Brentford suffered only their second home loss of the season as they fell 2-1 to promotion hopefuls Middlesbrough in yet another frustrating performance from Thomas Frank’s side.
Two goals in a five minute period were enough to succumb Brentford to their fifth loss in six games under Frank’s management.
In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Brentford came unstuck in yet another key game in their hopes of promotion this season.
Middlesbrough’s High Press
One of the themes of the early play during a tough evening for Brentford versus Middlesbrough was how much they were pressed by Middlesbrough. After recovering from an opening five minutes where they were forced back and made to look like the away team at home, Brentford managed to get a stranglehold on the game with greater possession.
However, despite the increase in possession for Frank’s side, they were pressed back by a rigid and well-drilled Middlesbrough side, who did not allow Brentford much room to do anything. Middlesbrough’s pressing game limited Brentford to just two shots in the entirety of the first half.
In the annotated image above, Middlesbrough’s high pressing game is shown in full effect. Just five minutes into the game, as Brentford are gaining control of the ball, two Middlesbrough players, Mo Besic and Jordan Hugill, are closing down the centre-backs to limit Brentford’s building from the back style of play.
Poor Defending & Crosses
Sometimes, we feel like a broken record, repeating the same thing week in, week out in these Brentford match analysis pieces. However, Brentford one again proved just how shocking they are at defending, after yet again conceding two avoidable goals at the weekend.
Crossing the ball into the Brentford box was a theme that Middlesbrough attack established early on in Saturday’s fixture. The ball was crossed into the box a number of times as Brentford failed to learn from their mistakes of the first half, conceding both goals from crosses, in an opening to the second half littered with mistakes.
Below are a number of annotated images of crosses from the first half of Saturday’s encounter. Middlesbrough and Tony Pulis got their tactics spot on, as the exploited Brentford’s weaknesses down their right-hand side, with Sergi Canos refusing to help out.
As the second half kicked on, Middlesbrough managed to make Brentford pay for their mistakes. In the opening goal of the game, centre-back Konsa fails to clear his lines properly as he horribly shanks a cross straight to Middlesbrough midfielder Mo Besic. The Bosnian’s cross into the box causes Brentford quite a lot of havoc as it finds an unmarked Johnny Howson, who makes a run into the box.
A combination of goalkeeper Daniel Bentley and left-back Moses Odubajo recover to stop Howson from scoring, however, Konsa, who is ball watching at centre-back, switches off and fails to see the run of Hugill outside him, as he pounces to slot into the empty net.
The second Middlesbrough goal proved to be just as disastrous as the first with a cross in the box from Stewart Downing following a throw-on saw Marcus Tavernier plant a header past a hapless Bentley.
The goal is once again error-strewn with both Odubajo and Alan Judge failing to pick up Stewart Downing from a short throw-in down the line into the corner.
With both players focused on Downing, his pass back to Fry sees the full-back cross into the box for Tavernier to plant home past Bentley.
The ball into the Brentford box sees both Konsa and Mepham either side of the goalscorer, Tavernier, with neither of them picking up the Middlesbrough attacker.
Brentford Attacking Joy
As has become common for Brentford in their previous Championship encounters under Frank, Brentford found attack freedom once they had gone two goals down to Middlesbrough. The Bees managed to have 11 of their 16 shots on Middlesbrough once they had gone 2-0 down.
Brentford’s best chance came on the 70th minute with the star striker and the Championship’s top scorer Neal Maupay striking a header straight at goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
After Maupay’s chance, Brentford did have more concentrated possession in and around Middlesbrough’s final third, putting Pulis’ side under pressure for the final 20 minutes.
Brentford’s goal was both simple and special, however, disastrous from a Middlesbrough point of view. After a short corner with Josh Da Silva, Judge strikes a shot from the edge of the box which finds its way past three Middlesbrough bodies on its way past Randolph. The Middlesbrough trio are at fault as none of the three did anything to stop the shot making it past each one of them.
Brentford once again displayed a large frailty at the back and need to shore up defensively if they are to mount a challenge for one of the four play-off spots. The concentration of their defence means they lack the necessary component to be able to challenge their fellow promotion rivals. This has been apparent in Brentford’s recent games where they have come unstuck against teams who share the hope of promotion to the Premier League.
However, the Bees do possess the attack to be able to trouble even the best of Championship sides. This has been proven in games against the favourites for promotion to the Premier League, including Leeds United, Norwich City and now Middlesbrough. Brentford have never struggled to carry an attacking threat, especially with Maupay in the side.
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