Brentford were searching for the perfect response against Coventry after their uncharacteristic defeat to Preston North End in their last game. They had led Preston with two goals, but thenThomas Frank’s side witnessed a complete meltdown in defence and ended up conceding 4 unanswered goals in the second half, eventually losing 4-2.
Coventry, on the other hand, are still finding their feet in the EFL Championship after gaining promotion from League One last season. As mentioned by Coventry’s manager Mark Robins after the game, they are still trying to adjust to the pace of football in the second division. City were searching for their second win of the season after being beaten 3-1 by Bournemouth in the previous round of fixtures.
This is the tactical analysis of the fifth game of the 20/21 English Championship season played between Brentford and Coventry City. In this analysis piece, we take a look at the tactics that were employed by the two managers and how the game unfolded.
Brentford set out to start in their usual 4-3-3 system which their manager Thomas Frank has used in all their five EFL Championship outings so far. The flat back four included the attacking full-backs Rico Henry of the Left and Henrik Dalsgaard on the right, with Henry given the license to go forward at every opportunity. The experienced pairing of Pontus Jansson and Ethan Pinnock were preferred in the centre of the defence. Mathias Jensen the 24-year old Danish midfielder sat in front of the back four and Marcondes with Josh Dasilva who has signed a new four year deal with the Bees comprised of the midfield. Sergi Canós started on the left wing with Said Benrahma’s transfer to English Premier League Side West Ham United all but completed. Bryan Mbeumo started on the right and Ivan Toney was the lone striker in the formation.
Coventry City being the newcomers to the division took the more conservative approach as they have done all season, setting out a flat back five with Michael Rose, Kyle McFadzean and Dominic Hyam as the three centre-backs with Josh Pask and Ryan Giles as the wing-backs from the right and left respectively. Jamie Allen, Ben Sheaf and Callum O’Hare completed the midfield three have kept their places in the team after they were completely outplayed by Bournemouth in their last game. The City midfield repaid the faith shown in them by Mark Robins by having an 83% passing completion with 7 key passes coming from the midfield. Amadou nBakayoko and Matt Godden were given the responsibility of leading the line for City in their 5-3-2 system for the day.
Brentford’s defensive setup
In this analysis, we first look at Brentford’s defensive side of the game and how they set up in trying to keep a clean sheet which they successfully did against Coventry City. Thomas Frank had set out his side to play out from the back at every possible occasion, with most of the goal-kicks were taken short into the feet of centre-backs Jansson and Pinnock both of whom had a passing accuracy of 94% at the end of the game, losing possession for a combined total of 6 in the match, a decent return of the centre-back pair.
Jensen was deployed as the defensive midfielder and he was responsible for orchestrating attacks from the back. Both the full-backs in Dalsgaard and Henry had clear instructions of holding the line with Jensen, who attempted 13 long balls throughout the game trying to release one of the attacking front three.
Brentford’s set up as explained above is a clear indication of their desire to play out from the back but in doing so they played 217 lateral passes out of 517 total passes. Jensen sitting deep allowed the full-backs to push up and support the attack by providing width wherever possible. With Jensen sitting deep, both Dasilva and Marcondes had the freedom to organise the attack and take players on at the centre of the park. Josh Dasilva played 10 accurate passes into the final third, the most by any Brentford player.
Brentford were comfortable in possession of the ball with 57%, but lacked penetration through their passing range. As seen in the graphic above, Brentford attempted a total of 37 passes inside their own third and played 78% of their football in the middle third and their own third of the field, stating complete domination of possession but a certain lack of penetration.
Brentford’s attacking setup
Ivan Tony acted as the pivot in Brentford’s attacks, forming similar triangles on both sides of the pitch with the wingers and central-midfielders. Brentford were set out to construct small triangles which is usually the identity of possession-based teams. Both the left advanced central-midfielders Dasilva and Marcondes had to support the three frontmen as an ever-present passing option. Both Dasilva and Marcondes completed just 1 long pass between them and 139 short passes again indicating Brentford’s possession-based game.
Brentford attacking through the Channels
A ‘channel’ is traditionally the space between the centre-back and the full-back as denoted by the yellow line. In the particular incident above, Brentford players had passed through the first line Coventry’s press and Jensen had time and space to look up. Notice how both Mbeumo on the right-wing and Canós on the left choose to run through the channel rather than taking the orthodox route through the byline towards the corner flag.
This was the feature of Brentford’s play throughout the day where they looked to exploit any space in behind the three centre-halves through the channels. We look at a similar type of incident below.
In another instance, centre-forward Ivan Toney brings down a long ball, and as soon as he gets it under control notice how the Brentford midfield comes into a shape of a small triangle at the centre of the pitch to play the numbers game in the midfield and dominate possession. But as Toney turns with the ball, Mbeumo again makes the run through the channel exploiting the space between the centre-half and the full-back, rather than taking the usual route towards the corner flag. Toney finds him with a super ball and Mbuemo is through only to be denied by one of Coventry’s retreating centre-half’s last-ditch challenge.
The same tactic came into picture when Mbeumo was found early in the second half at 46 minutes, his cross to Toney was easily turned in for the opening goal of the game.
For the second, Marcondes was provided space to look up and deliver an inch-perfect cross to Toney, who rose the highest to emphatically turn in his second of the night. Although he was forced off through injury later on, the former Peterborough United man surely had sealed the points for Brentford.
Coventry City’s Defensive Setup
Coventry lined out in their usual 5-3-2 formation defending in a zonal system with Rose, McFadzean and Hyam being the three centre-backs. Hyam was given the responsibility to step up into the midfield and play long balls out to one of their strikers. City’s full-backs were on the same wavelength as their centre-backs whenever they had to defend, The midfield tried forming the unusual triangle with Allen being the highest of the three to support the press.
The City strikers Bakayoko and Godden did not press out and out so as to keep the shape of the team intact and prevent Brentford from penetrating through. The midfield duo of O’hare and Sheaf had to support their full-backs at times when they were isolated or outnumbered against the opposition. City could only manage 45sec+ possession 2 times in the entirety of the game.
Coventry City’s attacking setup
City’s attacking chances were few and far in between. Whenever they managed to build an attack from the back they were looking to play their wing-backs Pask and Giles into space, while the midfielders were keen on flooding the box expecting a good delivery. In the particular instance shown above, the midfielder Allen makes an effective underlap and is found by Pask. Allen cuts inside and forces a good save out of Raya, which was one of 4 saves the Brentford shot-stopper had to make.
Towards the final 15 minutes of the match City started forcing the issue and enjoyed a decent spell of possession in the opposition half. The back three stretched out to provide an extra passing option, with Allen supporting the strikers and the wing-backs providing width on either side. From the resulting corner after the above instance in the game, Godden hit the woodwork with his well-timed volley but could not open the scoring for his side. That was the closest Coventry came to scoring but eventually failed to do so.
Brentford had loads of possession throughout the match but they did not force the issue as much as manager Thomas Frank would have liked them to do. But coming back from a 4-2 defeat, this was a win Brentford would happily take in their stride.
As for Coventry, they need to adapt to life in the Championship much quicker if they are to survive in one of the most unpredictable leagues in the world, as otherwise they’ll find themselves behind the survival chasing pack.