A Bad Start To A Tough Week – 10/1/16

Yesterday’s disappointing and frustrating defeat to Walsall in the Third Round of the FA Cup left a slightly sour taste in the mouth so insipid and uninspiring was Brentford’s overall performance and given that fact that this was the first leg of what is certain to be a tough and arduous week that also sees us play two of the promotion favourites in the shape of our nemesis, Middlesbrough and Burnley I intend to be sensible and conserve some of my energy and ration my words in order to ensure that there is something left in the tank for me to cover the next two matches!

To be honest there really isn’t too much to be said as Dean Smith rolled the dice, understandably rotated the team given the need to rest some tired legs and ensure that the squad can cope with the demands of three matches in a hectic six day period and unfortunately his gamble didn’t pay off.

Colin, Tarkowski, Diagouraga, Judge and Vibe were all rested with recalls for Yennaris, O’Connell, McCormack, McEachran and Hofmann.

Conspiracy theorists will point to the absence from the starting lineup of possible transfer targets Tarky, Diagouraga and Judge but I would prefer to believe that they were all being saved for the hectic week that lies ahead.

I have no problems at all in those changes being made as the squad should be strong and deep enough to cope with them but where I do have concerns is in how we sleepwalked through the first half and showed no real interest in competing.

Brentford have built their recent success on high energy, pressing, movement and maintaining a high tempo, all of which were sadly lacking in our play throughout a first half which ranks with the worst seen in recent memory at Griffin Park.

Why should this be the case as the manager was well aware of the threat that his former team presented and their decent and highly committed performance cannot have come as a surprise to him?

So lacking in pace, imagination, tempo and dare I say effort and energy was Brentford’s first half performance that Judge had to be brought on after the break and his skill, pace and enthusiasm revitalised Brentford who dominated the second half and would have drawn or maybe even won an unlikely victory but for a combination of exceptional goalkeeping and profligate finishing.

Dean Smith’s former team played their role as party poopers to perfection. They were neat and tidy on the ball, aided and abetted as they were by a lethargic Brentford team which sat off them, stayed deep, never pressed and allowed Walsall to maintain possession for long periods without benefit of any challenge.

Hofmann was totally isolated up front and a strange team selection which featured three holding midfielders ensured that he lacked any support from midfield runners and we created very little in that appalling first half.

It came as no surprise when Mantom was allowed to run unchallenged from deep whilst we ignored the danger and simply watched, backed off and admired him and his perfectly placed curling long range effort gave Walsall a totally deserved lead.

McEachran looked yards off the pace and the game totally passed him by. McCormack ran down blind alleys and only Woods made any impact through the centre but was too easily snuffed out. The formation for once did not work, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the personnel selected did not gel and merely replicated each other’s style of play.

Swift and Canos flitted in and out of the game and Hofmann showed some clever touches but one soft McCormack shot on target in the entire first half tells its own sad story and left the Bees with much to do.

It gives me no pleasure to say that FC Midtjylland appeared to expend more energy in their languid halftime stroll around the pitch than the Bees did throughout the first half.

After the break Brentford seized the initiative, mainly thanks to the tireless efforts of Judge, who demonstrated just how hard it would be to replace him should he leave in the Transfer Window.

We huffed and puffed and efforts from Judge, Hofmann, Swift and Canos were well saved by Etheridge and Dean missed horribly from a free header.

There was more good news with the return from injury of Djuricin who had a late run out off the bench. He found good positions but understandably lacked sharpness and missed two late opportunities to save the day.

Walsall massed in defence and presented an impassable barrier and always broke quickly with Sawyers prominent and but for a brilliant save from Button and a late header from a well worked corner kick routine which hit the post, the margin of their victory would have been greater, and we could not really have argued.

My memory of the FA Cup goes back over fifty years when I was taken by my Liverpool supporting Dad to the 1965 Cup Final where his heroes defeated Leeds United, much to his delight.

The following year I also saw Everton’s narrow victory over Sheffield Wednesday in a five goal thriller that left me breathless with excitement and my Dad a bit less impressed.

I am well aware of the magic of the cup and the mystic hold it has over supporters of a certain vintage and am saddened that this no longer seems to be the case.

I can also remember some of our wonderful days out against the likes of Cardiff, Chelsea, Southampton and Sunderland as well as the embarrassment of suffering giant killings at the hands of Guildford City and Telford amongst others.

Yesterday was therefore important to me and I resented the fact that it didn’t appear to matter too much that we were knocked out of this famous and august competition at the first opportunity.

I well appreciate the juggling act that we faced given the two tough matches that lie ahead next week and have no problem with our utilising other squad members, as that is what they are there for, although the side selected could have been better balanced.

What rankled and upset me more is that certainly before the break the match and occasion really did not seem to matter to the players so uncommitted, languid and unacceptable was their display which reminded me of the way we strolled through a recent FA Cup tie against Wrexham which also ended in another defeat by lower league opposition.

The proof of the pudding will be in the eating and should we gain four points or more from our next two matches – a really tough ask, then yesterday’s debacle will be forgotten, at least until Fourth Round day when we will be left kicking our heels and without a match.

I hope we come out fighting against Middlesbrough as we will certainly need to do so. Losing can also kill confidence and I now have  a horrible, nagging and negative thought running through my mind about the horrendous prospect of three home defeats in a week should we play as badly against Middlesbrough and Burnley as we did against Walsall. Surely that will not be the case!

I am just left feeling rather sad and empty that our most famous cup competition has been so devalued and is now seen as a necessary evil rather than something to look forward to with relish and anticipation.

Is this simply the price of progress and if so, is it an acceptable one? What does everyone else think?

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10 thoughts on “A Bad Start To A Tough Week – 10/1/16

  1. First half performance was as insipid and as uninspiring as I have seen in a long time Grev. Smiths pre match words of picking a team to respect the competition and to win the game seemed very hollow indeed. Felt sorry for Hoffman. He is no solo striker and had no support whatsoever from midfield. A baffling tactical line up given Smiths inside knowledge of the opposition. As you rightly say all will be forgotten quickly if we can get things right Tuesday and Friday, and we return to the tempo and energetic game we know we are capable of to prosper in this league. It does seem that the club and the players these days don’t seem to give a toss about the Cup competitions. Even with reduced admission like yesterday the inevitable outcome is that the fans will eventually vote with their feet and just give these games a miss in the knowledge that the club has no desire to progress in them. I find this very sad indeed.

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  2. Great article, as always. My worries are:

    Will this be an ‘Arsenal week’, when, in six days our season effectively ends?

    How did our philosophy of attacking, pressing football dissipate so quickly?

    The ‘if Judge goes we’re sunk’ therorists seemed to include the rest of the team yesterday!

    How much strength in depth do we actually have? If yesterday’s team weren’t good enough to beat a team we could be facing in the league next season, which players are pressurising our first team for their places? We have people, but do we have the skill?

    Is it coincidence that all the players who have been transfer targets over the summer and January all came from British clubs. Are our European signings still struggling to become acclimatised to British football (I realise Jota is the exception that proves my rule).

    I overheard our chairman (at a certain book signing in the club shop) say he didn’t think we would “do much business” in the January window. Does that mean the bids for our players have come as a surprise and, if they prove successful, do we have replacements in our sights or will we be forced into more team selections like the one we saw yesterday.

    Will a ‘parade’ of a more successful football team at half time yesterday be an inspiration to our team or fill them with feelings of being the ‘poor relation’ ?

    I hate posing questions and not offering solutions but, I just don’t know. My optimism and confidence in the club and its management have been dented. I hope my worries will be reduced in seven days and forgotten by the end of January but, it’s Brentford innit

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  3. Well greville i was not there but Brentford like all other teams rest there players and put aside the cup competionsThou i know football is much harder physicaly than at my time well we had only a 16 man squad and us two youngesters I rememember at easter time the friday we played at colchester Saturday we went to Chester then recieved Colchester the top team at that moment on tuesday evening .then saturday Bradford at home and at 16 i played in all of them just missed the first half at chester.Todays players are or should be in top condition we had nothing like a gym etc and when i think about you supporters every day you have to get up and go to work and a footballer will tell you he would prefere to plays games than trainning so this tired legs etc well makes me smile as well how many of our players have been out injured ect i would like to know how many games each players has played since the start of the season

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    • Everyone,however competent, has “a bad day at the office ” I am afraid Dean Smith had one such day yesterday. I had no problem with team selection.What bemused me was the way the Bees played so deep in the first half. It was as though they were relying on breakaways without making any breakaways ! DS has to take some responsibility.He cannot just blame the players for the unbelievable performance.

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  4. Really frustrating Greville. I, like you, love the cup and had been looking forward to this game. I knew Walsall would be a good side and provide tough opposition but had assumed that we’d be prepared and up for it.

    Not sure what you think but I really hoped that when we needed to make changes we could have taken the game to them by replacing Mac with Marco and playing 2 up front. I thought The Hof actually played quite well and has the ability to bring other players into the game but was so isolated up there on his own – I felt frustrated for him.

    As Clive alludes to above I hope there isn’t a resignation amongst the team that that is it if we lose Judge. It did look a bit like that.

    Interestingly I thought we really missed Tarky and Toums – not so much defensively but in the way they bring the ball out and start the counter attack. The replacements just don’t seem to be the same type of players. Early days maybe but the team did look unbalanced and predictable.

    One last point. I wish that more players would take responsibility for shooting. I know that Dean said he wanted more shots (and how good was Woods at Reading) but too many times seem to be trying to craft the perfect goal.

    As I said, frustrated!

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    • Thanks Tim. I totally agree with your comments.

      I think we should have a Plan B and be prepared to play two up front when necessary.

      Agree too that we missed Tarky running forward with the ball and a Toums at his best as well.

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  5. The FA Cup matters to me as well Greville. That it appears to not matter to players makes me sad.

    I think we should give some credit to Walsall. They were keener, quite attractive to watch and should they go up I think they should do OK. They can only play what is up against them and yes Brentford were that bad and if would have been unfair to them if we had sneeked in and won it.

    There was a lot of negativity from the Ealing Road end, and some pretty vitriolic comments made about Hoffman, unfairly I think.

    I hope the saving of players for the week ahead is justified, but I have a gnawing feeling that it won’t be a good week. I hope I am wrong.

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  6. Very good selection of comments. Richard Poole’s on squad size & fixtures back in the day are something that our staff should read. I’ve been around the block with BFC like you all, and the great moments have to be savoured, whilst the hits are taken on the chin. But we follow a club where everything is analysed, and by many measures we aren’t where we wanted to be in terms of squad strength, depth and our transfer dealings. 4 home cup defeats since promotion is no accident and who can blame fans for not turning out on the evidence seen – 6,500 bees showed up yesterday for a game vs a L1 side – not bad is it.

    I didn’t think there was much in the game in truth, they shaded it I guess. Worryingly until AJ’s entrance our only creative spark came from Swift and Canos – 2 loanees, not good. We won’t score many with Hoff or Vibe as the lone front man and Djuricin is a finisher, he can’t head the ball or hold up up, so for me he needs to play with Hoffmann in a 2.

    Most of the injured players are now back on the scene, seems we over estimated the bounce this would give us.

    Early days I know, but I feel but DS needs a decent week on and off the pitch, otherwise we could slump and we are not safe yet.

    As for the FCM halftime parade – frankly it was ill judged and a bit embarrassing.

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  7. Another great post, Greville and I agree with many of the comments above.

    It was a very curious performance from Brentford. As has been discussed, we backed off them throughout the first half and gave them far too much time on the ball. We weren’t really on it in any department and failed to create anything of any real note.

    It was strange, because when I saw the lineup before kick off I actually felt quite excited. All the changes made seemed entirely acceptable and it looked like a great opportunity to give good players who have been warming the bench in recent weeks a decent run out. To me, our starting eleven didn’t look particularly terrible and I wouldn’t have said that we were either a) disrespecting Walsall or b) failing to take the competition seriously. Unfortunately what transpired over the course of that first 45 minutes proved otherwise.

    A weak, insipid, tired, uninspiring performance from a side which displayed none of our usual exciting cut and thrust and devil-may-care free-flowing football. Lots of huff and puff from the Hoff (or should that be Hoff and puff) but no incision and one solitary shot on goal. Canos was completely nullified by Walsall’s left-back (who was superb throughout) and the team from League One were superior in every department.

    Second half we looked sharper, but Walsall never looked like getting beat and, but for the post, would have wound up winning by even more.

    I am reluctant to criticise either the manager or the players (especially after some of my previous comments have been somewhat misinterpreted and rounded on by fellow Bees fans in the past) but we really did seem curiously subdued yesterday. If anything, it reminded me of watching Dijkhuizen’s Brentford – no sense of common purpose and a general lack of any discernible game plan. Which is obviously disappointing, because the FA Cup is still a massive competition and, as a (usually) exciting, high tempo, free-scoring Championship side, I was hopeful that this season we might be capable of a decent cup run.

    I thought the manager was right to rest Judge, Tarkowski, Toums, etc. because I believed that the players coming in would seize their chance with relish. Yes, I knew the dangers Walsall would pose and I also knew how desperate they would be to have some kind of ‘revenge’ over Dean Smith. However, I was confident that we would have both the strength in depth and high intensity kind of football to edge it on the day. How wrong I was.

    We now move onto two massive, potentially season-defining games in five days. It doesn’t get any tougher than playing Boro and it will be fascinating to see how we play on Tuesday night. I was genuinely depressed about how easily we got beaten on Saturday and how little fight many of the players appeared to have (with the exception of Judge and also Swift, who I thought had a great game personally). I still have faith in our new manager and hopefully finally breaking the Middlesbrough hoodoo will go some way to erasing the memories of the Walsall game. But it was a curious one and I, like the rest of us, am still scratching my head as to why we were so awful.

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