The Big Match Preview – Brentford (H)

Last week was a less than ideal start to the season at Leeds but we have the chance to set the record straight as Brentford visit the Betannia for the first home game of the season. Last weekend can be seen as somewhat of a learning curve and a shocking introduction to the division, although many of us knew that it would not be quite as easy as the bookies made out.

For anyone who has seen the Oscar-winning Moneyball starring Brad Pitt, Brentford have adopted the same way of scouting and acquiring players that has seen so much success in baseball, and they’re starting to reap the rewards. Owner and fan Matthew Benham made his money through gambling and daringly decided that the way to match teams with greater spending power was to look for the things that nobody else could see, players deemed not good enough by the Premier League big boys or from abroad.

This is a model which has brought progression, although it does mean that annual squad rebuilding is inevitable as bigger clubs see the potential in players once deemed not good enough, with the likes of Andre Gray and Scott Hogan both leaving for north of £10 million each after being plucked from the lower leagues. The current crop started the season off well as they destroyed Rotherham 5-1 at Griffin Park last weekend, although the relevance of that result is yet to be determined as they have larger tests coming soon.

They implemented a narrow 4-2-3-1 formation in that game, looking to play the ball through the middle and dominate possession, which they did with a 70% share. One time Stoke target and Barcelona protege Sergi Canos and star man Ollie Watkins played either side of Neal Maupay, with Romaine Sawyers operating as a box-to-box player, Josh McEachran as a deeper lying playmaker and Lewis Macleod as an enforcer of sorts.

Whilst this system worked against one of the division’s lesser teams, expect it to change as they move from a possession based side to a more defensive one, with one of the midfielders potentially making way for a more natural number 4, with Ryan Woods available after his move to Swansea collapsed.

Stoke will also have to adapt their system however, after Leeds’ attacking midfield trio were able to find space in the pockets, mainly between the full back and centre back, directly leading to two goals. Therefore, a holding midfielder is key to marshalling those areas of the pitch where Brentford’s inside forwards will look to pick up the ball and neither Ndiaye, Allen or Etebo are capable of fulfilling this role just yet. In terms of us exploiting them, Bojan and Tom Ince will be key to success.

Movement between the thirds should cause issues, particularly on their left side, where centre back Yoann Barbet is deputising at left back and just in front of the defence, stretching the centre backs for Afobe to run in behind and allowing space for Bojan and Ince on the interior, with McClean and Bauer staying pinned to the touchline to create from wide.

By George Elthringam

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