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Talking Tactics

How Brentford have built one of the league's best defences

Adrian Clarke 16 Sep 2021

Adrian Clarke analyses the Premier League new boys, who have conceded only two goals

Adrian Clarke looks at key tactical points and players who can be decisive in Matchweek 5.

Brentford's defensive solidity

Premier League newcomers Brentford should be proud of their stellar work off the ball so far this season.

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Playing in a 3-5-2 shape with a three-man back line including Ethan Pinnock (pictured, far left) and Pontus Jansson (pictured, far right), Thomas Frank's side have been tremendously competitive, industrious and well-organised.

From back to front the Bees work hard to pressurise opposition players and this has helped to protect goalkeeper David Raya (pictured, centre left), who has also made a strong start as the last line of defence.

Raya's best saves this season

Brentford faced 22 shots during their opening-night 2-0 victory over Arsenal.

Since then they have only had to deal with 18 more efforts on their goal, across three matches.

Last time out they limited Brighton & Hove Albion to only four shots and were unfortunate to fall to a late 1-0 defeat.

This weekend's opponents Wolverhampton Wanderers should find the promoted side difficult to break down.

Impressively, champions Manchester City are the only Premier League team with a better Expected Goals Against (xGA) ranking after the opening four rounds of matches.

Best teams for xGA 2021/22
Club Goals conceded xGA
MCI 1 2.18
BRE 2 2.66
WOL 3 2.73
CRY 5 3.57
AVL 7 3.6

In the Championship, Brentford were regarded as an attractive footballing side but at Premier League level they have shone in a different way.

Frank's men are playing with outstanding controlled aggression.

They are determined to disrupt the rhythm of their opponents by closing down with intensity, snapping into tackles and focusing on picking up the majority of second balls.

Opta's "Passes per defensive action" metric measures the success of this aspect of play, and Brentford are ranked fifth.

The Bees and their next opponents Wolves are two of the most combative teams in the league, so it could be a feisty affair at Molineux.

Both sides recover possession quickly and make a lot of challenges.

Tackles and recoveries 2021/22
Most tackles Most ball recoveries
WOL 84 LIV 257
BRE 81 BRE 255
BHA 76 LEE 254
LEE 75 BUR 248
NOR 75 WOL 243

Central midfielder Christian Norgaard (pictured, centre right) has been a key man for the Bees.

The Denmark international is not only a progressive passer who can link play efficiently. He is also a very mobile presence in the heart of midfield.

Only one Premier League player, West Ham United's Tomas Soucek, has covered more ground so far this term.

Norgaard's contribution
2021/22 Total PL ranking
Distance covered 46.2km 2nd
Recoveries 27 18th
Interceptions 7 17th
Tackles 11 20th

Norgaard's ferocious work-rate and defensive nous will be vital this weekend when he faces a Wolves midfield that is likely to contain Ruben Neves and Joao Moutinho.

While striker Ivan Toney rightly receives plenty of attention, Norgaard is proving to be just as important for Thomas Frank as they settle into the Premier League.

Also in this series

Part 2: Newcastle have the pace to exploit Leeds weakness
Part 3: Ronaldo's surprising role can pose West Ham problems

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