Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Ezri Konsa looks ahead to Saturday as Brentford make the long trip to the North-East to face Middlesbrough

Posted on 9 March 2019 by Jack Cunningham

Brentford are on something of a roll at the moment, especially at Griffin Park, where they’ve won their last four league games consecutively. QPR were the most recent victims and they were on the receiving end of a 3-0 victory.

The Bees now face a crucial period in their season with visits to Sheffield United and Middlesbrough in the space of three days. Their away form, in fact, is the fourth-worst in the Championship.

So, if they are to have any chance of making the playoffs, they must turn this away form around. Ezri Konsa, the 21-year-old from Newham, is confident Brentford can do so.

When asked about Brentford starting to look up the table, a huge grin appeared on Konsa’s face, as if he can sense a late play-off push from Brentford is on the horizon.

“To be fair, I think the lads before QPR didn’t look at the table, but after the game we saw that it was only eight points between us and the playoffs,” he said. “As long as we keep believing and doing what we are doing right now I think we will have a good chance of getting in there.

“If we take it game-by-game rather than the playoffs then it might put us off, so for now if we can just concentrate on it game by game.”

Brentford’s home form is nothing short of fantastic. In fact, they’re the second best at home in the league — only behind Leeds — but that away form has proved troublesome. Collecting ten points all season, Konsa believes they have lacked the correct mindset.

He said: “Away from home we have played really well and dominated games, but it is difficult for us going away from home. If we change our mindset, I think we can get good results starting with Middlesbrough and Sheffield United. If we stay solid defensively then we have a good chance in all those games.”

Thomas Frank ditched his back four after a defeat to the Blades and reverted to a 3-4-3, which has transformed the Bees’ season and Konsa has been a key part of this transformation.

“I played in a three at the back at Charlton before, so it is nothing new to me,” he explained. “I don’t really have a preference. Three at the back, four at the back, I like them both, so whatever the manager chooses I’m happy,” he said.

“When we play three at the back I have to play as a right back sometimes when Henrik [Dalsgaard] pushes up. I have got to get across and cover, but I have done that before, so it is nothing new.”

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Konsa was plying his trade for Charlton last season in League One, but has made the step up seamlessly. As you would expect he says there is a big difference in quality.

He explained: “League One quality is not really the same as the Championship. There is a big difference and you know you get punished in the Championship. League One you can possibly get away with it, but not in the Championship. I think I have developed under Thomas and Dean [Smith.] I am learning every day. For me it is about continuing to learn from my coaches.

“Me and Chris started off very well, but then we hit a bit of a brick wall. We are both young and it was a learning curve for both of us and Chris [Mepham] has now moved on to the Premier League. Now I am playing with Julian [Jeanvier] and Yoann [Barbet] who are more experienced.”

The back three that Brentford possess is unusual, in that they all speak French and Konsa admitted they use this to confuse opponents.

“We do it every game. We speak French, but especially at corners so the defenders can’t understand us. It really does help; the defenders are very confused, they don’t know what we are saying so for us it is very helpful. The other team have no idea what is going on they are very confused from every single corner,” he said.

Switching attention back to the game, Konsa felt that Boro will be under a lot more pressure to win than Brentford.

“They need to win, whereas we want to win. So for us we are going into the game freely and we need to put some pressure on Middlesbrough and get into their faces,” he said.

Since the two teams last met — where Brentford lost 2-1 — the Bees have turned their season around while Boro, though still in the top six, have slipped from second. Konsa put the change in fortunes down to the change of system.

He explained: “Since we have moved to a three at the back, I think our mindset has changed and defensively we are more solid now. We are defending as an eleven whereas before we weren’t.

“I think now you can see a big difference when we concede goals, so for me the mindset has really changed.

“For Neal [Maupay] and Said [Benrahma], having a solid defence has allowed them to do what they do best knowing the defenders aren’t going to concede.”

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Konsa seems like a man with his head firmly screwed onto his shoulders. For example, when talk emerged of a potential move to Arsenal he kept his feet firmly on the ground and did not let it affect his game.

“I had this talk at Charlton, so for me it is just about having a very strong mentality so you can’t let that get in the way of your football. If you only think about that then it will distract you,” he said.

“It is a good thing to see, but as footballers we can’t let that affect us. The main thing for me is to get Brentford as high up the table as possible.”

He is, however, also a very confident man and was not afraid to say how happy he was with his game.

“I am very pleased at the way I am playing right now. I am growing in confidence every game, so it is just about keeping that mentality right.”

As every young footballer should have, Konsa also has ambitions to play in the Premier League.

“I think for every player like me it is a dream to play at the highest level so one day hopefully I will be playing there.”

Konsa could represent quite a few countries internationally, but so far, no contact has been made and he has eyes for only one country.

“For me my main focus is playing for England under-21s and then hopefully I get the senior call-up one day. I am sticking with England.”

Certainly, he has made an impressive start to life in the Championship and if he fulfils his undoubted potential the Premier League is within reach. Hopefully, fans will hope, with Brentford.

Featured photograph/Jack Cunningham