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:
- We lack pace throughout the team and are vulnerable to quick breakaways
- We do not track runners and have conceded several avoidable goals recently by allowing players to run into the area unchallenged
- Defenders are caught upfield and we lack cover and numbers at the back when the opposition breaks quickly at us
- We lack bite, height and doggedness in midfield and rarely win a tackle or second ball or impose ourselves upon the game or opposition
- There is nobody prepared to fight and scrap and fight fire with fire
- 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
- 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
- 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.