One Week In – 18/8/15

Mark Croxford is a long-term and well-respected Brentford supporter and author who is an astute observer of the Brentford scene and he has produced a fascinating overview and his own personal viewpoint regarding our start to the season which was published yesterday on the Griffin Park Grapevine fans’ message board and Mark has kindly agreed to allow me to reproduce his article here as it deserves the widest readership possible:

One week in …
… and it’s far too early to make assessments, but here goes!

Our new Head Coach has shown naivety and bravery in equal measures over the course of the three games. I can’t say that’s entirely unexpected but Marinus’s success or failure will no doubt be somewhat based on how well he balances these two traits.

I wrote some weeks back that I felt that the Sporting Directors had not lived up to their summer promises and I still subscribe to that view, as so much emphasis was based on having a big squad allowing Dijkhuizen to be able to rotate … “we want so much more choice than last season, etc, etc.”

I know that injuries have hampered their efforts but – even allowing for the long-term losses of Bjelland, Jota and McEachran, we are still left with a squad of just nineteen (and that’s assuming Andre Gray stays). We have to assume that this season’s planning took place with the names of Hogan and Macleod on a separate piece of paper.

Ron Noades said little that I concurred with but I do recall one of his comments being that one should always assume that between ten to fifteen percent of the playing squad will be unavailable through injury at any one time. So that’s about par for the course then – the huge drawback being that this batch are predominantly long-term absentees. By the way, that figure of nineteen also includes the likes of Tebar, Yennaris and Saunders who we may not have expected to see play for us too often.

So how great an impact will all the injuries have on us? I reckon Bjelland is a massive loss. His brief forty minute display against Oxford was uninspiring to say the least, but he was clearly brought in to be the mainstay of a back four which was hoped and intended to be far less porous than last season. Can O’Connell and Barbet fill his boots? Who knows, but over the course of a whole season the prospect of one of these two talented but inexperienced youngsters playing such a key role is a big, big gamble. I don’t for one moment believe that anyone really expected Dean and Tarkowski to form our central defensive partnership for the start of the season and I’d be amazed, and frankly disappointed, if they are there for the duration.

Jota’s loss for up to four months is also a major blow. Aside from the entertainment value he provides, the goals he contributes are priceless. Personally, I don’t think his assists are anywhere near good enough – he has so much possession in dangerous areas but delivers such a small percentage of assists – but just look at last season’s goal-scoring credits. We scored seventy-eight goals in the Championship. Take away the thirty-seven goals netted by Jota, Pritchard, Douglas, Dallas and almost half have disappeared. If Gray’s sixteen were to go too, I reckon that’s practically three quarters of last season’s goals that need to be found from elsewhere!! I’m not saying it’s impossible to achieve, but what a monumental ask!

McEachran’s absence is a frustrating one. Maybe he was meant to be the holding midfielder and yet from the very, very limited view that we’ve had of him in preseason, he doesn’t look to be someone to provide the defensive shield that the back-four is crying out for. We’ve seen already that Toumani probably doesn’t play that role either and the failure to have acquired a player like Mokotjo might prove to be the biggest mistake of all.

What of the other newcomers who have so far remained fit and healthy? Gogia is a more exciting wing-man than Dallas but far less effective in providing a left-sided attacking/defensive partnership with Bidwell. That might change as he gets used to English football but will he be able to contribute the goals and assists that Dallas did? Hopefully so.

Kerschbaumer has got potential without doubt. So far he’s shown himself to be a willing worker and hard-runner but, and as is only to be expected in his early days, he alternates between impressive and invisible and does not influence the game in the way that Douglas was able to do. Maybe the loss of Douglas was inevitable and welcome off the field, but on the pitch his replacement is not obvious at the moment.

Yoann Barbet looks promising but it has to be remembered that this time last year, he’d never kicked a ball in anger in a first-team professional game so patience will be a necessary virtue in his development. 

Jack O’Connell looks the real deal – and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that he’ll turn out to be the unexpected star of the season. He certainly played well on Saturday when he replaced Tarkowski – another addition to the injury list!

And so to the front men. The Andre Gray scenario changes so rapidly that by the time I’ve finished typing this, he might have gone elsewhere! If he does, I genuinely fear for the season ahead. It has taken him a year to develop into the player he is and ready-made replacements within budget may not exist.

Philipp Hofmann will score goals I believe, but maybe not as many as the tally that Gray notched last season. Lasse Vibe may score goals too, but he looks to be someone who firstly needs a bit more time to become accustomed to the pace and strength of Championship football and then needs to find a suitable role for himself within the team framework.

Going back to where I started and the activities of the Sporting Directors and the recruitment team, I can’t see much likelihood of a late influx of players to boost the ailing numbers, so perhaps this really will be a genuine season of transition and stability with the January window proving to be the busiest we’ve seen since the Andy Scott days.

I reckon the shopping list so far reads: a replacement for Bjelland (on and off the field), a strong and effective defensive midfielder (six steps up from Alan McCormack) and a true “number ten”  or playmaker as have we got anyone within the squad who can currently play that role effectively?

A couple of loans wouldn’t go amiss either – a wide player to cover for Jota’s absence and a left-sided player to compete with the only two currently at the club (Bidwell and Gogia).

And as for Andre Gray? Who knows what will happen and if so, when? But don’t forget all those goals that need to be made up! I’m not thinking about that any more – it’s too frightening.

Thanks, Mark for taking the time to provide so cogent and well thought through an article. He makes many good points in particular about the missing goals that we will have to replace from midfield as well as the potential implications of losing Andre Gray and as always he has carefully researched his facts before he makes his opinions known.

Personally I think that the jury is still out and that it is far too early to make any judgements about how this season will progress.

The Head Coach appears to favour a 4-3-3 formation and ideally to play Gray and Hofmann together. Will the extra goals that such an exciting attacking partnership provides, rather than last season’s lone striker policy, make up for the lack of defensive cover from midfield that was exposed as such a major weakness at Bristol City last Saturday? I have my doubts on the limited evidence to date.

The relentless procession of injuries has come as an unwelcome and unexpected blow, they have already hit us hard and their impact could well be long-term and far reaching. I remain hopeful that swift action will be taken in the transfer market to help redress the problems that Mark has so clearly outlined, but it remains to be seen, and perhaps this season will be far tougher than a lot of supporters have envisaged and in that case consolidation in the Championship should be regarded as acceptable progress in its own right and a triumphant progress to the giddy heights of the Premier League might have to wait for another year or so?

What does everybody else think? Please make your opinions known.

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19 thoughts on “One Week In – 18/8/15

  1. I fear a relegation battle that we will be ill-equipped to deal with successfully. I totally agree with Mark Croxford’s comments, that elegantly sum up my early impressions.

    But as a supporter of over 50 years, I’m naturally a pessimist.

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  2. Glad some9ne else agrees with my assessment of our Sporting Director duo. I remain convinced that an out-and-out football man is needed to judge/assess players – and neither of our two are that. But we are stuck with them – just hope that from what they produce our new no-veto manag….sorry, Head Coach….can make a silk purse. But hey – we’re third in the table (before Tuesday’s games), and we can only pray that we’ll remain in the top half of the table for the rest of the 44 games.

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  3. well as for the staff i had already said what i thought towards the end of last season and i think we should do all we can to keep andy grey at least one more year Yes we are third in the table but we will really know in a months time what kind of season we will be in for so lets wait and see all we can do the fans is get behind the team whatever the futre brings

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  4. Excellent piece from Mark, good on you for sharing it amongst the great unwashed outside of the GPG.

    Nothing in it that I can take issue with, i’m pretty much in full agreement throughout. Given that planning for the new system must have started back in the spring (maybe earlier), and that the DoF’s were in place in May, I was expecting things to be less chaotic and more structured by this point. Phil Giles sees to be the spokesperson on player ins/outs, I’ve no idea where Rasmus Ankersen is at right now, a shame really as he at least seems to have the charisma and communications skills needed to sell this project and keep fans and those watching in the loop. Marinus is left to front up whilst deals are done around him, always a major potential weak spot in the new system. He could use a bit of support form the huge org chart of people in roles above him.

    As I type it appears that Gray will be sold to BCFC (why?) leaving the squad thin and worryingly unbalanced. Notwithstanding our awful luck with injuries the midfield seems to have lost some of its attacking creativity, whilst also failing to provide cover for a defence that has routinely shipped a couple of goals a game for some time now. And without Gray we are up against it, and possibly out of time to bring in the quality required to give us an outlet.

    I’d also have to question the part played by stats in many of the signings to date. Clearly MB has been very willing to spend strong money for which we can only be truly grateful, but are these signings the product of stats or more a case of a seemingly “smart” buying policy on the continent, whilst at the same time cashing in on an over priced British market? It would be interesting to know?

    Clearly a lot of change in a short time will cause some pain – maybe growing pains, so far it’s hard for me to see the positives though. Maybe MB and co really are the smart ones and i’ll be in awe someday at what has been achieved – I really do hope so and will be the 1st to say so, all I know is that they cannot allow the club to be relegated, this would be beyond a disaster. We do have 4 points at least – which is something to build on. A trip to Burnley possibly without Andre will tell us a bit more no doubt.

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      • We have no choice but to go with it, but at least we can debate it here and elsewhere – otherwise what’s the point? Maybe i’m alone in this but I simply want to see and hear a bit of leadership and posititvity from someone above MD. I apologize, i’m flawed & needy but I could use a lift from those steering the ship and then i’ll be fine.

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  5. Yes we must continue to observe, analyse and debate but don’t expect any comments from the club as I think they want to stay well under the radar this season and hopefully if all goes well just let the results speak for themselves.

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  6. Why not – is it too much to ask for a bit of dialogue or are we expected to just turn up and shut up?

    This is close to the line where trust turns into blind faith / emperor’s new clothes syndrome.

    So who’s for sale at the Brentford market today then?

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  7. I’m not saying it is right I am just telling you what I believe is going on and it is therefore totally correct for us to try and stimulate open debate and make the club accountable where necessary.
    I am halfway through an article raising these exact points too.

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  8. Sure Greville I know, I just don’t feel it’s enough that’s all. So many people in senior positions and not a “dickie” other than a few bumbling words from one of the DoF’s when we sell / buy someone. They could do more to carry us all along on this adventure with a little more communication, especially at the moment when there are unsettling issues around. Even this AM I see Tarkowski linked with Southampton – jeez will it ever end?

    Look forward to the next article. Never a dull moment!!!

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  9. quite a few are right what they say on this blog yes the owner has chosen another path for the club away from what is the norm in football today and i hope or i would say in football the most important thing is the fans without them no club can exist and since last year our public commucation or lack of them are not in line with a championship club which since last year we are. Commucation with the fans is so important in whatever league win play

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    • I agree with you Richard and frankly I would expect the Chairman to be driving this.

      There has been nothing from the board explaining the players in/out strategy or whether our expectations for this season should be lowered. We were told somewhere that it was anticipated that the bulk of the squad ins and outs would be concluded before the pre-season training camp in Portugal. This clearly for whatever reasons did not happen. Today we are told via Jake Murtagh who has excellent connections going right to the top at the club that it is expected that there will be four further signings before the transfer window closes. Taking it as read that these are all potential first team additions then with the signing of Maxime Collin last week that is five players to be integrated by Marinus with the season under way and with question marks over the training pitches and the Griffin Park pitch having been unfit for purpose from Day One of the pre-season. Marinus must be wondering what he has walked into.

      Intended or not I believe that most Bees fans seeing that we finished 5th last season and earning a well deserved playoff slot rather hoped if not expected that if the bulk of the squad could be kept together and with a couple of quality additions then we could be aiming at an automatic promotion position.

      Communications are pretty poor frankly.

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      • Interesting comments Alan, a balanced insight from someone who is not only a fan of our beautiful club, but also able to speak intelligently on business communications and the workings of a football club – BFC. Whilst not wishing to try to attach my thoughts and words to your own, you have eased my paranoia in thinking that i’m alone in feeling that there are questions to be raised about “the plan” and how it is shared with plebs like me.

        Interesting point on the chairman, who seems a pleasant chap,albeit invisible these days. I guess he’s very busy arranging the FCM jolly boys outing to St Mary’s tonight 🙂

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  10. Alan asked what my thoughts are on the situation at the club. Well I have just finished writing a long piece containing my take on what is going on. I will publish it first thing tomorrow morning and I’d really welcome your thoughts on what I have written.

    Many thanks.

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