Tipping Point – 23/8/15

Did as well as could be expected given what little we had, might be a fair description of Brentford’s performance at Turf Moor yesterday.

Burnley were tough, well organised and uncompromising and proved hard to break down, but in all honesty they were pretty dour and uninspired and were really there for the taking, particularly as they were lacking in confidence given that they were still searching for their first victory of the season.

Brentford more than matched them throughout the first half when we pinged the ball out to both wings with pace and accuracy with Diagouraga linking the play skilfully, and but for some pretty insipid finishing from the otherwise lively Vibe, a good save by Heaton from Judge’s well placed free kick and Hofmann not gambling and anticipating a couple of opportunities from penetrative balls into the area, we would have been comfortably ahead.

As it was, the home crowd was already beginning to moan and mutter and get on the back of their team when Brentford unforgivably gave away the initiative at a time when they were in total control and conceded yet another soft goal from Burnley’s first corner kick when Jones’s excellent delivery left Hofmann floundering at the far post, he lost his man and Keane headed home easily without much of a challenge. Maybe there had been a foul on Hofmann who claimed that he’d been pushed, but he was guilty of ball watching and we need to show better organisation and far more determination when defending set pieces or we will continue to suffer the consequences. Surely our set piece coach should also be looking at how we defend them as well as helping us to take advantage of our own opportunities.

Our heads went down at this self inflicted blow and Burnley gratefully took control without ever seriously threatening a second goal.

Our threat also disappeared for long spells, but we improved when Colin made an excellent debut as a second half substitute. He is pacy, plays with his head up and uses the ball intelligently and he looked to be an excellent replacement for Moses Odubajo. Finally some good news!

We flitted in and out of the game throughout the second half and went close with a long range effort from Kerschbaumer whistling narrowly over the crossbar and auxiliary striker Harlee Dean, easily our man of the match, almost getting on the end of a loose ball in the area during a late but abortive flurry.

As it was Burnley just about deserved the victory on the overall balance of play but had the Bees scored in the first quarter of the match, as they surely should have done, then Burnley heads would have gone down and Brentford would likely have emerged victorious.

In all honesty Brentford were totally hamstrung through lack of options. With the late sale on Friday of Andre Gray, who was an interested onlooker from the main stand, and the injury list still biting deep into our limited resources, pretty much every fit senior player was included in the squad and, as for the bench, it was utterly threadbare, and more resembled a kindergarten than being fit for purpose for a purported Championship promotion contender, with Senior, Udumaga and Clarke all included, and as Alan Judge ruefully admitted afterwards, it contained a mixture of defenders and kids and gave us no flexibility to change things.

Hofmann in particular needed a break as he had run himself out with little support but he was forced to lumber on given the lack of a suitable alternative.

I have written at length over the past week about our approach and provided a rationale for why we have allowed so many players to leave. I have to admit it hurt me to watch Stuart Dallas make such an impact and create the Leeds equaliser against Sheffield Wednesday and he would have made a real difference for us up at Turf Moor, it was similarly galling to see Jon Toral look so lively for Birmingham against Derby (I did try and refrain from mentioning how impressive Clayton Donaldson looked too but I failed dismally) but we have made our bed and we now have to lie in it.

We were promised an increased depth and size of squad with adequate cover in every position but so far that has proved to be a chimera. Injuries and sales, forced and otherwise, have meant that we have been reduced to using raw development squad recruits just to fill the bench and ensure that we have the requisite number of seven substitutes.

To be frank, I did not expect there to be quite the level of upheaval that has taken place recently and that we would pretty much be looking for an entirely new team.

A reported opportunity to earn the thick end of ten million pounds for Gray from Burnley when the add ons are included made the deal inevitable, and we have almost doubled our record sale figure in less than a fortnight. I have no complaints about any of the sales as long as those who have left us as well as the long term injured are adequately replaced – and quickly.

Without Moses, Gray and the injured Jota we have lost all of our pace and dynamism and much of our guile and we look a pallid and lethargic shadow of the exciting, speedy and vibrant team of last season that cut opponents to ribbons, but I fully realise and pray that things can change very quickly if we are able to complete deals for our prime targets and they then settle down quickly into a new team and pattern of play. Big ifs though!

Max Colin (great name) made an encouraging start at Burnley but Vibe, Hofmann and Kerschbaumer have, quite understandably, yet to find their feet in the hustle and bustle of the Championship. All have contributed little cameos to date with Kerschbaumer’s wonderful back heel at Bristol last weekend which helped set up our opening goal and his beautifully weighed pass yesterday that created  a massive chance for Vibe that he spurned. Vibe and Hofmann have also had their moments, particularly with the fourth goal at Bristol, but they have been pretty rare and spasmodic.

We have played some excellent football in spurts in each of our opening three league matches but we have looked disorganised, disjointed and open in defence, vulnerable at set pieces and lacking cover from the midfield and without Gray, pretty toothless up front. The loss of Douglas has nowhere near been covered adequately and with the departures of Pritchard, Dallas, Douglas and Gray, and Jota’s injury we now have to replace nearly three quarters of the goals we scored last season, and frankly I cannot see where they are going to come from.

It is hard to overestimate the impact that the injuries, combined with player transfers have had on us. As we came into the last couple of weeks of the preseason I fully expect that Dijkhuizen was planning on starting with the following team – until fate intervened:

  • Button
  • Odubajo
  • Dean
  • Bjelland
  • Bidwell
  • Diagouraga
  • McEachran
  • Jota
  • Judge
  • Gogia
  • Gray

Five of that likely starting eleven have either left the club or are currently unavailable for the long term and with Douglas and Dallas also departed we are really creaking at the seams. Midfield was our strong point last season with a combination of goals, pace, flair and flexibility and several selection options too, whereas now we are struggling for bodies and balance.

The season has barely begun but what happens over the next week or so up until the end of the transfer window in my opinion will set the tone for how the remainder of the season will pan out. Yes, of course we can sign loan players from early September too but we need to get some semblance of a settled team as well as strength in depth and give Marinus a realistic chance to build and develop his squad. We are a bit of a shambles at the moment – understandably so, given all the circumstances, and yesterday I hope we reached our nadir and the tipping point as I do not expect to see such a weak squad again for the forseeable future.

We drastically need reinforcements, but they have to be of a suitable calibre and character, and players who are ideally not just short term bodies intended merely to paper over the cracks. It would be a gross overstatement to say that we are currently in crisis mode regarding the size, quality and battle readiness of our squad but we are certainly cash rich and player poor – a horribly dangerous combination that could lead us to be held to ransom and perhaps have our pockets picked as the dreaded deadline approaches. The international break also cannot come quickly enough as it will allow us the time to regroup and ideally integrate new players into our system.

We are running out of time and much has to happen over the next week or so and this is the time when our joint Directors of Football need to earn their spurs. Gentlemen –  it is over to you.

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12 thoughts on “Tipping Point – 23/8/15

  1. Good thought provoking piece mate. Tried to get up for yesterday, ended up feeling quite depressed by it all. On the pitch there is clearly effort & attempts by individuals to step up, but there is no creative spark or goal threat to grab something from nothing. Let’s be very clear – yesterday’s 11 + bench is nowhere near strong enough to survive in the division, MD set up to try to steal a point. Not something we’ve seen for ages from a bees team since the dull old days of Rosler.

    For all the so called planning and preparation we are in the position of needing to work our tails off to bring 3-4 players in next week. And we may be less affluent than some think, as it seems the Gray fee may allegedly be nearer £6M with a whopping 27% sell on to Luton. Ok it’s still a decent chunk of change but what price relegation?

    Couldn’t help admire and feel slightly envious of Bournemouth last night, well done to them. For me itheyve gone for evolution whilst we’ve opted for revolution – the ghost over mar burton looms larger over gp with every passing day – with him and mathew in tandem we’d have smashed the clarets yesterday.

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    • The 27% is a sell on to US should Burnley sell him at a profit in years to come. The Luton sell-on is far less but still significant. No use looking back now, as I said, we have made our bed and now have to lie in in. I just feel we are leaving us with a hell of a lot to do in a very short period of time!

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  2. I’m beginning to think that we need to decide how we are going to assess this season – possibly sooner rather the later, for our collective sanity.

    Is it a transitional season? In which case, we need to seriously consider that mid-table will be enough while we bed-in new players, managers, playing style (and pitch!). Losses will have to be accepted when things don’t go according to plan.

    Or are we hoping to continue where we left off last season? If this is the case, then there are some serious questions to be asked about what is happening currently on the pitch. Should we be expecting to slaughter everyone that we come up against – “tear them to shreds” as you said above?

    As always with Brentford, it’s never easy, is it? I’ve been supporting the Bees for over fifty years and it’s never easy. If only my mum had kept her legs together for a couple more miles, I could have had the comfort of being a Chelsea supporter! 🙀

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  3. I don’t expect to slaughter all oppo – but I know we would have sorted burnley out with continuation on last years set up. Actually I’d take mid table now. I’m very concerned about the possibility of relegation – I don’t think some bees see this threat seriously. I do sadly.

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  4. Well Greville i think with got a hell lot to do in such a short time and Iam sorry thou we cannot predict injuries ect and the selling of others i feel thou our team is in the championship but the rest of our set up is not and i feel that is the center of our problem.Yes it is easy to critic but now we will see this week if we up to standard remembering the last week of the transfer window you do not get what you really want and even if A Grey had stayed we still needed to strengthen in this position oh yes and how is the pitch problem getting on

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  5. Yes, our infrastructure is still catching up with the strength of our squad, and you are correct, this week is crucial for us and the last week of the transfer window is always hell on earth. Hopefully we will strengthen but could we yet lose another player too? Who knows.

    Hopefully the new pitch will be resplendent and perfect. all will be revealed on Saturday against Reading!!

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  6. It is right to reserve judgement, and yes we have made our bed as you say, although forums and blogs would struggle for content if we left it at that. This week is huge, make a few good additions and beat a sputtering Reading and we have something to build on, all efforts must be towards achieving both aims.

    We are where we are as a result of the owner’s choice, his right to do so, that part has been debated far and wide, but let’s remember that we had something that was working and have gone another way. I didn’t hear negatives about our relative finances and infrastructure last year – only positives, now they are being wheeled out like excuses – that’ll get us relegated my friends. And as someone far smarter than me pointed out last week, the stated aim for this season was to have a big settled squad, and to push on towards promotion.

    There are 2 groups in the championship, one chasing promotion, one fighting relegation – aiming for consolidation is not an option, if we end up with that great, but pragmatism gets you what we got at Burnley – nil points!

    I’m not in the know, so all I can do is comment on what I see – let’s hope for a really good week and a real lift going into Saturday.

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  7. I suggest anybody seriously worried about us getting relegated puts some money down, as the bookmakers clearly do not, with the current best price being 28-1. Some big money could be made!
    Surely Bournemouth are all about Eddie Howe. When he leaves and he will be poached at some stage,
    they will fall apart just as they did when he left for Burnley before. Matthew Benham from what I understand did not want to be reliant on the manager being the key to the success because at clubs like ours when a manager is successful they get cherry picked. Warburton may have stayed for one more year with us, but if we had carried on being a top 6 side he would have moved on to bigger things sooner rather than later.
    It is only 3 games, I wont be judging anything until at least 10 maybe even 15.

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  8. Good points Robert, your view differs from mine but I do see where you are coming from.

    Bournemouth do have a very wealthy backer owner to be fair, i’m curious as to how our new structure would protect us from an outstanding coach / manager such as Warbs, Howe, or even Marinus doing well and moving on.

    Time will tell, be nice to have that problem with Marinus 1st.

    Up the bees.

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    • The structure wouldn’t prevent an outstanding coach or manager moving on but as the manager is not the person signing/choosing all the players the effect of the manager leaving hopefully is not as great. Also we have a style of play that is being coached right through all the academy groups so that it never changes whoever the coach is.
      I hope our system will prove to be one that enables us to have a more sustainable level of success rather than end up like Bradford , Portsmouth or Blackpool but it will not happen overnight and Lionel Rd will also
      be key in helping attract players and keep them in the future.
      As you say time will tell but I for one wouldn’t back against Matthew Benham getting it right in the long term.
      Lets hope for 3 points Saturday!

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