TEN THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED ON THE PITCH by Greville Waterman
Two Premier League matches are merely an amuse-bouche and hardly enough to base opinions on how Brentford will do this season or even to really identify any trends – after all in the Bees’ last season in Division One in 1946/47 – and no, I am not nearly old enough to have witnessed them play that year – the team won four out of the first five matches before collapsing like a pricked balloon and being relegated with ignominy a massive nine points short of salvation.
Thomas Frank has stated that it is impossible for him to be sure about how we will do until we have played 19 matches – once against every opposing team – but I do not have that luxury today. Hopefully it is possible to make a few observations from the Arsenal and Crystal Palace matches which will not turn out to be totally ridiculous or redundant as the weeks pass.
- Our supporters will be our 12th man. It was a singular honour to be selected to host the opening game of the season and the first EPL match to be played before a full stadium since the pandemic hit last year. The noise they made was ear shattering at times as seemingly never-ending choruses of Hey Jude echoed around our magnificent new stadium. The incredible connection between the fans and the team played a massive part in our victory as the supporters played their full part in roaring the team on to a fully merited victory over Arsenal.
- We are a community club and the move to a larger stadium has done nothing to diminish this. The applause and standing ovation received by Bukayo Sakho when he was brought on in the second half showed us at our best. And how about the images of Thomas Frank rushing over to celebrate with Woody which went viral – and what is just as pleasing, the way in which three players followed his example and did the same just a few seconds later?
- Thomas Frank himself will fit right into the Premier League in terms of his sartorial elegance and sense of style. His long windswept hair, black jumper, navy chinos and white shoes give him the air of either a mad professor or matinée idol. Take your pick!
- The 3-5-2 system fits us like a glove. The three giant central defenders form a seemingly impassable barrier with Ethan Pinnock taking to the higher level like a duck to water. It is incredible to think that he was playing for Dulwich Hamlet only five years ago. Between them they combined for an impressive three tackles, seven clearances and 12 headers won last Saturday, but they can all play too with an excellent passing accuracy percentage and Ajer always keen to support the attack. Our survival could well depend upon these three continuing to perform as well as they have undoubtedly started.
- Clean sheets count! The Bees have yet to concede a goal and only gave away six shots on target in the first two matches and we have defended the box well, covered and blocked like demons and have barely given away any high-quality chances to date. David Raya has been largely untroubled so far, but brilliant when called upon pulling off incredible saves from Pepe and McArthur and setting us off on attack with his impeccable distribution.
- Our mantra of pressing as high as possible for as long as possible is working just fine. Arsenal just could not cope with the vigour, relentlessness and organisation of our press and regularly coughed the ball up to us in dangerous positions. Palace were far more physical but we still won the ball in their final third but sadly we were unable to capitalise.
- With the Transfer Window still (barely) open, we do not know whether we will bring in a new right back to replace Henrik Dalsgaard but Sergi Canos has gone a long way towards convincing the management that there is no need to do so given his performances to date, ably aided and abetted by Ajer who provides cover when necessary. Zaha never got a look in last week. The highly promising Mads Roerslev, Fin Stevens and Daniel Oyegoke might also have something to say on this subject!
- Ivan Toney has yet to score but is already proving to be the fulcrum of the team, combining well with Bryan Mbeumo, pressing relentlessly, winning more than his fair share of headers, holding the ball up and acting as an exceptional auxiliary defender too, particularly at set pieces. He ended both matches playing just in front of Rico Henry, doing everything within his power to help the team and get us over the line unscathed. The goals will come as the service to him begins to improve and he gets fitter and sharper, and remember, it took him three Championship games to get off the mark last season!
- The pace of the game is incredible and I was visibly shaken at how fast both Arsenal and Crystal Palace started both games. The first ten minutes were like a whirlwind. Thankfully we were able to cope with the initial onslaught as well as the physicality of Palace but we have been warned – we need to be on our game from the beginning or we risk being blown away.
- Goals will be far harder to come by and we need to be far more clinical when the opportunities finally come our way. It is slightly concerning that we have only managed seven efforts on target so far and we have already spurned many good situations with a poor or rushed final pass. The Pressing Machines of Onyeka and Janelt have helped us significantly to date but we also need some flair and vision in midfield. Jensen and Baptiste can provide this when fit but at what cost to our pressing and covering and defensive solidity? It is a real conundrum for Thomas Frank.
- STOP PRESS Having just returned from Tuesday night’s hard fought and slightly fortunate 3-1 victory over an excellent Forest Green team, here is a bonus thought. Stick to 3-5-2 and what works best. The first half which featured a series of squad players in a 4-3-3 system was a disjointed shambles and it needed a return to 3-5-2 and the introduction of tried and tested players to restore the natural order. We could have come unstuck but hopefully learned a valuable lesson.
FIVE THINGS WE HAVE LEARNED OFF THE PITCH by Chris Tate
- Our new stadium is superb and provides a fitting new home as we embark upon our Premier League journey. Its striking architecture, nestled in amongst new tower blocks, abutting the railway line give it a unique feel and proves that not all new stadiums are lacking in character and soul.
- There have been a number of concerns raised regarding the functionality of the ticketing website. Extremely productive discussions have taken place this week between ourselves, BIAS, the Club and their ticketing partner SecuTix and it is hoped many of the issues highlighted by supporters are now being addressed.
- Frustrations have been aired by supporters regarding the difficulty in contacting the Ticket Office by telephone. Following this week’s meeting with the Club we understand that enhancements to the telephone system are imminent which we hope will address the issues experienced by supporters to date.
- The club have apologised for the late arrival of season-tickets and they have told us that everybody who should get one should have received it. We are still getting reports of tickets not yet arriving so the club suggest fans check that the club have got an up to date address for them.
- With capacity crowds has come the challenge of managing large numbers of fans entering and leaving the ground and this has highlighted several issues which we will be liaising with BIAS to review with the Club. These issues relate principally to the problems experienced by fans accessing the North Stand for the Forest Green Rovers match.There was also acute congestion experienced by supporters exiting the Dug Out and heading towards the A4 and by supporters heading for Kew Bridge Station, which appears to be being exacerbated by a lack of light on the signage on Tuesday night.We are now talking to the club about this and, as on all matters we and BIAS have raised with them, fan groups have received a constructive response.