Tag Archives: Manchester City

Old man shouts at the wind as Gameweek five approaches.

30 Aug

Next up for Brentford, Crystal Palace. Two teams who received another reminder (would that one were needed) at the weekend, that it is goals rather than justice which wins football matches. For The Bees, a 1-1 draw at home to Everton was a game where despite a full on assault on the visitors’ goal (and woodwork) it took until the 85ths minute for Vitaly Janelt’s equaliser. Palace meanwhile stormed into a 2-0 lead up at City that, arguably, could well have seen the add a third to that tally but for the officials. Sadly for them, they were up against a team boasting Erling Haaland. His second half hat-trick, tucked away in under twenty minutes, saw Pep Guardiola’s team run out 4-2 victors. Elsewhere, Richard Keys has crawled back out from under his rock to remind the world what a twat he is. When Fulham have the moral high ground, this following his comments about table topping Arsenal, then you know not all is right with the world.

We can only start with the game at Selhurst Park this evening. For Brentford it is a chance to pick up where we left off against Everton. There are no easy matches in the Premier League, regardless of how they may look on paper or in a Qatari TV studio. The Toffees set up their stall to play in a certain way and despite our very best efforts, finding a way through was a mostly futile task. Credit, such as it is, to Everton. They had a gameplan, stuck to it and almost pulled off what would have been a morale-boosting win. Instead they found themselves pegged back to record a second point of the season. The Bees came close but, in the end, it wasn’t sufficient to take the win. On another day perhaps we might have. Instead, the two teams gave supporters the consummate lesson in taking chances when they present themselves.

No complaints.

Brentford came close but couldn’t capitalise on chances created

As for Crystal Palace, one has to feel for them. Whereas The Bees went to the Ethiad last season and tried to do what Everton did to us on Saturday, Palace took the opposite tack and went for it from the off. Watching back, it was as exciting a start to a game as one could expect. Even if the ending had a familiar inevitability about it. In Erling Haaland, Manchester City have only made themselves even stronger. You can’t put a price on such a potent finisher with the golden boot already looking as though it will have a new home. Six goals in his first four games is a blistering pace to set. Good luck to Nottingham Forest tomorrow night. 

Still, that’s a problem we won’t have to worry about for al little while. Instead all the focus is on Selhurst Park. Vitaly Janelt and Keane Lewis-Potter both impressed from the bench against Everton. Much as they did the week previous at Fulham. Whilst both combined for the equaliser it was as much the energy and renewed vigour they brought to the finishing XI.

One can only assume they’ll both be in with a very realistic chance of starting this evening. Yoanne Wissa was very much off his game whilst, and this may be blasphemous, I thought Josh Dasilva struggled. He’s an absolute player and a half but Saturday just didn’t feel like his day. Perhaps a change around is coming. Pontus remains touch and go at the back having missed out at the weekend whilst we already know Mikkel Damsgaard isn’t ready for a start. Yet.

Last season’s 0-0 was deemed a hard fought point at the time for newly promoted Brentford. An impressive start continuing after ‘that’ table topping 2-0 defeat of Arsenal. This time around, I don’t expect the challenge to be any easier. Patrick Viera has seen his team face the toughest of openings with defeat to the Gunners part of a run that also included  Liverpool away (1-1). Aston Villa were swept aside 3-1 with the impressive Wilfried Zaha grabbing a brace (albeit missing a penalty before putting away the rebound) aswell as Eberechi Eze and Jean-Philippe also grabbing the plaudits. 

Last season’s 0-0 at the Palace was hard fought

Injury news suggests Zaha may well be a doubt for this evening. Here’s hoping, given his prolific scoring rate. He’s bagged five of their last six league goals at Selhurst Park aswell as finding the net in all four of 2022’s home wins. Keeping him quiet (preferably absent) and nullifying the impressive Eze would seem to be key the strategy should Brentford have any aspirations of adding to our points total.  It is another ‘way’ sell out despite being available on a variety of other sources. Primarily BT Sports – a place where, thankfully, anybody unable to make it will at least be spared Richard Keys.

The former Sky Sports dinosaur is now working for (checks internet) beIN Sports of Qatar where, at least he is consistent with how out of touch he remains about the modern game. His weekend rant about Arsenal, having just recorded their fourth win on the bounce to make it 12 Premier League points out of 12 and top the table, even included the line about their coaching staff ‘celebrating like they’ve won the FA Cup’. Now where have we heard that before? The reason for his ire – the opposition. A proper ’teams like’ diatribe about Fulham. 

Been there. Done that

Granted, I’ve no time for their sponge cakes, gin bars, clacker banging, foam-finger waving, Michael Jackson loving atmosphere but, you know, each to their own. On pitch, there’s nobody in the top flight that is just going to roll over and die every week. Nobody incapable of giving anyone else a real test. This isn’t a division where Derby County’s mergre 11 points and goal difference of -69 from 2007-08 is under any threat.

It is a league where anybody is able to beat anybody on their day. Just ask Manchester United. So to bang on about Arsenal over-celebrating a win that maintained their 100% start to the season was as insulting to them as it was to their opponents. And that’s a tough thing to have to write.  Perhaps somebody better get down there and explain offside to him.

Maybe it was nothing more than desperate attention seeking. An attempt to sound relevant having been absent from the public eye for so long. Nothing more than an old man shouting at the wind. It’s a shame his patter wasn’t as smooth as his hands and instead he remains as out dated as ever. Still, that’s his problem.

Instead, for us it is all about Brentford and Crystal Palace. On whether Thomas will stick or twist with his staring XI? On another day, we may well have had a hat full against Everton. You can read the full post-match debrief here, btw. The important thing now is how we kick on and I can’t wait to find out….

Nick Bruzon  

Just four games to go and fate is hanging in the balance

28 Apr

How things can change. Nine years ago it was one of the lowest points in our club history – the appearance on Soccer AM where we missed more penalty kicks than, well, we all know what happened later that afternoon against Doncaster Rovers….. At least we had the pleasure of seeing Frank Leboeuf being about as Gallic as they come. Charm personified (on and off camera) then puffing on a Gauloises the second he was out the studio. Likewise, there was a TV debut for our H – and he hadn’t even been born at that stage.

Now Brentford have four games to go in our first Premier League campaign with a top ten finish still well in sight. Next up, Monday evening’s trip to Old Trafford to take on Manchester United. With it, a chance to avenge their second half ‘smash and grab’ at Lionel Road in January . There will be half an eye on their game at home to Chelsea tonight although whether a full viewing will be allowed in our house after watching both Liverpool and Manchester City in some quite wonderful Champions’ league action remains to be seen. Three nights of football in a row will all depend on a combination of marital goodwill combined with whether Kirsty and Phil are currently loving it or listing it.

Hopefully no repeat of the Soccer AM ‘performance’

Still, if that’s the worst of our problems then sporting life is indeed good. There’s a gap of just three points in the table from Brentford in 12th to Newcastle in 9th. We’ve got a tantalising run-in to try and secure that wonderful finish. Manchester United (a), the visit of Southampton and then a chance of sealing a relegation.

First bite comes with the game at Everton before the season concludes with the visit of Leeds United. Watford’s abject form means it unlikely both can now go down, as earlier predicted by The Last Word super computer, but Everton look like a dead man walking whilst Leeds find their next three games against top four clubs in Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea. A haul of nil points is quite feasible from those and then, should the Toffees somehow find the means to reverse their form, there could be some very squeaky bums at Elland Road.

Its all ifs, buts and maybes of course. For me, Clive, the way Brentford have played since the return of David Raya and the arrival of Christian Eriksen / green jacket (delete as applicable) has been nothing short of wonderful. Unbeaten April – including the humping of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge – culminated in holding Tottenham on Saturday night. It was a game that I am sure, had he been watching, Dean Smith would have called Brentford as deserving to win. We didn’t, but the performance in adding another point to our haul was about as good as it gets. Up there with those wonderful moments against Arsenal, Liverpool, West Ham and Chelsea.

Chelsea away the highlight of a wonderful April

Indeed, but for the punishment inflicted by covid and injury around Christmas, who knows what might have been this season?  The manner of that last minute call off from Manchester United  – a few days after their own sub-Everton performance at Norwich City – one which still sticks in the craw even now. Even if it did save us a goalkeeping conundrum having to be solved. 

It certainly has felt like a campaign which has started and finished at 100mph after getting bogged down in the middle. The squad being used to the maximum and no panic buying. Those predicting doom and gloom when nobody came in have now been left with copious amounts of egg on face.

Nobody, that is, barring Christian Eriksen. A player for whom there aren’t sufficient words to describe how wonderful he has been. The primary focus being his own return to playing with the obvious benefit being what he has then got on to do for Brentford. Should Phil Gules, Matthew Benham et al persuade Christian his future lies with Brentford then who knows what next season might bring. Moreso if David Raya can borrow a pen from Pontus.

David has been key to our recent form

For now let’s focus on a top ten finish. Realistically, we’re looking at 10 points from 12, minimum, starting Monday. Only a fool would write off Manchester United, of course. Their form has been woeful – even Everton beat them the other week in what was one of the most dreadful games of football I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness. There is no comment needed on the toxic atmosphere pervading from all angles of Old Trafford. They limped past doomed Norwich City and shot themselves in the foot at every opportunity against Arsenal on Saturday. 

Can they use tonight’s game with Chelsea to salvage a last gasp stab at reaching the Champions’ League? Time is running out, that’s for sure. They’re six points, and inferior goal difference behind Arsenal with four to play. By the time Brentford visit, dreams of feasting at Europe’s top table could be all over.

All being well, the remote can be controlled for a third night in a row. It has been a cracking week of football for the neutral observer and tonight promises to be no different. Moreso given Brentford fans have a very vested interest in how things play out at Old Trafford.

Until then, the Tottenham player review (where the battle for our season long star man is going to the wire), is up here. Enjoy.

Nick Bruzon

Could he start tomorrow? Here’s hoping !

18 Feb

Brentford travel to Arsenal on Saturday afternoon, looking for a first Premier League ‘double’ of the season. Victory for the Bees would and reduce the points gap between us and the sixth placed Gunners to single figures. The presence of David Raya and that increased defensive strength seen at Manchester City then last time out when Crystal Palace came to West London gives heart and continues to engender optimism. Likewise, the return to action of Josh Dasilva. With news on Ivan Toney still somewhat, err, scant could it be elsewhere that the blockbuster bombshells are dropped? The run out for Christian Eriksen on Monday afternoon causing many to wonder if a place on the bench at Arsenal is now beckoning or do we need to wait for Newcastle United next weekend?

Going for more of the same agasint Arsenal this weekend

For me, Clive, surely it’s too early? Surely? Match fitness will be key. We’re all brutally aware that a behind closed doors friendly is one thing but a full on Premier League fixture in the cauldron of silence that is The Emirates another. Common sense dictates that the bench at home to Newcastle is likely the earliest we’ll see our latest signing in actual action. Who knows, though? Who actually knows? These aren’t the sort of things that are generally advertised. A couple of days or a couple of weeks? All we can say is that when it comes it’ll be immense. The welcome received against Crystal Palace reason enough to understand the place is going to go nuts when, and where, it happens.

Until then, the more likely option for Brentford is a start for Josh Dasilva. My word, it’s been wonderful having back in action. One of our shrewdest acquisitions of all time, he is already showing us how much he’s been missed. The brief cameo at Everton has now been fleshed out to half hour slots against Manchester City and Palace. With the full game under his belt on Monday, could the trip to Arsenal see him finally start?

Is Josh set to start from the off rather than the bench?

My own guess is, yes. A 60 minute run out before being replaced by Vitaly or Mathias. Thomas making no secret of his substitution timings at present. With Ivan missing the last two games, the presence of Josh would provide a massive attacking option should our main man up top be missing again. The prospect of them playing together even more tantalising. That will come at some point soon. Perhaps Saturday. Perhaps Newcastle. Perhaps beyond. It’s a wonderful thing to be discussing once again. Options. Choice. A team that is no longer being held together by injury and covid related sticky tape. We’re still not ‘full strength’ but then again, at this stage of the season, who is?

At least we have David Raya back and already looking strong as an ox. The challenge seen for those filling in for a figure of his stature akin to replacing Arsene Wenger. It takes more than gloves or an oversized anorak to replace a legend. Wearing the kit doesn’t guarantee being able to forge that bond with your new team. Thankfully, David is back. Kris, Ethan and Pontus are looking colossal. The Crystal Palace and Manchester City games even saw us mange to clear all 18 corner kicks taken by our opponents. That the goals conceded at the the Ethiad were down to sloppy individualism rather than collective ineptitude giving further heart. Those wrinkles have been addressed and the discipline seen, if maintained, may well give us the platform on which to build this Saturday.

If nothing else, it’s a wonderful opportunity just to prove that the season opener was no fluke. The 2-0 defeat of Arsenal that saw us top the Premier League table was as deserved as they come, despite the chagrin voiced from certain quarters. Suck it up, the table doesn’t lie. Sergi’s opener was wonderful. Norgaard’s finish the cherry on an already well iced cake. The reaction at full time telling you all you needed to know.

Of course it will be tougher this time around. The atmosphere back in August was as highly charged as it comes. That can’t ever be recreated when it is the librarians who have the majority of bums on seats. Albeit you can bet our 3,000 will be giving it their all to raise the roof and remind Arsenal they’re in a game. That Brentford aren’t just here to make up the numbers. Obvious tub-thumping and to an extent clichéd stuff by numbers but, nonetheless, still true.

Anyone who has seen us at our best this season knows what we can do when properly on it. We are getting ourselves back in the zone of that early season brilliance. Getting David back and seeing Josh out on the pitch once more has been simply HUGE. Game changers the pair of them. You can understand what Arsenal saw in both players.

The former, coveted.

The later, well that’s their problem….

Arsenal are on it, too, btw. Don’t expect the same pushovers seen at Lionel Road. They won at Wolves last time out although have also seen the mixed bag of being held by Burnley having thumped Norwich City. One can’t ignore longer term form. They’re sixth and chasing that Europa League spot. The table doesn’t lie and this one will be tough. For BOTH teams. I can’t wait. Bring it on and see you there.

Nick Bruzon

Caution. Positivity may offend.

13 Feb

Blip averted after that run of five successive top flight defeats. One point rather than the three it might have been but a 0-0 between Brentford and Crystal Palace saw us building on the foundations (performance wise) laid at Manchester City during the week. With the trip to Arsenal next up, its not going to get any easier for the Bees. Likewise, for our opponents who will continue to find the Bees a tough nut to crack. The return of David Raya cannot be quantified. Kris Ajer and Ethan Pinnock consistently strong. Josh Dasilva making his first Premier League start at Lionel Road in some style and, of course, Christian Eriksen waiting in the wings. His introduction to supporters before kick-off setting the mood and creating expectation levels which one can only salivate at the prospect of being reached. All that’s to come though. For now, the game just played.

The moment

Brentford were solid at the back. The three centre backs clearing everything that came their way. Sergi Canos replacing Mads Roerslev in the right wing back position can only play where he is asked – albeit nobody would deny he’s definitely better when on the front foot. He always plays with his heart on his sleeve and started this one at 100mph. Waving his team mates on and exhorting the crowd upwards. As did Bryan. As did Rico. As did Matthias Jensen. Despite the absence of Ivan Toney once more, it was the Bees taking the game to Crystal Palace. It was referee Simon Hooper redefining the penalty kick laws and needing a new dictionary to look up the definition of the word: push.

Yet for all the positivity it was another game where chances were at a premium. Where optimism failed to create those clear cut opportunities. Where the will to win and the desire from the fans wasn’t enough to drag the ball into the net. And?

We could have won. Maybe should have won. Nobody has a divine right to be any good. To turn up and win. To get the points by simple virtue of expectation. This is the toughest league in the world. One we are competing in. Competing. One we are spending our first season in with a squad made up of players whose experience has been forged in the Championship. Or Below. A bench supplemented by players from the B-team. That’s just how we do things. Always has been.

All the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the transfer window won’t change anything. Our targets were flagged and they didn’t include defensive cover. Get over it. Getting on the backs of those asked to fill in won’t help any. This team has enough about it for people to be getting upset about what some may consider to be not having a recognised right back. I’m not an idiot. I’d love another option there. I’d love another option up top. I’d love Ivan to be playing further forward. To see chances being created for him and snaffled as we did last season but we’ve set our stall out and, mostly, held our own. Laid foundations for the rest of this campaign and what may come beyond.

The return of David Raya is key. As is the continued rehabilitation of Josh Dasilva. I thought he was brilliant yesterday as another half-hour were tucked under his belt. With Mathias Jensen doing all the good stuff and Christian Eriksen still to come, it is the midfield where we have options. The midfield where battle will be done and games can be won. Good luck Thomas in fitting Vitaly, Josh, Mathias and the two Christians in to his team once all are fully fit and available.

A quite wonderful challenge to contemplate and one which far outweighs the ‘problem’ at right wing back.

I thought David Raya brought so much solidity when called upon. So much calm. The renewed acquaintance of the defence with their goalkeeper a beautiful thing to see unfolding once more. The goalkeeper’s distribution something we’ve been crying out for whilst his reaction speed in the dying seconds arguably stopped Crystal Palace taking all three points.

Ok – so the league title is now only a mathematical possibility. We’ve 13 games left. That’s 39 points left to play for. The exact same gap between us and Manchester City with both teams having played 25 games. Whilst it may never have been a realistic option, not long term, we’ve already topped the table once this season and who’s to say it won’t happen again? The season opening defeat of Arsenal providing a moment of optimism now matched by the arrival of Christian Eriksen.

The table doesn’t lie

Eriksen’s walk out on to the pitch before kick-off triggering a standing ovation from all sides of the ground. How quickly he returns, and how well, the questions on everyone’s lips. One thing’s for sure, the prospect of seeing him play again is a tantalising one. A prospect that will be fulfilled in Brentford colours. There’s a behind closed doors friendly on Monday and then the next league game is Saturday afternoon at Arsenal. He’ll feature in the former. Whether the later is a bridge too far at present remains to be seen but there’ll be even more intrigue when Thomas talks to the press on Thursday.

What are the expectations from this point in? So much supporter talk before the season began centred around 17th being the target. Personally, I thought tenth and with the gap to the top half of the table currently at five points, its still a feasible option. I do not and will not subscribe to any of this ‘sleep walking to relegation’ talk, that’s for sure. If positivity offends then that’s your issue, not mine.

With the exception of Burnley, Brighton, Southampton (all away) and Norwich (home) I think we’ve more than held our own in the league this season. Four dreadful performances out of twenty-five so far. That’s a brilliant achievement and should be celebrated. Sure, the results may not always have gone our way but look at who we are up against. Look at their budgets. Their experience.

I’d still be ecstatic to finish 17th but , genuinely, I think we’re better than that. That’s just an opinion of course and the sequence of games after Arsenal is one that sees us face off against sides currently in the bottom four – Newcastle United, Norwich City and Burnley. Anything but gimmes but also an opportunity to silence those uttering the ‘R’ word.

I can’t wait for any of it. All of it. Bring them on and see you there. Until then, the latest player performance review can be found here.

Next up, our first trip to Arsenal since the League Cup

Nick Bruzon    

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