Tag Archives: Chris Mepham

Is something rotten in the state of Brentford?

9 Dec

We’ve not really touched these pages in the last week or two. Matters outside of Griffin Park (namely, a social life rearing it’s head once more like some long forgotten relic of pre-parental life) have meant the column takes a back seat. To be honest, it’s probably no bad thing given the recent run in form that for Brentford finally looked like it may be coming to a halt with that 1-1 draw at West Bromwich Albion on Monday night. We all know what happened there, with the Bees doing to ‘deserving’ opponents what our own head coaches have felt hard done by so many times over the last few seasons. An injury time equaliser from Lewis Macleod rescuing a point after the hosts had conspired to miss all manner of seemingly unmissable chances earlier on. Good news, we thought. We have stopped the bleeding (not my words but those of Thomas Frank). Then Swansea City happened and a 3-2 defeat that was about as shambolic as it has been in recent months.

The Bees were a goal down with less than 30 seconds on the clock. The Griffin Park scoreboard hadn’t even sprung into life by the time Wayne Routledge had tapped home the opener after the defence had failed spectacularly to clear the most innocuous of pass backs and straight crosses. It was 2-0 Swansea soon after as Chris Mepham turned into his own net to gift the visitors a second. That the clock was registering 27 by the time Swansea made it three was only due to the injury suffered by Martin Olsson. One can only hope that the lengthy treatment before play resumed (there were 8 minutes added on at the end of the first half) was precautionary but it didn’t look good from where we sat on the far side.

IMG_E9753

No minutes on the clock and already a goal down. 

That third goal was everything that was wrong with the team at present. A listless ball across midfield that was picked up by nobody. A needless free kick awarded on the right hand side. A ball delivered in that wasn’t cleared far enough before spaces were left for the return that would have embarrassed my son’s U-6 team. Kudos to Ollie McBurnie for attempting the overhead kick that lead to their goal but that he was even afforded that much room was a crime in itself. Leroy Fer made no mistake as the Brentford defence were unable to mop up the resulting detritus. I’ve seen better markers in a packet of Sharpies. 3-0 down and 27 minutes gone, 8 of which had seen the clock stopped for Olsson’s injury.

Frustratingly for Brentford, that unfortunate break in play should have allowed the team time to regroup. To have a chat about what next to avoid the inevitable third and actually find a way back into the game. But there had been nothing and the inevitable happened.

That’s it. If you want to read about inspired comebacks. About almost snatching a point. About hitting the bar two or three times then be my guest. Here’s the BBC website. Here’s Brentford official. Here’s Sky Sports where the report is about as lightweight as our midfield was for that opening period but they do have the goal highlights. I’d suggest you watch them just to see how not to play football.

Don’t let a fight back fool you or mask over another dreadful start. I’d hope Thomas has been up all night figuring out how to repair the gaping holes in the team, in their confidence and in supporter morale. The boos on the third goal and half time suggest that the crowd as finally been lost.

IMG_9758

View from the Braemar. The perimeter boards really rubbing it in during the first half.

It was yet another game where quite wonderful individuals have been that. Individual. Where the team spirit has seemingly gone out the window. Where the inability to kick a ball forward instead of faff has cost us. Where the result of being unable to put in a challenge has been a glut of goals conceded in a short space of time. See also Preston. QPR. Middlesbrough. Sheffield United. I honestly thought the game with the Blades had seen us as off the pace as we could possibly be but this one really trumped it.

That first half was on a par with, if not worse than, Oxford United in the league cup a few years back. At least in that one (and we’re clutching at straws) Marinus could blame his relative short time in the job, the sandpit of a pitch and his own tactical naivety in picking eleven players with barely a handful of first team appearances between them. But Thomas has been part of the set up for two years. He knows the players. They know him. This was a good line up – on paper – but instead it did what it has done time and again in recent weeks. Defensive hesitancy. Midfield absence. Full backs brutally exposed. Passing the ball sideways and backwards instead of forward. Inability to make a challenge, close down or simply mark an opponent. Just not kicking it away when it was near the goal. The ‘discussion’ amongst the team after the third went in was there for all to see.

To be fair, it changed after. As the heavens opened, the Bees came alive. Albeit Brentford very much had Daniel Bentley to thank for even keeping us alive at 3-1 down. This after Ollie Watkins had pulled one back in the first half and before Said Benhrahma gave us hope with a wonderful freekick midway through the second. But it was all too late. You can’t keep on giving away 2 or 3 quick fire goals – bang, bang, bang – and expect to take anything from a game.

From the point where we were named as joint favourites for the league title with Leeds United, Brentford have not so much hit the skids as gone through the crash barrier and plummeted down the mountain side. We’ve got games coming up at Hull City and then home to Bolton Wanderers. Both sides in the rapidly diminishing clutch of teams currently below the Bees. Failure to pick up at least 4 points out of 6 in those will see us getting sucked into that relegation vortex.

It’ll be a big ask given Thomas has only picked up 4 points from his opening 9 games. Even Marinus had managed 8 from the same period. What we’d give for that sort of form at the moment although please note the Dijkuizen experiment is not one I’m calling for a return of. Ever.

Marinus Oxford touchline

Marinus and the Oxford United fiasco (not a prog rock band). Never forget

What’s really troubling me is why this isn’t working at the moment. We’ve had many poor teams and poor runs over the years at whatever level we’ve played. But the squad is currently packed full of internationals. It is the same squad Dean Smith had. We have the Championship’s second top scorer (Neal Maupay currently one behind Lewis Grabban). Top flight clubs covet the likes of Ollie Watkins, Chris Mepham, Daniel Bentley and Ezri Konsa. Josh McEachran (up there for player of the season so far) has pretentions of playing for England.

We’re not talking about times where the set up has been so thin that we’ve had to beg a favour off Neil Shipperly. These are good players. Great players. Players who hit the ground running and propelled Brentford to the very top end of the table back in August and September. Now, they’ve got all the confidence of a studio audience going in to a recording of Mrs. Brown’s Boys.

Neil Shipperly

Neil Shipperley. Never forget

Is it simply bad luck? Injuries limiting selection? Or is there something going on behind the scenes. Something as simple as an arm around the shoulders that is missing? Or something more in tune with a change in tactical set up? This should have been a seamless transition but for whatever reason it’s just not working out at the moment.

Let’s not pretend that the end of Dean Smith’s time here didn’t see us in a mini-blip relative to what he’d done prior with just 1 win out of 6. Yet what was intrinsically different then was that he had the winning form that made nobody in any doubt it would be back again soon. Even when we weren’t taking all three points, there was none of this constant shipping of goals over a short space of time.

Nobody has a divine right to be any good. We can’t just rock up and expect to win. Equally though, you still need to rock up in the first place. You can’t keep on giving the opposition two or three goal leads and expect to come away with anything.

Thomas has got a huge, huge challenge ahead of him. Both tactically and psychologically. I hope he has thick skin and a plan B. Or C. The way the crowd reacted yesterday after a frankly awful opening period suggest that if he can’t turn things around fast, things could get very ugly. For everyone.

img_9781.jpg

Raining (goals) at Griffin Park v Swansea

Nick Bruzon

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 06.33.53

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.

IMG_9474

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.

IMG_9462

The floodlights providing a rare bright moment

Nick Bruzon

Visitors inflict more pain as the record continues.

25 Nov

Brentford 1 Middlesbrough 2. What can you say? Bogey team? Curse of the cameras? That there was never any hope against a side we’ve not beaten in the league since a 2-1 win at Griffin Park back in December 1938? Or just an awkward game where, once more, a flurry of goals conceded in a short space of time (two in five, second-half, minutes) saw the result put beyond reach and the post Dean Smith era now see us with a record of P6 L5. With play-off chasing Sheffield United to visit on Tuesday, it is a record that is only going to come under further scrutiny.

DSC03686

View from the Braemar – Henrik attacks

It had all started so promisingly. Even before kick-off, five-year old Harry had put possibly the biggest football-related smile on my face that’s been there in a while when he turned to Mrs. Bruzon over lunch and said, “Mummy. The best thing you can do this afternoon is watch it on TV. Because when you come to the ground, we lost”. It was a point he reiterated outside the clubshop at 5pm – both times, totally unprompted. He’s brave, I’ll give him that. Mrs. B (whose record isn’t, quite, that bad) duly stayed away. Sadly, it made no difference.

The first half was as cagey as a caged tiger watching the collected works of Nicolas Cage on video. Frankly, something that would have been infinitely more entertaining than a frustrating opening period where Moses Odubajo running for an impromptu toilet break was the highlight for many. Certainly, the subsequent song that broke out from the Ealing Road. He whatswhere he wants?  Yet aside from the relieved number 2 taking aim from distance with an effort that Middlesbrough goalkeeper Darren Randolph had to push over, I don’t recall much else from the first half. It was just that low key an opening period with the visitors coming close-ish a couple of times but never, truly, leaving us with fear of the net bulging.

Instead, with the referee offering little protection, it was a case of trying to out-play the wall of muscle in front of us. With the stats all heavily weighted in our favour, it was an attempt that would prove futile in the one that truly counts – goals scored – as the teams went in for their half tea and a wee with the game goalless.

And then it began. 55 minutes gone, 0-0. 61 minutes gone, 0-2. The first goal given away down the left where despite questions about offside being asked, the Bees were sliced open with a combination of passes that allowed Jordan Hugill a tap in that even Ian Moose might have finished off. Scored rather than eaten, for the record. Five minutes later the lead was doubled when the Brentford defence allowed Marcus Tavernier all the time and space needed to direct his downward header past a diving Daniel Bentley. Game over, man. Game over.

To be fair, it was the kick up the backside we needed. The Bees pushed and pressed. Thomas Frank changed his team around. The momentum built. This was more like it. This was the Brentford we know and love. Alan Judge, who had a great game, pulled one back with a quarter of an hour remaining.  His goal a beauty as he drilled a low diagonal shot through a crowd and past goalkeeper Randolph. From a short corner. A short. Corner. This is not a drill. This is not a typo.

The words “Don’t take it short, it never blinkin’ works” hadn’t even emerged fully formed from my mouth before the usual exhortation was changed quite miraculously into a lungbusting scream of GOOOOAAALLLLL!!

Oh. My. Word. We’d seen one. It actually happened. This most maligned of set-pieces had actually worked. Moreso, the first goal Tony Pulis’s team have let in from a corner this season by all accounts.  Could it be? Was this THE sign that the Middlesbrough hoodoo was about to be lifted?

With the reinvigorated Bees chasing a point, former player George Saville put in an appearance for Middlesbrough. His presence was barely felt. Frankly, he could have dropped his trousers and he’d have made more of an impression. Instead, Brentford continued. Sergi Canos came close. Breaking through a crowded defence he perhaps snatched at it before the referee could blow his whistle. But Mr. Brooks wasn’t giving anything, to either team and perhaps, with the obvious benefit of hindsight, there was an extra touch available to be taken.  

Likewise Josh Da Silva came close. His own shot from distance forcing Randolph into a full length save. It was a moment that had the crowd gasping but was about as close as we would get. Instead, Middlesbrough had the wherewithal to close this one out and secure all three points. Points that, on the evidence of what played out, only the most churlish could have denied them. And it hurts to say it but their finishing when presented the space in that five-minute period was, ultimately, what decided the game. From that moment on Brentford were playing catch up and it was a race too far.

No sour grapes from yours truly. No whinging. We’re off the boil at present, that’s for sure, although I’m not sure I can put my finger on just why.  I have no doubt it WILL come good again whilst I’d also point to the performance of Alan Judge alongside josh and Emilian Marcondes from the bench as highlights. Chris Mepham had a bizarre rush of blood to the head just towards the end which earned him a yellow and, with a more Stroud-esque referee, could have been worse.

Sheffield United are next up. It’ll be interesting to see it Thomas restores captain Romaine Sawyers. Whether Josh Da Silva has done enough to earn himself a first start. How he toughens up the defence. Just how we fair against a side containing a pair of centre-backs and a reserve goalkeeper we know very well indeed.

No doubt Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Simon Moore will have a point to prove. Then again, I’ve no doubt Thomas Frank will aswell.

IMG_9356

Our visitors made themselves comfortable both before kick-off and early into the second half

Nick Bruzon

Another defensive copy/paste but at least we’re getting good at kick-offs.

11 Nov

QPR 3. Brentford 2. What can you say? Not much. Try the BBC, Beesotted or ‘official’ for your match reports. Results saw The Bees end the day in 15th whilst our next opponents, Middlesbrough are up to second after their own win. Only Norwich City, our previous ‘away’ opposition, stand between them and the table top. Nobody said Championship life was easy, that’s for sure. But those goals against yesterday. Ewww. Not pretty. It felt like Preston all over again. If you want to see them once more then the defensive highlights are below.

Defensively challenged

It had all promised so much. The Bees back to winning ways and picking up the first points for Thomas Frank after steam-rollering Millwall last weekend. The team flying once more after being bundled (and rained) out of it at Norwich City. QPR with the somewhat dubious lure of having just seen Steve McClaren named as October’s ‘manager-of-the-month’. We all know what ‘should’ happen after that.  Everything was in place for another win. And then disaster struck as the defence went walk about for a ten-minute spell in the second half.

You were there. You don’t need me to repeat the obvious or dissect this further. It was something that Thomas had no choice but to acknowledge in his own post-match interview –  which you can see in full further below. That chat, one which looked like it was taking place in front of a room previously occupied by the Loftus Road firing squad.  

Yet more agonising was the fact that this was the second time in the last three away games that we’ve gone awol for a short period, during which time three goals have been conceded and the game effectively lost. Don’t forget there was also the trip to Preston last month where the score reached 3-0 to the home team before we’d even left the changing room.

Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 07.55.29

Thomas  updates us. (But has anyone seen Ian Holloway or Chris Ramsey, recently?)

That we almost turned that one around and gave ourselves hope yesterday when the World Cup’s Henrik Dalsgaard of Brentford made it 3-2 with 82 on the clock makes it all the more frustrating. All the more confusing. Similar happened at Deepdale. We can score goals. We play beautiful attacking football at times. Our young centre backs are quite magnificent whilst it’s wonderful having Moses Odubajo back aswell. We all know how strong Daniel Bentley has been for us. Just why do we have these blips?  

Well, as Thomas noted in that video, “The most important thing for me at the moment is the desire to get better”. Likewise, his comments on the BBC after both yesterday’s game and the one at Preston have a very similar feel.

Preston: Three goals away from home should be more than enough to win three points but we need to defend better in general. In this league you need to be on it.

QPR: In the second half we had a blackout more or less for 10 minutes, where we defended way too soft for all three goals. We need to do that better in general.

Doom and gloom from me? No. Frustration and confusion. That’s for sure. As much due to the injuries. Ollie Watkins, who had a blinder after he came on against Millwall, was missing due to what Thomas described as, “A toe issue where the joint in the toe is twisted“. So nothing to do with any rumoured transfer interest, which is good….

Yet it was those injuries that occurred once the game had started that caused as much concern. With Brentford heading towards half time one up c/o Neal Maupay (now up to 12 Championship goals already) things were looking good. Then, with the tea brewing, he collapsed to the floor unchallenged and ended up being stretched off. The concern was palpable and was later confirmed as the result of a concussion.

Sadly there was worse to come with Said Benrahma taking his place on the stretcher after rolling his ankle in the build-up to Henrik’s goal. Thomas would later confirm that the Algerian had rolled his ankle although, as yet, there’s no prognosis as to severity or recovery time. Here’s hoping it’s not as severe as first thought. The only saving grace here being that we’ve two weeks off thanks to International break for that recuperation process to begin in earnest. And to practice defending…..

From 1-0 up on fifty minutes, Brentford were then given three further attempts to perfect our kick off routine as the clock reached the hour mark. Whilst we’d lost Neal Maupay, that shouldn’t stop goals going in. Should it?  

Well, with no viable alternative then taking the option to push Sergi (or anyone) up top would only ever have an impact on the shape. But who else was there to fill that void? With absolute respect to Alan Judge, we’ve tried him there at Loftus Road and things didn’t exactly work out well for the team. The lack of alternate striking option has long been flagged on the terraces as a concern. Moreso, with Ollie also sitting this one out. In this instance, the percentages backfired.  

Screen Shot 2018-11-11 at 07.35.31

Recent periods of the defence going awol have been a gift for our opponents

But I still maintain we have absolute quality in this squad. On its day, our first team is about as strong as we’ve seen. Talking to a fellow dad (and former Bee) at Harry’s football training in the morning, he was enthusing about the quality of football he’s having the pleasure of watching at present. On the way home from that, we happened to spot Neal Maupay whose enthusiastic hello to HB and chat about what was coming up that afternoon suggested everything was set for a fairytale ending.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. A frustrating finish to a day that had promised so much but, equally, one step missed in a longer journey being taken. The forthcoming Middlesbrough game is about as tough as they come. Moreso, given our own recent form against them. It would be great if for that one the defensive blips could be cured on the pitch rather than afterwards in the post-match analysis.

We’ve two weeks to really figure them out and get our players fit again. There’s been a hell of a lot of football played in the space of a few weeks. Perhaps all of us recharging would be for the best.

In the meantime, here’s that interview with Thomas…

Thomas talks

Nick Bruzon

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever.

6 Nov

Good morning Brentford fans. And it is a very good morning. A quick look at the Premier league table following last night’s results shows Fulham firmly anchored to the bottom. Their 1-0 loss at a Huddersfield Town side (who themselves scored their first home goal since mid-April) sees our West London neighbours propping up the rest of the league. Statistically speaking, that’s 24 points behind leaders Manchester City after just eight games and with a trip to Liverpool next up.

Screen Shot 2018-11-06 at 05.41.26

Happy Tuesday in the Premier League

The current predicament seems even more horrific when you look at the outlay from Fulham over the summer. It’s been widely documented that the £100.3m they spent has  been matched by a mere £4m coming in. They’ve kept their squad together and built on it. Hugely. A net outlay of £96.3m is only beaten by Liverpool who top the big spenders on £131m (161m out ; 30m in).  

And what is the result of this? A top flight record of ‘goals against’ for a Premier League start (29 conceded already), the worst goal difference in the division, a form record of LLLLL and a confidence level that saw the BBC match report subsequently describe them as: ”A fragile Fulham side, stripped of confidence and there for the taking.”  

It’s easy to laugh. Let’s be honest. Equally, let’s not make out we wouldn’t like to be feasting at a higher table. Yet that is something which I have no doubt will come. And, when it does, we’ll be competing rather than unable to scrap for the crumbs discarded by others. We’ve talked so often on these pages over the last couple of seasons about how Brentford are doing things. How we are spending cleverly, within means, and using our unique methods in order to stay afloat, comply with FFP but also build for the future at Lionel Road. It becomes a bit of a cracked record at times yet when you see the talent that has been uncovered, aswell as being sold for vast profit down the line as the team continue to step up, one has to step back and take notice.

Likewise, I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t love to have seen some of those heroes stay on. It still hurts so much to see Jota in the blue of Birmingham City although nobody could deny the form of our current widemen. Having the likes of Ollie Watkins, Sergi Canos and Said Benrahma as regular starters / first choice substitutes a luxury not many managers in this division have the benefit of. That, a situation which has arisen because of our ‘buy low and sell high’ policy. The departure of Harlee Dean (as much due to the the emergence of Chris Mepham) helped facilitate the return of Moses Odubajo and what already seems a huge bargain in picking up Ezri Konsa to further enhance the current squad. Then there’s Neal Maupay…

He’s the Championship’s leading scorer. He’s the Championship’s leading provider of assists. He’s the player who endured such a torrid start to his Brentford career last season – and that was just from Ian Moose. He’s the player who found his feet and perhaps, if anyone, illustrated just how fragile Fulham are when he bagged that late, late equaliser back in April  – ironically, the same day Huddersfield scored their previous home goal. It was a goal that deflated Fulham as easily as somebody letting the air out of a clacker or blow up hand and should have been seen as a warning sign.

6F4460FC-5DC2-4259-9467-864C4A9FFE16

Mark Fuller’s picture captured THE moment at Fulham

Spending big is not necessarily spending clever. That’s for sure. Yet by the same virtue, look at Manchester City. Compared to previous ‘windows’ they’ve barely troubled the scorers over the summer. This, something very much in isolation for them. At the same time, I read a piece yesterday by Miguel Delaney of The Independent. It was an article described by the author himself on Twitter as an “Upbeat piece on football’s impending death”.

Click bait theatrics or genuine cause for alarm? The collapse at The Cottage is great value. For us, at least. The longer term prognosis in the top flight is, if you share Miguel’s opinion, a somewhat more concerning one. If you read one article today, make it his. You can do so here. Whatever your view on City’s approach, it’s well worth a look –  enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

The new era begins with some familiar themes. Can we go again?

21 Oct

What is there to say after that?  Frustrating. Niggly. Poor decision making Awkward. Just not quite firing on all cylinders. But enough about referee Robert Jones – the latest in a long line of stinkers to grace Griffin Park this season. With Dean Smith firmly ensconced at Aston Villa (who themselves beat Swansea), new Brentford head coach Thomas Frank saw his tenure begin with a 1-0 home defeat to Bristol City. This, after the Bees were reduced to ten men following a second yellow for Chris Mepham and then conceded the only goal of the game in the 89th minute. It was a game that started brightly for the Bees but soon settled into a lethargic vibe with Brentford just not savvy enough to avoid getting sucked into some cynical play from the visitors and the arbitrary card waving of a referee whose default setting had been switched to ‘Stroud’.

DSC02441

B&W to protect the retinas from Bristol’s kit

We can moan about the ref but it’ll make no difference now. Chris Mepham’s second yellow seemed innocuous at best from where we sat. The subsequent video highlights from Sky don’t show anything more to support Mr. Jones’ decision. Unless, of course, there was some back-chat that he deemed significant enough to warrant this level of sanction. Yet this was par for the course on an afternoon, second period especially, where just about anything that could be given the wrong way, was. Where minimal protectin was offered to a Brentford side who – Kamo and Romaine in particular – came in for some harsh treatment from both opponents and officials .

What’s the problem with your flag, lino? Too heavy to lift up?” They’re not my words but those of the legend we simply refer to as ‘angry dad in the Braemar Road paddock. His rapier wit, constant keeping in the ear of the officials and dead-pan sarcasm are always a joy to behold.  And he was right. They were words which received a round of applause from all around.

DSC02501

Free kick to Bristol City. They were also awarded a free kick.

Yet it is as important not to get sucked in to a game of blaming the officials for everything. Bristol City did their homework and had the ball in the net twice before Niclas Eliasson stroked home their eventual winner with the fourth official readying his board. Their young goalkeeper Max O’Leary had a debut to remember on the few occasions we did get shots away. And on the one instance he was beaten by Ollie Watkins diagonal shot, he was saved by the ball bouncing back off the inside of the post.

How it didn’t go in, I’ve still no idea. But it didn’t. Instead, it was another late goal given away (see also: Aston Villa and Leeds United) to deny Brentford point(s) that it seemed we would claim. Thomas Frank has wonderful talent at his disposal but sorting out the approach to late pressure and our own discipline is going to be as much a challenge for him as reaching the Premier League. That’s not to say he/we can’t overcome it. Moreso, with two away games to come in quick succession (Preston on Wednesday and the Norwich on Saturday) he has every opportunity available to get back to winning ways.

We don’t do full fat match reports on these pages. Try the BBC, Beesotted, official etc. Probably a good thing too, based on yesterday. It was definitely one for the purists and best consigned to the statistical pages of history. Playing opponents we’ve had a great Championship record against, even Marinus Dijkuizen beat them, and the excitement of welcoming Thomas into the fold perhaps it could be said there was an air of, if not complacency, perhaps over-expectation. Well, there we go back down to earth with a bump.

There’s not much else to say on that one. So I won’t. See you at Norwich. And kudos to those of you on the midweek expedition to Preston. Here’s hoping you are rewarded with the points.

DSC02579

A glorious afternoon. If not result

Nick Bruzon

The tickets are flying and ‘that song’ approaches as something incredible is found in the office.

11 Sep

Fast work Brentford fans. Looks like tickets for the trip to Arsenal in the League Cup on Wednesday 26th are flying out of the door. In league action, where has the ref gone? With apologies in advance, but the second week of international break really bites hard. Indeed, things have got to the point where the semi-imminent visit from Wigan Athletic and Will Grigg is now a major highlight on the calendar.  Even if it does mean ‘that’ song will be doing the rounds. Assuming ‘that song’ is even a thing still. Best of all, a chance encounter in the office has led to the discovery of 2018’s ‘must have’ accessory. 

Grigg Pen

Will Grigg missed out on a home debut hat trick. Form went south from there

First, the Arsenal game. After all the discussion over 5,000 or 9,000 tickets for Brentford fans, we received the latter. And they’ve been flying off the shelves. Or rather, the internet. I saw a post last night suggesting we are close to half-way selling out that allocation on day 1. Just to season ticket holders. Most impressive for a game that, ultimately, could be against the Arsenal B-team – certainly, if the club go to Wenger based form. Could a new manger see a new approach to a trophy his side have taken lightly over the years (at least, in the early rounds) and haven’t won since 1993?   

Regardless, we’ll be there en-masse and looking to equal a best ever run in a tournament that hasn’t treated us too kindly since inception. The fourth round defeats to Nottingham Forest and, erm, Birmingham City (urghh – that one really hurt) being about as good as it’s got. As an interesting aside, 80% of those early tickets sales were made online and, even if the confirmation mail looked forward to seeing us at Griffin Park (erm, we have got this one right?) it would seem to speak volumes about the ease of the system. As ever, big up to Mads and her team who would have still undertaken 800+ Arsenal sales in person (something that could also have been the title of Arsene Wenger’s autobiography).

Next up, Wigan Athletic. They visit Griffin Park on Saturday for a championship game where a win could see the Bees reach the ‘automatic’ positions, subject to other results. That’s by no means guaranteed, of course, and it won’t just be a case of turning up with the expectation of three points. Moreso, given the visitors are sure to have ex-Bee Will Grigg in their side. How things could have turned out differently for him. They didn’t, despite the bright start, and with the greatest respect there were few tears shed when news of his departure was announced.

Of course, he’s performed really well since dropping back in to League One since aswell as flourishing for Northern Ireland on the international stage. Despite not appearing for them at Euro 2016, ‘that song’ still follows him around like a bad smell. Yet with the highly rated Daniel Bentley in goal, Yoann Barbet (a magnificent captain last time out) at left back as well as Ezri Konsa (England U-21), Chris Mepham (Wales) and Henrik Dalsgaard (something, something, something, World Cup) its fair to say our defence will probably be less terrified and more simply aware of a striker who will no doubt have a point to prove.

IMG_6176 (1)

Captain Barbet played a blinder last time out.

For now, we’ve no idea who the man in the middle will be for that one. A quick check on the EFL website reveals that the referees are yet to be announced for the forthcoming fixtures. An unusual occurrence given these normally go up faster than Keith Stroud raising a yellow card.

Instead, there is simply the realisation that the EFL seem to opt for a certain style of photograph when leading the stories about who will be ‘in charge’ for future games. A term that was certainly at it’s loosest the last time we were all together, for the 2-1 victory over Nottingham Forest. That was the one where Mr. Bankes led the mayhem. Even if ultimately it was us and fouling Forest who were deemed not have controlled the players.

Screen Shot 2018-09-11 at 05.12.36

The long arm of the law

And finally, something quite amazing happened at work yesterday. Please note – your definition of ‘quite amazing’ may vary. However, I’ve got first dibs on this. It seems that it’s not just the Bees who have incredible taste when they are on the road. As if the brown/orange change shirt couldn’t deliver anymore, I was on a different floor in the office on Monday when I spotted something quite wonderful.

A good omen for the games at Ipswich (next league – a, and Arsenal)? Or simply the ideal accompaniment for when it’s… raining goals?

I’ll get my coat on the way out.

umbrella

Where can we get them?

Nick Bruzon

Natalie nails it as Forest fail to chop down the Bees.

2 Sep

What an afternoon. What a game of contrasting football styles. Brentford beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in a game which will be as much remembered for the three points that take us back into play-offs as it will an infuriating performance from ‘referee’ Peter Bankes. That, and a display of physical thuggery from the visitors which, as was said many times yesterday, came over as ‘a typical Aitor Karanka performance’. See also the phrase: Brian Clough would be spinning in his grave. It was an attitude which spilled over into social media afterwards where none other than Natalie Sawyer waded in to defend her beloved Bees in the face of what could, at best, be described as sour grapes from fans of the visiting team.

It gives me no pleasure in having to write about anything negative from yesterday. Especially about a club I’ve enormous respect for. Why would we want any form of downer after Brentford scooped the win that lifted us back into the play-off zone following last weekend’s blip at Blackburn? We’ve overcome the three game suspension of Neal Maupay and showed tremendous spirit to bounce back after an uncharacteristic fumble from Daniel Bentley allowed Forest to haul themselves into the game on the hour mark.

Yet it was the approach of the visitors which was so at odds with what we’ve seen from them over the years. A team who previously out-thought and out-played opponents to win the trophies for which they are so well known. A team who rightly earned the two stars that adorn their famous crest. Now, their manager has them playing not so much ‘kick and rush’ as ‘kick and punch’.

That there were only 7(seven) bookings for the visitors was a miracle in itself. They were cynical, scything and nasty. Mr. Bankes in the middle seeming to forget he even had cards in his pocket during a first half where Forest had no answer to wave after wave of Brentford pressure. Except, of course, the one shown to Lewis Macleod for apparent diving.

IMG_6088

Two stars, well earned. Plus a welcome return for the castle badge in the programme.

There was no attempt to tackle. The Bees were allowed to run at their opponents with the ‘permission to foul badge’ rotated between the players by manager Karanka. How nobody received a second yellow I have no idea. Yet it was an approach that also allowed us to see Brentford at their finest. And, in the end, crush the visitors as easily as they would a ripe avocado. 

Josh McEachran had an extremely positive game, making one incredible surge forward in the first half that must have seen him take the ball close to forty yards upfield as he rode challenges and played deft flicks. Romaine Sawyers did what he does. Sergi was felled time and again by the yellow shirted lumberjacks. Mepham and Konsa at the back continue to look as though they have been partners for years rather than weeks. Benrahma was magnificent, supplying the crosses for both goals and almost nabbing a couple himself. 

The first, a cross from the right that dropped perfectly for the unmarked Lewis Macleod to head home just before half time. The second, delivered to Ollie Watkins to stroke home with just minutes left on the clock. Between these, Peter Gilham’s quite wonderfully announced substitution of Lolley for Cash looked like it would be bang on the money for our guests. The hero of Forest’s midweek league cup win over Newcastle did it again. Yet the goal from Matty Cash proved to be a small change and, in the end, it was Watkins (nose stuffed full of gauze after receiving a boot in the face from Jack Robinson) who sealed the points that take us up to fifth place in the table.   

Again, I don’t want to come over as negative about the visitors and the ref. I’ve friends who are Forest fans and a healthy respect for the club that goes back to my own formative football years when they were THE kings of Europe. Perhaps they just had a bad day at the office whereby physicality was the only answer to the electric pace of a scintilating Brentford side.  Yet it was awful to watch them yesterday.

Equally frustrating was finding ourselves beholden to the whims of a referee whose performance switched between turning a blind eye and guesswork. All credit to captain Yoann Barbet whose cool head at the very end prevented a major case of handbags turning into a Keith Stroud convention. He led by example throughout although you could also praise the spirit of all Dean’s ‘leaders’. Our unique approach of rotating the captaincy providing its own demonstration of success.

IMG_6176 (1)

Yoann Barbet at FT. How was that for you?

I apologise. The point has been laboured and the point has been made. But it is done because so often over the last couple of seasons, we’ve had no answer to teams like this. We’ve seen points dropped and games lost when brute force has triumphed over attempts to play intelligent football. Yet we’ve toughened up and adapted, whilst still retaining that core belief. Being honest, this one never felt in doubt. Even at 1-1 or throughout the protracted period of stoppage time added on at the end. 

It was our own Natalie Sawyer who really summed things up nicely, taking to Twitter at full time to first note that: If ever there was a victory for football today it’s what I’ve witnessed at Griffin Park. Really surprised by how Forest played today considering I thought they’d give us a much better game following what I saw on Wednesday night..

Confronted by frustrated Forest fans, rather than sit on this one she continued to make her point (and rightly praise the Forest midweek match) before eventually going on to add: Excuse me you came not to win, you came to by physical and cynical. It’s the most disappointing performance I’ve seen from a team. I’m not saying that Brentford are wholly innocent in every game they play but today they outplayed a team that just wanted to foul and time waste.

Well said. Professionally put and spot on. There’s not much more one can really say after that. Perhaps a bit more praise for Dean Smith and his wonderful team. Kudos to Yoan Barbet and my man of the match, Said Benrahma.

Put your feet up and enjoy international break. Roll on the 15th for Wigan at home where it’s not so much Will Grigg as the Bees who are currently on fire.

Nick Bruzon

Dean’s Forss-Field keeps Cheltenham out as Forest await. Lionel Road delay sees extended life at Griffin Park.

29 Aug

Brentford ensured progression to the third round of the league cup on Tuesday night after victory over Cheltenham Town by the the odd goal in one, i.e. 1-0. It was as comprehensive a performance of build-up play as they come despite the solitary mark on the scoresheet. Only over complication in front of goal and a solid display from fan favourite Scott Flinders (who would have stopped just about anything coming at him, even a small child) kept the visitors in it until the final whistle. Yet with Nottingham Forest to come next in the league, perhaps the main thing was putting Saturday’s first Championship defeat (1-0 at Blackburn Rovers) behind us and marking a return to winning ways.

IMG_5969

Griffin Park always looking great under lights

Dean Smith was taking no chances on this one. The last thing we needed with a potato skin like this was his going ‘full Marinus’. Instead, the bench was chock full of first teamers whilst the likes of Chris Mepham, Nico Yennaris, Lewis Macleod and Said Benrahma all started alongside familiar faces Alan Judge, Josh Clarke, Tom Field and newboy Julian Jeanvier.  With Neal Maupay serving the second game of his three match stint out, Marcus Forss returned once more following his debut at Blackburn.

Indeed, it was French central defender Jeanvier who grabbed the game’s only goal, providing the final touch to a goalmouth melee just prior to half time. It was a strike that our performance had suggested was coming. Benrahma in particular enjoying the freedom of Griffin Park as the visitors sat deep and invited Brentford to come at them. Wave after wave of attack was repelled as our own pretty football was rewarded with everything but the finishing touch. Sometimes we don’t need to walk it in!

That said, final stats of 13 shots on target compared to none for Cheltenham tell their own story although it didn’t feel like that sort of game. Comfortable, yes. But without that second goal there was always the danger of being caught by the sucker punch equaliser. Had the visitors perhaps thrown the kitchen sink at it ten minutes earlier than the last knockings of a game they were always in,  there would have been a very real chance of taking it to those immediate penalties (no extra time here). But with a Brentford team including the combination of Forss-Field in the starting XI, perhaps there was never any danger of Luke Daniels’ goal being breached.

IMG_5983 (1)

Rare Cheltenham attacks were snuffed out

Still, we’re through and that’s the main thing. The draw for Round 3 is on Thursday evening at 7pm which is when all the Premier league’s top clubs, and also Arsenal, join in the fun. No doubt everybody will be hoping for a trip to an Old Trafford or Anfield. Perhaps a visit from Chelsea, Fulham or Manchester City. Instead, it’ll probably be Middlesbrough away.

Of more immediate interest is what Dean Smith learned about his side ahead of the visit from Nottingham Forest on Saturday. They are one of just three unbeaten Championship sides (see also: Leeds united and Middlesbrough) and now find themselves a point behind the eighth placed Bees as the table starts to slowly settle down. So who will Dean go with? The same XI as at Blackburn? A different option up top? Could he be tempted to entertain the return of Josh McEachran to his Championship team? How about Sergi Canos who must be chomping at the bit to get a run out in what will be the last game before international break? Whomever Dean picks, the Bees are likely to be facing infinitely more testing opponents. On paper.

Then again, on paper last night should have been a cake walk but Cheltenham contained us and almost nicked an equaliser late on. Don’t let paper or reputation fool you for a second. Goals are all what counts when it comes to winning games. Banging them in and keeping them out. A simple enough philosophy but all the pretty play in the world means naff all if you do get caught with your pants down at one-nil up. But we didn’t. We’re through and that’s the important thing. It was really nice also to see several familiar fan faces out and about in the second half – you know who you are if you are reading (unlikely, but..). It’s great that people retain that love for the Bees and always a mark of what the current regime are currently doing that they continue to inspire such passion amongst the fans.

These are exciting times at Griffin Park. We’ve had an impressive start in the league and are 90 minutes away from equalling our furthest ever league cup run (round four). We have a new home on the horizon, even if if our moving in date has been put back to the start of the 2020/21 campaign as was announced yesterday.  This is no surprise to anyone who has seen the, albeit impressive, work to date. Whilst the Lionel Road site is being developed at a rate of knots, we need to be realistic. Just look at the problems Tottenham now face as a result of trying to rush into their new home. You can read the full statement on Brentford official. No doubt more to come on this over the next day or so.

So one more full season at Griffin Park awaits once the current campaign comes to a close. Could it see top flight football? Who knows. Bring on Nottingham Forest this Saturday when we take the next step to discovering our football fate.

IMG_5998

Mark Fuller and Yoann Barbet do their respective things at full time

Nick Bruzon

The grass isn’t always greener. Time to let our football do the talking, again.

18 Aug

Brentford have a rare Saturday off with our visit from Sheffield Wednesday (all being well, bereft of ‘that’ band) being put back by 24 hours to accommodate the Owls league cup tie with Sunderland on Thursday. That hasn’t dampened the football spirit any in our house though, with Sky serving up the game between Birmingham City and Swansea last night as an aperitif to a weekend of gorging on the beautiful game. Even Mrs. Bruzon got involved in that one. At least, until (alleged) Celebrity Big Brother started. To be fair, she probably made the right choice in retrospect.

IMG_E5817What we got was a 0-0 that was as laborious as they come. Birmingham City were wasteful. Profilgate. Couldn’t hit a barn door in a brewery. Are yet to win a game all season and had already limped out of the league cup during the week c/o John Swift and his Reading team. Jota was named man of the match – presumably for his services to facial hair.

Swansea were turgid. Barely able to scratch the surface of a gritty, if functional, home defence. Yet at the same time one can only respect the fact that they secured another point. This taking their total to 7(seven) from three league games and up to second place in the nascent table.

We’ve said many, many times that goals and points rather than pretty play and chances are, ultimately, what decides the league placings. Whilst I’m waiting for that magical ten game mark, for now we can only judge on what we’ve seen and the Swans record of WWD is one that I’d be very happy if Brentford can match by the point Mr. Webb calls time on our game with Sheffield Wednesday.

It didn’t make for good viewing. A torturous showing that was edging towards a breach of the Geneva convention. Something perhaps anticipated by the home supporters, given the vast amount of empty seats on show. If you really want them, Sky have the highlights up on their website or you can watch them below.

Tumbleweed-862x574

We go again. Birmingham City 0 Swansea 0

Yet none of this is mentioned to have a pop at Birmingham City. We all know what happened last season and how wonderfully that finished up. For us.

Let’s park the cheap shots for now. I won’t even include the Harlee video. Besides, there’ll be plenty of time for proper focus on their situation soon – 2ndOctober the date that the Blues visit Griffin Park.

Instead, it is mentioned more to talk about Brentford and what happened beyond that. Obviously the Bees chose to sell three players last season. They thought they could better themselves. We knew we could replace for a fraction of the price and, as would now seem infinitely clear, a huge raising of the bar in terms of quality. With Mepham, Benrahma and the World Cup’s Dalsgaard already earning rave reviews, it’s fair to say that has worked out ten times better for us than them. At least, in terms of football progression.

Ryan sums up our current situation in one tweet.

We all know money talks and if that is your motivator then happy days. It’s not for me to criticise an individual’s decision but what I can say as fact is that, and likewise with the incessant talk of Ryan Woods being courted by Swansea City hanging around like a bad smell, we all know who is playing the better football. Who are the team that people outside of TW8 are starting to raise an inquisitive eye towards.

That goal against Stoke City was less Barcelona – as I have seen touted around the internet – and more like watching 70’s Brazil. I have no doubt Soccer AM may feature it again this morning!

The Bees are scoring goals for fun and stroking it around like champions. Cool. Confident. Dare I say it, effortless. Brentford have managed 10 in the opening three games and looked ominously good in our two league outings. Playing with a level of confidence and charisma that one can only embrace. Whilst Sheffield Wednesday will, surely, be a sterner test than our previous home game against Rotherham, you can only play who you are put up against. And we have looked wonderful to date. Even better, getting the goals to match the performances.

Good luck to the Birmingham three. Whilst the money and the city may be nice, the style of football is certainly, erm, different.  I’m hoping Ryan Woods watched the game last night and it has perhaps caused him a moment of inward reflection in regards to his next steps. Imagine a midfield featuring him alongside the likes of Romaine, Said, Sergi, Ollie et al. I’m salivating at the thought.

At the end of the day (Clive) this is football. Money talks. Players move on. We get it. I get it. At Brentford we’ve been hammered more than anyone over this. It is our strategy as much as anything else. Sell, replace for less but continue to improve. Get mocked by the media for daring to be different.

Well, money isn’t the only thing that talks. Performances do, too. The banknotes may be greener elsewhere but the grass isn’t necessarily the same.

Here’s hoping for another stunner against Wednesday on Sunday.

Yoann free kick Sheff Wed

The Bees beat the Owls 2-0 at Griffin Park last season

Nick Bruzon