After five years of threatening to reach the promised land, Brentford finally managed to get the job done this season. They finished the season third and, eventually, won a place in the Premier League courtesy of their 2-0 playoff win over Swansea at Wembley. However, a far greater challenge lies ahead and attention will now turn to how Brentford can survive in the Premier League.
How can Brentford stay up in the Premier League?
Ivan Toney most continue scoring
It might be an obvious place to start but it’s absolutely imperative that Brentford keep hold of Toney and that he handles the step up to the Premier League. Part A of that should be easily achieved now the club are in the Premier League, with only a ridiculous offer likely to change it. The other aspect is somewhat of an unknown. We’ve seen plenty of strikers that can bang goals in for fun at Championship level only to look out of their depth in the league above.
Toney has top scored in the Championship this year with 31 goals from his 45 games. When you look at actual minutes on the grass that’s a strike rate of one every 125 minutes. Now, we’re not suggesting he’ll have to maintain that against the significantly better defences he’ll face in the Premier League but the 25-year-old could do with having a Patrick Bamford-esque season for Brentford. If he can hit 15 goals it would give his side a fantastic chance of survival. Will he manage to do that? We have a suspicion he will.
David Raya will need to prove just how good he is
You wouldn’t have known it from watching the playoff final – as Swansea didn’t trouble him – but over the last couple of seasons David Raya has proven himself to be one of the best keepers in the Championship. The Spaniard has been linked with a move to Arsenal for several months but now looks like getting his crack at the top with Brentford.
When it comes to the type of goalkeeper Raya is he’s very much built for the modern game. The main part of that role is his ability with the ball at his feet; Raya is extremely good at playing out from the back and boasted a short pass completion in excess of 99% during the regular Championship campaign. The accuracy drops to circa 75% when incorporating longer balls. Brentford do tend to focus on playing out though. You would expect Thomas Frank to employ similar tactics next season and Raya should shine in that regard.
In respect of the more traditional goalkeeping metrics, Raya excels with his shot stopping. He’s very agile and produces some exceptional saves thanks to his sharp reflexes. In the Championship, though, Brentford dominate play meaning he’s often a spectator which clearly won’t be the case in the Premier League.
Will Bryan Mbeumo take to the top?
It wasn’t that long ago that Said Benrahma, Ollie Watkins and Bryan Mbeumo put fear into Championship defences as a deadly trio. Two of them moved on to pastures new with varying levels of success. Neither have looked out of their depth with their Premier League clubs – West Ham and Aston Villa respectively – but you’d be lying if you couldn’t pinpoint who has taken to the top tier better.
The season just gone, Benrahma made 30 appearances for the Hammers but most of his action did come from the bench and he’s netted just one goal. He did, however, chip in with six assists, which is a decent return. Watkins meanwhile has been brilliant for Villa. He’s only narrowly missed out on the England squad for the Euros after bagging 14 league goals. Mbeumo won’t put up Watkins like numbers but he’ll need to perform closer to his level than Benrahma’s if he’s to help keep the Bees’ heads above water.
New signings are a must
It’s a rarity that a newly promoted squad can come up and compete in the Premier League without some form of new arrivals and, for Brentford, that recruitment will be vital. Their first choice XI isn’t half bad with the three we’ve already mentioned along with skipper Pontus Jansson, Rico Henry, Sergi Canos and Josh Dasilva. Strength in depth, however, presents a challenge. In truth, had their squad been a little better stocked, they’d probably have avoided the need for the playoffs.
Big changes are unlikely but the club have proven rather astute in the transfer market over the past several seasons so small tweaks will likely be good ones. Experience of the Premier League will probably factor high on the priority list with next to no experience in the entire squad at present. If the need for more bodies – or should we say quality bodies – is widely accepted then the next question is who.
Frank Onyeka and Kevin Nisbet have been linked but neither have experience of English football let alone the Premier League so they look less likely. That said they could arrive alongside other and perhaps cheaper additions. Winston Reid, who has over 150 Premier League appearances to his name, is one deal that could be done and it would certainly make sense given he’s been with the club on loan for the past few months.
The full back positions are in desperate need of cover too and someone in the mould of Joel Ward – who is already based in London – could be an option. He’s possibly going to be leaving Crystal Palace on a free and has even more Premier League experience than Reid. Brentford do like to keep transfer business under wraps though so watch this space.
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