Manager Thomas Frank called on Brentford to pair their attacking potency with some robust defending as his side travel to Molineux to face Wolverhampton Wanderers.
The Bees have lost seven of their last eight Premier League contests, including a 4-1 home loss to Gary O’Neil’s side, and now sit three points clear of the relegation zone, but with a game in-hand.
Performances have been commendable despite their poor form, but a declining defensive record has undone The Bees. In their two most recent fixtures, a 3-1 loss to Manchester City and a 3-2 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, they took an early lead through Neal Maupay before conceding three on the bounce.
“Both games we were in it, we were doing a lot of things right, but we are conceding too many goals, in my opinion. The three City goals were three goals we could have avoided on a top day,” Frank said.
Phil Foden’s hat-trick sunk Thomas Frank’s side
Brentford have now ceded 26 points from winning positions after these defeats, the most of anyone in the league.
“Unfortunately, it’s a remarkable number. We just need to hit the consistency of good defending,” Frank said.
Defensive mettle will be imperative given the danger posed by Wolves’ attackers.
Brentford know that threat all too well, having faced Wolves three times since December 27th.
Matheus Cunha, who hit a hat-trick against Chelsea on Sunday, found the decisive goal in a 3-2 FA Cup replay victory over The Bees on January 16th. Hwang Hee-Chan has returned to Wolverhampton after South Korea’s elimination from the Asian Cup, having netted a brace in the previous Premier League encounter between these sides.
The Bees may have failed to win across these three games, but Frank feels fine margins will separate the two sides.
“They were very even games, it will be the small details that decide the game,” he said.
Brentford have some attacking threats of their own too, with Neal Maupay’s prolific goalscoring matched only by his relentlessness as a wind-up merchant. The loanee has five goals in five games, having developed a strong partnership with Ivan Toney.
“Both are very intelligent players, they have a good understanding of each other and their positions. They’re both very good to play off each other and make each other better,” Frank assured.
A heroic Mark Flekken performance and a full debut for Sergio Reguilón offered encouragement against City, and the return of Saman Ghoddos after IR Iran’s run to the Asian Cup semi-finals will further strengthen the squad.
On a more sombre note, Josh Dasilva will be unavailable for the foreseeable future after suffering a knee injury that will require surgery in training this week.
“Josh has been very unlucky and he’s a player I’ve been working with for a long time, so our relationship has grown. He’s a lovely person so it’s tough to take,” Frank said.
Aaron Hickey remains some distance from full fitness too.
The full-back suffered a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury
The Bees will have all eyes on three points at Molineux, but they may have further causes for celebration over the weekend.
Yoane Wissa and DR Congo will be competing for a bronze medal at the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) five hours after Brentford kick-off, while Frank Onyeka will be competing as Nigeria take on Ivory Coast in the final on Sunday.
Onyeka during Nigeria’s dramatic victory over South Africa
With Brentford players shining on some of football’s biggest stages, Frank took a moment to reflect on the club’s progress.
“It’s something we’re very proud of. A decade ago I think no one would’ve thought of that [as a possibility].
“Unfortunately, it couldn’t be a half-and-half scarf with Nigeria and DR Congo for the final, but I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of Brentford fans that will cheer on Frank Onyeka and Nigeria,” he tells the Sports Gazette.