Beesotted’s Jim Levack shares his thoughts on the current Brentford losing run and the injury list that has, without a shadow of a doubt, contributed to the four defeats on the spin heading into the international break.
No one said it was going to be easy. There’s not a single team in the Premier League that could lose eight key players and still pick up consistent results week in, week out.
Bad luck, an increase in intensity, maybe even a change in training have all played their part in bringing those Brentford fans who thought it might be a walk in the park, crashing back down to earth.
Run through the list of absentees and what they bring to the party and you’ll see that four narrow defeats on the spin really isn’t all that much of a surprise.
In reality the fact we should arguably have got something out of two, possibly three, of those games, suggests the performances aren’t too far off the mark given the injury crisis.
Wissa, Ajer, Pinnock, Zanka, Baptiste, Dasilva, Janelt all out or carrying knocks, not to mention David Raya.
Wissa has been a spark this season, a player capable of turning a game on its head with a touch of brilliance with an obvious eye for goal. Out.
Ajer, Pinnock and now Zanka, two established giants and one big surprise free agent package at the back. All out or struggling, all part of the defensive foundation on which our early season form was based.
Dasilva and then Baptiste. Both pivotal players in our system, both with the ability to turn defence into attack in a few strides or a drilled pass. Out with no obvious replacement in the heart of the midfield.
Janelt another possible victim of the relentless intensity of the Premier League and the near superhuman levels of fitness required to remain competitive in it.
Throw in the loss of Raya and you have a clean sweep of injuries that would knock a dent in most sides’ form.
There’s little doubt that the overflowing treatment table and the rigours of the top flight will inevitably force the club’s hand when it comes to strengthening in January. Failure to do so would be folly.
There must be some inside the camp now wishing we’d taken the plunge on rumoured targets like Forest’s Brennan Johnson before his form piqued the interest of others, jacking his price up in the process. Hindsight’s a wonderful thing.
The raft of injuries has inevitably brought comment from ill-informed media outlets asking why Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo aren’t scoring as freely as last season.
Injuries and goals are inexorably linked. Without players capable of those moments of quality, the chances created are fewer and further between.
When they do come the pressure is on to take them and yes, but for a few licks of paint and that counter intuitive element of a striker trying too hard, Bryan should be troubling the Premier League top scorers list by now.
I’d be more worried if he wasn’t even getting the chances in the first place though.
Toney has been outstanding this season. Not the same level of finishing, but his all-round link up work and creativity have not damaged his growing reputation in the slightest.
Likewise Pontus Jansson and Rico Henry, the skipper surely deserving of a goal for his committed and assured performances and our left back for my money one of the best, most consistent in the country.
But come January, I’d love to see Sergi released from the wing back role with the addition of a genuine, rapid right back.
The Spaniard has excelled this season in a strange role, one he’s grown in by being able to see the whole pitch ahead of him. When he’s hopefully released to push on more, that experience will benefit him greatly.
Now is also the time for the club to close ranks slightly in my view. The media adulation was always going to happen during the honeymoon period, the start merely adding to the fairytale angle.
But the column inches have a slightly hollow ring to them now.
At a time when – for the time being – the club need to focus on the job at hand rather than feeding a media beast that adores when you’re winning and dismisses and mocks just as quickly when things go wrong.
Performance-wise Brentford have been okay, a seven out of 10, but in this league we need to be a nine most weeks to get anything out of games.
Performances are key as Thomas Frank insists. Get them right and the results will follow, and realistically we’re not too far away – a miracle in itself given the injury list.
But with some of those on the sidelines still a few months away, January will pose a very different challenge for the Directors of Football.
I trust them to get it right – they usually do – but finding Premier League-ready additions within the same model won’t be easy.
All of that said, there will be games where we’re under the cosh and win 1-0 with a bit of luck that hasn’t been with us too much so far because, well, that’s football.
Realistically how many of us expected us to be outplaying established Premier League sides?
The start and early charge to 12 points has over inflated our hopes and ambitions. Now, for the time being, we need to get back to reality and take a more pragmatic approach.
Because no one said it was going to be easy. Now we’re finding out just how hard, but definitely not impossible, it will be.