Brentford finally secured a new permanent manager this week with Walsall’s Dean Smith filling the Griffin Park hotseat on Monday
Smith witnessed his new team’s last game under caretaker boss Lee Carsley at struggling Bolton on Monday night, a performance which despite patches of brilliance definitely left some room for improvement
Carsley has done a magnificent job in settling the ship during his short time as first team manager – improving the team’s resilience and fitness as well as adding some grit to a confidence starved and somewhat flaccid team.
Much of our recent success has been built on a settled defence plus a determined trio of Diagouraga, Woods and McCormack in the centre of the park who have allowed the likes of Swift and Vibe to attack with less fear of losing the ball (and both lose the ball a lot).
To progress from a mid table team to a side once more nudging towards the promotion places however, will take more guile and endeavour than we currently show in the middle third.
The good news is that reinforcements should be back soon with Josh McEachran, Jota and Maxime Colin starting now to push for a first team berth after injury.
The bad news for Smith is that this will undoubtably mean the need to tinker with the Bees holy trinity in the centre of the park.
Josh McEachran was touted as the man to replace Jonathan Douglas when the latter departed for Ipswich in the summer following some diminishing performances and rumours of dressing room discord.
McEachran describes himself as a creative holding midfielder but “not as physical as Toums and Macca – more of a technical midfielder”. So the Bees would have to sacrifice some strength for attacking endeavour to make room for the former Chelsea man.
(Oh) Alan McCormack would probably be the most obvious player to make way for Josh, but this might unsettle the balance of the team – in particular Toumani Diagouraga. When Toums plays well then Brentford play well – and he plays well next to Mac.
Bringing Jota back into the team should be an easier move. His brilliance on the ball will take pressure off the defence, and help share the creative burden currently resting on Alan Judge’s lovely Irish shoulders. Swift looks like the man to make room here – the Chelsea youngster has undoubtedly been a part of our recent revival but his ball retention is poor.
Maxime Collin will also hope to displace Nico Yennaris once more at right back but Nico’s recent steadiness shouldn’t be underestimated and he’s certainly proved his worth to the squad. I’d expect Collin’s experience and attacking endeavour to be rewarded here though.
Smith’s final conundrum is up front. In the absence of Marco Djuricin he has just two options – Lasse Vibe and Phillipp Hofmann. So far neither has really impressed on a regular basis. Vibe runs around a lot but doesn’t retain the ball, The Hoff offers a better but slower physical presence but doesn’t look like a deadly finisher, triple deflections aside. If either can learn to feed off Jota efficiently then the shirt is theirs for the taking until Djuricin returns.
Smith’s reputation is for progressive attacking football, so Brentford fans will be keen for an impressive first showing against MK Dons on Saturday before the much awaited return to Craven Cottage one week later.
Success in these fixtures could make Smith an instant hero. Let’s hope he chooses the right blend from day one.