Since Brentford’s promotion from the Championship to the Premier League a couple of years ago, the Bees have quickly become a fan favorite with their impressive achievements.
Brentford’s intricate data-driven business model and affluent scouting network allowed the club to navigate the transfer market and discover affordable players that brought them success. Like Brighton, they have sold later for a higher transfer fee or provide remarkable value for money during their time at the club.
Over recent years, they have efficiently recruited players, translating into on-pitch success. However, the opening months of the current Premier League campaign suggest that Brentford might have committed a rare but costly error.
Goalkeeping mistakes are costing Brentford
After David Raya’s expensive transfer to Arsenal over the summer, all the talk around Brentford was about how they would replace their star goalkeeper. Their answer was Freiburg’s Mark Flekken, who joined the West London club for €13 million.
Although the Dutch goalkeeper had a fruitful 2022/23 season in Germany, he has not hit the same form at Brentford.
According to the ‘post-shot xG +/-‘ metric, which measures goalkeepers’ performance based on how many goals they “prevented”, Flekken ranks bottom in the Premier League, conceding seven goals more than expected.
Furthermore, there is a substantial gap between his numbers and the second-lowest performer, Sam Johnstone – separated by three goals.
Flekken’s jaded performances have seriously hurt Brentford’s league positioning this season.
As of the 21st match week, the club lies one place above the relegation zone in 17th. However, the expected points model, which calculates the approximate points a team should have accrued based on expected goals, places Brentford at ninth – making them the second-lowest underperformers in the league. They only stand above Everton, who had a 10-point deduction.
Although poor finishing by Brentford attackers has also contributed to this disparity, the substandard goalkeeping has been equally consequential.
Does the solution lie in the transfer market, or should Thomas Frank maintain faith?
Many factors can impact the performances of a newly signed player. Be it adapting to a different culture, pressure on delivering on the big stage, or any one of infinite reasons that fans may be unaware of.
Frank seems to have realized this and has affirmed his faith in Flekken by playing the goalkeeper despite the rough start.
Furthermore, the Brentford number one endured a testing five-year spell at Freiburg, where he had to develop his game to earn the starting spot in the team after being second-choice to Alexander Schwolow for numerous seasons.
That period showed Flekken’s resilience, which is being called upon again at the early stage of his Brentford career.
The West London club could throw money at the problem and hire a new goalkeeper in the January transfer window, but that is not how the club operates.
Each player’s purchase comes after substantial analysis and deliberation. Although every club is prone to make an error, it is too soon to conclude whether Brentford has in the case of Flekken.
The Dutchman would hope that the club allows him time and shows patience until the end of the season. However, it is difficult to tell whether he will have that liberty since the unforgiving nature of the Premier League could force Brentford to act in the January transfer window as they gravitate closer to the relegation zone.