Brentford completed their first season in the Premier League in 2021-2022 finishing 13th. This was a dream start for Brentford in the world’s toughest league. The question is – can Brentford sustain this performance in the longer term?
In this article, we will look at what has changed at Brentford during the transfer window to set them up for their second season in the Premier League, highlighting star players and key squad changes that will underpin performance this season.
Owner: Matthew Benham (since 2012) – a long-time Brentford supporter who took out a loan to raise funds to buy the club uses the Moneyball approach to signing players. Benham also owns a small Danish Club and Brentford have 5 Danish players in the squad.
Manager: Thomas Frank (Danish)
Stadium: Gtech Community Stadium, Brentford – Gtech is Brentford’s largest every sponsorship deal
Supporters: The Bee’s
Star Player: Ivan Toney (Striker)
With 12 goals last season, Toney was an integral part of keeping Brentford out of a relegation scrap. Bee’s fans will be hoping their star striker can hit the ground running. Toney is also dominant in the air; which works well when David Raya finds him with a long ball.
Look out for: Vitaly Janelt (Centre Mid / Central Defensive Mid)
The 24-year-old German was not a guaranteed starter last season after the arrival of Christian Eriksen. This season, he could hold down a starting spot in Thomas Frank’s side. Janelt’s very good defensively and physically which means he can boss the midfield. He’s always hunting down the ball and applying pressure and also contributed four goals last season.
Players signed for Brentford:
Ben Mee – from Burnley – Free
Thomas Strakosha – from Lazio – Free
Aaron Hickey – from Bologna – £14m
Keane-Lewis-Potter – from Hull – £17m
Mikkel Damsgaard – from Sampdoria – £16m
Players who left Brentford:
Marcus Forss – to Middlesborough £3m
Christian Eriksen – to Manchester United – Free agent
Dominic Thompson – to Blackpool -Loan
Zanka – not yet signed – Free agent
Jonas Lossl – to Midtjylland (Danish Club) – End of loan
Brentford use the Moneyball strategy to make shrewd decisions on player acquisitions – using insights from data and statistics to identify young players with potential who can grow in value at the club. This has been seen in the past with players including Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma.
Good results from this transfer window:
Brentford signed young players. Brentford are in a long-term project to make themselves an established Premier League Club, they are building their core team around young players. With signings such as Aaron Hickey (20), Keane-Lewis-Potter (21) and Mikkel Damsgaard (22) there is a lot of development potential that will bring glory to West London in the years to come.
Brentford made effective use of free transfers. Ben Mee and Thomas Strakosha are both excellent acquisitions because they bring depth and competition which is important in a Premier League squad. These signings also bring experience; Ben Mee is very experienced in the Premier League and Strakosha was the first-choice goalkeeper at Lazio – one of the top teams in Italy.
Ivan Toney is still at Brentford. The most important player for Thomas Frank’s side scored 12 goals in his maiden season in the Premier League. There were rumours of teams lining up bids for Toney but Brentford have received none yet. Toney is not just a source of goals, he’s also key to build up play, often winning headers that the wingers then drive up the pitch.
Coaching staff improvements. Ex-Tottenham and Manchester United academy coach Justin Cochrane has joined Brentford. He will have the vision and experience to develop Brentford’s young players: Hickey, Potter, Damsgaard, Dasilva, Mbuemo, Fin Stevens, Nathan-Young-Coombes and Myles Peart-Harris. At Tottenham, he developed players such as Noni Madueke, Kyle-Walker Peters and Japhet Tanganga at youth level. With Brentford re-opening their academy, the future is bright.
Disappointments from this transfer window:
Losing Eriksen. Whilst this is not a surprise, it is disappointing because Eriksen’s arrival gave Brentford’s form a major boost last season. In 11 games he scored one goal and provided four assists. Most Brentford players have admitted that Eriksen’s presence in the dressing room was a huge factor for Brentford’s strong finish to last season. With heavy hearts, the fans had to accept the inevitable – that Eriksen would leave.
Poor performance in pre-season. Brentford underperformed in pre-season with two losses and two wins. What was worse was the 4-0 defeat to Wolfsburg conceding three goals from set pieces. Losing to Stuttgart after being ahead for so much in the game was also a bit disheartening. Overall, they’ll need to improve if they want to get a good start to the season. Hopefully Frank will be able to use these disappointments to fire up his squad ahead of their second season in the Premier League.
Aaron Hickey – The Scotsman is a great signing because last season Brentford were crying out for a quality right back. When they announced Hickey, they’d got what they wanted. Hickey can also operate as a left-back which is a huge bonus. Brentford have got a literal copy of Rico Henry now, with two full-backs who cover a lot of ground, are good defensively, can create chances and are amazing in one-on-one situations. This means Toney can change his style of play and be more of a penalty box striker, when previously he would have to come deep to collect the ball. Now Hickey and Henry will be providing a lot of crosses for Ivan Toney. The Scot’s also good in front of goal, scoring five in the Serie A last season.
Keane Lewis-Potter – Brentford’s record signing was the star player at Hull last season with 12 goals and 3 assists to his name. Potter is dangerous from indirect set-piece situations and after the exit of Eriksen, the Bees will be looking for someone to be on free-kick and corner duty. The England U21 international loves to cut inside from the left onto his right foot and whip in a cross or have a crack at goal from a distance. He is versatile, playing either side in attack or even as a central attacking midfielder. Lewis-Potter won’t be a starter just yet but will be used as a super sub. After a bit of experience and development he will flourish in the Premier League.
Mikkel Damsgaard – You can probably remember the Denmark International from his stunning free kick against England in the Euro 2020 semi-final. Since then, his growth has been hindered, he was out for about 27 games due to a thigh injury. Damsgaard has completed his medical with the Bees and was on the bench against Man United. Personally I was a bit surprised Brentford signed Damsgaard because Brentford already have a lot of players in the left wing position. He can also play in a central attacking midfield role, but Brentford doesn’t function with an attacking midfielder. I don’t believe Frank will sell either of his other left wing players; Yoanne Wissa was Brentford’s second top scorer last season and won’t be happy taking a back seat with the arrival of Damsgaard. Keane Lewis-Potter only signed this summer on a six-year deal meaning it would cost a lot of money to sell him. Is this a rare mistake from the Brentford recruitment team – only time will tell.
How do Raya and Strakosha compare?
David Raya was key to Brentford last season, when he was injured Brentford were hit hard as inexperienced, Alvaro Fernandez had to fill in. With the arrival of Thomas Strakosha, Brentford have two competent keepers at their disposal. This raises the question of who will be the number 1 keeper. They both have different playing styles. Raya is amazing technically and has a great passing range. From goal kicks it seems he and Toney are nearly telepathic. Raya knows where Toney wants the ball, and Toney knows where Raya’s going to play it. But the Spaniard isn’t the most commanding player and doesn’t communicate much with his defenders.
Thomas Strakosha was first choice at Lazio, one of the top teams in Italy. The Albanian stands at 6 foot 3 and is commanding in the penalty box, often coming out to collect crosses. He’s also good at saving penalty kicks, which is something most goalkeepers don’t offer. For someone of Strakosha’s size he’s surprisingly agile and flexible, getting down low to make saves. A strong leader, with a big character, Strakosha is known for clear communication with his defenders – these are important qualities in a Premier League player. Strakosha never lets his head drop but he may need to improve on his passing and his English.
In the early games this season, I think Frank will opt for David Raya in the net but once Strakosha gels in the team, it will be good for them to battle for the number 1 spot.
It happened to Leeds last season, after a fairy-tale first season in the top flight. Leeds were struck by a huge injury crisis impacting key players such as Kalvin Phillips and star striker Patrick Bamford; which nearly resulted in relegation. Will Brentford suffer the same fate? In my opinion, no. Brentford are unlikely to suffer the same fate as Leeds because they have good backup players in most positions, after key signings for squad depth this window.
The Bess have started the season in fine form showing real tenacity to fight back for a point against a well-organised Leicester side. Frank was ready for their next test against Manchester United. Last season Brentford struggled against the Red Devils losing 6-1 over two games. This time Frank changed from the 4-3-3 formation to 3-5-2, enabling Toney to use his physical dominance against 5 foot 9 inch Lisandro Martinez and the team didn’t allow United a lot of time on the ball. This was seen when Mathias Jensen’s fast reactions in pressing Eriksen, who had come deep to collect a goal kick; resulted in Brentford’s second goal against Manchester United only 18 minutes into the game.
They will need to work hard to replicate their performance from last season as the teams that have been promoted from the Championship will provide stiff competition. Nottingham Forest have signed 15 new players in this window and Fulham have had a great start to the season pressing Liverpool hard throughout their first game to achieve an impressive draw. I have seen predictions that put Brentford in a wide range of finishing positions such as 17th or 19th but after two impressive results so far, my prediction is 12th or 13th.