Why Have Brentford Stopped Winning? Spoiling Tactics Or Missing Ryan Woods?

Why Have Brentford Stopped Winning? Spoiling Tactics Or Missing Ryan Woods?
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Bees journalist Jim Levack shares his thoughts on how he feels Brentford should adapt to other teams’ tactics when they play us, and he feels we are missing Ryan Woods.

If I were a manager heading to Griffin Park I’d have a fairly clear set of instructions for my players.

Keep it tight for the first 20, restrict them to half chances or efforts from outside the box, grow into the game, silence the crowd.

As the game goes on, test the water going forward when you think it’s safe. If they look like finding any kind of rhythm, break it. If they look like they’re picking up free kicks around the edge of the box, don’t let them take them quickly. Stifle and bore.

If they get the upper hand at any stage, disrupt with niggly fouls in areas that don’t matter. Suss out how far you can go with the ref. If he’s inconsistent or weak, take the above up a notch.

Not rocket science to be honest, because judging by the way the last seven or so games have gone, the word is definitely out among our Championship rivals.

Have we been rumbled? Maybe slightly yes. Sides know we like to play football and will do just that with panache if you let us. They also know that an alarming number of referees, even at this this level, are utterly ineffectual and bordering on inept.

I’ll be honest, I haven’t enjoyed my last few visits to Griffin Park in the slightest, with each game taking on a familiar and frustratingly negative pattern.

Teams are coming with a clearly set out yet simple plan, an ‘anti-football’ strategy which will always have a decent chance of succeeding if the referee allows it… as they increasingly appear to want to do.

It’s not even that these teams are unadventurous, because when they break quickly we look vulnerable at times. It’s more that they are setting up to stop us for large swathes of the game.

Fair enough. I’d do the same, especially if I saw how the tactic was affecting the discipline of Brentford’s technically gifted players every week as they grow increasingly frustrated by both the tactic itself and the lack of protection from the referee.

So, have we seen three of the worst referees since Alf Grey in the last three home games, or are we simply looking for excuses… as frustrated as our players who sides couldn’t get near earlier in the campaign?

Maybe, maybe not. But for me, the answer lies closer to home and has nothing to do with the man at the helm, be it Dean or Thomas.

No. The big miss – and I know I’ll get shot down in flames by some for even suggesting it – is the absence of Ryan Woods. A departure that has adversely affected us more than I’m sure anyone at the club will publicly admit.

He wanted to leave for family reasons, the club wanted to sell to maximise income and that, after all, is how our model works. No problem with that at all. But the lack of a replacement is a loss that needs to be addressed in January.

Brentford playing at pace with one touch zip and zing are virtually unplayable. But without Woods, our metronome, our tempo has dropped and we aren’t the formidable opposition we were before his departure.

Kamo, Romaine and Josh all bring different qualities to the side but don’t possess a surge, that rapid and powerful change of gear over the first five yards to make things happen from deep going forward.

Woods, who one of my managers would have hailed as a “busy little xxxxxx”, brought an urgency to proceedings and was often a catalyst to make something happen in a game that had been predictable and far too one-paced, like recent home games.

There’s now more pressure on Sergi and Said to provide the spark for Ollie or Neal to hit the target, and let’s face it, if they don’t score we hardly have prolific finishers elsewhere in the side. Maybe another area for January’s shopping list?

Referees will continue to be poor, sides will continue to try to kick, niggle, time-waste and hit on the counter because to take us on at football is a much tougher ask. Bottom line is the only way to combat it is to play that football even better. And quicker.

Jim Levack



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  1. Greville waterman

    Perhaps we were spoiled by the three games e won during Woods’s suspension late last season. The midfield is not firing on all cylinders and it is particularly worrying that we now seem to have a home and away midfield with Nico and Kamo providing the legs and battling.

    Da Silva seems to be the big hope which is particularly dangerous and unfair on someone yet to play a single EFL game. Macleod is peripheral at best and totally anonymous away from home and he and McEachran also have their future to consider as neither has yet to sign a new contract and the longer this stasis continues the less chance of them doing so.

    Personally I would be playing Josh, Sawyers and Kamo for the time being which would enable Sawyers to play more in and around the final third where he is most dangerous but the balance is not right and we are currently getting bogged down and not moving the ball quickly enough.

  2. Jon

    In reply to the article I don’t believe the last three games were badly refereed. Football fans have an acute myopic and biased view when it comes to officials – always have – see the Leeds game!

    Our problems seem to be that the players are just not good enough at this level currently – and I’m prepared to criticise some of favourite players to make the point.
    Canos and Watkins are surely in the side to get past players on the wing – which they rarely or never do. Their other contributions to the game seem negligible at the moment. You can’t fault the effort but the quality is lacking.
    Romaine Sawyers strolls around chewing gum and avoiding tackles. He’s one-paced, easily over-run and should contribute more goals.
    Macleod’s our set-piece / dead ball / corner taker – and he’s awful. Often disappears for long stretches during matches. Lightweight.
    The entire defence are vulnerable to a crossed ball – especially at the end of matches – often resulting in loss of points and matches.
    Tactically we’re obsessed with retaining possession – often creating dangerous situations (to ourselves) out of nothing. Sometimes we just need to boot the ball up the field, gain ground, and clear the danger – which we seem pathologically reluctant to do. And this leads us to an overall major problem – there’s no Plan B or Plan C. We’re extremely limited tactically.

    Opposition teams know exactly how Brentford will play. If you want to beat us it’s a relatively simple plan – press high, swamp the midfield and get as many crosses/corners in as possible. We don’t currently have the quality of player – or players in sufficient form – to overcome this. Especially as we’re picking players from a small squad comparatively. Without Neil Maupay and his somewhat surprising clinical finishing this season (and excellent all round team play) we would be nowhere. And he’s in a team that hardly plays to a strikers strengths. It’s very rare for a Bees forward to score 20+ goals in a season. In fact only two players have done so in the last twenty years.

    As it is we’re heading for a mid-table finish. My prediction is 11th. Then we can watch everyone celebrate a ‘top half’ finish again, despite that fact that this would represent a constant decline since Warburton took us to fifth place five years previously.

    Brentford, through necessity, are trying to get to the Premier League on the cheap. It aint gonna happen. This will be a big shame and eternal lost opportunity. I’ve supported the Bees since 1974, and one final season at Griffin Park whilst in the Premier League would have been beautiful.

    My solution? Come up with a tactical Plan B – which involves moving the ball forward quickly, and getting our strikers behind the opposition defence. Our forwards rarely have a ball to run onto.
    And don’t sell anyone in January! I still believe the current crop of players can achieve their potential, raise their game, but they need two or three key additions.

    Easier said than done of-course – and maybe a financial gamble that can’t be taken with the new stadium looming – but here’s hoping!


  3. Mj

    Our early season form has obviously had teams taking notice of us and so now we need to have a plan b for when plan a is not working .maybe playing with a bit more width like we did against leeds .also we need to defend better against balls hoofed into our goal area as watching our goals against is like watching an action replay.

  4. Brigjton Bee

    For me Jon has summerised it all

  5. Jim Levack

    Sorry Jon but you lost me at ‘I don’t believe the last three games were badly refereed’.
    I don’t ever recall seeing three worse refs in succession for many many years… and I’ve been going since the 60s.
    Otherwise agree with some, but not all, of your points.

  6. David Carney

    Far too much over analysis and teeth gnashing going on.
    Every team seems to lose its way for a few matches during a season, mostly for no apparent reason and then usually recovers and is stronger for the experience.
    Opposition teams should always probe for the weakness and exploit to maximum self advantage. There are 23 teams analysing working out how to blunt a rampant Brentford, all with a team of expert football brains. Brentford have its own brains trust, it has skilful and competitive players with personal pride to protect and the will to win of every elite athlete.
    Not one single player would have the impact on team performances that Jim has credited to Ryan Woods and that is a great insult to the remainder of the team to suggest as such.
    Before too long the past few results will probably be looked upon as a shaky few weeks as Brentford return to their winning ways.
    I find it amazing that a few weeks ago there was a general supporter self confidence that Brentford would earn a top 6 finish this season. Based on the comments above it would seem the world has irrevocably changed and Brentford are doomed.
    Cold shower time again.

  7. Greville Waterman

    We just need a bit of luck allied to a determination not to concede. These are two tough away games from which we got 6 points last season and scored 5 goals. I would take 4 points and a couple of clean sheets to get us back on the right track.

  8. Jon

    In reply Jim – I have to respectfully disagree again regarding the refs in the last three matches. They gave fair and even performances. There was the odd mistake of-course – which is normal. The Leeds fans reactions post-match were particularly desperate. They seem to think it’s their God given right to foul the opposition at Elland Road. The ref decided it wasn’t. And no-one would question the penalty decision much if Ollie Watkins was Gary Lineker.
    I agree Ryan Woods is missed atm – but it will only take Romain Sawyers to spit out the gum, pull up his socks, and grab hold of the midfield for this situation to be rectified. He’s an outstanding talent, and now is the time for him to step up to the plate.

    The rest….well….you’re not a real football fan if you don’t sit around moaning about yer team 😉


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