The word on the street, before the transfer window closed last week, was that The Bees were possibly looking to bring one more signing in on deadline day… a more specialist right-back to ensure we had all bases covered between now and January, at which stage the DoFs could see how we were progressing. New Beesotted contributor, Lewis Holmes, gives his thoughts on why that didn’t happen and where it leaves us.
Another summer transfer window has ‘slammed shut’ (probably in my top 10 most hated footballing tropes, but that’s another column for another day), the dust has settled and Brentford fans find themselves in an unusual place. For the first time in quite a while, we’re not lamenting any departed big names. In fact it’s quite the opposite. Thomas Frank was clear we wouldn’t go nuts with incoming names and he’s been true to his word: for a relatively conservative (in Premland) outlay we’ve strengthened all across the pitch, in defence, midfield and attack. The squad is arguably stronger than it was despite the departures of Luke Daniels, Emiliano and Henrik Dalsgaard.
It’s that last name that’s caused the most rumblings among the Bees faithful, because the one apparently glaring omission was the failure to replace our majestic, cool-as-you-like, rampaging right-back. Henrik brought leadership, composure, vision and just the right level of needle (just ask Asmir Begovic) to the team. On the face of it, there’s a void that hasn’t been filled; all window long the calls for an ‘experienced’ right-back were there for all to see, but there were no concrete links to any player in that position. So, dig a little deeper and is it really the oversight social media’s loudest voices would have us think it is? I’d say not. As always with Brentford, you need to pull right back (sic) from the canvas and look at the bigger picture.
One of the fundamental tenets of the Benham Era is development, you only have to look at the progress the club has made over the last decade or so to see that. That ethos extends to the players as well, individuals leave the club as much better performers than when they joined. So why would we stifle the development of a hot prospect like Mads Roerslev by bringing someone in ahead of him? Especially when there’s ample competition in the squad already. Mads’ only specialist contender may be 18-year-old Fin Stevens, but there are plenty of options in our squad to push these two on.
Sergi Canos is the obvious first name to come to mind, currently thriving in the 3-5-2 system. I have always had my concerns about Sergi; his enthusiasm and talent are there for all to see, but that enthusiasm can so often teeter over the edge and affect his decision making – even now he’s in his mid 20s and one of the more senior members of the squad. It’s not a big thing when he’s attacking, but when defending that one little mistake is all Premier League sides need. Thankfully it’s not something we’ve had to worry about yet and hopefully we won’t have to for a while.
I know what you’re thinking: “But what about when we need to change formation, smartarse?” Well yeah, of course Canos isn’t the answer if we go to a back four – he’d be out of his depth and his many talents would be wasted (no disrespect there Sergi, love ya!). However, Kris Ajer played at right-back for Celtic a total of 19 times, scoring twice and assisting twice from that position (stats via Transfermarkt, don’t @ me). Tariqe Fosu may be the forgotten man at the moment – wouldn’t we all love to know the full story there – but he’s played in the position for both the Bees and Ghana (and for the chronic worrywarts, he can cover the left-back position as well). It would be quite the redemption story if he came back into the fold as an emergency full-back and thrived.
We have previous for this sort of thing – remember Alan McCormack making the right-back position his own a few seasons back? Obviously we’re at a whole different level these days, but our club’s ethos remains the same and even removing that, this is football: unlikely heroes can and do step up all the time.
It’s human nature to worry and football fans do it more than most. I get the concerns over a lack of right-back cover, but I’m here to tell you that I think they may be unfounded. We have two specialists and two failsafes, that is more than enough to see us through to January at least, when the situation can be reassessed if necessary. As is always the case, the DoFs and Thomas have taken a gamble, but it’s a pragmatic and sensible one.