Brentford Season Preview: play-off push?

With the 2018-19 Championship season coming up, The Football Lab spoke to Brentford fan Luke Furber (@beeLJF).

Last season, you averaged 17 shots per game – by far the most in the Championship – but only scored 62 goals – the joint-ninth most. Did the team miss out on the top six due to a lack of quality in front of goal, or simply bad luck?

The whole Brentford recruitment model seems to be heavily geared towards players who create goal scoring chances. Which the stats show we do (a lot!). However, for all the great build-up play bees fans have become rather nonchalant about- it can be frustrating watching us not scoring more often. On the whole, I wouldn’t say scoring goals is something I worry about. We had an atrocious start to the season last year and I think ultimately that cost us play-offs.

Ollie Watkins had arguably the best season of his career to date in 2017-18. Did he add flair and quality cutting in from that left flank?

In my opinion, Ollie will end up in the premier league. A bit like Andre Gray he has the attributes you would imagine to be effective there. He’s quick AND strong. He can use both feet. He’s an intelligent player. He can dribble and frequently runs directly at defences. I could go on. Great player and we will get a good return on the £1.8m we paid for him! The only bad thing I would say is he does seem to be a bit of a form player- he frequently ‘goes missing’ for games.

Florian Jozefzoon appears to offer pace and verve down that right flank. With Said Benrahma coming in plus Sergi Canos and Alan Judge back fit, are you excited by your wide forward options?

Interestingly, over the last 24 hours it’s looking like we are on the verge of selling FloJo for around £4.5m. In my opinion, that is great business for a 27 year old in the final year of his contract with a history of ACL injuries. We got him for around £1m…
As you say, we have an arsenal of young talent on the wings in Canos, Judge, Watkins, Chiedozie Ogbene and most recently Benrahma (who I know very little about). It is an area I’d say we have very good cover.

It felt like you perhaps missed that powerful striker – a bit like Aleksandar Mitrovic at Fulham – capable of offering something different. Can you rely on Neal Maupay?

Maupay had a topsy-turvy season last season. I think he showed his age in a lot of ways. He is very raw but has huge potential in my opinion. He never stops running. As the season went on and his confidence began to grow he seemed to gain more composure. He ended up as top goal scorer with 12 goals. I would agree he certainly lacks physicality (especially in the air). We have struggled for a target man over the past few years with an almost comedy succession of them. Proschwitz was more interested in partying and Hoffman always looked destined to fail in hinds sight.

We have a youth player coming through called Marcus Forss who could be the answer – but for the last few seasons we simply haven’t really had a target man as an option…

Daniel Bentley had an impressive 2016-17 season after signing from Southend. Did he maintain those standards last year?

Yes, he is a solid goalkeeper and popular at Griffin Park. I imagine we will get decent money for him when he decides to move on. I have equal hopes for his replacement coming through the youth ranks. Current England youth international goalkeeper-Ellery Balcombe.

Right-back Henrik Dalsgaard became the first Bees player to perform at a World Cup. Is that a sign of the club’s growing stature within the game?

It felt surreal. I remember watching Brentford play in L2 games with 2-3 thousand attendance. I remember losing decent players to bigger clubs for pittance. Like Deon Burton and Nicky Forster.
I was sat there watching him compete at the World Cup quietly smiling thinking about how far we have come in the past 5 years or so.

New boy Ezri Konsa is very much a ball-playing centre-back. Are you excited by his prospective partnership with captain John Egan, or could Chris Mepham keep his place?

Again, weirdly in the past 24 hours it is looking increasingly likely we have sold Egan for around £4m. In my opinion this is a great bit of business for a player we got for less than £1m. This would leave us with Mepham (recently rejected over £10m bid from Bournemouth), Konsa (England youth new boy) Barbet and Mads Sorensen (promoted from youth who looks like a tank). Personally, I’m glad Egan and Andreas Bjelland are gone it opens a door for others to get a go at the back.

You don’t have too many obvious natural left-backs in the squad, with Yoann Barbet a centre-back by trade and Rico Henry a winger. After a productive spell at Cheltenham, could Ilias Chatzitheodoridis get a chance?

I’ve always rated him from what I’ve seen but it’s looking less and less likely. Stranger things have happened though. With Moses Odubajo pre season training with us and possibly singing that would maybe offer some more cover at full back- I saw him play at left back last night in a friendly against Wycombe and he looked effective as ever…

Midfielder Kamo Mokotjo appears to be highly-rated by fans but he only started 25 games last term. Is that a credit to Nico Yennaris and Ryan Woods?

Ryan Woods is probably our best player. Nico has been a consistent player and can play at right back too (better there in my opinion). 2 seasons ago I genuinely thought Yannaris was going to become a fantastic player but he seems to have plateaued somewhat. I view him as more of a squad player- so I’d say Mokotjo has every chance to cement a place if he gets his head down and takes his chances.

Romaine Sawyers appears to be a favourite of Dean Smith, even though he only scored five goals. Does he conduct play on the edge of the final third as well as he did at Walsall?

Sawyers went from villain to hero last season. He is still somewhat like Marmite for a lot of fans. I like him as an attacking player- capable of moments of magic. His passing can be absolutely sublime. One thing I’ve learnt thought is that if you want to rely on him to do any defending- best of luck! He doesn’t really bother tracking back overly. He suits the role of AM pulling the strings. I have a running joke with my Grandfather that he could ‘do a half for Real Madrid no problem and wouldn’t look too out of place’!

Bees aside, what are your thoughts ahead of the Championship season as a whole? Any potential dark horses for you?

It’s encouraging to think the standard may be a bit lower this year in general- looking forward to an open one! Possibly Derby with Frank Lampard after hearing they’ve signed Mason Mount and a few others- but they usually flop.

Where will you finish?

6th

Thanks to Luke for his answers. The Football Lab’s verdict on Brentford can be found on We Love Betting from late July.