After leaving Arsenal in 2018 after his contract expired, Josh Dasilva has become a pivotal part of Brentford’s transitional phases this season, even at the tender age of 21. He plays in a midfield trio where he has the freedom to get forward and he has been shining in this role. At the height of 6ft 1in, Dasilva asserts himself well in the middle of the park; his physical presence is noted in defence but he possesses the ability to take on any challenges when he is carrying the ball, making him an unstoppable force.
In this scout report, we will produce an in-depth tactical analysis on Dasilva’s season so far and tell you why he has been a success. We will analyse the tactics that Thomas Frank uses with Dasilva through analysis of match footage supported with relevant stats.
Overview and play style
Even though Dasilva starts on the left in the midfield trio this isn’t his cemented role; he has the licence to move about to link the thirds and allow Brentford to smoothly transition the ball. In the heatmap below, we can see Dasilva in four key areas of the pitch. In the deeper position, he picks it up from the centre-backs and he will either opt for a forward pass into the attackers or drive with the ball himself. The bottom right side is the least favoured due to him being left-footed but in the advanced position on the right-hand side, he can cut in and go into a central area which has been highly effective.
One of Dasilva’s many strengths is his ability to travel with the ball by driving into space in front of him. It mainly occurs in the defensive third and the middle third of the pitch; he will see the space ahead then use his quick pace and great control of the ball to exploit the vacated space by the opponents.
This is done frequently in the deeper parts of the pitch where he will receive it off the defenders then carry the ball forward to the attackers. In the image below, Dasilva has picked up the ball in the back left side of the pitch and he calmly turns his man and drives into space which the opponents have left.
Wigan tried pinning Brentford in this corner as they know they are a progressive side who play through the thirds so Wigan knew it was likely they wouldn’t go for a long ball and try to catch them out of position. This season they rank second in the league with 80.04 progressive passes per 90 and it made sense to try this high press to regain possession.
However, Dasilva’s spatial awareness combined with his dribbling ability means he easily gets out of the situation and sets off the attack.
Dasilva’s dribbling is key to Brentford’s tactics as Frank uses different tactics with both of his wingers. Saïd Benrahma has been tactically set up to be an inside forward by operating in the half-space and Bryan Mbeumo will keep his width on the right-hand side wing as he rarely comes inside. This is beneficial for Dasilva because when he breaks forward he will have both options.
In the image above, we can see after his dribble that he switches to Mbeumo. His passing is also a strong point with a high 83.92% and he can provide the long switch as he goes for this on average 1.62 times per 90; this helps Brentford’s attackers as the switch will open gaps in the defence and tire teams by shuffling from side to side.
With his dribbling, Dasilva will rarely lose possession as he is only losing possession 7.68 times per 90 only with 27.88% being in his half, which is deemed to be more dangerous to lose the ball. Nevertheless, if we take into account he is in the central position, this isn’t a relatively high number. However, one downfall is he is very ball dominate on his left-foot. With his ball carrying from the footage, he prefers his strong foot. Nevertheless, this is a minor issue and it can be ironed out easily.
To combat this, he is quick and explosive and this gives less time for the opponents to close him down; in the image above he easily goes past his marker using his dominate foot as he finds the space in behind. In a level above, this is something that could be found out but he is still young and has time to develop it, plus, there are still a high number of players in the Premier League who rely on one foot although it would give even more variety to his game.
Goalscoring has become part of his game as Dasilva will use his explosive movement in the final third. This season he has notably scored eight goals from centre-midfield, which is a respectable amount. How he has been getting into these positions is by coming off the right-hand side and cutting onto his left-foot; this has been effective and he has scored half of his goals (four) from outside of the box. If the defenders give him a yard of space he can punish them, as shown in the image above – he has received the pass from Ollie Watkins and Dasilva cuts in, faking out the opposition and puts it into the top corner. However, if they press, he can link-up with the attackers, which will be analysed further in the following section.
As we stated earlier, Dasilva has a high pass accuracy with a moderate amount of risky passes. He is able to not only transition through his dribbling but to use his passing in all areas to interchange with his teammates. In the deeper position, he smartly decides when to dribble and exploit the space or pass through the lines of the midfield.
In the image below, West Brom’s bank of four is in position so it makes it hard for Dasilva to dribble due to there being limited space ahead. However, he passes through the line and finds a teammate, Watkins, who often drops in to link the play.
It isn’t just in the deeper positions where Dasilva can link-up with his attackers, he also done it in more advanced positions where he can exchange passes. In the image below, Dasilva sees the space behind the opponent and Benrahma times his run into the highlighted area to meet the pass.
It keeps it unpredictable as the opposition don’t know whether Dasilva will try to take them on or if he will play a pass. Additionally, it gives him options and allows him to use his strengths in all scenarios.
Yet, his passing at times can be limited to just breaking the one line in the opponents double bank of four and we are limited to see him breaking both lines at once which causes more problems to the opposition. We will now move onto why this is one area he can improve.
Breaking the lines
A notable weakness of his is when Dasilva is facing a double bank of four and he is looking for a clever pass to try and break the lines of the opposition. In the final third he has been great at finding space for himself as it is shown with his high eight goals with an xG of 3.34 from midfield. But with only tallying two assists with an xA of 3.36, it is certainly an area of improvement.
When teams sit in, it takes away Dasilva’s strengths of blowing past players and the ability to interlink with teammates to get around his markers. In the image below, Dasilva is getting into these ideal positions but he is lacking end product to set up his teammates. He got into a great position to play Watkins through but instead, he turned around.
Dasilva could have tried to break the defensive line, as Watkins was indicating for a ball over the top as he was on the blind side of the one centre-back and in front of the other centre-back marking him.
On the other hand, Brentford are a side who like to retain possession as they average 56.8% this season. Plus, others in the side are the ‘creators’ so it isn’t necessarily needed from Dasilva as much.
Although, when he is getting into these positions it is ideal to have an end product or it can become a waste. Inhe image above, he goes for the pass across to an unmarked player. However, Dasilva misjudges it and the opponent steps out and intercepts what was a simple ball into space in behind the defence to an unmarked player.
This slight weakness isn’t a big problem as we have highlighted his ability to pass and over time, these errors don’t occur too often in other situations.
In the defensive phase, Dasilva has a great understanding of his position. As he interchanges in attack, it is vital that he covers if the ball is out of possession. This is a prime example in the image below, as Dasilva has floated across centrally to block the space where Matheus Pereira is trying to operate in and he has the speed to meet the ball before the opponent and recover possession for Brentford.
Pressing wise, Brentford aren’t a heavily intense side that press their opponents as they rank 16th for PPDA with 394.47 over the whole season. Additionally, they are recovering the ball 49% of the time in their defensive third, nevertheless, Dasilva will always look to be on the front foot and use his physicality to regain possession as he is winning 66.44% of his defensive duels.
In the image below, Dasilva has stepped up and intercepted a pass from the opponents and this can catch teams off guard and allow Brentford to attack when the opponents have fewer players back.
Once he’s regained possession, Dasilva will look for a positive pass. As we have highlighted in this report, he is great at combining his strengths together. Dasilva is often looking for the forward pass and trying to set off the attack after winning the ball back – statically speaking he is averaging a high 74.45% forward pass success rate.
In the image below, Dasilva has won possession back, and then he splits the midfield by slotting a pass through the middle to his teammate to start the attack.
It would be a shock if Brentford let go of Dasilva this summer as he has been an essential part to their success in their last season at Griffin Park, plus, it will also be key to his development to continue his growth with the club. His ability to drive past players and link-up the thirds have helped him been such a pivotal part of the squad.
The tactics used by Brentford specifically look to use Dasilva as the link point in midfield where he can use his strengths. As he has had a great goal scoring campaign, the next step is to also produce more chances in the final third and get a greater amount of assists next season.