Paul Grimes wrote a well-argued column last week (http://tinyurl.com/nmbhcb6) about the need for Brentford to tighten up at the back, keep some clean sheets, win ugly if necessary, and ideally play three centre halves in every game.
Not surprisingly, most people felt at the time that the positives of our current expansive style more than outweighed the negatives, although many concerns were expressed about our profligacy in both defence and attack.
I wonder how people think now given the FA Cup defeat last Saturday which saw a plethora of chances spurned at one end, and two more soft goals conceded at the other?
I therefore thought that I would ask Paul whether the FA Cup defeat might actually be a blessing in disguise, and here is what he had to say:
Now I love the FA Cup as much as any fruit (or nut) case, especially having played in the Youth version, ironically against Brentford at Griffin Park, so you will no doubt be surprised to hear that I am not simply happy, but really delighted, that we are out of this year’s competition, and if you love statistics as much as I do then you will have doubtless worked out why by now.
Four of the eight teams challenging us for sixth place in the Championship remain in the FA Cup and two of the five teams above us are also still in it so, as Matthew Benham has I am sure told Mark Warburton, the statistical chances of us securing seventy-one points (the minimum I feel that we need to reach the Playoffs) are even greater than they would normally have been because these sides will all have to factor in the additional matches and the disruption to their fixture list given their previously scheduled games which will now have to be rearranged.
Wolves, for instance, will replay next Tuesday against Fulham and if they win, their home game against Charlton, previously scheduled to take place on Saturday 24th January will then take place on a midweek evening later in the season. Blackburn could benefit on Saturday as Kenny Jackett recognises that his players will be playing three times next week and he might well decide to rest some players and rotate his squad. He also has the problem to factor in of losing two of his best players to the African Cup of Nations.
Blackburn now have also got to face a Tuesday night trip down to the East Midlands to face promotion chasing Derby who they would otherwise have faced on the 24th. Above us, Bournemouth now face a midweek trip to Elland Road to face Leeds United and Ipswich, a midweek trip down to our conquerors Brighton, both thanks to their continuing exploits in the FA Cup.
I think that there is a lot in what Paul has written. That being said I really regret our not beating Brighton as I think that we could have all done with the confidence boost that such a victory would have given us. I would also have given my eyeteeth to see us play against Arsenal, as we have not played the Gunners in first team competition for the best part of seventy years. In my view therefore the FA Cup is a double-edged sword. On the one hand there is the glamour and the glory and the finance that the competition offers, but on the other, you have to take into account potential disruption to the fixture list and the additional strain that it plays on resources and players’ physical and mental fitness.
You also risk players taking their eye off the ball and forgetting that the league is their their bread and butter. Just before we played Chelsea back in 2013 we had two crucial promotion clashes with back-to-back home matches against Tranmere Rovers and Leyton Orient. We played poorly and without energy in both matches and came out of the two games with only one point. I am certain that some of the players, even unconsciously, were distracted and had one eye on the big game ahead of them, and the five points that we dropped were indeed the difference between automatic promotion and the playoffs.
We now look forward to a clash with Rotherham at Griffin Park tomorrow afternoon and I am sure that the players know that they will have to win the physical battle to be allowed the time and space to play their football. If they succeed in doing so then our superior technique and ability to find space in dangerous positions should bring us a much-needed victory, but if we are not on our game or take liberties, then we will be punished by a team that is still smarting by our win in their backyard earlier in the season.
It would be great to pick up our first double of the season but it is by no means a foregone conclusion.
Paul Grimes too has some forthright views about the games coming up in the next few weeks:
So as we look forward to the next four games we need to know, believe and be certain that Mark Warburton and his team fully understand just how big an opportunity we currently have of making the Promised Land. That’s right, The Premiership, and not just the Play Offs, and because we will have to worker harder next season to just be in this same position it’s fair to say this may be our best chance.
Rotherham came to Griffin Park last season and went away 1-0 winners and if we play 5-2-3 or 5-1-3-1 this Saturday and come away with the same result you will not hear one word of complaint from me about the change in pattern, style of play, amount of possession, chances missed or chances created, because now is the time more than ever to grind teams into submission, to eke out out scrappy 1-0 wins at home, to defend like Trojans away from home and, most importantly – To Keep A Clean Sheet!
Frankly whilst I respect his view and have thought long and hard about the tactical shuffle that he advocates, I would prefer that we remain as we are but that we simply defend better and with more concentration and make better decisions. We are sloppy at times and take un-necessary risks and I am still unsure about our best central defensive combination but am pretty certain that we will make stringent efforts to strengthen in that area before the end of this month.
I also wonder if we might start to play with two strikers should we manage to sign somebody suitable this month, rather than rely on Andre Gray playing up on his own?
That is a question to ponder over the coming weeks, as for now the only thing that really matters is our getting back on the winning track tomorrow and sending Rotherham back home pointless.