Frustration! – 3/1/16

I am going to pose a deep and hopefully interesting and relevant philosophical question to all of you this morning.

What would you prefer to watch, a team that plays with freedom and attacking abandon and entertains and frustrates in almost equal measures, or one that sits back and simply grinds its way to victory?

I suppose it depends if you are a Cavalier or Roundhead in your approach to the game or whether you support Brentford or Birmingham City?

I know exactly where I stand and I will nail my colours to the mast without any delay or prevarication. It would drive me mad to have to watch Birmingham play every week, and that is not to denigrate or decry what they do and how they go about things.

They are supremely well organised and have been perfectly set up by their talented manager Gary Rowett to draw the sting of the opposition, absorb their pressure like a moving sheet of blotting paper and then rely on set pieces, mistakes and the odd fast breakaway to snatch the points.

This they did to perfection yesterday and you have to admire them for the thoroughness, skill and single mindedness with which they executed their manager’s game plan. It worked a treat and Brentford just could not find a way to break through two solid banks of four players determined that nothing should pass them by.

Brentford dominated totally in terms of possession and successful passes but never really got in behind the home defence or created much in front of goal and they subsided to a defeat that does little for their playoff chances.

In many ways the match was a carbon copy of last season’s dreary encounter with the Bees having the lion’s share of possession but doing nothing with it, constantly running into blind alleys, being crowded out and, fatally committing to attack, getting picked off on the break.

Birmingham will look back at a job well done and can also point to a run of three consecutive home wins against Cardiff City, MK Dons and now Brentford so their approach is certainly successful and bears fruit, but would I cross the road to watch them?

Personally, I would draw the curtains if they were playing in my back garden and to me, Birmingham City represent everything that is bad about the game, they are the epitome of anti-football who squeeze all the joy and excitement out of the game and concentrate on boring and frustrating their opponents into submission. They are total parasites and drones who feed upon mistakes and bring very little to the party except solidity and organisation and an ability to carry out their manager’s instructions to the letter.

There is certainly talent within their squad and I suspect that if the shackles were taken off they would still thrive and win their fair share of matches but as things stand I cannot believe that any but the most rabid Blues supporter can honestly say that they enjoy the fare that is being put in front of them.

Maybe I am being naive and results are indeed the total be all and end all, but I suspect that the majority of Brentford fans would share the view of the late, great Danny Blanchflower of Spurs fame in that the great fallacy is that the game is first and foremost about winning. It’s nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It’s about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.

These forty-eight words, in my opinion totally summarise the Brentford philosophy of football, for better and for worse.

There have been many games over the last couple of unforgettable years when we have snatched victory out of almost certain defeat and not allowed games to drift into boring draws, but you have to take the rough with the smooth and yesterday was certainly a perfect example of where we sacrificed an almost certain point and lost at the death when chasing an elusive victory.

In that respect it was almost a replica of the Cardiff match where we fought our way back to equality but refused to settle for a draw and lost sickeningly and frustratingly through a soft goal in the last minute.

Of course we need to defend better and avoid daft and stupid errors and total giveaway goals but otherwise we adopt a policy of risk and reward and it is easy to forget the many times when our positivity has paid off particularly at time like this morning when we are left sulking and licking our wounds.

We were drawn into Birmingham’s spider’s web and were unable to set ourselves free and did not manage a shot on target until late on when we equalised Maghoma’s well worked and well taken goal when he was set free by a clever pass from Toral, was allowed to make an unchecked run into the area with Diagouraga not tracking his run and his instant angled shot beat the previously untested Button at his near post.

Toral should not even have been on the field after his potentially leg-breaking assault on Bidwell right on halftime was punished with an extremely lenient yellow card when his red mist should have been punished with a card of the same colour.

The pattern of the match remained unchanged with Brentford unable to create opportunities or gain a foothold in the final third of the field until Hofmann’s arrival in place of the invisible Vibe helped us get up the pitch and gain momentum and cracks finally began to appear in the home team’s previously impassable defence.

Judge was set free on the halfway line and ran unchallenged towards goal with the defenders trailing in his wake. Surely this would be the equaliser, but, shades of MK Dons a few weeks ago and Sheffield Wednesday last season, he missed horribly and unforgivably, blazing over the crossbar with the goal gaping.

That surely was that and I was reconciled to the game drifting towards what seemed an inevitable conclusion but Colin fed Judge and his well hit shot from long range was surely meat and drink for the previously untroubled Kuszczak but he unaccountably fumbled the ball straight to the feet of Hofmann, following in like all good strikers and he couldn’t miss.

Under Uwe Rosler the game would have been closed out and we would have gone away content with a draw, but Brentford do not settle for one point when three are still on the table and we pushed on and fell to a sucker punch when Dean advanced into the final third but telegraphed his pass which was easily intercepted and the home team broke away down our deserted right flank and Vaughan’s cross shot was turned in by Kieftenbeld who had made a positive supporting run, and he beat McEachran to the ball to score a late and totally undeserved and sickening winner.

So what have we learned from yesterday’s defeat, and here I am going to be totally objective and I apologise for any perceived negativity:

  1. We lack pace throughout the team and are vulnerable to quick breakaways
  2. We do not track runners and have conceded several avoidable goals recently by allowing players to run into the area unchallenged
  3. Defenders are caught upfield and we lack cover and numbers at the back when the opposition breaks quickly at us
  4. We lack bite, height and doggedness in midfield and rarely win a tackle or second ball or impose ourselves upon the game or opposition
  5. There is nobody prepared to fight and scrap and fight fire with fire
  6. We do not have a box to box midfielder who can replicate what Douglas did for us when he was in his pomp. Kerschbaumer is the nearest we have but he is patently not yet ready
  7. We are too well behaved and polite. There is an acceptable middle ground but Birmingham got into the ear of the referee at every opportunity and benefited from his decisions. We stand around like choirboys
  8. We lack strength up front and the ability to win the ball, hold it up, run the channels and are not at all clinical in front of goal

I make no mention of our approach in terms of never settling for anything other than a win as, firstly, I totally agree with this philosophy as long as we do not go too kamikaze when chasing the win, and secondly, this is how Matthew Benham insists that we play, and nothing will change this, whatever I or any other pundit says.

I fully appreciate that we are nowhere near the finished article and we are limited by our resources but I wonder whether any of the weaknesses noted above will be addressed and rectified in the transfer window?

We are still a soft touch to teams like Birmingham and seem unable to deal with them as this was the third time in a row that they have defeated us and we have to learn some lessons from this as Bolton and Cardiff City were other teams that recently have succeeded in knocking us out of our stride and I am sure that Middlesbrough will not be shrinking violets either when we meet them in the very near future.

Brentford play beautiful one touch football, but we can come unstuck when the pitches are bad or when the opposition simply set up to frustrate or kick us out of our stride. It is all very well being known as the Arsenal of the Championship but we have a soft underbelly and unless rectified this will prevent us reaching the heights that we aspire to.

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14 thoughts on “Frustration! – 3/1/16

  1. Agree with you Greville about not settling for a draw – watching The Bees these days is not for the faint hearted. Also, it is a team game, so although Harlee (too often?) made the mistake, it was in their half – so where is the cover.

    I think we could do with a couple of good defending midfielders who have a bit of flair. Clone McCormack? We ARE lightweight in that area.

    For this season I am content to watch The Bees play entertainging football, knowing that our ambitions are to be in the Premiership. And when we get there I want us to stay there. That means a team with depth and experience and skill.

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    • Any long term supporters of Brentford could have forecast the inevitable defeat almost from the kick-off knowing Birmingham “s game plan. That is what sets us apart from the fans of Middlesbrough,Derby Hull ecetera!

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  2. Brum certainly have the drop on us and that is a hugely disappointing fact, and whilst I agree with your sentiments re our playing style versus theirs, this feeling won’t last indefinitely. 3 interesting games over the Christmas period, and a 4 point return which feels about right, although our best performance was at home to BHA.

    What is weird for me is that our gifted midfield has been a bit of a mess over the last games, that as more players become available – DS needs to find his best combinations from the array of options we have. And perhaps make some additions / changes.

    Some of us crave a midfield enforcer, or to see more of Alan Mac ( the only squad player of this type). I read a similar piece by Jim Levack today, sadly I’ve accepted the reality that we just won’t sign such players in the future, they are not part of our philosophy.

    We are patently some way off being promotion or play off contenders, so for me the task now is to carefully secure and assemble a side that can really challenge next term. Finishing as strongly as possible of course, also try to go a few rounds in the cup. We must try to avoid the huge churn of players seen last summer – that work starts now.

    We have 3 really tough games to come, in 6 days and all at GP – whilst this spectre of the transfer window looms over us. It’s a real test for DS and the boys, but one that they need for us to see what we really have.

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  3. I still feel that the playoffs could be possibility but agree that planning for next season should be a priority now.

    An FA Cup run would be good too!

    What we need is a midfield beast who can also play and go box to box.

    I suppose I need to write a Transfer window piece now!! Unless you want to do so for me?

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  4. all this is food for thought but it comes down for me these last two years your need a grafter in your side like Brentford had in the seventies Jackie Graham yes he could play ball as much as anyone but then he could destroy the oppostions midfield with well in what we would say in football jargen today someone who controles the midfield a winner even without the ball !Look at the teams around us dare i say Watford with Deeney not a number nine. look even Arsenal who are one of the best possession teams in the game but there got a flamini or Coquelin a thing i think Brentford are missing

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  5. JD seems to be doing a pretty decent job at ITFC, water under the bridge so far as we are concerned but his influence is still apparent. His departure adds weight to my theory that we just won’t sign this type of player by choice. Sure if they can mix it fine, but we are after ball players and trying to pass around sides – a slightly more industrial version of Barca’s football a few years back.

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  6. A few points Greville, having experienced (superb!) hospitality with my Blues-supporting in-laws. Interestingly, all of them were convinced that the ref was on our side, given the number of free kicks he gave us, particularly in the second half. They were getting quite incensed, but naturally I agreed with almost all of his decisions, except when he gave us a free kick from a breakaway, instead of playing an advantage. He couldn’t wait to brandish yet another yellow card!
    I agree with all of your comments about Birmingham, good and bad, but want to add some context. The owner is in jail and the current manager inherited League One quality players (eg Donaldson and Cotterill) signed by Lee Clark, and some talented juniors and a few loanees (eg Toral who couldn’t get a regular game with us). He has done a superb job organising them into a team challenging for the play-offs.
    We played the first half with all of the possession, but in front of their two banks of four. In the second half, they were told to close us down and give us less time on the ball (and perhaps ‘shake us up’), which duly worked very well. They played like an away side and were very negative, but I would contend that Gary Rowett has little choice with the players at his disposal. They certainly know how to execute his game plan.
    And as for watching Birmingham every week; you should have experienced the delight all around me when they scored their second goal. It may be about the glory, but winning when you know you’re second best (and the ref’s against you) can be very, very satisfying! There were a lot of smiling faces after the game.
    I said after the game that I would not swap a single Birmingham player for a Brentford player with a view to improving our team. Birmingham are far more than the sum of their parts, but I do wonder with FFT if our owner’s playing style aspirations currently far overreach our ability to achieve them successfully. Roll on Lionel Road!

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  7. I agree with most of your comments and observations on what the Birmingham game ( and others like them) tell us . However, I am a bit perplexed by the implied assumption that we either have to be a ‘devil may care’ collection of ‘death or glory’ heroes or a bunch of faceless defensive drones . The difference between the class of 2014/15 and our current squad is that last season’s group meshed the best of both world’s – with the aggression and clatter of Dougie and Toums complemented perfectly by the flair and panache of Jota and Pritchard. I also believe that despite his alleged negativity and outspokenness, Dougie would still be a regular starter this season if he had not fallen out with the owner and opened his mouth once too often. We are where we are – and despite my earlier views – I may have to accept that Alan McCormack may be a better option ( at least pro tem) alongside Toums and Ryan Woods than Josh McEachran who still seems to be struggling with the intensity and hurly burly of Championship football. I also believe that with the current set up – a play off berth is already beyond us this season but add in a genuine box-to-box replacement for Douglas and additional cover for Djuricin/Hogan ( either now or in the summer) and we will be major contenders next season.

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  8. I’m not called Lumley, but agree with those who are 🙂

    The choice isn’t about going for a win or parking the bus, it’s about sensible risk / reward – doesn’t mean you have to give soft goals away does it?

    Bees fans I know assume that Josh McEeachran will step into the side and be all the things we want him to be, for me he still has plenty to do to be a starter at this level – maybe he’s one to come good next season.

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