Brentford and Thomas Frank suffered their second consecutive loss as they came down 4-3 away to Championship straggler’s Preston North End. The Bees collapsed in what was an abysmal opening 25 minutes away to a side languishing just outside the relegation zone. This has put a real dent in the Bees’ play-off and promotion hopes as they fell to 15th in the table, and six points off the play-off positions.
In this analysis, I will look at how Brentford suffered such an embarrassing loss away to a team battling relegation.
Disastrous Brentford Marking
One of the first mistakes that was visible from watching Brentford was allowing Preston players to be free off the ball, especially in vital areas of the pitch. This was very much visible in the opening goal where three Preston North End players were in the centre of the pitch with only one Brentford man marking one of the three Preston players.
This was the build-up to the opening Preston goal just five minutes into the game. The poor defending continued further on in the build-up to the goal, with Moses Odubajo slow to react to a lucky deflection of Preston North End attacker, Carl Robinson, with Alan Browne moving in to score the opening goal.
Despite being warned in the first five minutes of the game, Brentford did not learn from their mistakes, as once again they were caught out in the middle of the pitch from Preston’s second goal. Attacker, Carl Robinson found himself free in the middle of the pitch with two close Brentford defenders lacking the awareness to pick him up. Brentford were duly punished as Robinson slammed home a half-volley to put Preston 2-0 up.
The third goal proved to be quite a big error in judgement by goalkeeper Daniel Bentley, who picked up the ball after a back pass from midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo. Whilst it wasn’t a direct defensive error from Brentford, more could’ve been done by the players in Brentford’s wall to mark eventual goalscorer Tom Barkhuizen (circled in black), who was left unmarked after two Brentford players attempted to close down the shot. The indirect free kick itself provided Preston with a touch of fortune after a deflection off Tom Barkhuizen past a helpless Bentley.
The fourth goal began with a familiar tactic that Preston employed all night long, closing down the man on the ball. In the lead up to the fourth Preston goal, three Preston players are seen surrounding the Brentford man on the ball.
In the image below, the attack continues and after the deflection midfielder Romaine Sawyers (circled yellow) is found lost in midfield and too far away from the man receiving the ball, Daniel Johnson, who is once again in acres of space to from which he can exploit and run at the Brentford back four. If Sawyer had been closer to his man Johnson then the fourth Preston goal and the subsequent winner could have been avoided from a Brentford point of view.
Poor defending was a running theme for Brentford on Wednesday evening, and this time, in the image below, South African midfielder Kamohelo Mokotjo has allowed Johnson to continue his run after refusing to follow him off the ball, allowing a simple one-two with Lukas Nmecha, who plays the ball into space which allows Johnson to run at the Brentford back-four.
Brentford’s Attacking Intent
Despite their defensive woes, Brentford found some joy in their attacking play on the night. The Bees showed a greater desire to carry the ball forward and play on the front foot, which could be seen in the number of dribbles and forward passes attempted during the 90 minutes against Preston. Against Bristol City, as well as the missed chances, Brentford attempted comparatively less progressive dribbling than they did against Preston. The desire to run at their opponents even away from home shone through for Brentford with 83 attempted offensive duels against Preston compared to just 56 duels against Bristol City. As well as their dribbling, Brentford also improved in the number of forward passes they attempted against Preston. Compared to their previous defeat to Bristol City, Brentford attempted 163 forward passes against Preston compared to 124 against Bristol.
However, the progressive style of football didn’t show when you look at the type of goals Brentford scored, with two of the three goals coming from corners. More needs to be done by the Dane Frank if he wants to see his side succeed in their attempts to play a more progressive brand of football compared to the pass-and-move style that was seen in his first match in charge vs Bristol.
Overall, Thomas Frank and Brentford need to sure up their defence if they are to improve their form and seriously challenge for a place in the play-offs this season. The lacklustre defending has seen the Bees yet to record an away win in the Championship game this season, with the club winless in their seven attempts so far.
More also needs to be done in midfield if the club are to achieve their dream of playing PL football next season. The spaces left in midfield is a worrying sight, especially for a club who are seriously hoping of challenging for a play-off place this season. Preston were afforded too much time and space in midfield both on and off the all. This was apparent in all four of Preston’s goals on Wednesday evening.
Over the course of the clubs current seven-game winless streak, the club have seen many chances come and go without a goal being recorded. The game against Preston saw a change for the club with potency and kill instinct very much on show for the Bees. This attacking display needs to continue if Brentford want to achieve even the bare minimum of play-offs this season.