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A few months back Carl Massey wrote an article for Beesotted entitled ‘Is It Better To Have Faith In A System, Or Lose Your Mind With Frustration?’ In this article he sought to maybe explain the thinking behind Brentford’s transfer policy and highlight how the use of statistics can identify players that most lay persons see as ineffective, but that actually have a bigger impact on the game than we realise. In light of last week’s Beesotted Pride of West London Podcast, Carl takes a closer look at whether the transfers made this season really have been a total failure, or whether that’s a bit of a myth. As always, week in week out, Beesotted are happy to broadcast a whole range of opinions on our club, either through out videos, on the bi-weekly podcast, or on the pages of the fanzine.

Now, the season isn’t over yet but one thing is for certain. We are in a worse position now than we were last year. Aside from the fact that we missed out on promotion via the playoffs (again!) last season was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable and successful we have had since the war. So going in to this season, expectations were obviously high, unrealistic some would say but as fans we see what happens on a Saturday and the results produced on the pitch. What we can sometimes fail to identify is that in a long term strategy, success can be gained in other areas.

Firstly, it was the Beesotted podcast that prompted me to write this article and to do some digging myself. If you haven’t yet listened to Billy and Dave’s latest offering then make sure you do. It is full of varied and lively debate. During there discussions it was suggested that our recent recruitment had been an utter failure with all those brought in deemed useless. Well, using the Moneyball method of stats, I want to take a look at this. I will say that I am checking the stats as I write so any conclusion I draw is as a result of what the stats are telling us and is not part of a preconceived pro or anti Benham agenda.

It is clear, without looking at any figures that the likes of Gogia and Kershbaumer have had less impact and less success then the players they have come in to replace however, you can’t ignore that they were brought in to do exactly that. What I will do is look at how the following players have performed against those they have been asked to replace. So I will look at Colin and Odubajo, Vibe and Gray, Woods and Douglas (not and exact replacement but with McHechran being almost permanently injured it seems fairer)

I will start though by looking at the key stats overall. Whilst we still have six games to go I have taken a look at where we were this time last year. This is how it compares:

2014/15   P40, W21, D6, L13, GS68(Goals scored), GC50(Goals conceded)

2015/16   P40, W15, D7, L18, GS57, GC61

So, as you can see we have won six less games than this time last year although we only won two of the last six giving us 23 wins in total. We’ve scored 11 less goals and conceded 11 more. It doesen’t make for great reading when you take those in isolation. When you look at the bigger picture of Financial Fair Play and the players we had to sell to stay compliant and giving us the best chance of sustainability, it seems a much fairer return. Let’s not forget in all of this that by then end of January this year we had either sold, released or lost back to parent clubs the following players: Moses Odubajo, Tony Craig, Jonathon Douglas, Stuart Dallas, John Toral, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray, Chris Long, James Tarkowski, Toumani Diagouraga, Marcos Tebar, Tommy Smith and Jota. I’ve ignored the likes of Liam Moore and Nick Proschwitz as their contribution was negligible. That’s some team and barring a goalkeeper is pretty much a very strong match day squad. I mention this to provide balance. Whilst we are undoubtedly worse off you can see that the loss of these players to stay financially compliant was always going to have an impact. It’s total hit on the side so far has been 6 wins and 5 defeats and 11 goals both for and against.

So now to compare some of the more direct replacements and to see how they perform. Firstly, Maxime Colin and Moses Odubajo. Moses was considered one of the best full backs in the league last year and this earned him a big money move to Hull City. Whilst we replaced him with a cheaper alternative from Belgium. Moses reportedly left for a total fee of £3.5 Million according to most websites. Odubajo has played 37 games this season and contributed two assists without scoring himself. According to Squawka.com he has won 51% of his duels, has a pass accuracy of 78% has made only 1 recordable defensive error and has created 25 chances for his teammates with 1 assist. Compare this to Maxime Colin who has only 17 appearances so far . He has won 47% of his duels, he too has a pass accuracy of 78% with 1 defensive error and has created just 9 chances although he has been credited with 2 assists. Given the few games Maxime has played, I would say he compares well and looks to have made a good replacement. What is evident though is that his injuries have had far more of an impact on us that Odubajo last season. Moses was virtually ever present and this would have had a big impact on the defensive unit.

On to Woods and Douglas. I think it is only fair that I compare the two players this season. Woods was playing in League 2 and I do not think it would be a fair reflection on either Douglas or Woods if we counted his stats against far inferior opposition. Douglas this season has made 33 appearances for Ipswich, scoring 3 goals and they sit just outside the playoffs. His pass accuracy is 76% he has won less than half his midfield battles with a duel percentage of 48% but has created 16 chances for those around him. It is definitely worth noting though, that in a team who exceeded expectations last year, Douglas pass accuracy was at 81% and he created 39 chances. In comparisons Ryan Woods has appeared 34 times for Brentford with only the 1 goal (what a hit though!) he too has won 48% of his duels with a pass accuracy of 76% and again has created 16 chances for those around him. Whilst you could argue that at 34, Douglas is sure to be in decline whilst Woods is a young lad who would be expected to do more, I think it’s fair to balance that out with the fact that Woods has stepped up to the Championship from League 2 and Douglas has that wealth of experience.

So on to the big one, the one that most have loved to compare this season. Vibe and Gray. There is no doubt that Gray has excelled at Burnley but in continuing the trend I will look at this seasons stats first. Gray has made 35 appearances for Burnley this season and has scored 21 goals (he also scored 2 in 2 for Brentford) whilst his pass accuracy is low at 54% as is his duels won at 39% it is obvious that a strikers currency is goals and he has performed brilliantly. His chances created is 32 which is testament to this and has provided 7 assists. To try and provide some balance though last season he made 45 appearances in the league and scored 16 goals. He also scored in the first leg of the playoffs and ended the season with 18 goals. An impressive return on his first season at that level. This was despite much criticism for missing a high number of chances. Lasse Vibe in comparison has appeared in 36 games and scored 12 goals, considerably less than Gray but has still created 29 chances. He has a decent pass accuracy at 72% and has been credited with one assist. It is clear that Gray has outperformed him this season but with six games left, Vibe has a good chance of getting closer to Gray’s tally from last season and again to provide balance, Vibe has moved countries and is now playing in one of the most competitive and physically demanding leagues in the world having had no meaningful break in 18 months. The one huge point worth making is that Gray, whilst signed for a poultry 750K from Luton Town was sold for around £6 million, rising to £9 million whilst Vibe was a snip at a reported 1.3 million Euros.

So what do these stats tell us about three of our new signings. Well, it all comes down to how you interpret them. It is obvious that this is just a snapshot and is not as indepth as those that are employed by Brentford would go but you can not argue with facts. Those three players stand up well and when balanced out with a few snippets of extra information you get a better understanding of how they have performed.

I would ask the question, if Bjelland, Macleod, McHechran and maybe Djuricin had stayed fit and been part of this side consistently, could we have been closer to where we finished last year? Had Vibe had a pre-season break would he have found form sooner? Had Smith been appointed at the start of the season and not Dijkhuizen would we have had the kind of upheaval we have seen? These are all relevant questions and it is interesting to note how closely Colin and Woods compare to the previous incumbents of the shirt and how Vibe, on the face of it looks far worse then Gray but digging deeper looks much better. It just sheds a bit more light on the overall game plan. In a season which would be considered a transitional one we have made signings that we have all been critical of but that actually stack up quite well. The theme of Moneyball is one of hidden gems. Players who, to the fans look less worthy than the ones they lost but underneath are performing just as well.

It is impossible to say that this side is better than last year but for a bit of a luck we could have seen far better results than we have done. You can criticise the regime for signing Hoffmann this year but then you must then do the same for the signing of Proschwitz. Equally Kershbaumer has struggled this year but so did Tebar last season.

I’m not an apologist or a blind follower and I 100% agree with Paul Grimes on the podcast. We must be able to question the owner if we feel bad decisions have been made. I just think that this season has been on of change. That change was brought about by a need to bring substantial amounts of money in. We’ve done that and in the process signed players that compare well under the surface, just maybe not so on the face of it.

Our system is an interesting concept; it is one that will need adapting to get the best out of what we have. By Benham’s own admission they have made mistakes this year; but I will go out on a limb as say its working. Cheaper players are being signed and we will eventually see a return on that. If we continue to sign undervalued players and get the best of them I am confident we will reap the rewards. I didn’t think I would be writing this after the last few months but a few wins can get you looking at things differently.

Carl Massey

His previous article is able to be read here