“Much Ado About Something”
When a week or so ago I was asked to suggest a title for this article on the January Transfer Window I suggested “Much Ado About Everything” because at the time it seemed that the club was on the verge of making a club record signing which might well have opened the eyes of many observers and transformed how we are perceived in the football world. Unfortunately, as we will learn later things changed and the deal was not completed so I have decided to change the title to “Much Ado About Something,” as a lot of good work was completed.
The Bees entered the window in the throes of a seemingly never-ending injury crisis, the likes of which is unprecedented and one that is far worse than that suffered by any other Premier League team with key players missing and sometimes up to a dozen players unavailable for selection.
Cover was desperately needed at left back for the sorely missed Rico Henry, out for the rest of the season – and beyond – after suffering a serious anterior cruciate ligament knee injury at Newcastle in September. The likes of Vitaly Janelt and the returning Messiah Saman Ghoddos had filled in valiantly but for all their efforts, they were fish out of water and were also needed elsewhere as the Bees were forced to fit square pegs into round holes.
Brentford were hamstrung without Henry’s defensive ability and attacking brio where his pace was traditionally one of their most potent weapons as they broke forward speedily in transition.
To add insult to injury, the highly talented Aaron Hickey who is able to play on both sides suffered a hamstring tear in training on October and has seemingly disappeared off the face off the earth since then with no announced return date, leaving the ever-willing but limited Mads Roerslev as the only fit first team full back,
It never rains but it pours.
There was also the much-heralded Ivan Toney situation to sort out. The returning hero had made it clear in a tsunami of interviews – however frustrating and ungrateful that they came across to many Brentford supporters – that he sees his rightful place as playing for a leading team and challenging for both honours and an international cap. Since changing agents recently, it is no surprise that there is also a gaggle of clubs eager to grant his wish.
As far as the Bees were concerned, I am sure that they have no issues with his leaving for a mammoth fee – but just not this January when he is desperately needed to help revive a faltering team slipping down the league table and seemingly finding it impossible to buy a win since beating Luton at the beginning of December.
It is great to report that both priorities were achieved. Toney has made a triumphant return inspiring the Bees to a much needed 3-2 victory over Nottingham Forest and scoring twice in his first two matches including that cheeky free kick against Forest and on Wednesday he scored again at Spurs but could realistically have notched five goals. Most importantly he is still at the club and will remain so until the end of the season when it is surely a foregone conclusion that he will leave for a club record fee – and he will go with the best wishes of everyone involved with the club particularly if his return is the catalyst for a change of fortune and a rise up the table.
The gaping chasm at left back has also been filled by the loan arrival of the experienced and gifted Spanish international left back Sergio Reguilon on a six-month loan deal from Spurs having previously played for the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid and Sevilla. He made an immediate positive impression when he came on as a late substitute against Nottingham Forest.
Sod’s Law ensured that he had to miss the next match against his parent club, Spurs, but from now on he should become a permanent fixture in the team and he will be able to replicate much of what the sorely missed Rico Henry provides at both ends of the pitch.
There were two other arrivals that summed up Brentford’s transfer policy at its best.
Turkish midfielder Yunus Emre Konak arrived from Sivasspor. At 18 he is already a Turkish Under-21 international and the midfielder promises much for the future as perhaps a Christian Norgaard clone – but it will certainly have to be in the future as he incredibly and ridiculously caught the Brentford bug and managed to injure himself in training by simply kicking the ball – apparently with nobody else near him – and will probably miss the remainder of the season. No worries, he was not expected to play any part for the time being and can use the time to assimilate and learn the language as was the case recently with the ever-improving and influential Yehor Yarmoliuk.
Hakon Valdimarsson has also arrived from Swedish team Elfsborg where he was named goalkeeper of the year last season. The tall 22-year-old is already a full Icelandic international – replacing ex-Bee Patrik Gunnarsson and is highly rated. Should he settle down quickly his arrival might well presage the departure at the end of the season of Thomas Strakosha who has barely played or contributed since his arrival from Lazio – the lot of a number two goalkeeper is a difficult and challenging one.
First team keeper Mark Flekken was sound and confident at Spurs which is highly encouraging news moving forward, but he has yet to fully convince the supporters – or indeed himself given the tenet of a recent interview he gave in which he candidly and bravely admitted that there is far better and far more to come from him.
For several days it also seemed that the Bees had pulled off an ambitious club record signing in which they apparently agreed to pay around £30 million for 18-year-old wunderkind Antonio Nusa, a brilliant young Norwegian international winger playing for Club Bruges.
Having missed out on the likes of Brennan Johnson, Johan Babayoko, Mykhailo Mudryk and Nico Gonzalez – all of whom apparently looked down their nose at the prospect of joining what they saw as a club that was perhaps beneath them and their aspirations, it was so gratifying and encouraging to find a young man – particularly a potential superstar – who had evidently bought into the Brentford ethos and loved the idea of furthering his development at a club with a huge contingent of Scandinavians (Kristoffer Ajer was apparently very influential in helping to convince him to join us).
All looked good and we salivated at the prospect, particularly when a long-established Bees fan caught up with Nusa at the airport and was enormously impressed with his demeanour and keenness to join the Brentford Revolution.
The it all went quiet and there things remain. There has been no announcement from the club to date – and nor should there be as he is not our player. Rumour and scuttlebutt imply that Nusa‘s medicals revealed potentially serious knee and possibly back issues. It was always intended that he remain at his parent club for the remainder of the season but the deal has not gone through probably for the reasons outlined. £30 million is a lot to gamble if there are unresolved fitness issues – but I repeat, these are unsubstantiated rumours.
The hope is that the transfer can be revisited at the end of the season but there remains the chance that other predators could pounce if there is no formal agreement in place or perhaps he will still be seen as too much of a risk.
Given the return of Toney and Neal Maupay’s recent goal glut it was felt that no reinforcements were needed in the forward and wide positions. I am sure that the improved confidence displayed by Keane Lewis-Potter, Josh Dasilva’s form since his return to the squad after a long injury layoff and the hopeful return in the not-too-distant future of both Kevin Schade and the much-missed Bryan Mbeumo were also taken into account.
Time will tell if that was the correct decision but with Yoane Wissa still competing in the African Cup of Nations for DR Congo our resources could be stretched.
Promising B Team signings in the shape of gifted attacking midfielders Ben Krauhaus from Bromley, where he remains on loan and, intriguingly, young Mukhammadali Urinboev from the Uzbekistan Super League side Pakhtakor Tashkent will also bolster the B Team squad.
There was apparent interest in Frank Onyeka which went nowhere and also loan departures for the seemingly cursed Charlie Goode who predictably injured himself on his debut for Wigan, Myles Peart-Harris, who had enjoyed a few cameos in the first team who joined title-chasing Portsmouth and exciting winger Michael Olakigbe will relish the opportunities he receives at Peterborough United as they challenge for promotion.
So, all in all Brentford achieved their key objectives for this transfer window with some intriguing arrivals – and no key departures. It would have been nice if we could have announced a couple of contract extensions for the likes of Hickey, Norgaard, Mbeumo and Dasilva and the arrival of Nusa would have certainly been the cherry on top of the cake.
There will be much work needed in the Summer when the Toney situation will need to be addressed as well as what happens at full back when Reguilon departs. Mbeumo too might well also attract potential purchasers but let’s worry about that then.
As for now with many of the injured players returning to the fold, we can hopefully look forward to a successful second half of the season.