Beesotted contributors The Gowler and Paul Kowalczyk (@BeesBreakdown) give us the tactical and statistical lowdown of Brentford’ defeat at Craven Cottage.
Only one change from last week for Brentford as Wissa replaced Roerslev. Brentford switched from a 3-5-2 to a 4-3-3 that we saw Brentford open the season with against Leicester. Thomas Frank using this lineup meant he was hopeful to have more possession this week and control the game. Brentford focused on playing long balls for Toney to flick on to Mbeumo or Wissa in space behind as they test the Fulham backline captained by Tim Ream. Unfortunately, as these long balls were originally won in the air by Fulham, Brentford was not quick enough to challenge for second balls and win back possession. Brentford didn’t high press as much against Fulham like they did against Manchester United. In fact, it was Fulham pressing high and disrupting Brentford on numerous occasions.
There were no formation changes seen after the first goal, Brentford still lined up in a 4-3-3 in possession and the same block 4-4-2 system we’ve been seeing with Jensen pressing up alongside Toney. Many times throughout the game however, the amount of players Fulham were sending up required Jensen to drop into a flat three midfield. Pereira’s central attacking midfield role in Fulham’s 4-2-3-1 allowed him to create pockets of space on Norgaard’s left side, just behind Dasilva center mid. From here, he could drift into Dasilva’s blind spot, pick up the ball, turn and find runners, or allow him to receive the ball completely behind the midfield line. This would often drag Norgaard to the right and create dangerous central space for other Fulham players to run into and either play quick passing combinations to break the lines.
Brentford began the second half much like they ended the first. They had nice spells of possession using the same formation, but still struggled to control the midfield and reverted to long balls to the front three. While called offside by a shoelace, the possession of play that led to Toney’s called off goal is an example of much more promising possession. Mbeumo received the ball in Fulham’s defensive third on the right side from a well taken Ben Mee set piece and played it to Hickey who crossed it first time into the box. Fulham won the header but it only went as far as Norgaard, who was able to play it towards Wissa on the left side of the top of the box. Wissa quickly dropped to Jensen who played wide and Henry chipped in a wonderful ball that Toney handled with a touch into space which allowed him to turn and rocket it into the bottom corner of the near post. This sequence was very similar to his goal against Leicester and used Toney’s expert ability to create space for shots on quick turns.
Thomas Frank’s first change was in the 59th minute, along with a formation change to a 3-4-3, the same formation Frank utilized to come back against Leicester. Janelt came on for Jensen but dropped into a right center-half role while Keane Lewis-Potter subbed on for Hickey to play in the front three with Mbeumo dropping to right mid/wingback. The width of the wingbacks allowed the front wingers to move under Toney and provide more options for him to play on when long balls are sent his way. This change immediately allowed Norgaard and Mbeumo to become more involved. Norgaard could move higher with the added central defender while Mbeumo had more freedom to drift central when the front right winger drifts wide and assist build up. Fulham became uncomfortable with the change and Brentford seemed to take control of more possession and have more effective pressing.
At the half
xG: Fulham 1.40 – 0.38 Brentford
Possession: Fulham 44% – 56% Brentford
xG: Fulham 2.54 – 1.80 Brentford
Other Brentford stats:
Total Shots: 13
Aerial duels won: 23 (53%)
Accurate long balls: 36
Passing Type (Long Balls): 20% of all passes were long balls
Long balls, Brentford not winning second balls, and physical defending from Fulham summarize a heartbreaking away day for Brentford fans. After the 4-0 win at Old Trafford using a 3-5-2, Thomas Frank switched to a 4-3-3 system. The first top flight West London derby between these two sides was a disappointing game for the Bees. Most of Brentford’s gameplan centered on long balls attempting to exploit space created behind Fulham’s constantly moving fullbacks, Robinson and Tete. This usually consisted of lofted balls played into Toney, who had little options to play to, or through balls to Wissa or Mbeumo, which were usually swept up by Leno or Fulham’s back line. Fulham capitalized on Brentford once again having issues defending crosses and corners, with Mitrovic seemingly having free reign over Brentford’s 18-yard box. Thomas Frank made some crucial changes in the second half that opened up the game and allowed Brentford to come back from two down, once again. It was a close game in the end, with each team having chances in the last ten minutes, but a late winner from Mitrovic sealed the deal for Brentford’s first loss of the season.
The Gowler and Paul Kowalczyk