One win in seven league games may not be the greatest start to the season, but it’s arguably the best Brentford could hope for under the current circumstances.
Ivan Toney’s absence has been much-publicised but what the Bees could not legislate for is the injury losses to a number of other key players in the early months of the campaign.
The under-rated Rico Henry will miss the rest of the season with an ACL injury, Kevin Schade has been declared out for “months” while Josh Dasilva is experiencing another spell on the sidelines in what is fast becoming a stuttering career.
Although they are currently 14th in the table and only three points ahead of the bottom through, there doesn’t feel like there is any panic around the club – and rightly so.
Four draws from those seven games shows the fine margins at play and a scenario where a real match-winner such as Toney would make a huge difference if available.
Last season’s ninth-placed finish has undoubtedly raised expectations but despite the obstacles they have faced, they are only two points off the nine they collected at the same stage last term.
Regardless of the personnel at Thomas Frank’s disposal (or not, as the case may be), Brentford have a clear identity that will not change – defend and press in numbers, attack with pace and counter with clinicality.
The latter has naturally been affected by the absence of Toney but it will be interesting to see how Neal Maupay does on his return to the club on a deadline-day loan deal from Everton.
Elsewhere, Nathan Collins appears to be a steal from Wolves, replacing the outgoing Pontus Jansson with a consummate blend of on-ball passing quality and aerial supremacy.
Collins’ arrival has helped negate some of the issues behind the backline – namely in goalkeeper David Raya’s loan departure to Arsenal to be replaced by Mark Flekken.
While his distribution has been decent, the Dutch stopper has divided opinion with his shot-stopping ability and positional play – especially after an uneasy performance against Newcastle.
Raya’s gloves were always going to be hard to fill but there’s enough moments to suggest Flekken just needs time to settle into the demands of Premier League football to really begin to shine.
Henry’s absence though is harder to overcome, the 26-year-old’s pace and threat down the left-hand side is only equalled by the defensive assuredness that he brings with no obvious choice in the squad to step-up.
It’s bizarre to think it’s not Toney’s absence that is likely to be felt the most this season but with the forward allowed to train ahead of a competitive return in January, things are looking more optimistic further up the field.
Furthermore, Bryan Mbeumo and Yoanne Wissa have stepped up well, sharing six goals between them with Mathias Jensen continuing his excellent goalscoring exploits from last season as well.
Nevertheless, frustration remains at the Bees’ inability to take some of their clear-cut chances with their xG stats from their four draws suggesting the final output is not a true representation of what it should be.
Much of the opening half of the season may involve patiently waiting for Toney’s return, eking out points where possible before a stronger second half of the campaign once again consolidates the club as a top-half outfit.