Brentford: How high can the bees fly?

London-based Brentford has been steadily progressing as a club in recent years. Brentford reached the heights of the Premier League after beating Swansea in the 2021 Championship final, with the following season being their first top-flight football in 74 years. Under the guidance of coach Thomas Frank, Brentford finished 13th and 9th in their first two seasons, and their current league form looks strong after six games this season. Just how high can Brentford fly?

Moneyball and shrewd business 

Brentford’s quick rise was no accident, however. The methods to achieve this were unusual at the time, yet highly effective. Brentford is highly statistical and their financial affairs are largely based on examining player data to try to gain an advantage in the market.

For example, a striker who finished as the fifth top goal scorer in the Belgian League is most likely to cost much. However, statistically, this striker may have underperformed their expected goals, and are likely to have a projected higher ceiling; these are the types of bargains Brentford target.

Brentford’s technical director Lee Dykes has previously mentioned an 85,000-strong player database. As a result of this database, Brentford has profited greatly, often buying low and selling high, or else getting on-pitch benefits from players bought cheaply. This approach earned the nickname “Moneyball” after the famous Brad Pitt movie based on the true story of a similar fairytale in American baseball. 

Brentford’s Premier League status

Brentford in their first two seasons very much embodied the underdog story of Moneyball, for example, beating big hitters Arsenal in their debut game during the 2021/2022 season. Stylistically, Brentford has often played a direct style of play that has been more effective against the bigger sides than those lower down the table.

Evidence of this can be seen last season, as Brentford were the only side to beat Manchester City both home and away. Whilst counter-attacking transitional football can be effective, as West Ham has proven again this season, Brentford’s coach Thomas Frank has looked to change this style of play this season.

Star striker Ivan Toney’s eight-month ban following his betting scandal, has played a part in this, however, Brentford have looked refreshing and effective so far this season. Previously Brentford largely defended in a back five and often played with a traditional ‘big man and little man’ combination of Toney and Bryan Mbeumo. This season, Brentford, as it stands are aiming to be a more progressive and expansive attacking side, and this has heralded decent results so far.

Brentford’s present state of play

Brentford have currently six points from their opening four games, however, despite three draws Brentford have often looked the better side. Brentford earned their draw against a hugely improved Tottenham and played well despite the results against Crystal Palace and Bournemouth. As per Opta Analyst, Brentford are one of the best defensive sides in the league, are among the best for expected goals in comparison to the number of shots, and still reigns supreme for shot creation from set pieces. In other words, Brentford are still excelling in their preferred statistical metrics, whilst transitioning to a more progressive playstyle.

Despite the loss of Ivan Tony, as well as keeper David Raya, Brentford’s new approach to games is proving to be, at the very least, as effective as their previous more transitional playstyle. This new approach is based more around a fluid front three and hard-working midfield, working chances through advanced full-backs and a ball-playing goalkeeper.

Brentford somewhat resemble Liverpool under Jurgen Klopp some years ago, and this is highlighted by their new approach to aggressive pressing, although there is still a lack of control. Nevertheless, Brentford are creating more clear-cut chances without sacrificing defence, and players such as Bryan Mbeumo have really stepped up so far this season. But just how far can Brentford fly?

Brentford’s future

Brentford are currently faced with the perennial problem of breaking into the Premier League top six, as a smaller fish in a very big pond. The Premier League’s traditional top six have such a tight stronghold on the European places, and it was both rare and refreshing to see sides such as Newcastle and Brighton crack into the top six. As it stands, Brentford’s squad cannot yet compete long-term with the top sides, nor have they the money or the more concrete upward trajectory of Newcastle and Brighton.

However, Brighton’s recruitment method is not dissimilar to Brentford’s. Therefore, should the small London side continue to procure and produce talent from nowhere, very soon the status and reputation of the likes of Brighton could be within reach. Transfermarkt has previously priced Toney at €50.00m. Considering Brighton purchased him for almost a tenth of that price, Brentford’s effective ‘Moneyball’ approach would again pay off if they chose to cash in during the winter transfer window

Brentford finished ninth and only a few points off the European places last season, and despite no talismanic Toney, Brentford is still pushing to improve this season. Thomas Frank has proven himself a good coach, and Brentford havs shown they can compete with the elite.

The next steps for the club need to be continual growth, financial gain and further steady squad investment. These are all achievable given Brentford’s current trajectory, and Brentford certainly can fly as high as the likes of Brighton in the coming seasons.

Finally, given the toll European football has on a club’s match schedule, Brentford may have the upper hand on their nearest competitors – the likes of Newcastle, Brighton and Aston Villa – all of whom face congested travel and match schedules. Brentford has all the potential, and despite the loss of key players they have all of the momentum, the Bees could be the club that surprises everyone in the Premier League this season. 

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