A lot of the time the Championship as a division doesn’t get enough credit. There have been plenty of teams that have gained promotion to England’s top tier and simply not been able to compete, finding themselves cast adrift before the season has really reached its competitive stages. However, recent years have demonstrated why the league is arguably the most overlooked in Europe as teams have come up and established themselves in the top half of the table and finished strongly.
Chris Wilder’s Sheffield United was the first to really cement themselves when they came up, enjoying a great run of form before the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic plagued their second season resulting in untimely relegation. The next was Marcelo Bielsa’s crazy counter-pressing Leeds United, who took to the league like a duck to water regardless of their long absence from the division. The next on this conveyor belt of wonderful footballing sides look to be Brentford — overseen by Danish coach Thomas Frank.
While we don’t expect the West London outfit to be up there in the Paddy Power Premier League winner odds, the way that Frank sets his side up, implementing such a tactically astute system, both flexible and expansive, means they will certainly cause some upsets. Having kicked off the opening day of the season with a 2-0 home win over Arsenal to stamp their mark on the league, they have since taken points from Aston Villa, Wolves and Liverpool to enjoy a brilliant start to the campaign. But what makes Brentford tick? Read on, as we go through their strengths as a side and where they need to improve to continue marking authority as Premier League giant killers.
Strength in depth
One key feature of Frank’s side is their ability to adapt and change their team accordingly to suit their opposition. Their most recent home draw with Liverpool saw them play with a back three, essentially missing out on the Reds considerably stronger midfield and getting joy with their wing-backs. The pace and direct running of the forwards, either Ivan Toney, Bryan Mbeumo or Yoane Wissa cause problems for many Premier League defences and while they may have gone behind in games this season, their stamina and mentality will mean you can never write The Bees off.
There was always going to be some concerns when Brentford left their spiritual home at Griffin Park for their new state-of-the-art Community Stadium. But all troubles surrounding the atmosphere were quickly laid to rest when the side started picking up the points — as well as their endeavours in the playoffs, albeit with restricted capacity.
You get the feeling that for the fans, much like the players, this league is a sense of the unknown and the fearlessness that has been demonstrated in this premature part of the season has got the team over the line. The ground is always going to be booming and if they can keep it up all season there should be no worries for Frank and his side come to the final few games.
The one concern with this side is the number of goals they have already shipped. While two clean sheets so far have been good, some of the chances they have afforded their opposition simply need to be eradicated. When Premier League news reported the Bees were signing Kristoffer Ajer from Celtic, it looked like the defensive mishaps that almost cost them a place in the league were over. However, the Norwegian has struggled at times and needs the senior members of the side like Ethan Pinnock and Pontus Jansson to rally around him in difficult moments. If they can cut out the silly errors, we see plenty more giant killings on the horizon for the tricky London outfit this season.