Brentford against the big six; Arsenal against the smaller 14

By Bulldog Drummond

Last season Brentford won two of their 12 matches against the traditional “big six,” drew two and lost nine – there were 13 games all told as Brentford played Chelsea in the league cup as well as the league.  Removing this league cup game from the tally it is a case of won two, drawn two, lost eight.

Each the victories came against top six clubs at moments of difficulty.   For the opening game of the season Arsenal had multiple players out with covid and injury and asked for the game to be held over, but this was refused (unlike appeals from other clubs later such as Liverpool, when in fact they had no covid cases).  For the victory over Chelsea this came a few days before Chelsea had a Champions League game against Real Madrid; one may take it that some Chelsea minds were elsewhere.

For the games against clubs outside the traditional big six last season Brentford won 17% of their games, drew 17% of the matches and lost the remaining 66% of their games.  They scored 0.9 goals a game and conceded 1.67 goals a game.  So although they clearly lost the majority of these matches the goals figures show they were not an absolute rollover.

By comparison, in matches against clubs outside the traditional big six group, Brentford won 42% of their games, drew 19% and lost 38%.  They scored 1.42 goals a game and conceded 0.38 goals a game.

This shows that quite simply they are picking up what they can from games against Arsenal and the rest of the traditional big teams, but focussing on winning more than they lose in the other 26 matches of the season, in order to achieve mid-table safety.

And this is exactly what they did last season as this short-form table below shows.  They ended up 23 points and 13 goals behind Arsenal, but that was really neither here nor there.  The key point was that they were 11 points and 14 goals better off than Burnley who were relegated.  The fact that they let in more goals than Burnley is undoubtedly something that they are looking at, but otherwise, everything was fine.

 

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 38 29 6 3 99 26 73 93
5 Arsenal 38 22 3 13 61 48 13 69
13 Brentford 38 13 7 18 48 56 -8 46
18 Burnley 38 7 14 17 34 53 -19 35

 

In the summer window the only player Brentford sold was Marcus Forss to Middlesbrough for £3.5m.  And their spending on new players was modest and focused.  The largest amount (£18.6m) being spent on Aaron Hickey, a left back from Bologna.

They also brought in Keane Lewis-Potter, an up-and-coming player with England’s under 21s, who cost £16m from Hull City.

Mikkel Damsgaard arrived from Sampdoria to replace Christian Eriksen who went to Manchester United, having recovered from his cardiac arrest.  Other transfers were arranged without any fee being paid.

Putting together the summer deals the club spent a record net sum of £43.8m on players – which they obviously hope will enable them to continue to outplay other non-big-six clubs while picking up whatever they can from the top six.

This compares with the £149m net spend by Nottingham Forest, promoted last summer, who brought in 14 players – excluding those who arrived on a free or a loan.

And it must be agreed that the Bees’ tactics seem to work.  Brentford came up to the Premier League at the end of 2020/21 with the final table reading…

 

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Norwich City 46 29 10 7 75 36 39 97
2 Watford 46 27 10 9 63 30 33 91
3 Brentford 46 24 15 7 79 42 37 87
4 Swansea City 46 23 11 12 56 39 17 80
5 Barnsley 46 23 9 14 58 50 8 78
6 AFC Bournemouth 46 22 11 13 73 46 27 77

 

We may note that Norwich City and Watford are now back in the Championship, Swansea are currently 22nd in that league while Barnsley are 11th in League One.   Yet there these clubs were in the summer of 2021 all thinking that the future was probably quite bright.

Brentford didn’t make automatic promotion that summer but won the play offs.   But for Swansea and Barnsley, all that hope of brighter futures that was around the clubs in May 2021, is long since gone.  If nothing else it shows how quickly football can change.

Up next: the team.

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