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Thomas Frank’s footballing philosophy prizes performances but will it deliver Brentford the results they need?

A poor result rarely throws Thomas Frank off course. The Dane’s flowing hair sits atop a notoriously cool head, one which appoints performances rather than scorelines as the most reliable marker of how Brentford are faring.

But with three potentially decisive games against fellow relegation battlers Sheffield United, Luton Town, and Everton on the horizon, strong performances will offer little consolation if they are not married with results. How, then, will Frank handle this most trying test of his footballing philosophy?

Thomas Frank (left) in the Brentford press room

Thirteen points separate 15th-placed Brentford from this weekend’s opponents: bottom-of-the-league Sheffield United. They will have less breathing space when they travel to 18th-placed Luton and then 16th-placed Everton over the next two weekends, with the latter sitting two-points behind Brentford with a game in-hand.

Though crunch time looms, Frank resists any temptation to follow the path of Sean Dyche and Everton who set up for an “ugly win” against Burnley at the weekend. Dyche opted for a new tact ahead of the 1-0 triumph after strong performances had failed to yield results, saying “we looked at the idea of how well we had played this season and not won, so we deliberately tried to play it long and strong and play the game as awkward and ugly as possible.”

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Dyche (left) instructs his players, including the winning goalscorer Dominic Calvert-Lewin

For Frank, the dissonance between performances and results requires patience, not radical change. As Brentford host Sheffield United at the Gtech Community Stadium, they will trust that a compelling performance can deliver a “beautiful win” instead.

“It’s been a while since I remember a game where we were not playing well and we still won it,” Frank told the Sports Gazette.

“Let’s say we perform tomorrow and we are lucky to win, we’ll probably be happy for the win, but I’ll still be irritated if we didn’t perform well.

“We need to think about performance, and then hope we win.”

But those hopes have been disappointed all too often this season. Brentford have dropped 30 points from winning positions in the Premier League, which is more than any other club.

Frank is still overtaken by a sense of disbelief as he reflects on Brentford’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United two weeks ago, during which the Bees registered the most touches (85) in their opponents’ box of any Premier League side this season.

“I still don’t understand and can’t explain why we didn’t get three points,” he said.

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Brentford came from behind to draw, but it was bittersweet given their dominant performance

In his view, then, the divide between performances and results is often inexplicable.

For others, it may be the intangibles, not the unexplainables that underpin Brentford’s struggles.

Only an inspired Brentford response to Mason Mount’s stoppage time goal prevented United from doing what they have done so often this season – snatching a result in spite of a poor performance.

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Scott McTominay’s stoppage-time brace snatched United a 2-1 win over Brentford earlier in the season

There is something to be said for that winning pedigree and ruthlessness, and it is something that Frank’s side have lacked this season compared to last. They are no longer the Premier League’s great disruptors, having failed to reproduce their outstanding record against the traditional ‘big six.’

Brentford won half of their 12 encounters against Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, and Tottenham Hotspur last season, but they have only emerged victorious once this campaign, winning 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in October.

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Neal Maupay races out on the break to set up the second goal against Chelsea

Despite their declining record, the performances have often impressed. They took the lead against Tottenham and Manchester City in back-to-back fixtures earlier this year, but then conceded a treble of goals on the way to 3-2 and 3-1 losses respectively.

The draw against Manchester United represented another missed opportunity, with just one of their 31 shots beating André Onana.

Why, then, does a ruthless edge seemingly elude Frank’s side?

The less romantic amongst us will look to the practical challenges Brentford have faced.

An injury crisis that has deprived them of their entire first choice back four at times goes a long way to explaining the defensive fragility which has so often prevented them from converting on strong performances.

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First choice full-backs Aaron Hickey and Rico Henry have been out since October and September respectively

Talisman Ivan Toney missed the first half of the Premier League season while suspended for breaches of the FA’s betting rules, and he is struggling for goalscoring form at present despite impressing with his overall play.

Others will be less convinced, seeing Brentford’s habit of letting results slip away as a sign that Frank must embrace some of the ‘ugliness’ that Dyche speaks of.

They will question whether his measured philosophy, so often an asset to Brentford, can deliver results as the going gets tough.

Today’s fixture is the first of three presenting an opportunity to wound their fellow relegation candidates while climbing the table themselves, and Brentford have reason to be confident.

Toney is available to start having settled for a substitute appearance against Aston Villa due to a hip problem, and there is more positive news in Ethan Pinnock and Kevin Schade returning to the squad, though neither are fit enough for the starting 11.

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Pinnock is another first choice defender who has missed time

Even so, the pressure is on. Brentford are winless in nine and they were defeated 1-0 when they faced the Blades in December.

Frank will hope that he does not have to puzzle at the discord between performance and results once more.

But as Brentford fight to protect their Premier League status in the coming weeks, a manager who looks to performance first when assessing his team will be judged solely, and harshly, on their results.


  • Jonny Coffey

    Jonny Coffey, 21, is a London-based sports journalist focusing on football. Fascinated by tactics, Coffey is famed for his introduction of inverted full backs to the second division of Cambridge college football, and his admiration for Carlo Ancelotti’s eyebrows. A lifelong Arsenal fan, his interest in analysing wing play is a thinly-veiled ploy to rave about Bukayo Saka.