Ivan Toney’s Premier League career may only be in its infancy but it has already brought plaudits and admiring glances as the Brentford forward has excellently adapted to life in the top flight.
However, most of this praise has been littered with a slight undertone of surprise, particularly when talking about the forward’s all-around play -doing a disservice to his incredible Championship campaign last year.
Everyone knew the 25-year-old could score goals, but his all-around ability has been evident from the very first moment he put on the red and white shirt of Brentford.
To anyone who has watched him, Toney’s passing ability is not something revelatory but one of the main facets of his game – when he is not scoring goals, he is creating chances for those around him.
His one-touch passing is extremely accurate, while his talent for finding the right pass in the final third is evident from his 10 assists last season – no striker assisted more goals, and only four other players managed more overall.
His continued link-up play with Bryan Mbeumo has shown he is more than capable of picking a pass, creating multiple chances for his strike partner against Brighton and assisting him for the second goal against Wolves.
Simply put, the Brentford forward is merely picking up where he left off in the Championship.
Another aspect of Toney’s game that is sometimes overlooked is his pressing, a key component of Thomas Frank’s system and something the forward has greatly improved on since arriving from Peterborough United in August 2020.
Toney had big shoes to fill in those of Ollie Watkins who was repeatedly praised for his energy and positioning in the press alongside the 25 goals he scored during the 2019/20 campaign.
In comparison, Toney won the ball back 29 times in the final third of the pitch last season, good enough for a top-15 finish in the league and has continued this trend so far in the Premier League – currently sitting joint third for possession won in the final third with six successful takeaways.
Ivan Toney is more than just a statistician’s dream though, it’s the small things that don’t always show up in the stats column that makes him such a special player – he’s inventive and brave, shown by his willingness to shoot from halfway on more than one occasion, including nearly pulling it off against Brighton.
Ultimately though, as a forward, he will always be judged on his goals with the step-up from the Championship to the Premier League something not every player has successfully made in the past.
Some, like Chris Wood who was the Championship’s top scorer in 2016/17 for Leeds United, have managed double-digits every year since making the move to Burnley in 2017 while Teemu Pukki also impressed in 2019, with 11 goals for the season.
Others have been less successful, with players like Aleksandar Mitrovic and Matej Vydra struggling after their top-scoring campaigns. Mitrovic managed just three goals last year, while Vydra has scored six goals in three years since moving to Burnley from Derby County.
While all these players clearly have the ability to score goals, none of them quite compare to the all around game that Toney possesses.
He may not replicate the thirty-plus goals of last season, but he will definitely establish himself as one of the best forwards in the Premier League this season.
And with Brentford’s first big test coming up against Liverpool and the imposing presence of Virgil van Dijk on Saturday, there will be no better place for Toney to prove his credentials once again.