Although many pundits predicted Brentford would suffer the curse of ‘second season syndrome’, Thomas Frank’s side not only rewrote the script this season but tore it up.
Vying for European football until the final day, being the only team to beat champions Manchester City both home and away and finishing ninth in the table, is an unbelievable achievement that cannot be understated.
And that’s considering the club have one of the smallest budgets in the Premier League while also losing Christian Eriksen to Manchester United in the run-up to the new campaign after he inspired the side to safety last term.
However, Brentford’s ability to adapt never ceases to amaze and Eriksen’s departure was quickly forgotten with an influx of exciting new signings in the form of Aaron Hickey, Mikkel Damsgaard and Keane Lewis-Potter.
One signing that perhaps went under the radar was free agent Ben Mee following the expiry of his Burnley contract. He brings an immense amount of experience to an already impressive defence and arguably became one of the signings of the season.
The campaign began with an excellent comeback draw at Leicester followed by a 4-0 drubbing of Manchester United as the Bees showed no ill-effects from Eriksen’s departure – Mathias Jensen producing a sublime performance against the latter to confirm himself as his fellow Dane’s natural successor.
Both games demonstrated Brentford’s quality as well as the tactical genius of Frank with his willingness to adapt and change not just dependent on the opposition, but also with in-game tweaks to ensure his side always have a chance to win regardless of the opponent.
After a start which saw Brentford lose just one in six, the next run of games saw heavy defeats to Arsenal (3-0), Newcastle (5-1) and Aston Villa (4-0), bringing about some cause for concern.
Yet Frank remained calm and resolute throughout, a resilience that trickled down to his side who, after claiming a hard-fought draw at Nottingham Forest, would go on to defeat champions Manchester City 2-1 at the Etihad just before the World Cup break.
Influential throughout was Ivan Toney and, although he would have been disappointed not to make the England squad for the mid-season World Cup, he was later dealt further bad news by being charged with 232 counts of breaching the league’s anti-betting policies.
Facing a lengthy ban, it left both the player and club in limbo heading into the January transfer window but in the end only talented winger Kevin Schade joined on loan from Freiburg with a view to a permanent deal in the summer.
Much of Brentford’s transfer inactivity was down to their fine form which eventually saw them go on an incredible 12-game unbeaten run, including impressive home wins over Liverpool (3-1) and West London rivals Fulham (3-2).
The run not only saw them cement their place in the Premier League but also presented them with the unlikely opportunity to seal a Europa Conference League spot by finishing seventh in the table.
Despite seeing their unbeaten run come to an end at Everton in March, the Bees were just one point and two places away from Europe before going on to win just once in their next seven games.
Losses to Wolves, Manchester United and Newcastle suddenly made the fight for the Europa Conference an uphill battle but nevertheless, Brentford once again rallied to lose just one of their remaining six games – a 1-0 defeat against Liverpool at Anfield.
A 2-0 win over Chelsea continued the Bees’ dominance at Stamford Bridge while a 3-1 come-from-behind victory over Tottenham also had an extra special feel to it.
As the season headed towards its finale, the Ivan Toney sub-plot also came to a conclusion – the player receiving an eight month ban from all football-related activity, keeping him suspended until January 2024.
Brentford’s final day win over Manchester City, secured by a late Ethan Pinnock strike, may not have been enough to secure European football but it was still a season to celebrate in TW8.
Having exceeded everyone’s expectations and, with a relatively young squad and a manager hopeful of retaining the majority of it, Brentford have established themselves as a formidable Premier League foe that even the champions fear.