In a game billed as a relegation six-pointer, the smallest of margins once again let Brentford down in the defeat to fellow strugglers Newcastle United at the weekend.
Playing in front of their buoyant home crowd, the Bees had to come away with at least a point but were undone as early as the 11th minute as Josh Dasilva’s red card put paid to any hopes of preventing their winless run extending to eight Premier League games.
In terms of Newcastle’s two goals, both were avoidable despite the numerical disadvantage – Joelinton scoring from a free header while Joe Willock capitalised on Mathias Jensen’s sloppy corner and Rico Henry’s inability to clear his lines.
The latest loss leaves them joint bottom of the form table (alongside Leeds United) but even more worryingly, just three points off the drop zone having played at least a game more than most of their rivals.
“It’s been a tough run of course. Your body is burning when you lose, it’s just about having that resilience and discipline to get through it,” Brentford boss Thomas Frank said after the defeat.
Real quality is another key component for survival and with the January transfer window signing of Christian Eriksen there is real hope his creative presence will be a much-needed boost.
The Dane’s appearance off the bench was an emotional return 259 days after suffering a cardiac arrest playing for Denmark against Finland at Euro 2020 and there were more than a few glimpses of his world class ability during his 38 minute cameo.
Such is Brentford’s precarious position, there will be pressure on him to deliver immediately but Eriksen’s unique attributes, particularly at set-pieces, could be the difference for the remainder of the campaign.
Frank also reverted to a 4-3-3 formation against Newcastle, a set-up that should have been utilised much earlier in the campaign – if a right-back had been sufficiently sourced in either of the transfer windows.
The lack of investment at right wing-back has severely hindered Brentford with the inexperience of Mads Roerslev and deployment of winger Sergi Canos in the role both struggling at times.
Saturday saw Kristoffer Ajer, predominantly a centre-back, in the right-back role with the Norwegian struggling in the position against the pace and trickery of Newcastle’s Ryan Fraser.
Brentford’s style has always been about playing on the front foot but since the turn of the year their football has become stale and toothless.
Their only point since the win over Aston Villa on January 2 was the goalless draw at home to Crystal Palace where, despite having an xG of 1.91, Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa struggled in front of goal.
The absence of top scorer Ivan Toney with a calf injury over the last few games has been another frustrating set-back, but with both him and Eriksen pushing for starts in a 4-3-3 set-up, a corner could be turned sooner rather than later.
In the 5-3-2 set-up, Toney has often found himself as the creator with the less reliant finisher Mbeumo finding himself on the end of chances.
However, in a 4-3-3, Toney should be the target man with Brentford playing to his strengths as the focal point of their attack and getting the majority of the goalscoring opportunities.
With the next two games against relegation rivals Norwich City and Burnley, the margins for error and squandering chances need to be quickly addressed if Brentford want to prolong their stay in the Premier League for more than just one season.