Often perceived as a mid-table Championship side, Brentford’s performances this season have suggested anything but.
Manager Thomas Frank and the coaching and non-coaching staff at the London club have done wonders in making them push for a play-off berth and give the side a distinct identity.
The switch from a three-man defence to a more conventional 4-3-3 has been vital for Brentford’s surge up the table. They now sit in a respectable eight place and provided results elsewhere go their way, will be in the top six. This will come as a delight for the fans – given their move to the new stadium next season.
However, when asked at his pre-match press conference whether he’s keeping a keen eye on the table, Frank vehemently denied it. “No, not at all. I’ll look at it at the end of May. Now it’s about training tomorrow and then focus on the massive games that lie ahead of us.”
Training levels have certainly gone up a notch this season under Frank and the feeling in the stands at Griffin Park is that the Dane has revolutionised the way the side has been playing. According to some fans, he has also managed to bring a certain fear factor to the side.
Speaking about what he’s done to change the perception at the club, the Brentford boss humbly stated: “It’s not only me. There are a lot of people working very hard over the last year to put extra layers on and off the pitch. Every department is growing whether it’s sports science or the performance level of the medical side. We’ve also been very good at developing young players. Either sold some players or kept certain ones for one season more to take us to the next level.”
If Brentford manage to go to the next level as Frank mentioned, one man is certainly expected to be at the heart of things. Striker Ollie Watkins is joint-second in the Championship Golden Boot race this campaign with 11 goals in 17 games and is looking a more complete player with each passing game.
Still only 23, the Englishman appears to have an extremely high ceiling and has impressed his manager so much that he has been likened to Cristiano Ronaldo by him. Much like the Portuguese, Watkins began his career out wide before making the central striking role his own.
“Cristiano Ronaldo started his career as a winger and then became a striker and I hope Ollie can do something similar. Ollie has learnt to score striker goals. This year out of the 11 goals he’s scored, eight or nine have been inside the six-yard box. The link-up play that came against Reading was fantastic. Besides, his work-rate in terms of pressing is very impressive,” said the Brentford coach.
Despite signing a new contract at the start of the season, Watkins, along with a number of Brentford players continue being linked with moves to the Premier League. This is something that is out of Frank’s control but he believes that the new stadium along with the high levels of morale inside the camp will be sufficient in holding on to the players they want.
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“Most of the players we have want to stay for the long term. They are enjoying what they’re doing every single day because we have a fantastic culture and they are enjoying playing for Brentford. Some players may want to leave if we don’t progress in the way we want to. The stadium will definitely help in terms of the buzz and focus around things.”
Brentford have also conceded nearly half as many goals as they did this time last season along with playing free-flowing attacking football. Pontus Jansson’s transfer from Leeds has certainly helped in organizing the defence, but Frank believes that David Raya in goal, who will be facing his former side on Wednesday, has been equally pivotal to this team’s excellent run of form.
The Blackburn game will not be a walkover by any stretch of the imagination and the Brentford boss is prepared for a tough game. Tony Mowbray’s side have lost just one of their last eight home games and it will be tough for the Bees to get a positive result from Ewood Park.
“Tony Mowbray and his staff are working hard to get Blackburn to the top again. This season, they’ve started to dominate games more. They want to get more players on the ball. Our plan is to dominate the game away from home but I expect it to be a 50-50 game on the ball,” said Frank looking ahead to the tricky midweek contest.