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Brentford overcame a stubborn Bolton Wanderers outfit to secure their first win in eight Championship games. Neal Maupay struck an early second-half effort, as Brentford came out on top in what proved to be an even affair as Bolton fought to escape the relegation zone.

In this tactical analysis, we will look at how Brentford won the game, and how they improved their defence drastically in their close victory. The enhanced odds suggested Brentford could well have come away with nothing.

Long ball Brentford

Bolton did a good job in restricting Thomas Frank’s style of play by pressing high. However, this suited Brentford as they managed to switch their game, and therefore, reverted to long diagonal balls which reaped dividends.

On numerous occasions, a Brentford attacker managed to pick the ball up in space, which created good chances for the Bees. The first of such an occasion came in just the 2nd minute.

EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis
A long ball pays off for Brentford. (1/2)
EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis
A long ball pays off for Brentford. (2/2)

A long ball from Jeanvier, which was headed into the path of Saed Benrahma created a really good opening for Brentford as they managed to get in behind Bolton’s defence for the first time of the afternoon in just the 2nd minute.

Overall, 41 long passes were made during Brentford’s game with Bolton, with 39 of those 41 being played by the back-five and Brentford’s three holding midfielders. This highlights just how high up Bolton were pressing, which was apparent during the 90 minutes.EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis

EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis

EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis
A selection of long passes Brentford were forced into as a result of Bolton’s high press throughout the game on Saturday.

Bolton’s high press had an obvious effect on Brentford’s style of play. Bolton did well to suffocate and limit Brentford’s options in the middle of the pitch which could be seen with Brentford being forced to play the ball wide or long on most occasions.

However, Bolton paid for not being able to deal with Brentford’s long ball tactics, as the Bees finally broke through midway through the second half. A long diagonal ball from Jeanvier towards left-back Rico Henry split open the Bolton defence.

EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis
A long ball finds out the Bolton defence, who despite limiting Brentford’s passing game, failed to deal with their long ball game.

Despite initially dealing with Henry’s header inside towards Maupay, Bolton’s defence never fully recovered and Benrahma chipped a ball through to Maupay, who smashed in an emphatic finish to put Brentford ahead.

EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis
Benrahma chips the ball through to Maupay, who put Brentford 1-0 up.

Brentford’s lack of creativity

As well as limiting Brentford’s style of play moving up the pitch by pressing high, Bolton also did well to limit the creativity for Thomas Frank’s side in what was a narrow 1-0 victory for the Bees. The shape and structure limited Brentford in their attempts to breach the Bolton goal. Overall, the West London side had 13 shots on goal in the entire match, with just THREE of those shots on target.

EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis
Bolton’s defensive shape frustrated Brentford.

The image above encapsulates just how frustrating Bolton were to play against the previous Saturday. Their rigid 4-4-1-1 formation made it hard for Brentford to play it through their teams, and as the image above shows, made the midfielders and attackers go to wide areas to create meaningful chances.

This was apparent in the 13 shots that Brentford conjured up during the 90 minutes against Bolton, with nine of the shots being created/started from wide areas. This provides a scope for analysis on how good Bolton were in reducing the space in the middle of the pitch and forcing Brentford out wide.

Despite Bolton having a good defensive shape and structure, the lack of clinical finishing once again continued for Brentford, which will be worrying Thomas Frank. Missing ‘big’ chances created has been a running theme for Brentford under Frank, and it continued against Bolton.

Despite only having three shots on target of their total of 13, Brentford created some great opening, that they were guilty of not taking.

The most guilt-edged opportunity came in the just the third minute of the game. A smart and quick free-kick from Romaine Sawyers saw Ollie Watkins through on goal. However, Watkins managed to divert the chance over the crossbar.

EFL Championship Brentford Bolton Wanderers Tactical Analysis
Sawyers finds Watkins, with a great ball over the top of Bolton’s defence from a free-kick.

This chance shows how poor Brentford have been in front of goal, despite Maupay being the Championship’s leading goal scorer. Watkins had the choice of a pass to Maupay, or a shot across goal into the far corner. However, chose neither and leathered the ball way over the bar.

Brentford Bolton Championship Tactical Analysis
Watkins Volleys over a relatively simple chance after being played through on goal.

Final thoughts

Brentford showed a mix and match performance despite a relatively comfortable 1-0 win against Bolton. They shored up their defence, which looked more assured than it had in previous Championship fixtures. However, the Bees have also carried on their theme of creating little and missing the little chances they do create with poor finishing in front of goal. These are two aspects of football which remain the key to winning any game, and Brentford have looked shocking in both aspects.

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