Brentford Season Preview: Bees on the up?

Over the last two years, Brentford have teased us by playing in patches some of the best football in the division – but often when it’s too late to achieve anything of substance. Is the challenge now to repeat those performances when the pressure is on? Supporter Luke James Furber discusses life at Griffin Park.

Firstly, thanks for having me again. I’d never pretend to be an expert, I’m just a fan, with a fan’s perspective.

I agree sometimes when the likes of Jota, Canos, etc. decide to turn it on we are capable of a very attractive style of football. For large parts of last season we played with a 5-3-2, which felt very rigid and defensive. I felt this was because Dean Smith maybe felt he did not have the right players to play his preferred 4-3-3. But with the return of the Spanish wingers over Christmas (Jota and Canos)- the shackles were off! I believe we were one of the highest scorers among all the English leagues in 2017.

As you say, it is important we go for it from the beginning of the season this year. It will be extremely interesting to see how much intent we have against Sheffield Utd on the opening day.

You’ve got Sergi Canos tied down to a long-term contract and Florian Jozefzoon has agreed a one-year extension. Good options on the left wing?

I was in dreamland the day Canos returned to signed a long-term contract with us- I seriously never thought the rumours were true. I remember the first few times I saw him play at GP (on loan from Liverpool) during the ‘dark days’ (and pitch problems!) of Marinus Dijkhuizen. He (like Jota) is a real bums-on-seats player. He has immensely quick feet, electric pace and a superb attitude. For £2.5m, he is a steal and I think he is one-to-watch this season.

Florian Jozefzoon (FloJo) is a bit of an enigma. We bought him on the back end of injury issues (very modern day Brentford thing to do) for a relatively good price and on a strangely short contract (one year, with option to extend by a year). He is now fully fit and will hopefully have a full pre-season behind him. Again, I have been very impressed by the quality our recruitment team (Ankerson, Giles and Scott) have been able to bring in. He is lighten quick, direct with the ball and can use both feet (play either wing). I look forward to seeing how/if he progresses.

The front three of Canos, Lasse Vibe and Jota interchanged wonderfully at times last year. Do you think the latter will stay?

Extremely topical question, and one all bees fans will be thinking about. I cannot speak for everyone but the relationship between Jota and bees fans is a special one. He came to us during our first season in the Championship and, after a short settling in period, he became instrumental in reaching the play-offs. After that season things became extremely complicated. He had some personal issues (all very hush hush) and went out on loan to Spain after signing a new (ish) contract with an option for Brentford to extend his contract by a year (optional). We did, and he technically has one year remaining on his contract. Squeaky-bums time. The reception Jota got at GP on his return was a very good one.

Jota’s form has been incredible since his return at Christmas, scoring and assisting for fun. It has been more than that though. It is the small things that make him my favourite bees player ever. The way he humiliated ex-bee captain (and now QPR player!) with a sublime dink over the head to go on to score against our rivals; the way he now has a song (‘Jota, in the last minute’) for scoring many goals in extra time (one of which against Foolham @ Craven Cottage in a 4-1 thrashing!); the way he defies reality by escaping the pursuit of multiple hurly-burly 6ft whatevers somehow with the ball still at his feet after seemingly on a weekly basis; his fantastic Alice-band hair-do. I could go on!

Put it this way: he will likely go (at least by January window) but I really really really want him to stay. He is our best player.

Nico Yennaris has signed a new four-year deal. With the attacking quality you had last season, has his development gone under the radar?

I have to be honest, I am still slightly unsure about Nico. He is obviously a solid Championship player, I am not arguing that at all. When he first arrived he got a lot of abuse (rather unfairly) and he has definitely proved those people wrong.
This time last year I think I was at the peak of how I felt about Nico. I remember feeling he was one of the players I thought would really push on last season, and raise a few eyebrows in the process. Similar to how I currently feel about Canos, Woods and Rico Henry. I think his progress was steady.

I like that we have him on a long-contract now. I hope he contributes just as steadily as he did last season. I view him as a good player pushing for a place – but not an automatic in the first eleven yet.

New signing Kamohelo Mokotjo was one of the best midfielders in Holland last year. Now he’s come in, are you more comfortable with the idea of Ryan Woods going to Sunderland?

I don’t think Ryan Woods is going anywhere. He recently signed a 5-year contract and unless a ‘silly’ offer came in I seriously don’t think he is going anywhere. Of course it is possible as Sunderland may spend big as Newcastle did last year. But I think it is unlikely to happen this summer.

I am very excited about Kamohelo ‘the General’ Mokotjo though. Best passing stats in top Dutch league last year, and apparently fairly capable of breaking up play in front of defence. Kudos to the recruitment team as this is exactly what we needed last year.

Goalkeeper Daniel Bentley caught the eye last season. Though Jack Bonham has left on loan, could it be difficult for new signing Luke Daniels to take the number one jersey?

Yes, I think it will be difficult for Daniels to get the ‘number 1’ jersey. I trust Matthew Benham and co. have a plan with this signing. But a 29 year old keeper coming to Brentford to push a younger keeper for his place. When that young keeper is pretty bloody good seems bizarre to me. Maybe it was his best option? Maybe he believes he can usurp Bentley? Who knows, but it is good from my point of view as if there are injuries/poor form in that area we are well covered.

From the outside, it looked like right-back was the strongest area of your defence with Maxime Colin and Josh Clarke. Are you surprised you’ve signed Henrik Dalsgaard, but not a left-back or centre-back?

To be honest I was surprised by this one. To me, it either means they know Colin is going. Or, they see Dalsgaard as a decent tactical option. He is big and aggressive and gets forward a lot. Apparently, he uses his physicality at set pieces. So maybe they view him as a different tactical option against teams like Ipswich/Cardiff or any other ‘hoof’ teams, which have caused us some frustrating problems in recent years. I also think there was a link between Dalsgaard and our current assistant coach Thomas Frank.

Harlee Dean has been at Brentford for five years now. At a time when you’re signing a lot of young talent, is it important to have one or two leaders like him for continuity?

Yes. We need to keep Harlee. He epitomises Brentford and is our captain and leader. His leadership skills seem very strong for a 25 year old. He had the best season of his life last year and won player of the year. He showed great mental strength to do so well considering Jake Bidwell was the preferred choice for captain the year before (before leaving for our rivals QPR!)… it was always a strange choice to go for Jake in my opinion but hey-ho.

I imagine there is some interest in Harlee as he is coming to the end of his contract but I feel bees should be doing their upmost to re-sign him. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if the powers that be look at his value, and what else we could get for the money, and decide to cash in.

Where will you finish? You said 1st-9th last summer while we went with 13th…

This is our 4th season in the Champo. We have finished 6th, 9th and 10th so far. Our transfer activity has definitely gone up a level this summer so I have to say I think progress is on the cards… I think we’ll get play-offs- 5/6th something like that.

The Football Lab’s Verdict

These are exciting times for Brentford. Captain Dean remains to provide experience in a talented young side, while midfielder Mokotjo adds grit to guile. The Bees might not be the biggest spenders, but they make up for that with clever recruitment and a fluid system that enables attacking players to flourish. 6th