I’ve been examining the statistics from the Nottingham Forest match on Easter Monday and they make for fascinating if salutary reading. I still find it impossible to understand how Brentford failed to win a match in which they had a massive 74% possession of the ball. Remember too that this wasn’t Blackpool or a bottom of the table no-hoper or also-ran that we were playing, but an expensively assembled team who were early season pacesetters and promotion favourites and who were packed full of talented and experienced players of the calibre of Michail Antonio and Henri Lansbury, and yet we totally dominated possession by a quite ridiculous margin.
Not only did Brentford keep hold of the ball for the majority of the game, but they also created a plethora of chances and had a massive thirty-three shots on goal of which nine were on target. The Bees scored twice and forced Karl Darlow, who proved to be an almost impassable barrier in the Forest goal, to make lithe and agile saves from Jota on a couple of occasions, including an exquisite Zola-esque near post flick from a corner, Andre Gray, Alex Pritchard and Stuart Dallas. Pritchard and Tommy Smith also saw excellent efforts shave the crossbar. Brentford scored their customary two late goals but in reality their pressure and quality of approach play merited at least double that number. With Mancienne sweeping up and protecting a back four who only ventured forward for set pieces, Forest were restricted to breakaways, but despite far less possession they managed three shots on target and also scored twice from a third of the number of shots managed by Brentford. Our overall superiority is also reflected by the fact that we successfully completed a highly impressive 82% of the 572 passes we attempted throughout the match. In comparison, Nottingham Forest made 208 passes of which just over half were on the money.
It is even more illuminating when you take a look at our statistics from the season as a whole and several clear trends soon begin to emerge. Brentford manage an average of 15.7 shots on goal per game which is a figure bettered only by Bournemouth and Norwich, and Jota, Gray and Judge are the Bees players who take the most shots per game. Our shooting accuracy is the second best in the Championship with 5.7 on target and we take just under seven shots each match from outside the penalty area. This is more than any other team in the league and bears testimony to the attacking prowess and eagerness to shoot of Jota, Pritchard and Judge. So far so good until you look at the other side of the coin which reveals that we have less than one shot per game from within the six yard box. This is a truly awful figure, one of the worst in the Championship which clearly demonstrates the downside of only playing one striker and highlights how hard it is for us to get men up in support of Andre Gray who is often left totally isolated within the penalty area.
We are certainly one of the fittest and quickest teams in the league and our tactic of leaving three up at opposition corners has certainly paid off. We have scored five goals from counterattacks, more than anybody else, and have also scored an incredible twelve last minute or injury time goals, testament indeed to our refusal to give up and the relentless pressure we exert on teams and the manner in which we wear them down. Our set piece record is appalling with only eight goals scored, a record that twenty-one Championship teams have bettered. A set-piece coach next season anybody? All in all, despite all the moans and groans, we have scored a healthy seventy league goals so far this season with another five games still to play, which is surely far more than we all expected before the season commenced.
Where we excel is in ball possession and in passing accuracy. Many pundits remark upon our close resemblance to Bournemouth in terms of our style and approach, and the figures certainly endorse this view as we are second to them with our average of 56% possession per game, and our passing accuracy of 78% is one of the highest in the league. Where we struggle though is in winning aerial challenges where we have the worst record in the league and only five teams give up more than our 14.4 shots per game. No wonder we have conceded fifty-five goals to date, but you really cannot have everything and the way in which we play with defenders pouring forward to initiate and support attacks certainly leaves us wide open to quick counter attacks and balls played over the top. You really cannot beat Brentford matches for excitement with there being over thirty shots per game – or one every three minutes. We also concede only 8.9 fouls per game, far less than anyone else and yet we have had 70 bookings which means that we are either tactically astute at choosing the most advantageous times to foul, something that I certainly haven’t noticed, our, more likely, referees for some reason seem to penalise us more heavily than most other teams.
Alan Judge, Alex Pritchard, Andre Gray and Jake Bidwell have accumulated the most assists and it is surprising that for all his ability to open up defences, Jota has only provided the final pass for two goals to date. Can any of you guess who makes the most passes per game? Well, the answer truly amazed me and further opened my eyes about the way we are encouraged and set up to play. James Tarkowski makes 47 passes per game on average, closely followed by Jonathan Douglas. We might well criticise Tarkowski for some of his defending but he is crucial in terms of getting our attack moving and playing through the initial opposition press. It will also surprise few of you to learn that Toumani is our most accurate passer of the ball closely followed by Tommy Smith who I feel is an invaluable asset to have coming off the bench, as is further evidenced by his pinpoint cross over the straining fingers of Darlow and right onto the coiffured head of Jota in the ninety-fifth minute on Monday.
So to sum up, what do the statistics show about Brentford’s traits and characteristics as a team? Our strengths and style of play can best be summarised as the following:
- Counter attacking
- Attacking down the right flank
- Taking long shots
- Creating chances through individual skill
- Accuracy from direct free kicks (as has been demonstrated lately by Judge and Pritchard)
- Coming back from losing positions
- Defending set pieces
- Possession football
- Short passes
- Controlling the game in the opposition’s half
Where we are weak is in:
- Defending against long shots
- Aerial duels
- Making individual errors
- Defending counter attacks
- Conceding too many chances
I firmly believe that our strengths greatly outweigh our weaknesses and with five games to go we remain in a strong position to at least extend the season.