Look it happens. Arsenal has made massive strides since finishing 8th two seasons in a row, but progress is rarely straightforward. In 20 league matches, the 1-0 defeat to Everton is just the second loss. Only Newcastle has less than four (1), but they do have ten (!) draws. Arsenal struggled to create quality chances against the new Sean Dyche defense, but luckily for Arsenal, Manchester City also lost keeping the gap at the top at five points. Oddly enough the only other league loss (Manchester United 3-1) was followed up by a 3-0 win over Brentford.
Brentford enters the weekend on impressive form sitting 7th in the table and just seven points off fourth. They haven’t lost a Premier League fixture since October 23rd, 4-0 to Aston Villa. But this includes wins over Manchester City and Liverpool, plus a 2-2 draw against Tottenham. And on top of that, Brentford’s defense has only given up one goal in their last five league matches. Arsenal will be happy that the game is being played at the Emirates as they look to bounce back.
For this week’s Premier League fixture we talked with the Brentford FC USA Supporters group to get their thoughts on the season, Thomas Frank, the match, and more.
The Short Fuse (TSF): Taking into consideration when leagues halted during World War II, the last time Brentford played consecutive years in the top flight was the 1937-38 & ‘38-39 seasons. Now it seems their inclusion in the Premier League year is not only a guarantee, but they are not far off from the Europa League position. Have you been surprised by their improvement this year or was there a general expectation of this among fans?
Brentford FC USA (BFCUSA): When last year began, I think most supporters had a goal of just making it to a second season in the top flight. With the opening win against Arsenal, many of us realized we deserved to be there and mid-table seemed like an achievable goal. So coming into this year another mid-table finish seemed likely, and maybe slightly higher with a bit of luck. I am not sure many had us pegged to be sitting 7th this far into the season ahead of Chelsea and Liverpool with wins over many of the “top” teams, including a late winner at the Etihad against Man City. Personally, I had hoped for a finish between 10th and 12th, so it has been a pleasant surprise to see us in the mix for European football.
TSF: Ivan Toney (15 goals) looks set to be the club’s top scorer for the third straight season. With two years left on his contract after this season, do you think Brentford can hold on to him in the summer or will they try to cash in?
BFCUSA: Obviously the looming issue with Toney is the betting allegations and what the punishment may be if found in violation of FA rules. This may have a large effect on this summer's transfer window. With Brentford’s business model, I think there is an understanding that Toney may be sold in the summer if our valuation is met. Besides the potential punishment, there may be some hope if we find ourselves playing in Europe next year. There is some hope that we may be able to keep him, as we were able to hold the team together from last year to this year. The reality is that our model is to maintain our sustainable growth and that often means losing our key players. To date though, that hasn’t held us back as we continually find ways to improve and young talent to develop into even better players.
TSF: Currently 7th in the Premier League, which Brentford players do you believe are not getting enough attention or credit?
BFCUSA: There are three players I think don’t get the credit they deserve.
First, Rico Henry has consistently been one of the best left-backs in England. He has world-class pace. Can attack and defend with equal skill and it’s almost impossible to counter down his flank. He is a massive talent that has been overlooked for a long time.
Second, Ben Mee has been a sensation this season. He always put in a shift for Burnley, but he has been absolutely dominant this season, and has even contributed on the score sheet. He was signed to provide depth at center back and has been arguably our player of the season so far.
Lastly is Mathias Jensen. Many a pundit had written us off with the departure of Christian Eriksen. Despite the fact that our success with him had more to do with the return of key players from injury (like Raya), he got undeserved credit for our season. Jensen this year has exceeded what Eriksen brought us. He has been our field general, leading our attack, making impossible passes, tracking back to support on defense, and generally being our field general.
TSF: It’s been over four years since Josh Dasilva left Arsenal’s U23s to join Brentford. Can you give us an update on how his progression as a player has aligned with Brentford’s rise to a top club in the Championship and now becoming a strong Premier League side?
BFCUSA: Dasilva was a key player in our Championship seasons and was developing into a top-tier player. He, unfortunately, suffered a very serious injury in our promotion season and missed a year of football. He came back in the second half of our inaugural season, but was injured again soon after his return and missed another couple of months. This year has been the first time he has been involved for a full season. Given the severity of the injuries and the extended time off, he was slow to return to form. For a while, it looked like he lost a step. You could always count on him to do something special if he finds space and the ball on his left foot, but his pace and endurance weren’t at the levels we were used to from him. As the season has progressed this year he has been more of a fixture in our Starting XI. He seems to now be fully back and healthy and a key component to our season and keeping other talented midfielders on the bench more often than not.
TSF: What are your predicted starting XI for Brentford in this game and a final scoreline?
CB Ajer / CB Pinnnock / CB Mee / RWB Hickey / LWB Henry
CM Norgaard / CM Dasilva / CM Jensen
FW Mbeumo / FW Toney
Final Score: 2-2 draw
Thanks to the Brentford FC USA Supporters group for talking with us this week.