Yesterday was one of the most surreal afternoons at football that we’ve ever witnessed, but there were also some unwelcome familiarities as Brentford slipped to their fourth Premier league defeat on the bounce against a Wolves side with their tails up. Beesotted’s Jon Restall was on match report duty.
I think most fans who left the BCS on Wednesday after defeat to Man United felt frustrated. It was a vastly improved attacking performance and we deserved something from the game overall. We started the Wolves game in similar fashion – the returning Ajer and Henry adding a real balance to our XI that had been missing over recent weeks.
The Bees were pressing, harrying and showed improved confidence in our passing, without really creating any clean cut chances other than a driven Vitaly cross which narrowly avoided Sergi Canos at the back stick
Unfortunately, in the 25th minute, the game took a sickening turn – Wolves broke at pace and with the ball in the air Rico Henry and Matthias Jensen smashed into each other with momentum – both players pole-axed to the turf as the ground went quiet and medics dashed onto the pitch. There was muted applause as the players eventually sat up before leaving the pitch with unpleasant head injuries. The collision itself was avoidable with better communication but equally both players were determined to clear the danger from the opposition. Let’s hope they are back playing soon.
Baptiste and Roerslev were immediately brought into the game with Sergi moving back to left wing back – square pegs in round holes once more with the strength of Frank’s squad tested again by injuries and a clear lack of belief in the natural replacement for Rico.
As the game restarted, The Bees looked clearly affected. Less swagger, more awkwardness and more tentative in attack. And then the game was stopped again for a drone which was being flown above the stadium – the referee ordering all players back into the changing room in line with PL instructions.
Booing spilled out from the fans in the stands at this unwanted interruption, mixed with terrace humour (“we’re just a drone stop in Hounslow”). Supporters from both ends popped for a bonus pint, or bonus pee, as confusion took hold. Eventually the drone was cleared (hit by Barbet’s still orbiting penalty?) and the players returned.
Wolves grew visibility into the game until the half time whistle – the third break in play coming after 45+19 minutes.
Straight after half time there was a further stoppage with both teams already on the pitch – the referee retreating to the changing room after a problem with his communication equipment. Another frustration on a day of frustrations, players standing in the cold while the referee faffed around. Unfortunately, whilst the ref returned, our mojo did not and Wolves took control of the game. They soon worked a lovely shooting position for Moutinho who smashed the ball into the net from the edge of the box.
The only game in the past fifteen where The Bees have scored first was against Everton. We can’t keep giving ourselves small mountains to climb. Frustration started to grow (on the pitch and in the stands) as Brentford dithered going forwards against a solid Wolves defence and with the referee starting to grow in ineptitude with a series of baffling decisions disrupting our flow. Wissa came on for Roerslev as we changed formation, uncomfortably looking for better attacking presence but with a whiff of desperation and imbalance.
Ref Bankes then took centre stage in the 70th minute. Ajer marauded forward with the ball and was felled by Gomes as he released the ball to the effervescent Mbuemo. With Bryan entering the box the ref blew his whistle – denying a clear advantage – and ridiculously brandishing a red card at the Wolves player. VAR did what VAR does and correctly reduced the card to a yellow but Brentford’s clear advantage was lost. A rash moment from a rash referee.
And then, within seconds, Brentford were level. Mbuemo chipping the free kick to the back post where Toney volleyed home beautifully. We were back in the game with 20 minutes still on the clock.
But the equality didn’t last long, Wolves produced a dangerous counter which ended in Neves beating Lossl at his near post with an arrowed shot. We just can’t allow quality players the time to shoot from the edge of the box (see also Tielemans, Trossard etc) – it’s hurting us regularly.
As Brentford huffed and puffed, Wolves broke and scored a third via Toure which VAR disallowed for a narrow offside. The Bees created some half chances too but nothing utterly threatening. Oh, and Wolves wasted a fair bit of time (their keeper eventually booked) but will point to us doing similar things during our win at Molineux. It’s an ugly part of the game but all teams do it.
The final whistle blew on a 2-1 defeat but the story had one epilogue, with a frustrated Thomas Frank shown a yellow and then a red by Bankes as he showed his displeasure after the final whistle. It had been a poor refereeing display which added to a stop start momentum on the pitch.
Bryan Mbuemo was once again full of running and looked to take the game to the opponents whilst Kris Ajer grew into the game from an attacking perspective. Norgaard showed better midfield presence following a quieter game midweek too. It’s good to see Toney scoring his second goal in two games but his overall game has dipped vs his outstanding form at the start of the season. And all dips come to an end.
Room for Improvement
We saw two subs, subbed yesterday. Roerslev looked timid at RB and was the victim of a tactical change whilst Baptiste dipped in and out of the game. Lossl looks a more commanding presence than Fernandez but is yet to make an actual save – Bees fans will be pleased to hear that David Raya’s rehabilitation continues and he could be back in a few weeks. We can’t keep leaking goals (12 in 4 games against) if we want to keep a buffer between us and the relegation spots.
Our absence of a Premier League quality right back continues to bite – we still haven’t replaced Dalsgaard and when Rico isn’t available we have a clear problem on the left too. Phil Giles has performed miracles over recent years but we would be a better team with this balance, and our failure to recruit here feels like a comparative oversight.
Our creativity too is poor in open play. The growing, incredible, rumours of the signing of Christian Eriksen would hopefully resolve this problem in our current 3-5-2 set up (more often a 5-3-2 of late unfortunately) but we also still lack attacking width and pace if we want to change up formation.
A word on the opposition
Wolves look a strong Premier League side who are in fine form after a slow start to the season. Ruben Neves is a quality midfielder with room to improve further and their defence, marshalled by the solid Conor Coady are in fine form. I liked their left wing back Ait Nouri too, he was fast and composed. Fabio Silva looks yet to grow into his hefty price tag although did have a couple of good moments during their approach play.
Their fans were lively, particularly when their team grew into the game and produced good vocal support from their corner of the BCS. They are still a bit angry about our win at theirs though, remembering it only for time-wasting rather than some of our best football of the season. Maybe it’s honours even after yesterday.
Credit too for their respect during an emotional minute’s applause remembering those supporters and former staff that Brentford have lost over the last year – and no doubt thinking of their own fallen friends and heroes as well.
We knew the Premier League would be hard, and we would have some disappointing runs of results. Yesterday’s stop-start momentum during the game matched our own unfortunately. Hopefully Rico and Jensen are fit for our next matches to help our balance in shape and Phil Giles can bring in a new body or two to accompany the returning David Raya and Josh Da Silva.
To compete in this league we need to be at our very best mentally and physically. We’ve still got a good gap to the relegation spots but need to regain our early season swagger sooner rather than later, or it could be that the next drone gets shot down by emergency flares from the Brentford Community Stadium.