Beesotted Contributor David Anderson (@DavidAnderson_1) breaks down the Norwich match – giving us the key players. The game changers. Who won the head coach tactical battle? Who was the older aged performer? And he deduces which team would have come off the pitch happier.
Brentford FC v Norwich City FC
1st January 2019
On the Pitch
Brentford finished the busy Christmas period unbeaten, after a 1-1 draw with Norwich at Griffin Park.
It was a game in which The Bees controlled affairs, creating the best and numerous chances while limiting Norwich to little. But as they so often have done this season, Norwich found enough of a gear late on to earn themselves something out of a game.
An 83rd minute in swinging corner was met by the head of Klose, which at the time didn’t look too troubling for the Brentford keeper. But Bentley, and not for the first time this season, seemed to make a complete meal out of a rudimentary save in allowing the ball to squirm through him, earning a point for The Canaries and cancelling out Jeanvier’s powerful first half headed effort from an almost identical position.
The Norwich keeper was the busier of the two over the 90, but unusually for Griffin Park, it was the away side that finished with the higher possession stats.
With 75% of the Norwich back four yellow carded by the 48th minute, they were effective as a team at rotating cynical fouls just well enough to avoid more serious punishment. Penalty shouts were waved away at both ends. But overall, a niggly referee was too noticeable and didn’t adhere himself to either set of fans.
It was again the defensive display that stood out for Brentford, particularly that of Julian Jeanvier. Norwich had already found the net 7 times over the festive period but looked well thwarted on New Year’s day through a combination Brentford’s new found confidence and the imperious Frenchman, deployed by the Thomas Frank right at the heart of the Bees’ three-at-the-back system.
How Frank must rue the lengthy periods he’s been unable to select the dominant Jeanvier this season On the positive side, he now has him to select if needed.
Head Coach Watch
Frank v Farke
Embed from Getty Images
What happens when you stick to a plan?
Farke has lead his young side to two points from the top of the Championship after 26 games. After some lows and warding off many doubters during his first season, his Norwich team consolidated in 14th.
Green shoots were more than visible to the keen eye and with the Premier League money running out, the club’s board needed to devise a plan and stick to it. The Norwich Head Cheifs did just that and are deservedly seeing the fruits of Farke’s labour. Under his leadership, they’ve smartly cut their cloth, scouted different areas, removed some drains from the wage bill and formed a squad able to play in the manner the Head Coach desires.
Norwich have scored 20 goals in the final fifteen minutes of matches this season and have earned themselves a reputation of finishing games strongly. This happened again on New Year’s Day as they wrestled back a game that didn’t really look like to have any joy for them. Pukki has taken the plaudits as he’s been an instant hit at the top end of the pitch. But there’s a team ethic around him, fostered by their German orchestrator.
Farque post match displayed his disappointment with the referee and ended with the below..
“For us in the end it’s a good point, a good draw. Brentford is always a tough place to go and they have been much improved in the last games. It is especially difficult when you concede so early because Brentford are good on the counter. Particularly without several key players injured before the game and then more key players injured during the game. Not only a good performance but a good point, but I am still annoyed about several decisions against us. My feeling is we were more or less not allowed to win.”
Farke is proving himself a very good coach in the Championship and he seems to have the knack of getting his side to do more than enough on the road – only tasting defeat once this season. His side, bar a huge drop off will certainly finish in the top six, and it will be only the very best of teams that finish above them. They’re looking strong and could go on to prove that they have the necessary amount of goals and energy to fire them back into the Premier League.
Final Prediction – 3rd, promoted through Play-Offs
Thomas Frank has endured a pretty torrid start as Brentford boss, with many fans calling for his head after only a month or so in charge. It’s a familiar story in the short term world of football but the calls to go fell on deaf ears as the Brentford board stood by their man. The record books do not make pretty reading but his side are now unbeaten in four games, with defensive shutouts in two of the four matches over the taxing Christmas period – something that looked very unlikely a month ago.
Unlucky not to add to his two wins, the main thing is that his side have stopped conceding huge chances at regular intervals and confidence has returned. The attacking play has slightly suffered for defensive solidity but the team is now proving that they’re playing for him – something that was questioned at times by some. Farke is a living, breathing example of what happens when you stick to a plan. But ultimately, Head Coaches are also bound by their players, their players’ performances and luck.
Frank has juggled injury to key players, off the field tragedy, and critics from all directions to now finally begin to show that his Brentford outfit can once again tussle with the best this league has to offer.
Frank post-match when asked what is different between now and earlier in his tenure?
“I would say definitely the mind set and attitude. That started at the West Brom game and then we didn’t get the reward against Swansea and Hull even though there were decent performances.
And then also we changed system – I think that helps us with the types of players we have. But it doesn’t matter if we play 12-5-2 or 4-4-2 or whatever – if the mind set is not bang on, it doesn’t matter. But the system and the things we’ve been working on in the training pitch and the dressing room have been good.”
With a positive January window and a good second half to the season, Frank too can prove that the plan to appoint him was the right one and mid table consolidation is more than acceptable as it lays the solid foundations needed for the following season.
Current final Prediction – 12th
Maupay vs The World
In this section we’ll take a look at how Maupay has performed, pitting him up against his opposite CFs and asking the question, would we swap him for any of the other strikers in this brilliant league?
Brentford’s talismanic CF was very unlucky not to find the net against Norwich.
He gave the Norwich backline a torrid time and it took some cynical play to stop him scoring. Firing towards the goal of Krul on six occasions, it was only some of the smartest keeping and last ditch blocks that kept him at bay. Through dropping deep, dragging defenders out of position and freeing his teammates to roam into the half spaces, Maupay put in his usual infectious all round display. Considerably more creative a player than Pukki, his opposite number, Maupay was a genuine threat and got off his usual amount of shots.
Pukki managed zero shots in this game which again proves how well the Brentford defensive unit performed. Just to give you a comparison – Pukki averages 2.71 shots per 90 with 42,4% of them being on target.
In comparison, Maupay averages 2.91 shots per 90 but it’s his 49.3% shots on target rate that indicates he has more chance of finishing top of the Championship Golden Boot table.
Only two players have more touches in the oppositions box than Maupay and Pukki is one of them. But while his touch is sure and he possesses more of a presence than the young Frenchman, the inform Jeanvier and talented Henry marshalled Pukki out of this match a lot more effectively than fans probably expected.
With fifteen league goals each this, was a shootout between two of the division’s most prolific forwards. Maupay without doubt had the more impact and with 20 Goals & Assists compared to Pukkis 16, and a youthful 6 years his junior, if one had to choose one or the other, the money is on Maupay. So the feisty Frenchman shades this edition of Maupay vs The World
Key Man – Julian Jeanvier
This was a tough decision and a tight call between three big performers on the day. Special mentions for Mokotjo and Sawyers who ran the game in central midfield for 3/4s of this match, but it’s Jeanvier who edges the first Key Man award of 2019.
Since his return to fitness and the shift to a 3-4-3 formation, Jeanvier has looked imperious. There’s a solidity that was missing prior to his comeback and while the robustness may also coincide with the lack of playing time for Josh McEachran, credit has to be given to the 26 year old Frenchman, who has put in a string of captains displays at the back.
The confidence that is breeding back into Ezri Konsa is nice to see. And with Barbet offering balance operating on the left side of the three, we’re now seeing a defensive unit that offers opposition very little change.
The quality of chances against has plummeted and Brentford are now locking down game – something which they achieved through high pressure and possession during the earlier stages of the season. Now unable to defend from the front as effectively, we’re seeing opponents shut down in another way. And as even more confidence returns, I’m hoping it won’t be long until Frank removes the tactical handbrake and The Bees move back to a more familiar attacking shape. Or will it?
Canos OFF Watkins ON – 63rd Min
Sergi had one of his better games in recent times but was always going to make way for another player at some point. He is a fans’ favourite who has certainly plateaued this season, if not gone backwards. Capable of the sublime, Sergi needs more accuracy in his play and must find another level from somewhere as it sometimes feels like he is treading water. Watkins came on in his place and managed to get a couple of shots off but he has the appearance of a player who needs a proper rest – Didn’t have the desired impact
Benrahma OFF Judge ON – 75th Min
Said is a constant threat with his running and all round ability and does a very good job at keeping the ball high up the pitch and driving at the opposition. He has outstanding delivery and behind Maupay has become Brentford’s key attacking player. Which is why it has become particularly strange that Judge is nailed on to replace him positionally. I often question what is he being asked to do on the pitch?
The qualities the two players have on offer are vastly different and Frank would be smarter to replace Benrahma’s pace with someone equally quick or direct, such as a Moses or a DaSilva, to fill the left hand space gap. Instead of relieving pressure on the opposition with Judge out wide, there should be a more thoughtful deployment of the talent at Frank’s disposal. Judge attempted a couple of crosses but once again was largely anonymous – Didn’t have the desired impact
Sawyers OFF Josh McEachran ON – 79th Min
This was a real commanding performance from Romaine and he’s striking up an exceptionally good understanding with Mokotjo in his deeper role. Frank must have looked at Sawyers on a yellow, how much football he’s played over Christmas and opted for McEachran to come in and demand the ball looking for control in the final stages centrally. By this point Norwich were already playing two up front and looking to bypass the central areas in favour of quickly finding Jordan Rhodes or any other in the box.
Against a top of the table side who can comfortably keep the ball, Josh probably isn’t going to shine. And with Judge also on the field, pressing was limited and pressure invited. Like the two subs before – Didn’t have the desired impact
OAP Watch (Older Aged Performer)
A constant bemoan of Bees fans follows the lines of “We need to purchase one or two older players to compliment the youth” In this section, we’ll take a look at an OAP from the opposition ranks and decide whether we feel they could make it into or have anything to offer the Brentford side.
Tim Krul (88) 30 yrs Old – Goalkeeper
Conceding seven goals in his last two matches, Krul would have been excused for coming into this tie a little hesitantly. No such chance for Brentford.
Spending a period in the top flight he’s used to coming up against elite finishers and large grounds so he looked more than comfortable at Griffin Park.
Huge in stature and with a real commanding presence about him, The Dutchman has a reputation for being a little on the crazy side. Without seeing him week in, week out, it’s hard to judge just how high he is on the crazy scale or whether it’s a lazy cliché, as all goalkeepers are a little crazy, right?
Crazy or not, Krul is impressive and a top class keeper. He stood firm to all but most of Brentford’s attacking intent, seeming to relish the battle with Maupay. Saves wee firm and He clearly wasn’t in the mood to be rattled into conceding another 3 or 4 goals.
Not quite as confident with the long throw as Bentley, it was still his distribution numbers that surprised me.
Posting almost identical numbers to Bentley in terms of passes completed, long passes completed and how active he was, it’s clear that he is more than comfortable in possession, with his left foot.
Bentley passes accurate – 76%
Krul passes accurate – 76%
Bentley long passes accurate – 71%
Krul long passes accurate – 70%
Bentley and Brentford were put under more crossing pressure from Norwich due to playing style. But Krul and his back four were well drilled and what they did come up against was dealt with fairly easily.
Assessing Krul, he’s clearly an experienced campaigner who at 30 has the confidence and ability to demand anything from anyone on the pitch. His distribution is at a strong level and he was comfortable being frequently involved in possession. Looking at his performance, you’d be hard pressed to know that he’d conceded seven goals in his previous two outings.
Brentford are torn with the dilemma of where to invest any extra money on experience. But looking at Krul and how much difficulty The Bees have had with Bentley this season, he looks like a serious upgrade in shot stopping and mentality to the Bentley we’re currently seeing.
Verdict– Solid distribution and more than good enough in all Goalkeeping departments. An upgrade in vital areas like confidence and shot stopping, where Bentley is currently suffering. Would certainly add a great deal to the first team and would make an impressive OAP purchase.
Which team comes off the pitch the happier?
Brentford will feel hard done by as overall they did enough to edge this one, but Norwich haven’t found themselves at the top end of the league through lying down.
Finishing the game with Pukki, Rhodes, Srbeny & Hernandez all on the pitch, Norwich, as the away team sensed blood in the final stages.
Brentford went from being in control to hanging almost on so credit has to be given to Farke and his players for their comeback and turning momentum back in their favour.
Whilst Leeds are conceding 4 away to Nottingham Forest, and Brentford frustrated at dropping more points at home, the point will seem welcome to Norwich, who come off the pitch the happier.
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