The Brentford View

brentfordWith the 15/16 Championship season underway, The Football Lab spoke to Brentford fan Ruairi Ward, who shares his thoughts on the Bees’ chances this year.

Brentford have surpassed all expectations since coming into the Championship, reaching the play-off places when they had been widely tipped for a relegation battle. How fondly will you look back on last season?

Last season was certainly one of the best in Brentford’s history, playing great free flowing attacking football whilst mixing it up with the best in the second division. Ultimately it ended in disappointment in the play offs but just making it that far was a great achievement.

It was announced in February that manager Mark Warburton would leave due to disagreements with the owner, Matthew Benham, on the club’s controversial plans for a statistics-based recruitment policy. What are your thoughts on this?

When the news came through that Warburton was going to leave it was certainly a shock. He did an incredible job at the club, he literally could not have done better. This new statistics based approach is in some ways a risk and only time will tell. However, it has already been successfully trialled in Denmark with FC Midtjylland who went on to win the Danish league; so it has proven to work well.

New head coach Marinus Dijhuizen has said that he wants a squad that is bigger than the one his predecessor, Mark Warburton had. Would you question this, given that the more successful teams in the Championship tend to have a settled side?

A big squad can come in handy come January time when the season drags on and player get injured or fatigued. A settled side can also be beneficial as well as the fact that keeping everyone happy in a large squad is problematic. A key example of this was Burnley last year who kept the same starting 11 pretty much the whole season, it worked well mostly, yet I think signs of fatigue were evident near the end. I personally think that a big squad is better. The more quality players, the fresher the squad will be.

Rasmus Ankersen and Phil Giles have been appointed as Brentford’s new co-directors of football. Do you believe their arrival will benefit the club?

Although I don’t know much about Giles, I have heard great things about Ankersen. He is known globally for studying under-appreciated players who have loads of potential which can only be beneficial for Brentford and finding transfer targets.

One club man Kevin O’Connor has retired from playing, after a 16 year career with Brentford. Are you pleased he is staying on in a coaching capacity?

I think that it is great that Kev is staying on. He is a club legend and it would have been harsh for us to just kick him out once he was no longer good enough to play for the club. Its a win win situation for all.

Goalkeeper David Button gained many plaudits for his performances last season. Deservedly so, in your view?

Button was excellent last season; I would say that he is one of the best shot stoppers in the league. His distribution has greatly improved throughout and I think that he is only going to improve. I’m sure that it wont be long before premier league clubs start looking at him; I think Aston Villa already have!

A lot of the goals Brentford conceded last season were due to individual errors. Is this something the new coaches will look to stamp out, or will they accept the occasional mistake so that the players have the confidence to keep playing out from the back?

From what I saw in the recent friendly win against Stoke, the organisation at the back has greatly improved. It is clearly impossible to fully rule out individual errors but you can attempt to minimise them through increased planning and organisation. With new signings such as Bjelland having lots of experience, I expect these mistakes to be minimal this year.

New centre-backs Yoann Barbet and Andreas Bjelland (now out with a long-term injury) are both comfortable on the ball, and like to carry it out of defence. Do you think they will suit Brentford’s tactical setup?

I think the signing of Bjelland in particular is one of our most impressive in history. He’s got 20+ caps for a strong Denmark side and was playing at the highest level of Dutch football last season. He’s great on the ball and in the air and think that he will help create a brilliant defensive unit. Similarly Barbet is also good on the ball which I believe will suit our new set up. We will be able to pass it out from the back and keep possession rather than simply punting it up the pitch.

Last season, matches involving Brentford saw on average 1.17 goals in the first half, and 1.8 in the second half. Are the team right to open up so much in the second half of games?

In terms of opening up in the second half, I think that it depends on the match situation. Clearly if you are holding onto a narrow lead it would not make sense, but if we are behind or level then it would make sense. We scored a large number of late goals last season which I believe was down to good fitness levels and our attacking football.

New signing Josh McEachran has had attitude problems in the past. Is this something that concerns you?

I think that singing McEachran for around half a million was a good bit of business. He clearly has immense potential and Brentford is a great club for him to grow and develop. I don’t know much about his attitude problems, but i’m sure Brentford will crack down on any such issues. The key issue at the moment is that he has recently been injured and is rumoured to be out for around 3 months!

Konstantin Kerschbaumer has joined the club this summer. Do you think he will be a constant in Brentford’s midfield this season?

When we signed Kerschbaumer I had not heard of him or the club he was from (a sign of the new times at Brentford!) but in the pre-season match against Stoke I was pleasantly surprised. He played in the central midfield role/box to box. He was a real work horse, didn’t stop going till the final whistle, full of energy. On that basis, it would be my guess that he may well be a regular in the starting eleven throughout the season; but at this stage it is very difficult to gage what the starting team will be come first day against Ipswich.

Attacking midfielder Akaki Gogia was highly-rated by fans of Halluscher FC, a third division club in Germany, due to his dribbling ability and eye for goal. However, do you think it will be a challenge for him to step up to the Championship?

Gogia has settled in nicely in pre season, already scoring. He is technically good and very attacking. Of course, the step up from German 3rd division to English 2nd division will be evident and he may possibly struggle against the opposition defence. I think the key is patience, the same with all new signings. It will take time for them to settle in, but once they do, the rewards should be great.

What are your thoughts ahead of the Championship season as a whole? Who do you think will do well? Which teams might struggle?

As always it is very difficult to predict the Championship; it is one of the most competitive leagues I know of. Big budget teams such as QPR will be interesting to see as you never know how they will work out. I believe that Hull will go up; teams such as Middlesbrough, Ipswich, Derby and of course Brentford will be in the mix. At the other end of the table, I see Rotherham struggling; they just stayed up last year and can see them falling down this year. Teams such as Reading could possibly be in the relegation mix but it is very hard to say. Of the teams that came up, they all seem fairly strong and prepared so I think they will do better than most would imagine.

Where will you finish?

Top 6.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

Having controversially parted company with manager Mark Warburton, Brentford will capture the attention of the neutrals. Aspects of the club’s philosophy are correct, and the fact key men have stayed suggests belief in their avant-garde transfer policy. However, the Bees lack depth up front, and an otherwise bloated squad may not allow for tactical consistency. A season of transition. 10th