Billy Grant (@billythebee99) discusses the bigger implications of Brentford signing Leeds United defender Pontus Jansson and asks whether this is the biggest sign yet that the club is going for a big push for promotion this season.
Brentford have signed Leeds United defender Pontus Jansson… here’s what Billy wrote ahead of pen being put to paper.
The defender, who has apparently fallen out with Leeds Head Coach Marcella Bielsa, is reportedly very close to making the move from Elland Road to Griffin Park.
Jansson was named in last season’s PFA championship team of the year, quickly becoming a cult hero for Leeds fans after joining them the club in 2016.
The fee, reported to be in the region of £4m, is deemed ‘cut price’ as Bielsa wants to ‘get rid’. Last season Leeds turned down an offer of £10m from Russian club Krasnodar for the Swedish defender so the fee will be a bitter pill for the Yorkshire club to swallow in their bid to strengthen their squad for another promotion push this season.
As they say in the footballing world, the deal isn’t done until the deal is done. And from what we have heard, there is a little way to get this transfer over the line.
But the fact that Brentford have been negotiating and are in for a player like Jansson has much bigger implications for me – whether or not we finally land him.
The fact is, Brentford has a specific player profile of players that we sign.
We pick our players up young. The average age of the Brentford squad was 24 years last season with Romaine Sawyers (27) and Henrik Dalsgaard (29) being very much the daddies of the pack.
Our recruitment model finds rough young jewels – picking them up at a snip. We then develop them, increase their value and and, when an offer comes in that matches our valuation, we sell them.
Examples of players to have benefitted from the Brentford recruitment model include:
Andre Gray (bought for £500k. Sold for £8m 12 months later)
Scott Hogan (bought for £750k. Sold for £12m after playing less than 40 matches)
Ryan Woods (bought for £700k ish. Sold for £6m)
Jota (bought for less than £1m. Sold for £1m)
Chris Mepham (came from our youth set up. Sold for £12m after playing less than 50 matches)
We also stand to possibly make around £15m including add-ons from James Tarkowski after his £3m move to Burnley may be followed by a £40m plus move to another Premier League side.
In general Brentford have swerved older players for a number of reasons. Normally, a decent experienced player will cost a lot of money in not only fees but also wages. Brentford have always maintained a very strict wage structure – only recently dipping over the £2.5m fee paid for Sergi Canos a couple of years ago.
However, the team has often paid the price for having such a young, inexperienced side. The talent in the side is undeniable. Players like Watkins. Benrahma. Maupay. Sawyers. On their day are unstoppable.
In defence, you can see Konsa and Jeanvier are quality players.
But they make mistakes. We are told it is the only way they will learn. It is undeniable that an older head playing alongside them will help their development.
When the inexperienced Chris Mepham partnered a more experienced defender in Andreas Bjelland, the two looked like a perfect pairing – Mepham compensating for Bjelland’s lack of speed whilst the Danish defender passed on his reading the game and positioning to his younger student.
There is another reason why the potential signing of Jansson goes against the Brentford grain.
Thomas Frank stated in a recent Guardian article that he wants “No dickheads” in his side and wants “People that care”. There is an argument with Jansson being a larger than life character, his fallings out with Bielsa and his alleged lack of discipline at times, does not fit with that ‘rule’ as well.
So why go there?
Brentford had at no time said they would buy never buy an experienced ‘big name’ player and break our traditional recruitment model. They have always maintained they would buy ‘the right player at the right time and at the right price’.
Maybe this is the right time.
Also Thomas Frank has a huge say in what he wants HIS Brentford team to look like. Norsgaard and Pinnock are two key players for him and Brentford would not go for a player like Jansson unless Thomas felt he could fill a void as well as manage him. Being a fellow Scandanavian was maybe the key for Frank.
Last season Brentford only lost Ryan Woods, John Egan and Florian Jozefzoon – with the latter two being replaced by Konsa/Jeanvier and Said Benrahma.
The fact that we kept the bulk of our squad together last term led to the conclusion that – as we were not successful with our playoff charge – we would lose three or four key players this window in the usual two year Brentford churn.
But it looks like this season is going to be different.
With the move to Lionel Road next season, the question was always going to be “Is Brentford’s owner Matthew Benham going to twist? Or is he going to stick?”
Will he ‘go for it’ with a march for promotion in our last season at Griffin Park before moving to Lionel Road?
Or will we continue to operate as we have done to date – breaking even (as we pretty much have done of late) and even making a profit (as we will do this coming tax year)?
The move for Pontus Jansson undoubtedly totally breaks the Brentford mould.
He’s not the type of player we would traditionally go for.
There has been a seismic shift in thinking within the Brentford camp and a complete about-turn in the way we are prepared to do our business at this stage of the club’s lifecycle.
Is this Thomas Frank making his mark?
He’s experienced as opposed to a young, undiscovered, unpolished gem
He’s a character who could ruffle a few feathers
He’s a hot head. Rough and tough. Very different to the very technically-minded players that we normally sign
He’s a winner (not saying our existing players are not but you know what I mean) and dare I say it, potential captain material in the ‘traditional presence in the dressing room’ footballing way
We will possibly lose money on his fee if we were to sell him in the next few years (unless he is a Premier League player).
But signing Jansson means so much more than just bringing a bit of experience and bite to the side.
We’ve spent £9m so far on three players. And with the signing of central midfielder Norsgaard and central defender Pinnock alongside the potential signing of Jansson, it looks like we’re sending a strong message out to the world that we are making a big push for promotion this season.
Chatting to new signing Ethan Pinnock at yesterday’s AFC Wimbledon match, he told me that the team was looking to flip between four at the back and five at the back – depending on what Thomas Frank felt was the best tactic for the match in question.
If Jansson comes in, that would still give us at least experienced, quality central defenders on the bench (assuming we don’t sell) if we play five at the back. Two if we play four.
A balanced strength-in-depth is essential for a side who is looking to get promoted. And something that we have missed over the last few seasons.
Also the fact that the club is bringing in of players identified as being essential cogs in making Brentford much tighter at the back than they have been over the past few seasons will send positive messages out to the current players who may be thinking of moving onto pastures new.
If we had Middlesborough’s defence last season, we would have gone up automatically. End of.
Ollie Watkins. Said Benrahma. Neal Maupay. Kamo Mokotjo. Romaine Sayers. They could all potentially play in the Premier League.
And what better opportunity to play there than with a team that they have been part of and have helped develop over the years?
“Give it until January. If we aren’t challenging in January we’ll let you go” has no doubt been the sell to these players.
And that’s fair enough. The club has invested to give it a go. We are a good side. What difference will another six months make when you’re only 21 and getting better and better each day?
I may be wrong, But I have a hunch here.
I have always stated that, as most fans have, if we can keep the bulk of this side together and add to it, we will be serious challengers for promotion.
And the wooing of Pontus Jansson – whether we land him or not – is a sign that this season. Our last season at Griffin Park. Could be a hell of a lot of fun.
And what a marvellous send-off that would be for the olde girl eh
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