Tag Archives: Thomas Tuchel

Chelsea play their cards right as Brentford are undone by Kanté’s class.

23 Dec

Brentford fans could be forgiven for having that flat feeling this morning. Chelsea supporters the ones waking up with a semi in the pocket. A 2-0 defeat at Lionel Road means the Bees’ League cup progress stops in the quarter-finals. Chelsea join Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal in the last four. Yet for Thomas Frank and Brentford, it was a useful runout and one that could well have had a different ending. At least, until N’Golo Kanté came off the bench with just under fifteen minutes to go. Thomas Tuchel playing his substitution cards oh so right as he slowly cranked up the second half pressure. The arrival of Kanté being the defining moment which transformed the game from evenly balanced contest to one way traffic. The World Cup winner showing his absolute class and importance to a club that may have started the game with a relatively unfamiliar line up but ended it in a much more recognisable style – both in terms of players and performance.

Brentford had no answer to Chelsea’s Tuchel bonus

For Brentford, the team was as familiar as one could have expected given Thomas Frank’s prematch assertions about ‘going for it’. Starts for Mads Bech and Wissa aside (albeit Ivan Toney, now recovered from his positive covid test results, would come off the bench with half an hour to go) the rest of the team picked itself. Contrast that to Chelsea where names such as Vale, Simons and Soonsup-Bell, amongst others, had many of us from this part of West London scratching our heads as to just how deep and strong Thomas Tuchel was going. Yet what we got was more of the same. Chelsea dominating possession (if memory serves, they’d had 68% when the halftime stats flashed up) and Brentford having to work socks off.

Yet it was the Bees who had the better chances in that opening period.  Bryan and Rico working brilliantly down the left. Our left back in particular showing a continued turn of electrifying pace to cause mayhem down that flank. Vitaly strong again and Matthias Jensen getting stuck in. First Wissa and then Jensen were both denied by Kepa between the sticks for the visitors. It could, probably should, have been Brentford who went in a goal up but with the first half tapering off and the second continuing in equally even fashion, it began to take on the feel of looking to take the chance in a spot kick shoot out.

A plethora of changes for Brentford did nothing to significantly up the tempo but with our guests always one step ahead of us on the substitutions, you could see their quality cranking up with every change.  Jorginho and Christian Pulisic on as the second period began, followed by Reece James and Mason Mount. This was the Chelsea we recognised. This was the Chelsea now starting to open the door until , with 76 minutes gone, that man Kanté entered the field of play and booted it wide open. The step up one pace and the drive forward was a clear as day. His part in both goals there for all to see. 

First up, Pontus Jansson somehow slicing it past his own ‘keeper to hand the lead to our visitors with less than ten minutes to go. Urghh. Hearts sank. There was no blame attached or recrimination offered. It was one of those things but now there was little choice left but to go for it. Rather than running the clock down for spot kicks all we could do was go for one final throw of the dice. Instead, it was Chelsea who kept on pushing. Chelsea who scored again five minutes later. Kanté who once again opened us up, leading to Pulisic being felled in the box by Alvaro Fernandez. It felt soft at the time and whilst replays have yet to be seen, there were no real complaints. Jorginho despatching it with his trademark efficiency. There was no way back from there. For Brentford, a chance to focus on Brighton and Manchester City in the league. For Chelsea, the tournament remains alive with the draw now seeing them face Tottenham.

Hey, its a shame but there’s no bitterness. We gave it a shot but were ultimately undone by a master class in cup football and Thomas Tuchel’s strategy. By one man’s Christmas presence ultimately being that tipping point between two teams who had both felt as though they had half a foot in the semis prior to his arrival. Hats off to Kante. Well played Chelsea.

The only real negativity to talk about is around our forthcoming Covid tests. With three games coming up in close succession (Aston Villa joining the Seagulls and City to make up the trio of festive fixtures ) staying healthy is probably the best present we can get this Christmas. I’d love to have won this, of course, but as long as we can stay fit that’s probably just as important in the current climate. What an aspirational thought to end on. Groan.

Instead, let’s be glad we’re back. After two games were pulled in close succession its been a long wait for football. This may have felt like little more than a glorified friendly at times but who knows how important it might have been in simply allowing some ring rust to be worked through. Perhaps that’s the positive we need to draw from this. A decent run out against World Class level opposition. Champions of Europe, too. If only their fans had mentioned it.

Bus stop in Hounslow, you’ll never sing that. And that’s how we like it. Now bring on Brighton.

The GPG may be on to something

Nick Bruzon

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Brentford – Chelsea about as intriguing as they come.

22 Dec

The league cup semi-finals will be an all Premier League affair. With the last remaining EFL club, Sunderland, eventually succumbing on Tuesday evening, the three teams who join Arsenal will be decided tonight. Of course, top of our priority list is the game at Lionel Road between Brentford and Chelsea. Nobody needs a reminder as to how the league fixture turned out – one of the most pulsating encounters we’ve ever had the good fortune to witness – although that’s here if you would like to read more. The game Ben Chilwell described as “Hell on Earth” returns for round two, although whether the personnel remain the same this time around remains to be seen. Elsewhere there’s Tottenham – West Ham and Liverpool – Leicester City to decide who continues on the journey to Wembley.

Hey, we can say it now. Wembley.

Norgaard unleashes hell

As ever, the spectre of Covid raises its head. It feels like an eternity since we last saw a game and the jury remains out on whether we’ll be able to attend in the New Year. Wales and Scotland have already announced moves to start playing behind closed doors for a few weeks. One can only suspect Boris will eventually dither his way into a position where he has no remaining option left but to follow them once he has ‘saved Christmas’. Groan. Cheese and wine, anyone?

On pitch, things face a similar uncertainty. The good news for Brentford fans is that Thomas Frank has confirmed we have no positive cases in the squad. As it stands. Meaning everyone barring the injured contingent is available for selection. Might this include Matthew Cox who was all set to be parachuted into goal against Manchester United until they had to pull the game earlier this month? One way or another it would have been a debut to remember for the untried 18 year old and, surely, his time will come.

The lack of recent game time alone suggests Thomas will go as full strength as possible. The glut of games usually experienced at the time of year has been trimmed by the pandemic and, if anything, we’ll now have the players chomping at the bit to get 90 minutes under the belt once more. Or, at least, start. Then, there’s his own approach where he has been quite vocal about emulating last season’s run all the way to a semifinal with VAR and Tottenham. 

Urghhh

He used his press conference for this one to explain how it is a competition we have targeted from the off.  “Really, we want to go all the way. It’s one game at a time and the next game is against the European winners…. It’s already a statement that we are in the quarter-finals. We’d never made the semi-finals until last year. Can we do that one more time? That would be a massive statement.”

The biggest clue to starting XI then being his assertion that, “I can say we’ll put a full team out there. I don’t know what Chelsea will do.

Ahh, what will Chelsea do? One has to feel for Thomas Tuchel, in that he now faces the same levels of uncertainty we did a few weeks ago. Injuries and Covid tests are already hampering his preparation with Sunday’s 0-0 at Wolves seeing them name a reduced bench. He has spoken about having to start from scratch in terms of his own prep for tonight whilst the casualty list seems a lengthy one.

First World problems, I suppose. The squad is one that contains an embarrassment of riches and they are, for good reason, both Champions of Europe and genuine contenders for the Premier League title this season. Whomever Tuchel chooses to start / has left will, I am sure, give anyone a run for their money. Likewise, with a home crowd and a strong tea for Brentford, this has all the makings of another classic

Being honest, it still feels a bit weird going to a game at present given what’s out there in the news and the problems being faced by just about every club in the country. Then again, as many safety measures as possible are in place (do arrive early given the extensive Covid checks we have been warned about) whilst it would be hypocritical to pretend there was anything but excitement about going to football again. About seeing if our team can follow up on last season. About seeing if we can go, perhaps, one better. 

Hey, now we’ve broken the jinx at the W place, anything is possible.   

See you there. Stay safe. Let’s enjoy it whilst we can.

If Boris does end up cancelling anything this Christmas, please let’s hope he gets it right

Nick Bruzon

Could this be the shock of the weekend? Or is it now expected?

14 Oct

We’re back. Brentford host league leaders Chelsea this weekend with another international break done and the chance to see if we can build on the quite wonderful performances at home to Liverpool and then, last time out, away at West Ham. Final thoughts on those are in the forthcoming edition of the matchday programme (along with other nonsense, subject to editorial discretion, including one covid related tale of woe). Alternatively, the previous columns from these pages are here (Liverpool) or here (West Ham) for those wanting one more look back at what happened as the games unfolded and the aftermath was very much enjoyed. It all seems a lifetime ago already. There’s been a trip to Gibraltar for the World Cup qualifier with Montenegro in between and now, of course, we have the prospect of a visit from the European Champions.

West Ham away – wonderful. Especially the 94th minute

“We’re coming for you. We’re coming for you. Champions of Europe. We’re coming for you.” Thus went ‘that’ song. Ad-nauseam it felt at the time, as the Bees prepared for a 2013 FA Cup tie against the Stamford Bridge outfit. A strong opposition were held 2-2 at Griffin Park, with a late equaliser from Fernando Torres sparing Chelsea from copious amounts of egg on face.

For me, Clive, of course it was an exciting build but oh that song went on. And on. Much like Oldham’s. Focus on f’ing promotion rather than singing to opposition that weren’t even there, listening or gave a monkey about what was happening in League One.

Chelsea were almost given the elbow at Griffin Park in 2013

That was then. This is now. Better form in the FA cup, several seasons in the Championship and our own reaching the Premier League mean that as it stands games like this are the norm rather than ad-hoc flashes in the pan demanding their own song. A blistering start to top flight life means we’re currently sitting 7th (seventh) in the table. A win would put Brentford just one point behind the leaders and whilst, in theory, that sounds about as far fetched an aspiration as they come, the season has already been packed with more drama and wonderful performances than an episode of Dream Team. Get warmed up, lads.

Much missed. Especially former Bee Andy Ansah

Arsenal. Beaten. Liverpool. Held in that epic 3-3. West Ham. Crying. Wolves. Humped. Raya. Gloves needed changing. Only one defeat and that in the final minute of Brighton’s gamesmanship masterclass. The new signings bedding straight in, Kris Ajer especially, whilst Yoanne Wissa is already well en-route to becoming a cult hero. Come for the late goals. Stay for the celebration.

It has been quite the incredible start to a season that has seen this little bus stop in Hounslow punching above the weight and expectation levels of just about everybody outside TW8. Those inside the circle knowing what we can do and what to expect, even if at times it does seem against the realms of probability. That Liverpool game being the quintessential example of our never say die attitude and desire to attack until the death. The one time we’ve played super cagey, the last quarter of Brighton’s visit, our undoing had an almost Bees like inevitability about it. It’s Brentford, innit.

Wiiissssaaaaaaa. As calm as Peter Gilham isn’t

That’s not to say we’ll turn up and beat Chelsea. Cripes, if the fixtures so far have been tough then this is next level. A quick check on my Fantasy Football squad this morning is a bleak reminder of the strength they have in depth, let alone the starting XI. Whichever one they opt to go with.

For Brentford, subject to injury –  Shandon Baptiste’s shoulder being the primary concern – its a safe bet who will start this one. As ever. Thomas Frank has enjoyed the luxury of his preferred starting XI playing to such a level that the only real selection decision has been who to bring on and when. Thomas Tuchel could probably chuck the car keys in a bowl and still come up with a team that the bookies would fancy to romp home. 

Indeed, the Bees are this morning priced at 26/5 to take all three points. As ever, nobody gives us a real chance. No surprise. Our opponents are as strong as they come. Their record and consistency over the last twenty years speaks for itself. If we’ve hit the ground running then they’re next level. Romelu Lukaku looks like he’s never been away whilst only Manchester City have taken a win off them. So far. 

Which is what makes football just the exciting thing it is. Nobody gave us a hope against Liverpool. There was similar from the other 6 games. We know what we’ve done and what we can achieve when all guns are firing. The funnest season ever is now cranking up even more, reaching previously unimaginable levels. That final moment at West Ham was about as good as things got. Now to see if we can pick up where we left off.

Of course it’s going to be tough. Some might say nigh on impossible. But if that’s the approach then why bother turning up? Genuinely, I’m convinced we will do this. As we’ve been saying all season, forget the calibre and reputation of the opposition. Play the moment. Play the game. Play as we’ve played so far. Of course we HAVE to be aware of who we are up against but there’s a distinct difference between being respectful and being in awe. 

I can’t wait for this one. Quelle surprise. Even that game at the Victoria Stadium to see Gibraltar go down 3-0 to Montenegro now feels second fiddle. Fun though it was. The home side weren’t given a prayer in that one, either, but I’ve got a rock solid belief we’re going to pull a few more pants down on Saturday evening.

If nothing else, this is a West London derby. THE West London derby. Move over Fulham. See you later Loftus Road. Brentford and Chelsea are currently the two best placed clubs, not only in this quarter but the entire capital. Bring it on and see you there.

International football provided relief in the absence of Premier League action

Nick Bruzon