David Anderson (@DavidAnderson_1) breaks down the Blackburn game looking at the Head Coaches, Neal Maupay, Key players, the game’s OAPs and game changers.
The Big Match
Saturday afternoon conjured up a seven goal thriller, as The Bees ruthlessly came back from two nil down to beat Blackburn (or Dackburn as some call them) 5-2 at Griffin Park.
Both sides played their part in this wonderfully entertaining fixture, creating an electric atmosphere around the ground as Brentford went on to make it nine matches without defeat. The win also ensured that Thomas Frank had equalled the previous Head Coach’s longest unbeaten run in all competitions.
There was a hauntingly familiar feel to start of the game with Blackburn waltzing into an commanding lead without having to do much at all.
It was the Rovers right hand side causing the problems, with Armstrong, Dack & Graham finding it far too easy to get on the ball in space.
Barbet and Jeanvier were sucked out of position and made silly fouls. And after a nice cutback from Armstrong. Dack finished well. This was rapidly followed by an unchallenged header for Graham from a free kick taken by pantomime villain Reed.
The Bees found themselves two down after only seven minutes.
Even during Frank’s brutal run of poor results, heads didn’t drop. And with Benrahma driving forward with trickery and pace, Brentford conceded goals but created enough to somehow keep the score lines respectable and close.
It was the same again here, as Benrahma linked well with Maupay and then finally Mokotjo to get into the box, sell Rodwell a beautiful dummy and place a delicious finish into the bottom right hand corner on 13mins.
The score was now 1-2.
The crowd erupted willing the side on almost as if they sensed or knew what could follow. Even the most positive wouldn’t have expected another four without reply.
But that’s what they got.
Chances came and went before half time. The best of which had the Blackburn woodwork rattled from a Benrahma free kick.
But it was the second half when the floodgates opened.
A free kick on the left of the Blackburn box on 52 mins was knocked to the right from Benrahma into the path of Watkins on edge of the box. He settled and steadied and then rifled a strike low and hard through bodies into the bottom right hand corner for the equalizer.
2-2 and much deserved.
From here there was only going to be one winner especially with Dack and Graham substituted just before the equalizer.
Blackburn had lost their danger men in front of goal and Brentford’s were only getting stronger.
On 73 mins, The Bees took the lead as Maupay was freed on the left and drove into the box. His shot looped up high and caused confusion amongst Martin and the Blackburn defenders. Watkins stepped forward and out-jumped a flailing goalkeepers’ fist to nod home.
Blackburn tried their best to create chances but their new forward line kept coming up against a solid defensive wall.
And now there was the threat of Moses Odubajo to cause worry – stretching the game on the left and forcing Rovers back towards their own goal exploiting a Blackburn midfield imbalance.
It only seemed like a matter of time before Brentford would add more.
And it came as Benrahma – who grabbed his second assist of the day – slid a pass in behind to set up Maupay for a one-on-one he was not likely going to miss. The strike was left footed, low and hard beyond Martin to make it 4-2 leaving the early Blackburn goals a distant memory on 79mins.
The final shine on the performance came in injury time as birthday boy Sergi Canos was put through on the edge of the box by the outstanding Ollie Watkins. It was a classy first-time ball into Canos who controlled it well, moved into the box, opened up his body and curled a finish beyond Martin and into the top corner for Brentford’s 5th.
Sergi, the players, fans and staff were all equally ecstatic as this free flowing side had now scored 12 goals to make it 3 wins in a row.
Blackburn Rovers were dismantled here with Rodwell particularly exposed at centre back. They started positively as Brentford in the early stages struggled to cope with the movement of Dack and Graham. But The Bees never panicked and continued to play their probing, intricate football and create chances while preventing them occurring at the other end.
The exits of Dack and Graham were a turning point. Some would say the way Brentford played in the final 80 minutes, they would have nabbed all three points no matter side Rovers had out.
There’s a force behind the Bees and 5-2 did not flatter them as the woodwork and a couple of smart saves from Martin prevented the result from being even more embarrassing for Rovers.
Blackburn were one of the form teams in the division propped up by good results at home. We discussed Blackburn’s xG on our justice league podcast and article a few weeks ago – suggesting that they were higher in the table than the statisticians felt they should be. But they struggle on the road and you can see why. They are obviously a threat but with this soft underbelly as the travelling side, are beatable.
A side however, everyone else in the league should be genuinely be worried about are from West London and play in Red and White.
Head Coach Watch – Frank v Mowbray
The win against Rovers makes it nine unbeaten for Thomas Frank – equalling Dean Smith’s unbeaten record at Brentford.
It really does show what having a little patience can achieve as Brentford – along with Norwich and Sheffield United – now look like the best three sides in the division. Beesotted spoke to Director of Football Phil Giles on the post-match podcast (below) and he stated that the club always felt that Frank was on the right track despite the poor set of results.
Frank again made a special effort to salute the fans who remained after the final whistle, and the way he pointed dramatically at Säid Benrahma during his standing ovation when substituted was another little glimpse at his infectious character.
It’s safe to say he’s enjoying his work.
Frank when asked about the response after going two down…
“Very delighted, the interesting bit was we actually talked a lot about the strength of Blackburn and what they can do as a team and why they’re an in form team. So the two goals were disappointing and we need to do better going forward.
But the thing with the defensive elements is where we’ve been unbelievably good and not conceding any chances, more or less, you’re always a little bit disappointed when you concede a couple of goals. But the comeback is fantastic, well done to the boys, very proud of them and proud of the fans, and it’s because of them that we’re also able to flip this (result) around”
Frank has had a fantastic couple of months, tactically astute, he has Brentford playing at a level where confidence is high and 90% of the match is completely controlled.
The manager of the month trophy for January must have his name pencilled in on it.
Up Next – Home v Barnet (FA Cup 4th round replay)
After gaining promotion back to the second tier at the first attempt, Tony Mowbray has quickly turned Blackburn into a dangerous Championship side.
With Graham and Dack as his point of focus, he’s surrounded them with wide talent and a functional, if not flamboyant, midfield.
His primary goal would have been to stay up. But knowing how confident a promotion can make a club, he’ll have believed that with solid home form, mid table and the playoff hunt could be within reach.
After flirting in the playoff hunt they should drop away but it’s clear that after the early turmoil of the Venkys, an updated regime sees Blackburn Rovers in a much better position on and off the pitch.
A lot of the positivity is down do to the good work of Mowbray and a reconnection with fans.
Tony Mowbray speaking post-match
“We played against a good team, let’s give them some credit. They have some good footballers in the forward areas, we knew that, and I thought we dealt with that for long parts, but not at the end.”
Pre-match, the Rovers boss likened the Bees to Real Madrid. And the Spanish giants would have themselves been proud of some of the link up play from Maupay and Benrahma.
Thomas Frank prefers a certain Catalan side and so do the Bees fans. And few of Saturday’s goals were certainly fitting for the Barcelona of the lower leagues.
Up Next – Home v Bristol City (6th)
Maupay vs The World
In this section we’ll take a look at how Maupay has performed, pitting him up against his opposite Centre Forwards and asking the question, would we swap him for any of the other strikers in this brilliant league?
This could almost be said each week but it was another all round, aggressive performance from Maupay. He completed four out of five of his attempted tackles. Three ball recoveries. Seven touches in the box. And 75% of his attempted passes in the final third.
Two shots on target. One was a shot blocked that looped up for Watkins to head home. And the second was finishing off a big chance for his deserved goal into the bottom corner, on his weaker left foot.
Brentford have had a tag as a bit of a soft touch over the years; All pretty football with little backbone. Able to be got at with a bit of fight. But that is no longer the case. Maupay leads from the front and gives the side the needle required to mix it with defenders in this division. He can’t be far off completing the pressing work of two strikers.
His partnership with Benrahma is particularly blossoming. They exchanged passes eleven times and enjoyed giving Rodwell, Lenihan and the Rovers central midfielders not a moment’s peace.
As Blackburn kicked off after going 5-2 down in added time, Maupay is still itching to press the ball with 90+ minutes gone on the clock.
This is one relentless player.
Danny Graham – 33yrs old
Also this weeks OAP, (Older Aged Performer)
Danny Graham slots perfectly into the football journeyman cliché. Playing in the Premier League and Football League, he has vast amounts experience. Eleven years Maupay’s senior, the early stages in this match saw Graham give the Brentford back-line a bit of an eye opener. His hold up play was solid and he moved freely around the final third – more athletically than expected.
He got his rewards with a goal through a well-placed header from Reed’s free-kick in from the right. It was one of two shots he managed – the other lashed wide. But with his anticipation and ability to get on the end of the right delivery, you can see why he’s Rovers top scorer.
Whether at 33 he can still cope with the sort of intensity you need for 90 minutes against a high possession footballing side like Brentford is still up for debate. There’s no doubting his effectiveness and he does appear to still be more of a threat than his young deputy Nuttall, who replaced the injured Graham on around the 50 minute mark.
Graham to Brentford would not fit in with the Bees current recruitment strategy as he much older than our usual signing.
Not since Tommy Smith has Brentford signed a forward that has “been around the block” in experience terms. But looking at Graham, he’d possibly fulfill a similar role within the Brentford squad.
Holding the ball up late in games, offering guidance to the younger players, allowing the more gifted players to run off him, there could be elements that are beneficial.
Maupay’s game is highly energetic and there is the risk of burnout. If a side is serious about making a push for the playoffs, is it worth the gamble on having an experienced forward like a Graham in the ranks, instead of reliance on youth to come through and develop behind a main central striker?
The balance sheet says no – go with youth as if you’re paying a high weekly price to a player, you’d want them contributing as many minutes as possible, not sitting out large periods on the bench. Brentford do tend to switch their flexible attackers around to fill any main striker voids.
On reflection, Graham is far too old and not reliable enough to be a serious alternative to Maupay. With no resale value and an expensive per week cost, other options to stock the squad seem like a sounder long term financial strategy.
Key Man – Säid Benrahma
For the second week in a row, the key man award has to go to the wing wizard, Säid Benrahma. This is saying something bearing in mind Watkins bagged himself two goals and an assist.
At two nil down, and not for the first time this season, Benrahma focused on picking the ball up and beating his man in his quest to drive towards the goal or gain territory for the team.
Whatever position Brentford are in, he continues to play his own way and is fast becoming the most dangerous attacker in the league.
Scouted Football (@Scoutedftbl) tweeted the below after the game.
Scoring a perfect 10 on the WhoScored individual weekly ratings, those that watch him regularly will know how brilliant he has been and stats are firmly backing this ability up now too.
There isn’t too much more to add to describe Benrahma’s game.
He’s two footed, goes past people as if they’re not there, can shoot from range with power or place a cultured close range finish into a corner.
He’s Brentford most creative player and the stats above show how important he was to this victory.
He’s dangerous from set-pieces and is so direct when in possession that the opposition have to work incredibly hard to get back in position if he wins the ball back after a turnover.
Over the last few years, Griffin Park has been spoiled by the wing play of Jota. He’s a shadow of his former self at Birmingham. But Brentford fans have vivid memories of a class attacking act that can skilfully travel long distances with the ball at their feet.
Because Brenford have so recently had one the best, direct dribblers The Championship has seen, when another comes around so quickly there’s the risk of complacency to not recognize exactly how good Benrahma is.
The standing ovation at the end of the game proved people do understand his talents as his goals and the number is his assist column are rising every week.
If he carries on in this vein, we’re going to need to re-name this section, but being totally honest. His talents deserve to be highlighted and “Wing Wizard Benrahma Watch” could become a feature all unto its own.
A true delight to watch and if he stays fit, he could make the most Championship assists over the 18/19 season.
Game Changers – Substitutions
Rico Henry OFF – Moses Odubajo ON 45mins
Rico made way for Moses at half time and the change was effective.
Moses has great pace and gets up and down in the left wing back role well.
He’s improving on his weaker side too – able to go outside or inside when trying to beat a man. He tracked back blocking two crosses. He won fouls and linked well offering a great attacking outlet ball on the left hand side. Moses has been a valuable re-addition to the side this year.
Highly positive contribution
Said Benrahma OFF – Sergi Canos ON 80mins
This was an all-round feel-good substitution. Said, after his magnificent display, went off to a standing ovation with Canos replacing, getting a runout with the score 4-2.
He could do no wrong in this situation. In fact he did plenty right – bagging himself a birthday goal with an exquisite finish beyond the helpless Martin after being played in by Watkins.
Last week Sergi came on and assisted. This week he’s entered late and scored. These are vastly superior and effective tactical substitutions compared to when Alan Judge was coming on out wide.
It meant a lot to Sergi and everyone in the ground because he works so tirelessly. He is starting to more and more look like his old self.
Feliz Cumpleaños Hermano!
Brilliant Birthday cameo. Goal scoring sub is as good as it gets
Kamhelo Mokotjo OFF Josh McEachran ON 85mins
This was another outstanding display from Mokotjo. The difference Brentford’s engine room compared to the performance in the FA cup match against Barnet when Mokotjo was not playing is startling.
Mokotjo is miles ahead of McEachran in a number of areas. He can offer much more in terms of speed-of-play and athleticism. He had another brilliant game in and out of possession and patrolled huge swathes of the pitch.
When Josh was announced to come on, there were some nervous glances and groans whilst looking at the clock. Fans were thinking “We surely can’t lose this from here”.
To be fair to McEachran, he did well and even made a very good tackle as one or two Bees fans pointed out.
Fine Cameo. Saw out the game
This was the third victory in a row for The Bees making it nine unbeaten in all competitions.
The side that started this fixture has now been firmly established as the best side Frank is able to put out. But when changes are needed, there are versatile players like Moses able to step in and play as if the primary starters are not missing.
There will be stiffer tests ahead than Blackburn. Teams able to show more defensive stability, keep the ball patiently and wait to carve out their own dangerous opportunities will really test The Bees.
But Brentford now feel like they can score against anyone and at any time. And with that confidence, you’d back this side to progress in the cup and really focus on the batch of teams hovering above them in the table.
The form side in the division is on a charge.
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