To preview Saturday’s game, we spoke to Billy Grant from Beesotted - you can find them on Twitter @Beesotted.
How’s the season gone for Brentford so far?
We’ve had a funny season but it’s been good in a way as it’s kept us under the radar - we didn’t win a match till the end of September. I think if we were playing bad football at the start of the season when we weren’t winning, fans would have been panicking, but fair play to Brentford fans - overall they’ve been pretty patient. We were playing very good football - passing teams to death at times - but just not winning.
Lots of possession. Lots of chances. Not many points. That pretty summed up our first two months of the season. We played you end of September and I think we were unlucky not to get all three points.
We do a post-match podcast after every single match. In 90% of our matches, the opposition fans have told us (unedited) how they felt that they robbed us of points and we were much the better side.
That’s not having rose-tinted glasses or being braggadocios - in fact, if anything it does get a bit annoying. To be told week after week that you were the better team and not get the points kind of hurts after a while. You would almost prefer to have played terribly so that you would know in your heart of hearts that you didn’t deserve the points.
So when we went to ‘Boro, we pretty much played them off the park at their place and got a draw. And when Derby came to us they literally tried parking the bus. The ball didn’t leave their half for most of the the second half of the match (I think we got up to 84% possession at one stage) as Derby fans complained afterwards they should have bought binoculars as the ball was constantly at the other end of the pitch. Again, we scraped a draw against them.
It was becoming like groundhog day. Yes we like the plaudits. But would rather have the points on the table.
Then we started to turn our draws into wins.
The victory at Birmingham in November was probably the most satisfying (even more than beating Fulham and almost beating QPR - they scored two goals in extra time to equalise - they were poor, I’m still in denial). That Birmingham result was written in the clouds after they poached three of our ‘stars’ from under our very noses on the last day of the season - Jota, Dean and Colin. There was only going to be one result that day.
Our frustrating start of the season was then well and truly put behind us with a win against West London rivals Fulham. And other than a blip - when we lost to Hull up at their place despite just sacking and replacing their manager - being unbeaten in the last month in the league (not including Wolves - losing to Wolves doesn’t count), picking up nine points at Xmas (beating Norwich at their place and Aston Villa and Sheffield Wednesday at home) has really moved us into the pack of teams just outside the top six looking to gatecrash the play-off party.
To be fair we’ve been playing good football and creating chances from the first day of the season. All season we have been the team who have had the most shots on target (currently 143 which averages at 5.3 shots per game). Behind us are Cardiff (134), Bristol City (130) and Wolves (126). What has let us down has been converting more of those chances to goals - we have scored 41 of our 143 chances whereas Wolves have scored 50 of their 126. Also, we have historically allowed teams too many chances on goal (We have conceded 117 shots on goal as opposed to 81 for Cardiff and Wolves).
Saying that, we have seen a new partnership in develop defence as of late due to the injury of John Egan. Chris Mepham, who came through our B-team set-up (we scrapped our academy to set up a B-team which protected us against bigger clubs poaching our up-and-coming stars) making his league debut at the start of the season, came into the side at Xmas time and hasn’t looked back since.
A wise head on a young body marshalled expertly by the older head of Danish international Andreas Bjelland. Other than the Wolves game - which was us collapse in the second half - we have been looking a lot more assured in defence as of late than we normally do.
Who’s the danger man to watch out for in this Brentford team?
The fact that Ollie Watkins is creates loads of chances makes him one to look out for. He’s scored eight goals but if you have to be critical, he doesn’t convert as many as he should. Saying that, he’s young and still learning and will only get better as he gains more experience in this division (we signed him from Exeter in the summer for £1.8m or so).
Because of his ability to score goals, Lasse Vibe is also a man to watch.
But the way we play, we can create problems all over the park. So from Romaine Sawyers to the ginger Messi Ryan Woods to the enthusiastic Sergi Canos - who scored that wonder goal at Reading two seasons ago, any of them could be seen as the one to watch out for.
And then there is Emiliano Marcondes - signed in the summer from Denmark but left out there for four months to end up top goalscorer in the Danish Superleague before he joined us a few weeks ago. He hasn’t played a minute of league football as yet, so who knows what he can do?
Any long-term young talents that we should be keeping an eye on?
Our whole team is pretty young to be fair. Even with the relatively geriatric Lasse Vibe (30), Andreas Bjelland (29) in the side, the average age of our team is under 25. I think only Barnsley boast a younger squad - but not by much.
I talked about B-team graduate Chris Mepham earlier. He’s definitely a good prospect. Still young (20) and with no more than half a dozen starts under his belt, he still has a lot to learn. But he seems to have taken the Championship by the scruff of the next so far.
What have you made of Reading this season? Is there anyone in our team you’re worried about facing?
We talked to Becka White from The Tilehurst End on The Pride of West London Podcast this week about Jaap Stam and Reading this week, and we mentioned the stat flying around last season that pitted Reading at 18th by the ’stats world’ when you were firmly lodged in the playoff zone. The stats companies felt that Reading had a lot of luck last season that went their way.
The thought process is that luck evens itself out over time and if you get more than your average share of good luck in one particular period, that will even itself out over a longer period.
From what I can gather chatting to my Reading chums, it seems that you are very similar to us in the fact that you like to keep possession and pass a lot. However, you are lacking a cutting edge. We had similar periods like that over the past few years as we developed from being a fairly direct team to being more of a passing team - playing the ball out from the back. And it can be frustrating to watch at times. It’s great having the ball but you have to be able to actually do something with it.
We’ve had a few of those games this season even but we’re hoping that we have broken that mould as of late - managing to couple the passing with the incisive break-through move.
Yann Kermorgant was always a worry for me - particularly when he was at Charlton - and Liam Moore - who played for us on loan from Leicester in League One - has developed somewhat from when he was at Griffin Park and we will need to on our game to ensure those two doesn’t dictate the way the match goes.
How do you see the game going, and what will the score be?
This could actually be a tough one for The Bees. Reading have had a bad run for a while now - something that we don’t seem to handle too well historically. Plus they have just scored three goals in the FA Cup - albeit against a second division side, but a win is a win and it gets the adrenaline going again.
Brentford need to ensure they do not rest on their laurels for this match. I can’t see Reading sitting back and letting The Bees take the game to them so it should lead to an open game. Hopefully, our new defensive pairing of Bjelland and Mepham will withstand any Reading attacks (you may not have scored much, but you do have goalscorers in your side, and all they need is for our defenders to switch off for a moment) and Ryan Woods takes control of the midfield.
I’ve been bold on our podcast and have gone for a 2-0 win to The Bees.