So, 2022 was welcomed in with a much enjoyed Brentford win… our old chums Aston Villa rolled into town and were sent home, once again, with a flea in their ear. Result aside, this match wasn’t one to remember, neither side did themselves justice, however, the points were all that mattered and Beesotted’s Lewis Holmes captures the mood perfectly.

Overall performance

This game essentially sums up our season so far. Half of it was abject, below par, verging on frustrating. The other half was frenetic, inspiring, almost jaw dropping. How can one side spin so wildly from one extreme to the other? It’s Brentford innit.

Villa rocked up with the new manager bounce just about still pushing them on. Alleged Premier League legend Stevie G was in the dugout, but actual Brentford legend Ollie Watkins was missing due to injury/Covid/an evil witch’s curse. No one knew beforehand and googling after the fact ain’t helping me at all. Either way, that particular brand of spicy heartbreak wasn’t on the cards.

The first 15 minutes saw both sides flirting like teenagers at prom, not really doing much but clearly trying, before some frankly ludicrous link up between Buendia and Ings saw the Villa up a goal. Breathless, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it football, exactly what we were promised upon promotion. Except, yet again, we’re on the wrong end of it.

For almost half an hour there was a fair bit of huffing and puffing but absolutely no houses blown down. Brentford’s midfield was more Brighton that Man City (I mean the games not the sides, don’t @ me), being to a man wasteful and out of sorts. On the attack Brentford were feeding on scraps; defending our goal it wasn’t quite the Alamo but it wasn’t Fortress Lionel Road either.

We looked to be going into half time on the back foot, but then not long before the interval we were treated to a moment of frantic beauty way over on the far side (giving away where I sit, stalkers). More breathless movement as Jensen and Roerslev played a sweet one-two, before the latter fed Wissa like the finest festive host, and Yoann scampered greedily onto the edge of the box to lash home. Martinez had no hope, and suddenly we were right back in it – the first half ending on a high after long periods of lethargy.

Brentford were much better in the second half. The introduction of Ghoddos and Baptiste around the hour mark brought the urgency that was missing before, and the further addition of Janelt around 80 minutes saw us really claim midfield and ramp up the pressure for the first time. All of the subs were involved in the second goal; Ghoddos played a sweet ball to Janelt, who then passed it onto Baptiste, who saw Roerslev lurking on the edge of the box. Mads walloped a shot towards goal, Martinez parried it back out, Roerslev adjusted and had a pop with his other foot. Apparently that was the thunderbolt we needed, and from there it was basically game over. Villa didn’t give up – Fernandez and Pontus doing well to see off a late shot by Ing – but the comeback was complete.

Best performers

We saw the usual solid performances from the likes of Toney, Pinnock and Jansson, but really we can only talk about Mads Roerslev here (if only so I can learn to remember that second ‘r’ is in his surname). He’s copped some flak from various corners of our base, but the guy was imperious against Villa. 22-years-old, breaking into the side at a fledgling Premier League club, and yet he bossed that right hand side. When so much is made of the relentless pace over Christmas and New Year, this guy not only survived the Man City onslaught a few days back, but apparently used it as a learning exercise and decided to step up his game. The assist for the first goal was pretty decent; the ice cool nerve and the gumption for the second – his first goal for the club – was genuinely special, and showed that the dev squad has coughed up another diamond.

Room for improvement 

It’s time to have a serious chat about Matthias Jensen. The thing that winds me up the most about our fans on social media is the tendency to dig out individual players for sloppy team performances, and no one gets that treatment more than Jensen. In many ways, he serves to highlight our maiden Premier League campaign in microcosm. When he’s on it, as he was against the mercenaries from Manchester, sweet baby Jesus he’s glorious to watch. When he’s off his best, as he was today, he has you chewing your programme in frustration.

But…

He was key to that first goal, the interplay with Roerslev was crisp, precise and perfect. We need him. Aside from Ghoddos, he’s the only midfielder who offers flair. Personally I feel like he’s key to how the team plays; you can’t build a fleet of just dreadnoughts, you need a cruiser in there as well. But if Jensen is our flair then Christ alive he needs to work on making that flair accurate.

A word on the opposition

Absolutely gutted that, for whatever reason, Ollie Watkins didn’t appear today. He’s so important to our journey and so key to where we are that Ezri Konsa was almost an afterthought, and the Villa fans I spoke to before the game were almost purring for Konsa.

As it is, we weren’t treated to a bad Villa side at all, but I do think we came up against a team who weren’t at their best. I’m not complaining for one minute – obviously points on the board trumps everything else – but I’d love to see these two sides, at their best, going toe to toe. We got done by Buendia like we always do, and Ings was a constant menace, but wouldn’t you love to see Watkins versus Jansson and Mbuemo versus Mings? Of course you would.

Summing up

Taking it right back to the top; I feel like that Villa game was the perfect summation of our Premier League campaign so far. At times it was scrappy, imperfect, battling, tenacious, glorious, depressing and euphoric. I’m sure fans of established Prem clubs will tell us that’s life, but we’re still adapting and adjusting. Personally, I will take going 1-0 down and then nicking it 2-1 for every game ever – genuinely the best way to snaffle points!

One more point, and it’s purely a personal thing: this is the first win I’ve covered for Beesotted. Before this I had the losses to Brighton at home and Leicester. I was genuinely worried about official Jonah status, so this win is a big result for me and my lucky pants. Up the f***in’ Bees!

Lewis Holmes