How Brentford Are Now Creating High-Value Opportunities
Everyone knows that Brentford are currently without their best goalscorer, Ivan Toney. The Englishman is currently banned from playing for the West-London club and will not return until January next year. He has been critical for them over the last several years, not only for the goals he scores but also in build-up.
Regardless of this, Brentford have come out the blocks fast this season, scoring 5 goals in their opening 2 games. So how are they looking so potent in attack and how are they playing without Toney?
The Art of the Cutback
Brentford have stacked their squad with a number of incredibly fast players. Bryan Mbeumo, Kevin Schade and Yoane Wissa rotating up front, along with Rico Henry advancing from left back, have provided raw pace out wide throughout the first two matches. Clipped through balls for these players, and others, to run onto have been a key method of chance creation.
Receivers aim to either reach the by-line and cut the ball back for a teammate, or drill in a low cross early.
So far this season, Brentford have scored 2 of their 3 non-penalty goals from these situations.
Against Tottenham, Henry latched onto a through ball. He then beat Emerson Royal for pace and squared it to Wissa, who scored after a deflection off a Spurs’ defender.
Similarly, in the second game of the season Ajer and Henry down the right hand side combined to send Ajer through. The Norweigen, playing right back late on in the game, met the ball at the by-line then played a pinpoint pass across the goalmouth. Leno was sent sprawling as Mbeumo tapped into an empty net.
Brentford have utilised this method of chance creation throughout the two opening games. Towards the end of the first half of the Spurs game, Henry was let loose down the left hand side again, and after passing a good low ball across goal, Mbeumo missed an open net at the back post.
Even if the ball into the box doesn’t reach a Brentford player directly, a quick ball in is effective at creating enough carnage. During the second half of the Spurs game, it was Vitaly Janelt’s turn to fire in a low ball. Tottenham goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario could only palm the ball into the onrushing Mikkel Damsgaard. The young Dane should have done better with the resulting shot.
The second half of the Fulham game also saw a similar moment. Mbeumo played a ball across the six yard box, yet was unable to find either Schade or Wissa. Fulham right-back Kenny Tete was unable to properly clear the ball and it sprung up in the air. Mathias Jensen met it on the edge of the area, and nearly bounced the ball over Bernd Leno. Only a smart save from the German stopped a certain goal.
It’s common knowledge that Brentford place more emphasis on the numbers side of the game than almost any other club in the world. It is clear that they see this as the most effective way of creating high value chances.
After the second gameweek, according to FBREF, Wissa and Mbeumo are ranked number 1 and 2 for Premier League players who have generated the highest non-penalty expected goals (a measure of the quality of chances created).
This high quality of goalscoring opportunity is also reflected when compared with other clubs in the league. Brentford have totaled 4.5 xG, second only to Brighton, yet are only 13th for shots taken. While it has only been 2 games, this is a good reflection of the fact that Brentford are focused on working the ball into areas where they have the best possible chance of scoring.
While it may sound simple, it is impressive that Brentford have adapted so fluidly. They are now a side able to generate chances in a completely different way to how they were most successful last season, and it will be interesting to see if they can continue this style throughout the season.