Ahead of tomorrow night’s match at the Gtech Community Stadium versus Brentford in the Premier League, which will be refereed by Tim Robinson, I spoke to a Brentford supporter. Thank you to Steven for answering these questions!
How long have you supported Brentford?
Since September 2021, during the first season back in the Premier League. I’m a Yank and previously I hadn’t been following the EPL, but in August, at the backend of Covid, I was laid up for six weeks and couldn’t work or really move – watching sports was my outlet and I watched everything I could, including every Premiere league match each week. I decided I had to pick a team and the obvious choice was Brentford. First, I felt it would be tacky for a new American supporter to start rooting for a champion contending team, and I was immediately inspired by Brentford’s approach: the fearless attitude, the belief, the focus on character and community, and watching players who were cast aside by other clubs finally have their chance. As a guy who grew up watching American Football each Sunday, I love Brentford’s focus on set plays, and I’m a sucker for the long throw. These attributes are why there is a small but growing contingent of American Brentford supporters.
And I just want to express to any long-time Brentford supporters who are reading this how grateful all of us new supporters across the pond are for their long-time commitment to this club. Without their efforts and helping pull the club back from the brink, we would have never been able to enjoy this club. You all are legends.
What are your hopes and expectations for the 2023/24 season?
At this point, I would be happy with survival and very happy with anything around 10th. Coming into the season, many supporters hoped to improve on last season’s finish and maybe make a run at qualifying for European football. Those who follow the club closely know that we could cope with the suspension of Ivan Toney and the loss of David Raya, but the club has been inundated with injuries. By my count, we’ve lost six players who were members of the XI when they picked up a knock. Several of our most vital subs and prospects are likewise injured. Especially challenging is that Brentford no longer have a fit natural LB on the roster, which Mo Salah exploited to perfection in our previous match. If the lads can come back fit, however, there is no telling what could happen. Brentford have proven they can beat anyone (picking up the double v. Man City last season), and if Ivan Toney remains at the club while other key players return to fitness, a run is very possible.
What are your views on your manager?
Thomas Frank is the third longest-tenured manager in the Premier League, and there is a good reason: his approach, character, belief, tactical acumen, and relationship with his players is beyond reproach. Even when there is adversity, he always comes out with a smart game plan that is brave with an intent on winning. I’ve never seen him sit back an entire match and hope for a draw like some managers of “smaller” clubs. The appreciation he shows for the supporters is both genuine and greatly appreciated. And, perhaps most importantly, as my wife has pointed out to me, he has fantastic hair (take that Conte!). She predicts the day’s result based on its quality at kickoff each week.
There’s a reason why other clubs have talked about trying to lure him away, but my hope is Graham Potter was a cautionary tale for a well-regarded project manager going to a “big club” where results are immediately expected. My prediction and hope is that he will only leave to retire or accept the role of manager of the Danish National Team.
Style of play and tactics – direct/passing/hybrid?
Brentford has two styles of play depending on the opponent. In matches where less possession is expected, Frank generally goes with a 3-5-2 that becomes a back-five on a defensive low block. When working at its best, like against United and City last season, the players remarkably control the game from the defensive side of the ball, waiting for the perfect opportunity for a rapid counter-attack. History suggests that will be the approach Brentford takes this week.
Against teams where possession is expected to be more balanced, Frank plays a 4-3-3 and takes an attacking approach focused on crossing in from the wings. A new wrinkle this season is it looks like they’ve added more switches of play into their buildup, especially with the back four. In both systems, Brentford executes an aggressive and well-organized press.
One(s) to watch now and in the future?
Ethan Pinnock is having a career season and has been one of, if not the best, CB in the league this season to date. He is especially proficient as a member of a back five, which is the only reason I can fathom another team hasn’t tried to buy him.
One of the silver linings of injuries is that it gives younger and fringe players the opportunity to shine. 19-year-old Ukrainian midfielder Yehor Yarmoliuk made his debut five matches ago and has featured in every one since. He’s been extremely impressive, especially towards the end of the Liverpool match. His maturity and take-control attitude in the centre of the pitch is in excess of his years. He looks like he can really do it all – 6,8, 10. In 3-4 years, if he continues to grow, Pep or Artea might come calling. Arsenal supporters might see some attributes that remind them of Odegaard.
Random fact about your Club?
Maybe not the most random, but Chris Kamara played for the Bees and made around 150 appearances. It seems appropriate to mention that we are all thinking of him after he discussed his speech disorder a few weeks ago. The Bees are with you, Chris.
Which were your favourite and least favourite matches involving Brentford?
Last season’s win at the Etihad and this season’s loss to United. Many of the long-time supporters I’ve met point to the championship playoff loss and playoff wins.
Which sides do you think will finish in the top four and which do you think will finish in the bottom three?
Top Four: City, Gunner, Pool, Newcastle (I’m expecting some January transfer shenanigans from them).
Bottom Three: Sheffield United, Burnley, and Everton. OK, maybe Everton is wishful thinking…but I am rooting for Luton to stay up, just because of the stadium.
What are your thoughts on Arsenal?
Arsenal are an excellent and well-managed club and any points we get off of them are always celebrated. I don’t look forward to seeing them on the calendar.
Respectfully, I do think that Arteta’s whining over poor officiating is a bit childish and unbecoming for a team with their level of talent and budget. Last season Arsenal supporters were rightfully frustrated with the goal awarded to Brentford (it was obviously offside), but it was hardly the season-changing mistake Arteta claimed it would be. These things go around and come around – last season Brentford benefited from a few bad calls and, if we are being honest with ourselves, those calls helped get us into the top half of the table. But earlier this season, we probably dropped 4-6 points because of blown penalty calls. We all know the officiating consistency needs to improve, but let’s not pretend like it all doesn’t even out.
If you could steal one Arsenal player for your own team, who would it be and why?
Odegaard. What a player. Does everything and does it well, is an engine. A complete package.
What is your prediction for this match?
Please don’t make me be honest here!
I’m going to be optimistic, given our left-side challenges, and say 1-1 with Yarmoliuk delivering a wicked assist to Neil Maupay in stoppage time to steal a point at the death.