As Brentford get set to host Cardiff City tomorrow evening, many of their supporters will be hoping for another Griffin Park goalfest similar to their last home outing.
The Bees’ 7-0 demolition of Luton Town meant other no Championship side had scored more goals in the past ten games, bagging 21 and sitting fourth in the form league table.
Those figures are in stark contrast to the start of the season where, having lost 25-goal marksman Neal Maupay to Brighton in a £20m summer move, the Bees had scored just twice in their opening five Championship encounters.
Despite last weekend’s disappointing defeat at Sheffield Wednesday, Brentford are still only one goal shy of last season’s goal tally at the same stage. And, despite finishing the campaign in 11th place, only the three promoted sides and West Brom had scored more goals.
While the Bees currently sit ninth and are two points off the top six, they were languishing in mid-table at the same point last term – 12 points adrift of the Play-Off places with 13 more goals conceded and a paltry goal difference of plus two.
Manager Thomas Frank can understandably be delighted at how his front three – Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma and Bryan Mbeumo appear to have filled the void left by Maupay.
The trio have spent the majority of their careers playing as wingers, committing to one wing for the majority of a match and providing width for fellow midfielders and strikers to exploit.
This season their respective roles have expanded to that of wide forwards to compensate for the loss of Maupay.
The distinction between wingers and wide forwards can be best explained in their interchangeability and fluidity with one another.
Watkins has rarely positioned himself as a traditional ‘Number 9’ and often picks up space either on the left or right, allowing either Benrahma or Mbeumo to occupy central spaces or to double-up and create overloads against opposition full-backs.
By contrast, Benrahma and Mbeumo start attacking moves out wide as they have been accustomed to do as ‘traditional’ wingers.
They then link up with their full backs or central midfielders to cut inside and fashion shooting or crossing opportunities in the gaps their width opens up – presenting the likes of Josh Dasilva goalscoring opportunities he duly exploited by claiming a hat-trick against Luton.
The movement between Benrahma and Mbeumo is further enhanced by the fact the pair are playing on opposite sides of their dominant foot (i.e. left-footed wingers playing on the right).
Add to this the general interchanges among the front three, it is little wonder defences have struggled to cope with Brentford’s attacking superiority this season.
It has resulted in Mbeumo contributing three goals in his past five games with Benrahma chipping in with three goals and four assists in the last eight.
However, it is Watkins’ positional change from winger to striker which has seen the most significant change in Brentford’s attacking fortune.
What is most interesting about Watkins’ game is his predatory hunger for goals coupled with his technical and physical prowess as a winger and, while Frank acknowledges there is still plenty of room for improvement, the 23-year-old certainly has a bright future.
Modern-day football is littered with potent, fluid attacking tridents – only time will tell if this specific combination can lead Brentford to a top six finish but certainly the stats and current performances suggest they won’t be too far away.