Beesotted contributor Jim Levack suggests Brentford’s point against Neil Warnock’s Boro was one point gained rather than two points lost
“Dire”, a “snoozefest”, “drab”… a few verdicts on Brentford’s latest bid to break down a belligerent and yes, frankly quite boring, Middlesbrough side.
Actually, that’s a bit unfair. This was arguably the most adventurous I’ve ever seen one of Neil Warnock’s sides… but then they hadn’t got the first goal. That would have changed everything.
All the characteristics were there though. Long delays for set pieces, players feigning injury and yes, a defence drilled to perfection by a master of his trade
Love him or loathe him, it’s hard to argue that this throwback to a fast fading era of football isn’t brilliant at what he does. It’s not entertaining but it gets results.
Man marking, defenders prepared to die for the cause and above all, total alignment to the plan mean no game against any of his sides is ever going to be easy. Remember Cardiff.
But in the days since the Middlesbrough game I’ve seen Thomas Frank’s side pilloried for failing to knock off another three points at a canter.
I’ve read a lot of rubbish online about desire and passion, and maybe it’s hard to gauge that when you’re watching from home without the passion of a crowd.
But being one of the debatably lucky – it’s not lucky being in a sanitised stadium with no atmosphere – few to watch games live, I can tell you it’s tough.
Tempo is built by the roar of the crowd, confidence comes from goals and the best football is played when you don’t think about it.
Playing a side with little or no ambition – five across the back and then another bank of five – is hard enough at the best of times. In lockdown, I’d argue it’s nigh on impossible.
There are flaws, of course there are. Some created by the absence of Benrahma and his ability to draw two men to him freeing up space. And others the result of a harrowing schedule of matches threatening to reduce one of the world’s best leagues to little more than a slugging match.
When you’re close up to the action and the ground is empty, you have little choice but to hear and feel the physical power that goes into each tackle, run and cross. It’s powerful, wince-worthy and relentless.
Three games a week is, to coin a recently used phrase, a sugar-coated cyanide pill for the game. But the powers that be aren’t bothered about quality. I wonder if football is being used purely as a precursor to a COVID vaccine
Frank’s fury at decisions to hold needless international friendlies and reduce the number of subs from five to three is, as he might say, bang on. It’s a joke but realistically we should expect little else from football’s governing bodies.
Take all these factors and throw in a new stadium, a shorter break than other clubs, unfortunate injuries possibly caused by the new crammed schedule and three new faces, and I’d say we’re actually doing pretty well.
Tucked in in mid-table, the old ‘marathon not a sprint’ adage has never been more true than in this strangest of seasons.
Some players haven’t hit the heights, that’s clear, and I won’t name names. But I can assure you that from where I was sitting it wasn’t for want of trying. In fact, perhaps they’re trying too hard.
Traditionally we don’t do business in January but that has to change next year, and we have a war chest healthy enough to allow us to make a genuine surge in the second half of the campaign.
And as for the stalemate with Boro, it will be seen as a good point by the season’s end. On another day we’d have won the starkly contrasting battle of styles – their man marking to our free flowing – to take maximum points from a side we’ve traditionally tended not to beat and who won’t ship too many this season.
Toney, Forss, Henry, Janelt, Sorensen and even an on-song Jensen have been highlights this season, but no one’s kidding anyone – we haven’t really got started yet.
When we do, the social media tirades will fall silent once more and we can get back to what we’re good at. Playing great football, hopefully in front of full houses at the new stadium.
I can’t wait for that day.