Talking Tactics

Promoted clubs: Brentford have the balance to thrive

By Adrian Clarke 13 Jun 2021

Adrian Clarke explains how Bees excelled at both ends of the pitch during their promotion campaign

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The Bees are an attack-minded side that successfully blend a strong pressing game with patience in possession.  

Dangerous on the counter-attack but also capable of breaking opponents down with clever passing and movement, head coach Thomas Frank has instilled a rounded set of tactical principles.  

This should serve them well when they become the 50th club to play Premier League football in August.  

Great entertainers

Brentford like to entertain. They finished as the Championship's top scorers in two successive campaigns, netting 159 goals in total during the regular seasons.  

While elements of their style will need to be adapted the west Londoners are sure to carry a goal threat home and away next term.  

Championship 2020/21
Goals xG Shots
BRE 79 BRE 82.14 NOR 718
NOR 75 NOR 79.39 BRE 658
BOU 73 BLB 69.93 BLB 627

Star striker Ivan Toney is undeniably their chief weapon plundering 33 goals en route to promotion via the playoffs.  

The 25-year-old is an outstanding target man and penalty box finisher, ably supported by wide men Sergi Canos, who scored nine goals and eight assists, along with Bryan Mbeumo, who returned eight goals and 10 assists. 

Canos and Mbeumo combine

Frank likes his team to operate at a high tempo and once possession is lost they work hard to retrieve it as quickly as possible.  

From turnovers they are incredibly dangerous.  

Boasting pace, power and a number of skilful individuals, Brentford are the type of side who can strike hard and fast from transitions.  

No Championship side had more shots from fast breaks than they did last season.  

Arguably their most important goal of the season arrived in this fashion when Emiliano Marcondes finished off a counter that spanned the full length of the pitch to score in Brentford's 2-0 playoff final win against Swansea City.  

Playing at the top level, where they are unlikely to sustain an average of 54.2 per cent possession, this counter-attacking strength will be even more important to the Bees in 2021/22.  

Championship counter-attacks 2020/21
Most shots from fast breaks (inc. goals)
Brentford 23
Blackburn 22
Luton 20
Middlesbrough 19
AFC Bournemouth 18

Frank used a 4-3-3 as his first choice formation in 2020/21 but towards the end of the campaign he switched to 3-4-1-2 with great success.  

In both set-ups Brentford's strategy was built around creating central overloads before releasing the ball wide or forward for potential 1v1s.  

Frank's players also rotate positions in a seamless way. The 47-year-old Dane encourages freedom and likes to see interchangeable movement all over the pitch.  

This style of play can be risky and Brentford do sometimes get caught with a high line. They are also prone to leaving gaps when moves break down.  

Overall though, their front-footed approach serves as an effective form of defence, as Opta's xGA (Expected Goals Against) metric shows.

Best Championship xGA 
2020/21 xGA
Brentford 42.26
Stoke 46.05
Watford 46.32
Middlesbrough 47.99
Reading 48.70

Controlling the majority of matches they featured in last term Frank's men did not concede a lot of quality chances. In fact they had the lowest xGA rating of all 24 clubs.  

Tactically smart and brimming with talent, Brentford fully deserve their place in the Premier League.

Also in this series

Part 1: Promoted clubs: Norwich return with improved defence
Part 2: Promoted stars: Pukki must be clinical for Norwich
Part 3: Promoted clubs: Watford back with new-look attack
Part 4: Promoted stars: Sierralta can excel for Watford
Part 6: Promoted stars: Toney the full package

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