Thomas Frank needs to be braver with his Brentford set-up following dramatic Watford win

4 min

Brentford’s last-gasp win over Watford on Friday night once again enhanced the Bees’ Premier League survival credentials as Thomas Frank’s side comfortably sit in mid-table.

Without even reaching the half-way stage, Brentford have 20 points from the opening 16 games, amassing plenty of plaudits along the way from statement wins over Arsenal and West Ham and an impressive come-from-behind draw with Liverpool.

But what is even more pleasing is that, despite making their presence felt among England’s elite, it could have been even better for the side.

After beating West Ham, Brentford endured a torrid spell of four successive league defeats with the nadir being the 2-1 home defeat to Norwich City.

The previous defeat away to Burnley was also hard to take while the subsequent 3-3 draw at Newcastle, albeit snapping the losing streak, left a sense of frustration after twice taking the lead. 

Although dominating possession throughout their poor run, Brentford were continually undone by a combination of poor first-half showings, sloppy defending and the absence of key personnel through injury.

Even their first win in six league games against Everton was a nervy and ugly affair that was only separated by Ivan Toney’s coolly converted spot-kick in the 24th minute.

The following defeat at Tottenham, although arguably to be expected, saw a worryingly lethargic performance. However, the second-half showing to salvage a point at Leeds was far more encouraging.

Friday’s game against Watford was a perfect example of Brentford’s recent performances – controlling possession and looking composed but struggling to find the right pass in the final third.

Of course, the absence of Ivan Toney due to Covid can be partly responsible for Brentford’s lack of a focal point – although the fact the forward has not found the net from open play since February suggests Brentford’s problems lie much deeper.

Emmanuel Dennis’ first-half header had given Watford a lead they appeared comfortable in maintaining before Frank made decisive changes to first the personnel and then the tactics.

READ MORE: Shandon Baptiste’s first-ever Premier League goal could be the watershed moment his career – and Brentford – need

Marcus Forss’ introduction immediately gave Brentford more attacking impetus, replacing a struggling Yoane Wissa who had failed to make an impact in finding the decisive holes between Watford’s defence and midfield.

Even more crucial was Brentford’s third and final substitution which saw Frank Onyeka replace Rico Henry in the 77th minute to change the entire complexion of the game. 

With more bodies pushing forward in a more conventional 4-4-2 shape, combined with more urgency and directness, Brentford scored twice in the final ten minutes to snatch a win from the jaws of defeat.

First Forss’ flick-on found Pontus Jansson to equalise before fellow substitute Saman Ghoddos drew a needless foul from William Ekong to gift Bryan Mbeumo the winner from the penalty spot.

It’s not the first time Brentford have reverted to a back four and committed more men forward during a game to great success.

The tactic worked well against both Liverpool and West Ham and barring the goalkeeping heroics of Edouard Mendy would have had a similar effect against Chelsea. 

With this in mind, perhaps it’s time for Brentford to adopt the same front foot approach from the beginning of games or before finding themselves a goal down against lesser sides.

It’s not even as if a back three has given the side more defensive protection having conceded eight goals in three games against the bottom three. 

Meanwhile, the extra man in midfield or up front would still help keep hold of the ball effectively, but also add to Brentford’s press higher up the field.

READ MORE: Bryan Mbeumo: Is the Brentford forward misfiring or just unlucky?

It would also allow more space for playmakers Christian Norgaard and Mathias Jensen to create instead of often finding themselves with few options for a pass forward and being forced to play backwards or risk giving the ball away.  

Brentford need to convert possession into ruthless domination and although Thomas Frank has expressed his desire to play with a set system week in and week out, the improved results when he does change formation in-game speak for themselves.

With half of the mythical 40-points already achieved, there is a real opportunity for Brentford to kick-on and look further up the table rather than down for the remaining 22 games of the campaign.

Frank has proven he is a manager not afraid of making changes when necessary but perhaps it’s time to shake off the shackles of pragmatic conservatism and really go for it for the remainder of the season.

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