Toums – 10/12/14

ToumsGood news indeed yesterday in that Toumani Diagouraga has signed a new contract at Brentford, potentially extending his stay at the club until 2017.

Yet up until a few short weeks ago it looked very much as if his time at Griffin Park was rapidly drawing towards its conclusion with not too many supporters regretting his likely departure.

He had enjoyed a successful loan spell last season at Portsmouth before regaining his place in the Brentford first team for the promotion run-in, but it seemed very much as if the Championship would be a step too far for the elegant, long-legged and combative midfielder.

As expected, Toums started the season very much on the periphery of the team and it appeared that he was no more than bench fodder at best.

Coventry City were rumoured to be sniffing around him and it would not have come as any surprise if he had joined them, as Division One seemed to be his level.

After impressing in training he was recalled, to everybody’s surprise against Derby County, and Toumani enjoyed a November to dream about as he quarterbacked the team to five consecutive wins.

He exhibited a new found ability on the ball, a renewed confidence and appetite for the game that made him stand out from his team mates.

It would be easy to dismiss his exceptional form as a mere flash in the pan but for me the crowning glory was his display at Millwall where he dominated the match from start to finish and ensured that the absence of the suspended Jonathan Douglas was barely noticed.

Cynically, one could simply attribute his recent brilliance to the spurt traditionally put on by a player rapidly coming to the end of his contract and doing his best to stay in a job the following season, but a closer examination of Toumani’s performances highlighted a very real and significant improvement in his game.

Suddenly he was attempting and pulling off a variety of skills that had previously seemed way beyond him.

jjThe list seemed endless – defence splitting passes made with the outside of his foot, changing the direction of the attack with accurate long balls to the opposite wing, sending the opposition the wrong way with a perfectly executed dummy, even forcing a brilliant save from the Fulham goalkeeper with a rasping shot.

Shooting, as we all know has never been his strength and he, like the former Arsenal midfielder, John Jensen shared a deserved reputation for endangering the fans in the top tier behind the goal more than the goalkeeper when winding up for a shot.

Everything he tried in November came off without a hitch as Toumani was suddenly transformed into a clone of Patrick Vieira.

A meat and potatoes type of journeyman player renowned for his dependability, hard tackling, non-stop running and harrying and accurate short passing, but plagued by inconsistency, Toumani seemed to have found his level but suddenly the ugly duckling has become a swan and he has deserved his new contract as well as becoming one of the first names on the team sheet.

It is rare indeed that a player of twenty-seven improves as dramatically as Toums has and much of his success is simply down to how hard he has worked.

But in my opinion there is far more to it than that.

Toums is merely one of many Brentford players who have demonstrated a staggering improvement in their overall game this season.

David Button has played like a man possessed and has developed into a goalkeeper as good as you will find at this level of the game.

He suddenly seems to have found confidence and a belief in his own ability after so many years as a reserve or stopgap loanee.

Central defenders Harlee Dean and James Tarkowski are now as comfortable on the ball as any of our plethora of midfielders and Harlee’s beautifully weighted pass with the outside of his right foot to Alex Pritchard that split the Wolves defence and led to our second goal will live long in the memory.

Let’s be frank, Harlee has traditionally been an uncomplicated win the ball and thump it type of defender and yet suddenly he has turned into Beckenbauer, striding forward with the ball, selling dummies, making runs into the opposition penalty area and scoring brilliantly against Fulham (giving him instant hero status).

What is going on?

jdAlan Judge was excellent as a loanee last season, but has achieved new heights now that he has taken over the mantle of the departed Adam Forshaw and been given the responsibility of becoming our main playmaker. He covers every blade of grass and his long passing is a joy to watch. He too has added to his game.

Alan McCormack has combined his customary tough defending with well-timed rampages up the field and most remarkably, thirty-three year old, Jonathan Douglas, at a stage of his career when players generally begin to let their standards slip, has very much gone the other way and massively improved all aspects of his game.

No longer a mere destroyer, he has displayed a subtlety in his use of the ball that first became apparent in the preseason friendly against Crystal Palace when he was fed the ball at an angle just inside the penalty area.

Bringing the ball instantly under control, he looked up and curled it perfectly, well beyond the reach of an admiring Julian Speroni for a goal of awesome quality that he would never have attempted in previous years, yet alone carried off.

Nothing succeeds like success, and under Mark Warburton the team has achieved so much over the past twelve months since his surprise appointment after the departure of Uwe Rosler.

I would put the credit for his players’ improvement in technique, confidence and self-belief firmly at the door of Warburton.

Empowerment is a term that is grossly overused nowadays, and it has become an irritating buzzword, but for me it perfectly sums up his entire management ethos.

He has simply taken away the fear element from the game and encouraged all of his players to try the unexpected, be positive, take the game to their opponents, attack relentlessly and never be afraid of making mistakes.

His customary tactic of leaving at least two players upfield for all opposition corners totally flummoxes the opposition and is further evidence of his determination to take the attack to the opposition and let them worry about us.

This is totally the opposite to his predecessor’s approach, and Mark’s positivity and astuteness has been rewarded with  promotion from Division One, and Brentford taking the Championship by storm over the first few months of the current season.

Players know that they will be protected and indeed praised should they make costly mistakes by trying to do the right things.

Rather than rant and rave after Tarkowski and Dean gave the ball away cheaply and caused goals to be conceded against Norwich and Fulham respectively, Warburton simply stated that he would never criticise his players for attempting to play in the right manner and use the football rather than hoof it upfield.

Knowing that your manager will support you must be enormously reassuring for a player and gives him the freedom to take responsibility and continue to play the short passing style that Brentford have made their own in recent months.

Warburton’s policy of positive reinforcement has brought massive dividends and Toums is simply one of many Brentford players to have benefited from this approach.

He has received his reward and fully deserves it.

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4 thoughts on “Toums – 10/12/14

  1. The guy deserves it,great effort. The one thing we as mortals don’t see is the attitude and want 6 days of the week. We can never know this. Being professional is not enough. Toums has shown incredible appetite to do his best. We can only ask for that. We done Sir!

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