The later scoring the opening goal of what would eventually transpire to conclude in a 2-1 reverse. Whilst Everton and Manchester City may be too much to hope for, might Saturday week against Crystal Palace be the date we are provisionally pencilling into our calendars for David’s return? Josh too. Elsewhere, we now know Christian Eriksen’s squad number and his Fantasy Football value .

First up, David Raya. What an unexpected bonus. He had been an absolute nailed on starter before that injury against Leicester City. The shot stopping. The calm. The distribution. Exuding confidence and making the step up from The Championship to Premier League look oh so simple. The almost sixth sense relationship with his defence. Knowing when to come. Knowing when to stay. Showing why Arsenal had coveted him so much but, thankfully, remained unfulfilled in their desires.

The value of a top class ‘keeper cannot be underestimated. Something we know only too well at both ends. Without David, it would be fair to say that at times we’ve looked shakier than Shakin Stevens reading Shakespeare whilst dreaming of milksh… well, we all get it.  

At times, the backline has felt shaky whilst David has been out.

Up front, that last line of defence has denied us points against Manchester United, Chelsea and Leicester City. Amongst others. Grade A ‘keepers are worth their weight in gold. The players most under the spotlight and the hardest to replace. For all people are anxious, post window, about our lack of full back cover, for me ‘keeper has always been the toughest act to follow. Green shirted bench warmer the most thankless of tasks. Moreso, for newcomers to the set up.   

Now, our quest for #1 could almost be at an end. In David’s own words:  Felt so good to be out there with the boys once again after 15 weeks on the sidelines. Last push of recovery and hope to be back out there soon.

He isn’t alone.

Oh yes !!!

Then there’s Josh Dasilva. His rehabilitation has been a long and patient one. At times we’ve coped. At others Brentford have been crying out for his athleticism. His creative genius in midfield. His shots from the edge of the box. His Premier League debut. There’s been so much going on this season it is, sometimes, hard to think about a player who was a nailed on starter when fit. We’ve missed him so much. We’re almost set for the most anticipated comeback since Jota returned from Spain for round 2 at Griffin Park.  

Like David, he got another sixty minutes under the belt at Villa Park. He scored the goal, too. An effort described by ‘official’ as a shot to the far corner from a tight angle. That Ollie Watkins and Tyrone Mings would eventually hand victory to Aston Villa is almost a moot point. For Brentford, it was all about the return of two much, much missed stars. Make that three if you factor in the 90 minute run out for Matthias Jensen. Who’d have thought he’d be back so soon after the Wolves game?

Wolves… horrific

Right now, I’m dreaming of an Eriksen, Norgaard, Dasilva midfield?  Or should that be Dasilva, Jensen, Eriksen? With Norgaard deeper. Or perhaps Janelt, Dasilva and Norgaard? How about a Danish power trio of Eriksen, Norgaard and Jensen? With Eriksen making a gladiatorial return to the fray from the substitutes bench.

Imagine the reception he’ll get for that moment….

Whichever option Thomas goes for, it’s a quite wonderful problem to have once all are fully fit. Bring on Crystal Palace. I hope. You could call either David or Josh the best new player we’ve acquired. But both? Wow. Certainly, it feels like a huge breath of fresh air blowing through Lionel Road.

And talking of which….. there’s Christian Eriksen too. He, of course, a player whose name you may have caught recently. Well, he’s now been confirmed as wearing squad number 21.

Halil Dervişoğlu, currently on loan at Galatasaray gives up his double digits to our latest acquisition. With free printing offers already available at the club shop, one can only imagine the industrial laminator will be in heavy use over the coming weeks.

Likewise, the club website where all being well we do a better job with the photoshop once he is formally added.

He’s in !!

For those amongst us doing Fantasy Football…. And by doing, in my case we mean jinxing – given the abject lack of form immediately bestowed upon anybody selected – Christian has now been added to the game.

With a value of £5.5 million he’ll be an absolute steal once he makes that much anticipated return. Perhaps hold off a few weeks though. If nothing else, until they get his shirt right after opting for an old photo rather than a shonky cut and paste.

Brentford? Check. Value? Check? Photo? Err……

Right – that’s me done. Dreams of a two week break ruined by the transfer window, Josh Dasilva and David Raya. Everton and Manchester City on the imminent horizon. Returning heroes, all being well, just as close.

Cripes, I can’t wait. See you there.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No… he’s in the air and everything though

Nick Bruzon

Awesome news. Awful photoshop. Just another day on Planet Brentford.

1 Feb

Another transfer window slams shut for Brentford. We now know the names of the players who we have for the rest of the Premier League campaign. Those pushing for FA Cup glory (starting with Everton on Saturday) and Premier League position (continuing with Manchester City and then Crystal Palace). The headlines were, of course, made by confirmation of Christian Eriksen joining us for the rest of the season. One can’t truly describe how monumental this is. The out-door saw deadline day moves for Marcus Forss (Hull City) and Charlie Goode (Sheffield United) to join those who had already moved on earlier in the month but it was the 8am announcement of Eriksen that had everyone and anyone talking. If for no other reason, about who had given the keys of club photoshop to the work experience student.

Hi everyone. Its Christian Eriksen. I’m happy to announce I’ve signed for Brentford football club and I can’t wait to get started and hopefully I’ll see you all soon.

Not my words, Carol. The words of Christian Eriksen. The actual Christian Eriksen. And now he’s on the books at Brentford. Actual. Christian. Eriksen. He’s a player in the very top bracket of world football and now he has chosen to play for the Bees. It’s nuts. Its crazy. Its about to happen. He’s due to start training next week (so Everton and , in all probability, Manchester City are games too soon) but beyond that who knows where or when we get our first glimpse of the man in action?  

Fitness is the obvious issue here. Not so much his recovery form that horrifying collapse agasint Finland in the summer but more in getting back to the levels from last season. A season where he helped Inter Milan win the Italian title. He hasn’t played a game in anger since the Euros and it would be unimagineable for anyone to spring straight back in to action full tilt. Just look at how Josh Dasilva is being nursed back through the B team for context. But, when he’s ready, it’s going to be immense. Immense. Until then. perhaps dig out those mid 90’s shirts?

Speaking on the BBC football news show, ‘transfer expert’ Simon Stone describes it as, “A fantastic deal for him and it’s a fantastic deal for Brentford aswell. Who could imagine a club like Brentford could sign someone of that kind of standing?”

For once, a ‘teams like’ comment that is spot on. He’s the sort of player that could fit into any of the best teams in Europe. Instead, he’s chosen the Barcelona of the (former) lower leagues. As Stone also suggested, this is a move that has long foundations with Thomas Frank having coached the player when he was part of the Denmark U-17 set up.

It’s a funny old game, as somebody once said. All the bile directed towards our head coach for so long. All the negative talk. Yet all he’s done has guide us further up the football pyramid. Won an actual play off final. Seen us hit the top flight running. And now used his associations to bring in a truly World class player. Bravo Thomas.

Frank out, eh?

If nothing else, it got our H ready for school early with a quick fly-by of Lionel Road on the way in to class. The excitement will do that. The retro shirt getting a display in public and, I’d imagine, we’ll be seeing many more of these in the coming weeks.

Ericsson on the front. Eriksen on the back.

As Stone continued, in a piece you can see here, “Once he gets to match fit, if he can get to anything like the ability that he has shown through the rest of his career he will be a force for good for Brentford and, actually, a force for good for the Premier League aswell.”

For the rest of our activity, you could substitute tumbleweed. The frustration amongst certain quarters was clear. Primarily given the lack of full back cover and the loaning out of Marcus Forss to Hull. For me, Clive, the former is playing percentages. Muddling through as we’ve already done this season. The later, a gamble if Ivan gets injured but Marcus has rarely featured this season and getting minutes under the belt is the absolute priority. Sergi Canos substituted admirably at Leeds United and whilst his best position is out wide rather than wing back or up top, that versatility is something Thomas very much relies on. The fans may not always agree but the table speaks volumes.

Leeds away. Sergi is in there somewhere. Making friends as ever

Likewise, what are / were anyone’s actual aspirations? At the start of the season survival was the absolute must. We’d all have taken that if, somehow, offered. We’re fourteenth at the moment after coming though as tough a run of games as is possible. Manchester United and Liverpool back to back. Manchester City at the end of December and due up again imminently. The freak game with Wolves where everything, and we mean everything, happened….

That people are now frustrated at an apparent lack of ambition is a sign of how well we have taken to life at this level but also a colossal insult to a squad for whom relegation is now being predicted. That’s how I read it, of course. Please note: opinions may differ.  

Then again, the current era is one in which confidence and trust has been an easy thing to buy into. Again, that’s my feeling and perhaps as much this comes through living through the years of mediocrity which, whilst absolute fun, were nothing like the football we now enjoy. The players we’ve been fortunate enough to see grace the pitch. That Christian Eriksen is the next of these in line is something that just cannot be over-stated enough.

Let’s not forget, either, the imminent returns of Josh Dasilva and David Raya. They’ll feel like brand new signings and I can’t help feel both will be back in the starting XI soon. With all of the, understandable, Eriksen noise yesterday this video probably got lost in the crowd. But take a look. Raya looking flexible and throwing himself around.  With moves like Jagger, to borrow from popular music’s Maroon 5.

We’ve not sold any of the big names. People forget how commonplace a thing this used to be. Instead, several first teamers have signed contract extensions whilst we’ve got as marquee a signing as the come. Staying up and building for next season would seem to be very much the order of the day. Perhaps with an FA Cup run chucked in.

The latest chapter in the Brentford story begins on Saturday at Everton. I can’t wait….

Until then, here’s that window in full…

IN: NEW Actual Christian Eriksen: Jonas Lössl

IN: Loan return: Ellery Balcombe

Contract Extensions: Pontus Jansson, Christian Nørgaard, Bryan Mbeumo:

Out: Jan Žambůrek: Viborg FF.  Patrik Gunnarsson: Viking Stavanger.

Out loan: Marcus Forss: Hull City.  Joel Valencia: AD Alcorcón.  Dominic Thompson: Ipswich Town. Mads Bidstrup: FC Nordsjaelland. Charlie Goode: Sheffield United. Luka Racic: HB Køge

Nick Bruzon

Do we have to do the Ivan Toney video thing? We were on a break.

29 Jan

With top flight football on brief hiatus before we get back to action, these pages have been quiet for a few days. Blessed relief for some but there’s only so many times you can try and make noise out of Brentford and games which are still at least a week away. Everton (FA Cup) and Manchester City (Premier League), for the well-played record There’s no point any further conjecture around Christian Eriksen. Currently training with Ajax but still expected at Lionel Road in a few days’ time – albeit the only person taking longer to get their paperwork lodged would seem to be Sue Gray. It was supposed to be a break from the blogging with, rather, content being filed for the next few home programmes. Crystal Palace and Newcastle United kit pieces are in – the later of which hopefully won’t go go anywhere near the censors (if you are reading, editor – unlikely, let’s be honest). Then the combination of insomnia and the world seeming to explode over ‘that’ Ivan Toney holiday video seemed like a good place to jump back onboard.

Did he really say it? Well yes, but….

We’ve all, I assume, seen it? A 7 (seven) second clip of Ivan on his holidays. Taking a well deserved break, like the rest of the squad, after the exertions of the season. In Dubai (I believe) and unwinding at a discotheque after spending the last six months in the microscope of the Premier League. After defying the pundits and most people’s expectations by not being relegated but, rather, aside from a smattering of away games holding our own for vast swathes of the campaign. Oh, we’ll never get that time at Burnley, Brighton or Southampton back. 

But the critics and the clickbait mongers need something. And here it was. Ivan, uttering the words: “F*&k Brentford”. Taken out of context and printed down they read as bizarre, at the very best. Put them into the context of the actual video clip, engage your eyes and brain for more than a millisecond and it’s just nothing. Nothing. A young man relaxing on holiday and clearly, clearly, clearly trying to impress (presumably) a woman. A woman who even has to feed him the ‘killer’ line which he then repeats in almost bemused and confused fashion. Thinks: Why am I saying this? Oh well, if it helps get my end away then whatever.

Come on, Ivan. Say: “F*&k Boo-entford”

Footballer says something silly shocker. Man clowns around to try and impress lady. Err, that’s about the strength of it I think.

Don’t even be going all holier than thou Brentford official and launching an ‘inquiry’.

Don’t even think about apologising, Ivan. About doing one of those toe-curling videos saying how much you love and respect the fans.

We know. We don’t care. It’s so obvious as to what it is that most people with more than a double figure IQ can see. If there is any ‘remorse’ felt in the cold light of day and, let’s be clear that there shouldn’t be, then make it up by getting the winner against Everton. By beating the bookies to help us with what are, at present, 39/2 odds on winning at Manchester City.  Hey, I’ve invested. Who needs non-fungible tokens? There are much easier ways to make a fortune! Please note: fortune not guaranteed.

Roll on Everton. Roll on the prospect of new manager Frank Lampard (if you believe the rumours) losing his first fixture. Put to the sword by Ivan’s boot.  Perhaps even feeding from an assist by Christian Eriksen. Sorry Toffees’ fans. Sorry Allan. It’s football and we need to dream. Imagine the scenes. There’d be more limbs than a doll factory. That’s the focus now.  This video nonsense nothing but that. Nonsense. Forgotten about and filed away.

We’re hardly in Jamie Bates personal services’ territory. In Quarter Pound of Rubbish take-over talks. Waving W£bb Out flags. Now there were actual scandals…

Ivan, if you are reading (and again, we’re clutching at straws beyond even those of beating City) then we need to be clear. Nobody gives a flying monkey. Tell us you were misquoted if you want. I mean, you weren’t but it’s irrelevant. Don’t go near an apology. Don’t listen to the press. Just do your talking on the pitch.

And if you could help me win that bet, would be hugely appreciated…

Ivan under the microscope – nobody gives a flying monkey

Nick Bruzon

Are we really looking to press the button? Or choose a pen?

24 Jan

And let’s all relax. Winter break is upon us. We’ve no football for a fortnight. A time for Brentford to take stock, complete any transfer business before the window shuts (come on already Christian Eriksen) and then we’re back to it. The FA Cup tie with Everton followed by the trip to Manchester City in the league, a visit from Crystal Palace and then off to the Highbury library for Arsenal. Nobody said it was easy, that’s for sure. Yet off the back of several defeats (a sequence that includes losses to Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City and a very strong Wolves team in the last thirty days) I’ve started to see mutterings of panic on these pages – in the comments – and also social media. Quelle surprise…. Here’s the question though. Is it time to press the big, red panic button?

Fingers at the ready

Cripes, one commentator even posted he would expect us to beat ‘teams like’ Brighton and Southampton. Teams like. Teams.. Like….…. Insert Picard emoji. The simple fact of the matter is that there are no easy games at this level. The standard of goalkeeping we have come up against is like nothing we’ve seen before. Mendy and De Gea in particular but they are not alone in the elite ‘keepers club. Whereas in the Championship we got a dozen chances per game and generally scored two or three of these, we’ve stepped up the ladder and how.

There have been some wonderful performances and we’re fourteenth everyone. Fourteenth. Out of twenty. Look at the precarious state Burnley are in if you want panic. The slide that Everton are on. Managerial sackings and more shots on target against Aston Villa from the crowd than the first team. Kids, don’t throw things.

There have also been some shockers. Burnley, Southampton and Brighton away in particular. You can’t be ‘any good’ every game and it’s true that when we’ve been off the pace we’ve been awful. There’s the 100% attention that is needed every game and at times we’ve been off it. Yet still with a team that is, mostly, made up of Championship players. Kris Ajer being the only new signing to regularly feature in the starting XI. A team that is missing one of the best goalkeepers in the division and whom we have really struggled to replace. The importance of David Raya cannot be underestimated. The confidence he exudes. The shot stopping ability. The distribution.

David Raya has been missed

Failing to replace / cover at full back has been the other, obvious, key difference. We love Sergi Canos but so much better to play him higher up. We can’t when Rico is out. The goals scored by Wolves all emanating down that side of the pitch. Mads Roerslev has impressed but his is only a recent emergence. Oh to have persuaded Henrik to stick around for one more campaign.

We’ve been decimated by covid and injury. We’re also missing Josh Dasilva. If he returns next month and Christian Eriksen joins us too, suddenly the central midfield options look magnificent. We’ve two and a half weeks until the next Premier league fixture. Plenty of time to regroup and recharge. Transfer business, if any, will be minimal.

Ultimately, we’ve had a wobbly run. No question. We’ve looked patchy at times. No question. We’re still playing a more all-round team set up rather than channelling everything through Ivan Toney. The yards he is covering from box to box are immense. Equally the performances of Bryan, Rico and Christian Norgaard have been magnificent. They’ve made the step up look oh so simple. David Raya, too, until that injury against Leicester City.

We’re not far off getting back to our best. The difference is marginal but that small gap does feel like a gulping chasm at times. Looking back to February 2021, I remember the meltdown after we’d lost against Coventry City up at St. Andrews. It was as poor a performance as we’d seen all season. We’d played three games more than Swansea City who were tucked right up behind us in third place. The wailing and gnashing of teeth, especially form a certain clique, was up there with the most ridiculous things we’d ever seen. Cripes, imagine if Twitter had been around in the Rosenior / Butcher eras.  The Swans responded just a few hours later by getting thumped by Huddersfield and going on an equally poor run themselves. Parity restored and the reminder delivered that a season is determined by results over 46 (now 38) games. Not from a snapshot in time when spirits are, understandably, low.

That’s the same now. We aren’t at Coventry levels but the mutterings are definitely creeping in. Genuinely, I’m so unphased and laid back as to be almost horizontal. I’m loving Premier League life and want this to continue as long as is possible. The return of Raya and Dasilva will be huge. Christian Eriksen putting pen to paper next level craziness. Perhaps some cover at full-back would calm a few frayed nerves. It might also give us the option to revert to a more traditional back four and strengthen higher up the pitch. Beyond this, I’d be amazed if there’s any further activity before that window ‘slams shut’ ™.

Wolves were so strong on Saturday. They’re also eighth for a reason. Please do take a look at the player review, which you can find here / below. If nothing else, it tries to take a more considered view over the course of the campaign as to where those strengths lie.

Until then, time for some calm. Time to reflect on just what we’ve already achieved this campaign. Time to look forward to those games at Arsenal and Manchester City. Tickets for the former going on sale today.

Enjoy. See you there. Until then. Perhaps a few days off. At least, until Christian Eriksen signs. Whichever pen he uses….. 😉

photoshop skills don’t match imagination

Nick Bruzon

Time for another road trip (or three). League and cup action await.

10 Jan

Brentford will travel to Everton in the fourth round of the FA Cup – ties to be played the weekend of 5th February. Along with Spurs v Brighton and Wolves v Norwich, it is one of only three all Premier League ties. Meaning there’s a good chance of the BBC going for TV coverage along with the inevitable bore fest that will be Manchester United v Middlesbrough. Unless, of course, Aston Villa can spare us all from that one tonight when they travel to Old Trafford for the final game of the round. Manchester City have the chance to warm up for our visit the following week with a home draw against EFL club Fulham whilst next on our tour of the Premier League, Southampton, are home to Coventry City.

There was immediate, perhaps bizarre, excitement in our house when Everton came out of the hat. Aside from our own recent 1-0 win and an earlier than expected chance to visit a new ground, if Brentford show half the oomph we did against Port Vale then it could be a classic. A 4-1 win on the road with Mads Bidstrup subsequently described by Thomas Frank as a little bit of our N’Golo Kanté  ( “A big, big claim of course” – Thomas’ own words ). Talking about his “Big engine”, he used the post-match to lavish praise on the midfielder, enthusing that “his ability to press and cover so many yards across the pitch is fantastic and that acceleration when he just goes past people, I think that’s so good in the pressure.”

Mads’ reward is another ‘away’ tie.

Then, of course, we’ve the prospect of another run in with everyone’s favourite Brazilian.  Pele, Socrates, Zico, Ronaldinho…. Allan. As has already been documented on these pages, the midfielder has become a cult hero to rival Argentina’s Lucas Biglia in our house. Any chance of some bonus Allan action is one which we’ll always opt for. Especially if Everton continue to, what’s the polite term, ‘misfire’ as much as they have done in recent months. League form is best described as patchy, with only Leeds United and Watford standing between them and the bottom three.

Meaning that the purse strings could be severely tested, given the trip to Manchester City in the Premier League is just a few days later. A 7.45pm kick off on Wednesday 9th February. Tickets for that one go on sale this Tuesday afternoon for anyone clearing that first TAP threshold of 3,400.  Away capacity for League games at The Ethiad is reckoned to be about 3,000 across the three tiers of the South Stand, so hopefully anyone with requisite form will be able to get in should they so desire. Definitely one where we’ll need to flex the plastic to cover costs.

Before all that we head to Southampton on Tuesday evening. They had the pleasure of a ‘behind closed doors’ tie in Swansea at the weekend (its Wales, innit). That one went to extra time before the Saints went, if not marching, certainly limping on.

Ralph Hasenhüttl telling Sky that his much changed team may not have enough players for tomorrow’s game, saying, ”We never know. At the moment, it’s all about lottery… You wake up in the morning and go to the training ground. You sit at breakfast and you are waiting for new [coronavirus] cases. The problem is with the fixtures coming up. It doesn’t get any easier.”

So far (Monday morning) there aren’t any noises being made about applications to have the game called off or training grounds being closed. Fingers crossed this is nothing more than sabre rattling and mind games. As much for the players’ health as the additional chaos caused by any more backlog. Let’s not forget that this fixture has already been put back once.

For Brentford, expect to see more of Bryan Mbeumo. He was back to his brilliant best, with Thomas waxing lyrical about his half hour appearance form the bench. Less the proverbial cameo and more scene stealing. Our head coach nothing that “I must say he’s been the same for us this year in the Premier League. He’s done really well after coming back from injury. We knew he wanted to play in the Cup to be in with a chance of being ready for Tuesday at Southampton and he’s just come in with three quality finishes”.

Too true, and surely he’ll find his way back in to the Brentford front line alongside Ivan when the teams are named at 6.46 on Tuesday evening.

In the meantime, you can read that piece in full, here. Come for Mads. Stay for Bryan.

For now, though, it’s a chance to charge the battery packs and prepare for the trip to Southampton. Don’t forget those Manchester City tickets tomorrow and, whilst we wait to find out when that Everton game will actually take place (Liverpool are also at home so something will have to give) here’s the rest of the draw in full….

Safe travels to the South coast and see you there…

Fourth round ties…

Crystal Palace v Hartlepool United

Bournemouth v Boreham Wood

Huddersfield Town v Barnsley

Peterborough United v Queens Park Rangers

Cambridge United v Luton Town

Southampton v Coventry City

Chelsea v Plymouth Argyle

Everton v Brentford

Kidderminster Harriers v West Ham United

Manchester United/Aston Villa v Middlesbrough

Tottenham Hotspur v Brighton and Hove Albion

Liverpool v Cardiff City

Stoke City v Wigan Athletic

Nottingham Forest v Leicester City

Manchester City v Fulham

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Norwich City

Allan awaits

Nick Bruzon

Who were the main men as Brentford played Manchester City?

30 Dec

Close, but no cigar. Brentford took Manchester City all the way on Wednesday evening in a game that despite the eventual 0-1 scoreline, was as far away from the Boxing Day debacle as one could have imagined. Heads held high and hope for the future.

Let battle commence

As ever, at this point, we take stock of who were the shining lights for Brentford. Who were the main men against Manchester City and who is no in the top five for the season. You can get this, here. Enjoy. And if there’s anyone we’ve missed out then…..

Nick Bruzon