After an unsuccessful play-off campaign in their first season back in the second tier, five successive top half finishes (9th, 10th, 10th, 11th, 9th) mean that Brentford have been unable to find that extra push to give them a shot of playing Premier League football for the first time in their history.
However, this year may be different. After losing experienced players in Neil Maupay, Dan Bentley, Romaine Sawyers, Ezri Konsa and Moses Odubajo, you’d be forgiven for thinking that another mid table finish for the Bees would suffice expectations. However, with the arrivals of Pontus Jansson, Ethan Pinnock, David Raya and Matias Jensen, Brentford have more than made up for this loss of players with some wise additions. With three of these men being defenders, Brentford have a new found resilience in defence with a joint second lowest tally of 13 goals conceded in 16 games this season.
One of the main criticisms aimed at Brentford last season was their poor away form. With only three wins on the road last term (inc. their game at Bolton not going ahead and Brentford being given the three points), it massively contributed to their faltering play-off push come the end of the season. However, this season the tables seem to have turned. Three goal hauls at Barnsley, QPR, Swansea and Wigan have helped them secure five away wins already this season, but most Bees fans will still be despairing as they haven’t managed to kick on at home, only picking up two wins at Griffin Park this campaign.
Despite the loss of last season’s top scorer Maupay, Brentford have continued their brand of free flowing attacking football with a front three of top scorer Ollie Watkins, Said Benrahma and Bryan Mbuemo. Under Thomas Frank, the Bees line up in a 4-3-3 but will have to do without first choice centre back Julian Jeanvier after his late red card at Wigan last time out.
Brentford have strengths all over the pitch, especially in wide areas. After the departure of Dean Smith to Aston Villa, Frank implemented a 3-4-3 formation with Rico Henry and Henrik Dalsgaard as wing backs, before his switch to a 4-3-3. With these two men more than capable of operating high up the field, Brentford can overload the opposition full-backs and stretch the play. This change to four at the back has allowed the Bees more consistency in their team selection and, subsequently, results. With the front three all tricky players, and the two wide players often switching wings, Brentford will enjoy getting bodies forwards and finding Ollie Watkins in the box. A man who has been converted from a wide player to a striker, Watkins spends more time in between the posts and has been rewarded with 10 goals already this season.
Brentford’s gaffer himself stated that he likes his team to press high up the pitch aggressively while also keeping possession, so Reading have the option to either sit back and nullify this threat, or match them with their own pressing game, perhaps combining the two depending on the situation of the game.