Brentford Are Scoring Goals. But Does That Come With A Price?
In this latest article, Beesotted contributor Carl Massey explores the reasons behind Brentford’s upsurge in goals – both for and against.
2016 was dominated with news of Brexit and whilst our political paymasters were deciding the future of the country little did May, Johnson or Cameron know that Brexit would soon be made to seem like a splash in the ocean when compared to bigger news brewing.
As the world was still digesting the news of Britain leaving the EU, West London was rocked by Scott Hogan leaving the Bees – or Hexit as it has been described exclusively in this article.
2016 drew to a close and the January window was about to open. The vultures were swarming and less than a month later, it was Aston Villa who would swoop down and steal Scotty away from Griffin Park
According to my Beesotted chums who received a call from one of their Reading buddies at the weekend, there was in fact a last minute usurping from The Royals (who offered a bigger fee than Villa it seems) but it was a salary in excess of £50k a week (no joke) and the prospect of Premier League football (OK .. we can take that with a pinch of salt) that tempted Hogan up to Villa Park.
Whilst it may not have been one of the biggest decisions made in this country’s history, Hogan’s transfer did really divide opinion amongst between Bees fans.
Was it right to take the money and run?
Should the club have done more to hold on to its prize asset (forgetting the £50k plus a week)?
Regardless, should a replacement have been signed?
With so many questions left unanswered it was down to Dean Smith to make things work for the good of the union (well the dressing room at least).
Fast forward to March and seven games since Hogan’s departure and Brentford have scored 17 goals whilst conceding 14. Compare that to the previous 7 games and Brentford scored 12 and conceded 11.
You would need to take into account the 5 scored against National League side Eastleigh and 4 conceded against Chelsea – both in the FA Cup to provide a bit of perspective and if you replace those two games with previous league matches against Bristol City and Leeds we scored 7 and conceded 8 in seven games.
Whatever way you look it, Hogans departure has made a difference. With his first choice forward moving on, Dean Smith had one obvious option available to him. Replace Hogan with Vibe and stick with the same formation (5-4-1).
Instead as Smith’s Brentford team took on Hogan’s new employers Aston Villa, Dean made the switch to a 4-3-3 and with it came a plethora of goals.
How did that happen?
But why? What is it that has caused this upsurge in goalmouth action?
Well surely the introduction of Jota, Canos and Jozefzoon must go some way to explaining things.
But Nico Yennaris – despite playing with a battered calf muscle – has found the freedom to burst forward. The box-to-box midfielder now has five goals for the season.
The much maligned and debated Romaine Sawyers has played a number of roles – including a false nine in the absence of the injured striker Lasse Vibe – and has added even more assists to his ever growing tally.
With a simple switch, Dean Smith has unlocked a plethora of attacking talent. But it hasn’t come without a cost. Whilst last season we bemoaned the lack of ability to keep the ball out of our own net. This season for a period of time, we looked steadier defensively.
But with the change in attacking fortunes has come an ominous ability to concede goals of all types. From the rock steady Bentley gifting the opposition points with a poor kick. To letting in route-one balls over the top.
Once again, Brentford’s weakness has been exposed.
What is clear amongst all of this is that the fans are happier. You won’t please all the people all of the time. But with the excitement on the pitch taken up a notch, fans seem to be going home happier.
The football up until January was functional at best – the salad amongst the steak and chips of the Championship. But after the turn of the year, it has become the tasty indulgent dessert as we have flown forward looking for goals – and to hell with the consequences.
A key component in all of this has been pace. With Jota supported by Maxine Colin on the right hand side and Tom Field or Rico Henry supplying Canos or Jozefzoon, all of sudden the Bees have speed. And it has terrified the opposition.
We saw against Brighton and Aston Villa the effectiveness of the wingers. And whilst goals are flying in at the other end, we have so far outscored the opposition by three goals in the overall tally.
You’ll never win anything with kids!
Several key factors have also played a part in the goals-against column. Firstly five at the back went to four and whilst we were all happy to see the change, it still would take some adjusting.
Secondly Egan was injured after the Chelsea match and then Harlee Dean was subsequently suspended for two games after picking up his tenth booking of the season against Sheffield Wednesday. Of course we have a plethora of centre backs but consistency is key.
Thirdly – and by far the most pertinent – is the age of the team. Alan Hanson once famously said you never with anything with kids and was spectacularly proved wrong as Alex Ferguson’s young uns stormed to title after title. Against Rotherham the average of the squad was about 21. With the odd exception, this is an incredibly young team and we should all be very very excited about that.
But with youth comes inexperience. And whilst the likes of Tom Field have been exceptional, I’ve no doubt that as fans we may be guilty of overlooking the odd mistake in favour of waxing lyrical about all the great things a young player does.
And rightly so, young players like Field, Henry, Canos and Shaibu need all the praise they can get to give them the confidence. However, with a team loaded with kids you will get mistakes.
With one youngster in the team you’ll hardly notice With six or seven, it has an effect. I’m not for one minute saying that these players shouldn’t all be put in the side. On the contrary I think the more minutes they play the better. But it may serve as an explanation.
As we approach the end of the season and begin to prepare for the next campaign, our youthful squad all of a sudden has a year’s Championship football under it’s belt and those approaching 23 or 24 will have the exposure that 27 or 28 year olds have.
Harlee Dean is a prime example of what happens when you get continuous game time. In his first two season in the Championship he made a number of errors whilst also producing some scintillating defensive displays. That’s what you get with younger players.
But now at the age of just 25 he is now producing the level of consistency you would expect of a player in his prime.
Dean Smith will no doubt be searching for that level of consistency that sees us attack with purpose but allows us to remain solid at the back. That is the Holy Grail for sides and ultimately it’s the teams that achieve it that go on to get promotion.
Could it be next year? Or the year after that?
Who knows. But we look set to give it a right good go.
Up the Bees