Our series on the newly-promoted Premier League sides continues with this look at Brentford’s goalkeeper and defenders.
In this article, we will assess the Bees’ overall clean sheet chances and then present a player-by-player rundown of their backline ahead of their Fantasy Premier League (FPL) debuts.
WHAT IS BRENTFORD’S CLEAN SHEET POTENTIAL?
Brentford were the highest-scoring team in the Championship last season, with much of the focus from an FPL perspective consequently focusing on Ivan Toney (£6.5m).
There has been less attention on the Bees’ backline, with all of their goalkeepers and defenders owned by fewer than 3% of Fantasy managers at present.
Perhaps there’s some justification for that: Thomas Frank’s side had the worst defensive record out of the three promoted clubs (42 goals conceded in 46 matches) and kept fewer clean sheets (17) than Norwich City (18) and Watford (23).
The Bees were remarkably consistent whether at home or on the road, conceding just two more goals on their travels than they did in west London:
That was also a trait of Brentford’s previous full season under Frank in 2019/20 (18 goals conceded at home, 20 away).
|2020/21 total (rank v other Championship clubs)|
|Goals conceded||42 (4th)|
|Clean sheets||17 (=5th)|
|Shots conceded||396 (2nd)|
|Shots on target conceded||141 (=5th)|
|Saves made from shots in the box||67 (=10th)|
|Expected goals against (xGA)||42.26 (1st)|
Above stats taken from Fbref and WhoScored
Only Barnsley conceded fewer goal attempts than Frank’s troops last season, although the Bees were only ranked joint-fifth for fewest shots on target allowed.
Indeed, Brentford’s goalkeepers had to make 67 saves from shots taken inside their own area in 2020/21; nine Championship teams allowed fewer than that.
In mitigation, the Bees had some injuries to contend with and had little strength in depth: first-choice centre-half Pontus Jansson (£4.5m) sat out half the season with fitness issues, midfielder anchor-cum-stopper Christian Norgaard (£5.0m) was absent for much of the campaign with an ankle problem and left-back Rico Henry (£4.5m) was unavailable for the final 15 games of the regular season.
And the west Londoners had been widely praised for their defensive efforts in 2019/20, with not even promoted Leeds United, Fulham or West Bromwich Albion conceding fewer attempts on goal.
The fact that they could boast a lower expected goals against (xGA) tally than the more heralded Watford backline in 2020/21 is also worth bearing in mind.
APPS, GOALS AND ASSISTS
|Player||Position||Apps||Starts||Goals||Assists||2021/22 FPL Position||2021/22 FPL Price|
|Mads Bech Sørensen||LB/CB||32||29||2||0||DEF||£4.5m|
David Raya (£4.5m) is Brentford’s number one goalkeeper, having started 42 of the Bees’ 46 Championship matches last season and having been an ever-present in the campaign before that.
Comfortable with the ball at his feet, the Spaniard has long been linked with a move to Arsenal.
Raya attempted almost 300 more passes than any other Championship goalkeeper last season, with Frank’s fondness for playing out from the back something that could benefit him on the Bonus Points System (BPS).
With added responsibility for distribution comes the increased chance of mistakes, however, and only one Championship player made more errors than Raya last season. A howler against Huddersfield particularly stood out.
His save percentage of 74.2% was also lower than fellow promoted £4.5m goalkeepers Daniel Bachmann (76.1%) and Tim Krul (80%).
Barring further recruitment, rookie Patrik Gunnarsson (£4.0m) – who has made just one league appearance for Brentford and spent last season on loan in Denmark – is set to play understudy.
DEFENDERS: THE FULL-BACKS
Following the departure of Henrik Dalsgaard, Brentford are even shorter in the full-back department and will surely strengthen between now and Gameweek 1.
The right flank looks particularly weak, with Mads Roerslev (£4.5m) and the unpriced rookie Finley Stevens the only recognised defenders down that side.
After a stop-start campaign littered by injuries and benchings, Roerslev started the last nine regulation Championship matches and the three play-off games.
Operating initially at right-back in Frank’s 4-3-3, he enjoyed a stint further forward at wing-back upon the late-season switch to a 3-4-1-2 and set up a brace of goals in the 5-0 win over Preston in April.
For all Roerslev’s raw potential, it’s perhaps Rico Henry (£4.5m) on the opposite wing who is the pick of Brentford’s backline from an FPL point of view.
The pacy left-back created a respectable 25 chances in 30 appearances, which was more than any of the Bees’ defenders managed in 2020/21.
But even then, two assists across the whole of the campaign – exactly what he managed in an ever-present 2019/20 – and two goals in 110 Championship appearances doesn’t scream ‘the next Stuart Dallas’.
DEFENDERS: THE CENTRE-HALVES
Ethan Pinnock (£4.5m) and Pontus Jansson (£4.5m) were Frank’s go-to pairing at centre-half last season when fit, although where the injury-prone Jansson is concerned, that wasn’t all that often.
Pinnock, a threat at set plays, registered more goal attempts (30) than any other Brentford defender in 2020/21, with a minutes-per-chance average of 114.5 fairly decent without being overly eye-catching.
Harry Maguire’s (£5.5m) mean, for instance, was 84.7 in a superior division.
No Brentford defender could beat Pinnock for clearances, blocks and interceptions (CBI), either.
The centre-half have averaged a CBI every 13 minutes in 2020/21, a competitive tally when compared to the leading FPL defenders and again noteworthy when it comes to BPS.
Jansson was fond of goal or two at Leeds but has yet to open his Brentford account despite making 58 league appearances across two seasons.
Pinnock and Jansson both featured in the top 10 of Championship regulars for the BPS-boosting passes per game, meanwhile – although we’re clutching at straws and with the likes of Tariq Lamptey and Luke Ayling available at this price point, few managers will be taking the plunge on a Brentford centre-half.
Elsewhere, Charlie Goode (£4.0m) will play back-up unless a serious injury crisis hits.
Utility man Mads Sorensen (£4.5m) covered at both left-back and centre-half when unavailabilty struck last season but the arrival of a new face from Celtic seemingly pushes him further down the pecking order in the latter position.
NEW SIGNING – DIFFERENT FORMATION?
Brentford have now confirmed the signing of Kris Ajer from Celtic, a towering centre-half who has filled in at right-back on occasion at Parkhead and who has experience of playing in central midfield in his native Norway.
The move begs the question over whether Frank is to stick with his trusty 4-3-3 and replace one of Pinnock or Jansson with the newcomer or whether we are set to see more of the wing-back system that he turned to in late-2020/21.
The move to a 3-4-1-2 saw Brentford keep four clean sheets in their final six regulation-season Championship matches of the campaign and could also be significant regarding the appeal of Bryan Mbeumo (£5.5m), who flitted between impact substitute and ‘out of position’ striker when the formation was last used.
Frank said of Ajer:
We wanted to get another central defender in, and Kris was our first choice. We think he fits the position specific profile perfectly, especially on the ball.
Kris is very composed and can find the right passes between the lines. His level when bringing the ball forward is very high. As a defender he has the physicality that you need, and he won his duels when he played in the Scottish league. He can help us in both boxes, with his strength in the air.
He is a player at a good age, and we think he come straight in and be ready to perform in the Premier League. But he also fits the way we want to recruit players and work with them. He can develop as a player and both Brentford FC and Kris can move to a higher level in the coming years.
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