With pressure (wrongly) still mounting on Stoke City manager Nathan Jones, he took his side to 18th placed Brentford with both teams looking to properly kick-start their seasons. This tactical analysis will demonstrate how both sides evened themselves out at Griffin Park.

Bottom of the Championship seven games in is presumably not what Stoke fans would have expected ahead of the new campaign. Despite a plethora of signings and a whole pre-season for Jones to develop his philosophy, it’s still yet to click for the former Luton Town gaffer.

In fact, Jones’ first game in charge for Stoke following the move from Luton, was this exact fixture. Brentford dominated, Stoke had just two shots. Unfortunately for Jones, not much has changed since.

In this tactical analysis, we will look at both teams’ tactics and examine how Stoke were able to come away with a point.


Both managers have now settled on their preferred formations since their appointments. Different forms of the 3-4-3 was the chosen structure for both Brentford and Stoke City.

With Brentford likely to have the majority of possession (they did, 65%), Stoke were likely to be the more defensive of the sides (they were). As this analysis shows, the focus more so on packing the midfield and forcing Brentford wide. And it worked.

Brentford would hope to combat this with their luxury of attacking players such a Ollie Watkins or Bryan Mbeumo: both having the ability to drop deep, make use of the pockets, or run in-behind to take advantage of space.

EFL Championship 2019/20: Brentford Vs Stoke - tactical analysis tactics

Stoke’s Defensive Structure

Stoke’s defensive plan was spot on. Duly praised by gaffer Nathan Jones who got the desire and discipline off the ball that he desperately wanted. A desire and discipline that got them their first clean sheet since April.
EFL Championship 19/20: Brentford vs Stoke - tactical analysis tacticsFrom the front, Stoke defended as a unit, attempting to force defensive errors. The midfield set-up to pressure Brentford’s defensive three was perfect. In almost a box-esque pattern – Stoke blocked passing lanes, marked Brentford’s double pivot and contained their front three all simultaneously. It worked perfectly; Brentford were dispossessed 135 times.

EFL Championship 19/20: Brentford vs Stoke - tactical analysis tacticsFurther afield, when Brentford pushed forward, Stoke sat-back, inviting the opposition onto them and congested the middle zones as a narrow diamond. Frequently, the Bees were forced sideways or wide, lacking the creative edge to penetrate through.

Stoke’s game plan was obvious, but effective. Yet more worryingly for Brentford and Frank, they were unable to come up with the answers to a common opposition plan. Another dominant performance on the ball, another performance that lacked the creation of big chances.

Slow Build-Up Patterns

While Stoke defended brilliantly and deservedly got their point, Brentford were masters of their own downfall once again. Consistently wasteful despite dominating the ball, something that’s becoming quite a regular storyline.

Only Leeds and Fulham average more ball possession than Brentford’s 56.0%, yet are only 17th for big chances created (10) – ineffective.

EFL Championship 19/20: Brentford vs Stoke - tactical analysis tactics

As the stills suggests, at times build-up is lethargic, basic & easy to defend against if you’ve set up like Stoke have.

Options for the passer are limited, and a lack of movement and imagination is simply unhelpful.

The back three play it between each other, wing-backs are pushed up high (almost reducing passing options), meaning if the midfield is clustered by the opposition, Brentford are forced to play long. Yet with the height of their front three, Brentford consistently fail to retain the ball without a target man.

EFL Championship 19/20: Brentford vs Stoke - tactical analysis tactics

Here, the left-centre-back pushes up with the ball, only to be faced with limited passing options. Albeit faced by an impressive structure and press, the lack of imagination on the ball and movement off it, is tedious.

A Need for Change

It’s obvious Brentford need to change something. Whether it be formation, or just simply their movements off the ball. Considering their style of play, their methodology of wanting to be the dominant side on the ball – changing the structure of the midfield alone could be heavily beneficial.

EFL Championship 19/20: Brentford vs Stoke - tactical analysis tactics
Potential build-up pattern against the Stoke City set-up, 3-5-2 allows more options between the lines and accounts for more runners beyond the passing option
EFL Championship 19/20: Brentford vs Stoke - tactical analysis tactics
A narrow midfield alongside inside forwards allows an overload in the central areas to exploit the weak Stoke midfield

Take the two tactical boards above, representing the possibilities that a change in structure or on-ball organisation could have. Brentford could remain with the back-three that Frank seems to be stuck too, or switch back to the more dynamic 4-3-3 to allow a more fluid build-up.

A transformed structure though, could be instrumental to a change in fortune for the Londoners. Ultimately, more passing options and lanes are opened, allowing a quicker transition through the middle areas and with the technical talent that they have, can quickly play through aggressive pressing sides, such as Stoke.


Stoke will come away from Griffin Park as the happier side, just as Nathan Jones will be the happier of the two managers. He came with a game plan to stifle the opposition and Brentford’s xG of 0.66proved it worked wonders.

Brentford have now won just two of their last nine games and considering some of the talent they have, their form is starting to get seriously worrying ~ not signing a striker to replace Maupay has basically diminished any hopes off threatening at the top so far.

The future transfer of Halil Dervisoglu can’t come quick enough.

Brentford need a goalscorer, that’s clear. But first, they need their midfield to take responsibility and add more. Creativity. Ingenuity. Flair. The lot.

Artwork by @chapulana

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