Billy Grant looks back on a tremendous performance by Brentford up at The Hawthorns where Brentford didn’t allow West Brom to have things all their way

 

This Brentford team came of age at The Hawthorns this weekend. OK they didn’t go home with the win – with the team sharing the spoils 1-1. But in the bigger scheme of things, that was not the point.

For the past years, Bees fans have been asking the question – are Brentford really good enough to maintain a consistent challenge for promotion?

There is no doubt over the years we have had some incredibly skilful players playing some eye-watering football. But consistency has been our achilles heel. And that consistency being underpinned by the team having a relatively (for a promotion contender) porous defence. Giving away stupid goals. And the ability to grind out results when necessary.

As we have learned to our peril, the ‘Kevin Keegan theory’ doesn’t work forever.

“We’re gonna score more goals that you” is fun in the early days. Ask a QPR fan. But after a while, the novelty wears off.

Yes we can score three goals and gift the opposition two. But what happens when the goals dry up for a period of time – something that inevitably happens unless you have the next Harry Kane or Dele Alli in your frontline.

Last week at home to Fulham, Brentford tore their West London rivals to shreds – the ‘fair’ result not reflected in the 1-0 scoreline – whilst defensively they were rarely troubled. However, their match against the league leaders West Brom was going to be such more of a barometer of where Brentford really sat in the potential promotion pecking order.

And Brentford passed they mock exams with flying colours as they really took the game to they Midlands rivals – particularly in the first half.

If anything – like the Fulham match – Brentford would be ruing not turning domination into more goals. With close on 60% of the possession at the end of the first half, Baggies fans were on edge as they witnessed a team not only prepared to take them on at their own game, but match them too.

The Bees were on the attack from the get go. Within two minutes of the start, great play between Christian Nørgaard, Rico Henry and Ollie Watkins saw Benrahma set up Bryan Mbeumo inside the penalty area. His shot was well saved by Sam Johnstone in the West Brom goal.

Another Johnstone save from a 25 years Benrahma shot set the tempo as The Bees took the game to West Brom.

Benrahma, Jensen, Dasilva and Nørgaard also had good chances as West Brom seemed rattled by the Bees’ no-nonsense approach to the game.

There was an emotional minute as both Bees and Baggies fans came together respectfully to give a one minute applause to remember West Brom fan Chris Eno who recently passed away after being diagnosed with cancer. An spine-tingling moment. And one which made his partner Gemma and son Harrison – who were in the crowd – incredibly proud.

Finally, the Bees’ pressure paid off as a Jensen corner was flicked past keeper Johnson by Henrick Dalsgaard as half time approached.

Dalsgaard, Jeanvier & Mbuemo. West Brom v Brentford. The Hawthorns. Photo – Mark Fuller. Officialbfcpics.co.uk

Brentford then had a very good shout for a penalty turned down as a Jensen cross into the box was superbly diverted away from goal by the arm of a diving Kyle Bartley. A stone-cold penalty that referee Darren Bond – and more to the point his linesman – failed to give. Maybe an addition to their Christmas shopping list would be gladly received – a Specsaver voucher (all other glasses suppliers are available)

From the resulting breakaway, West Brom won a corner which was swung in for arial danger man Darnell Furlong to score an identical goal to Dalsgaard deep into extra time in the first half.

The second half saw West Brom switch their game up – dominating possession and pushing The Bees back into their half. Saying that, Brentford were still comfortable defending their position although West Brom – with quality players like Pereira and Robsun-Kanu in their side- were always going to be a threat.

A great chance for Phillips for West Brom as well as Jeanvier, Nørgaard and Watkins for The Bees saw the two teams going toe-to-toe for the winner.

And West Brom thought Christmas had come early as substitute Charlie Austin picked up a rebound after Raya had saved from Peirera, tapping the ball into the empty net – only for the goal to be ruled offside.

David Raya’s performance was once again commanding – pulling off one crucial save in the first half to keep the teams at bay.

David Raya. West Brom v Brentford. The Hawthorns. Dec 19. Photo – Mark Fuller. Officialbfcpics.co.uk

The defence looked assured – with Henry and Brentford’s man of the match, Dalsgaard adding danger to the attack with their counter-attack prowess.

Jeanvier and Pinnock helped keep the Bees keep tight against one of the most dangerous attacks in the division. With Pontus Jansson out with a slight hip niggle, it’s encouraging to know that Brentford have quality in the centre of defence to allow Jeanvier to step in without a blink.

Dasilva is growing every single game. His predecessor, Romaine Sawyers, who gave a beautiful heartfelt acknowledgement of his former team-mates after the match, was relatively anonymous during this game. Meanwhile Dasilva was commanding. The ball sticking to his feet like glue. And his ability to hold off defenders when he has the ball at his feet is quite astounding.

In midfield, Nørgaard and Jensen are getting better each match. Jensen learning how to combat the rough and tumble of Championship football now with much more rugged performances to go alongside his flair.

Benrahma is a pest. An enormously skilful player. He didn’t have his best game for Brentford. But it was still plenty enough for Baggies fans to pick him out as a star player.

All in all a great performance by Brentford who showed they had absolutely no fear and were able to rock it with the ‘big boys’. In the Pride Of West London post-match podcast (link above), Baggies fans were incredibly complementary of Brentford’s performance – saying that this was the best team to have come down to The Hawthorns this season.

Bees fans were also complementary of The Baggies – commenting they had not played a better team this half of the season

But the work is still on for Brentford. They must learn from mistakes of the past and not let one great result against the team at the top of the league be undone by poor results in forthcoming fixtures.

The team – with its injury problems and inexperienced bench – has a job to get over the finish line of January 1st to ensure we are able to maintain a good league position by that date. Hopefully then the powers to be will think that we are in a position where it will be beneficial to spend money to strengthen our ranks to go for a promotion push.

Stats

Brentford shaded the possession stats seeing just over 52% of the ball over the entirety of the match. However, Baggies fans were quick to point out that The Bees has 54.4% of possession in the first half – the first team to have come to The Hawthorns (apparently) and have seen more of the ball than the home side who are used to dominating matches.

The Baggies upped their game in the second half . They only had three shots on goal – one on target – to eight in the second half. Whereas the Bees had all of their attacks on goal – three shots – in the first half.

Looking further at the stats, both sides were similar with the way they used the ball when in possession  – Bees just edging the pass success rate 81% to 79%. But West Brom were far superior when it came to aerial domination – 71% to 29% – with West Brom’s Right Back Furlong dominating – winning all seven of his areal challenges.

Whoscored.com stats West Brom v Brentford. Dec ’19

Looking at the quality of chances, there wasn’t much in it with Brentford shading the xG by a whisker – West Brom 0.51 Brentford 0.65.

This definitely was a game that could have gone any way with 0-0, 1-0 either way or 1-1 all being a ‘fair’ result based on those sorts of stats.

Without a shadow of doubt it was a tight encounter with neither team creating a clear-cut high quality chance. Both the goals scored were more likely to have been missed than scored which shows how well they were taken – Dalsgaard’s chance was 4 in 100 of hitting the back of the net (based on research of similar chances). Whereas Furlong’s was 5 in 100.

West Brom’s best chance came from Semi Ajayi – his header on 30 min – 11% of similar chances recorded hitting the back of the net. He should have at least tested Raya from that position.

Whereas Brentford had a number of opportunities in and around the box with a 5% of so chance of scoring – probability-wise Josh DaSilva’s chance on 33 mins shading them all with 7% of similar chances hitting the back of the net.

Saying that, as fans sang Josh Dasilva only scores f***ing great goals, Mr anti xG would be probably quite gutted that he didn’t plant that ‘outside’ chance in the back of the net like he usually does. It seems a 7% chance to Josh Dasilva is a 65% chance to most other players.

Infogol xG chart. West Brom v Brentford. Dec 19

Summary

As we go into Xmas having now played every team, Brentford are in an excellent position.

After a slow start, The Bees have clawed heir way into the playoff places – finding themselves 4th after the West Brom game and 5th after Sheffield Wednesday’s victory over Bristol City on Sunday.

If one were to find any negatives with The Bees at the moment (and this is not being critical. More analytical), it’s the team not taking the opportunity to bury their opponents when they get a chance. All of them.

Yes we smashed Luton 7-0. But we had a chance to put Wednesday to the sword up at Hillsborough. Fulham really should have been (literally) a whitewash. And the Bees did enough in the first half against a cat-in-the-headlights West Brom to have gone into half time with a decent cushion.

But maybe I’m being greedy.

On the plus side, we have a better defence than we have had for years.

We have players doing good things at other clubs both in the UK and abroad (Forss, Marcondes, Dervisoglu) who we can recall if we feel that can add to the side.

We have a load of money in the pot from the Maupay and the rest of the crew sale. I would say at least £10m to £15m must be available to strengthen this next window.

And we’re 5th in the table with the team finally starting to gel and with some ‘better’ football on the horizon

It’s important that we don’t lose against Swansea. The next few matches against potential playoff rivals – Swansea. Millwall and Bristol City – could to a certain extent define our season

What a time to be a Brentford fan

Merry Christmas everyone

See you on Boxing Day