Brentford’s swagger is slowly returning as Thomas Frank’s side limp towards Premier League safety

4 min

“There’s not many teams who can come to Villa Park with the season they have had and turn it around…”

While Thomas Frank’s side may have stunned the home faithful by overturning a 2-0 deficit to be on the cusp of victory, the 3-3 draw at Aston Villa in many ways typified Brentford’s season.

Defensive lapses have been a continual problem and once again reared their ugly head with two of the three goals conceded being characterised by instances of misjudgement. 

For Villa’s equaliser, Brentford’s centre-backs failed to get close enough to Ollie Watkins while for the second, collective hesitation allowed Morgan Rogers to stride into a shooting position unimpeded. 

It was a similar story in defeats at West Ham and Burnley with the absence of key players, such as Ben Mee and Ethan Pinnock, a major miss over the course of the last month or so.

Mee brings much-needed leadership while Pinnock has an athleticism which is more suited to dealing with the likes of Watkins, Bowen and co. in comparison to veteran Zanka and the still relatively inexperienced Nathan Collins.

Nevertheless, there are also elements of misfortune to many of the goals Brentford have given away – much like Kristoffer Ajer’s slip at Manchester City which led to Erling Haaland’s goal, bad luck has undoubtedly played a part.

READ MORE: Brentford continually hampered by absences – but patience remains the key word

“The third (Aston Villa) goal is the perfect example of our season, actually doing quite a lot of things right but seeing a deflected shot which lands perfectly on the head of Ollie (Watkins),” Frank bemoaned in his post-match interview.

Enforced absences have played a part at both ends of the field and a muscle injury for Ivan Toney saw the talismanic forward once again be unable to play a full part, being left out of the starting XI for the first time since returning in January from his eight-month betting ban.

The pent-up frustration from Toney and the rest of his team-mates at experiencing such a stop-start campaign is clearly taking its toll and was evident at full-time as the forward was seen in a heated exchange with Collins.

Under the circumstances, it’s not only understandable but perversely, pleasing to see – showing the players are passionate and still very much committed to the Brentford cause as well as being indicative of how the side have continued to respond in the face of adversity.

While the performances at West Ham and Burnley were uncharacteristic, the last minute equaliser against Manchester United alongside this latest comeback shows a character and resolve that will continue to see them safe from relegation.

READ MORE: Aston Villa’s Ollie Watkins is an unstoppable force Brentford should be proud of

And neither draw was a fluke – with Brentford particularly finding their pomp against Villa in a madcap 10-minute spell that saw them find three goals around the hour mark to stun the home crowd into silence.

The Bees were at their imposing best, evoking memories of emphatic Premier League wins over the likes of Arsenal, Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool.

The relentless press was evident, they were a yard quicker to every loose ball and played with so much expansion in possession – this was the Brentford under Thomas Frank everyone knows and loves but has, for one reason or another, been few and far between this season.

The catalyst for Brentford’s comeback was Sergio Reguilon, with all three goals arising from his left-sided crosses and also marked a stark contrast from the Spaniard’s sending-off against Burnley in his last start.

“I was very pleased with his (Reguilon) response.” Frank remarked. “I think Reggie is a very good player, and he’s proven that in his career.

“He needed a place to come to in Brentford where he would play and get the trust and opportunity to perform.”

READ MORE: Are Brentford in a Premier League relegation battle?

Reguilon, on loan from Tottenham, is another player that has lost his way over the last year or so with consistency and an injury-free spell being key for both him and the rest of his team-mates in order to get back to their best.

While it’s clear why Brentford have struggled so much this season, the Villa game showed that the bumbling bees still have enough about them to land a stinging blow to their opposition.

It will take time to fully recapture that swagger, but there’s no doubt that it is slowly returning with each game as they limp towards Premier League safety.

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